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Philips 42PFL7404 42in LCD TV
To be honest, I'm approaching the Philips 42PFL7404 today with a degree of trepidation. For while every model I've seen from Philips' all-singing, all-dancing 9000 TV series has proven suitably impressive, I wasn't entirely blown away by Philips' attempt to step downmarket a little, in the shape of the 42PFL8404.
It wasn't by any means a bad TV; it just didn't seem quite good enough to justify its price versus some of the cheaper things currently being offered by Samsung and Sony.
The 42PFL7404, as its model number suggests, takes things down yet another step. So I can't help but wonder if the concerns raised by the 42PFL8404 will also apply to the 42PFL7404, with knobs on…
Happily, the early signs are good that this actually won't be the case, for Philips has stepped down its pricing for the 42PFL7404 really quite dramatically. The 8404 model clocked in at the best part of £1,100, but I've found the 42PFL7404 going online for as little as £770 - a saving of more than £300 that puts the set much more in the ball park of those Sony and Samsung rivals that troubled me so much when considering the 42PFL8404.
At which point, of course, we need to get to the bottom of what makes the 42PFL7404 different to its more expensive sibling. And here again, the news is arguably pretty good, for the only immediately obvious feature changes are that the 42PFL7404 doesn't have the Ethernet port or Ambilight functionality sported by the 42PFL8404.
Of course, there will be people out there for whom the 42PFL7404's missing features will appear serious. Multimedia fiends will doubtless decry the missing Ethernet port, for it denies you access both to files on a DLNA PC, and Philips' online service - complete with full Internet access.
Similarly, people who see TVs as enhancements to their decor will undoubtedly miss the Ambilight system, with its ability to cast pools of coloured light from the sides of the screen. For me, though, the only thing that really matters is that nothing has been taken away from the 42PFL7404 that should affect its core picture performance.
Things might not be quite so clear cut when it comes to the 42PFL7404's audio, though. For in another spec change, it uses 'hidden' speakers rather than the visible 'bar' noted along the bottom edge of the 42PFL8404. But we'll reserve judgement on how much this matters until we've actually heard the set in action.
Despite the talk of hidden versus visible speakers, the 42PFL7404's design is actually pretty similar - and similarly pretty! - to its costlier sibling. The main bezel is finished in the same gloss black and is equally slim (under an inch across). Plus it benefits from a similar eye-catching transparent outer frame. There just isn't that strip of silvery speakers hanging under the bottom edge.
Connections-wise, the 42PFL7404 appears the same as that of the 42PFL8404, bar the missing Ethernet port. Which means you get highlights of four HDMIs, a USB port and a VGA jack - all very respectable for a sub-£800 42in TV. Closer inspection of these connections reveals that the 42PFL7404 plays back the same multimedia file formats as the 42PFL8404 too (MP3s, LPCM, JPEGs, MPEG1/2, H.264/MPEG-4 AVC, WMA, MPEG-Programme-stream PAL and WMV9/VC1).