Philips has long blazed a trail where motion processing is concerned, with its latest Perfect Pixel Engine arguably delivering the finest motion handling of any LCD TV yet. And while the Pixel Precise HD engine in the 42PFL7666 isn’t quite as assured (there are a few unwanted side effects such as slight halos around moving objects), for at least some of our sources the processing’s advantages outweighed its negatives. If you disagree, you can always turn the motion processing completely off.
Switching to standard definition 2D, the fact that the 42PFL7666 uses Pixel Precise HD rather than the higher-level Perfect Pixel HD system becomes more noticeable. Standard def pictures still look sharper than you see with many affordable LED TVs, but colours lose a little of their lustre and naturalism, and noise levels are higher. You can control the noise to some extent by using the noise reduction processing, but this inevitably causes more softness - a trade that you don’t have to make so obviously with Philips’ more highly specified TVs.
It’s during dark scenes, though, that you see the 42PFL7666’s biggest flaw. We were quite surprised by how milky its black colours look, especially after the spectacular black level successes of the Philips 46PFL9706. And no matter what we tried in terms of adjusting the picture settings, we never really managed to overcome this issue to our satisfaction. Even with brightness set down as low as 40.
Activating the dynamic backlight can help a little, but it can also make the picture noticeably unstable, with obvious brightness ‘shifts’ during dark scenes. There’s some loss of shadow detail during dark scenes thanks to the slightly shallow black rendering too, and we also detected traces – though thankfully only minor ones - of backlight inconsistency.
If you're thinking the 42PFL7666 might make a good gaming monitor, you're probably right. For we measured its input lag at a very respectable 38ms - though some measurements came up showing as little as 6ms.
The 42PFL7666’s sound quality is surprisingly good. You can get a decent amount of volume out of its speakers, and there’s an open, rounded feeling to its soundstage. Even deep male voices sound convincing. There’s a slight brittleness to trebles and thus slightly harsh tone at high volume, but at least there’s a modicum of bass to be heard and always lots of detail.
For most of the time, the 42PFL7666 is a great TV for its money. Bright scenes look rich, punchy and sharp, especially with HD sources, and its 3D pictures are arguably the best we’ve seen from a passive 3D set.
A rather average black level response prevents the set from earning an unreserved recommendation, but when the 42PFL7666 is good, it really is very good indeed.