Review Price £1,999.00
Philips 50PFL7956T - Features and First Picture Thoughts
The 50PFL7956T’s processing powers also deliver 2D to 3D conversion, and even let you adjust the perceived depth - up or down - of 3D images from their default ‘normal’ position. And unlike with the active 3D 46PFL9706T, if you opt to increase the sense of depth, you don’t get punished by extra crosstalk!
To be honest we wouldn’t imagine many people wanting to adjust the depth, as this would mean you’d no longer be seeing the image as the director intended. But there’s no denying the feature’s cleverness.
The 50PFL7956T’s processing also has a bigger part to play than usual when it comes to video scaling. For as noted earlier, there are currently no ‘native’ 21:9 sources; even when you watch a 2.35:1/2.4:1-ratio film on Blu-ray on a 16:9 TV, the black bars above and below the image are actually coded onto the disc as part of the picture data. So to present these images without the bars, it’s necessary for the 50PFL7956T to scale the image up so that the bars are pushed off the screen without the left and right sides of the image also disappearing into the off-screen ‘void’.
This will immediately get AV ‘purists’ hackles up, as they just hate anything that ‘mucks about’ with the pixel structure of their HD sources. But as we’ll discover soon, so far as we’re concerned - and we obviously love films and picture quality as much as anyone - the 21:9 pros comfortably outweigh the cons.
Other features of note are the appearance of Philips’ Ambilight system down the TV’s left and right sides, two USB ports offering a good degree of multimedia playback flexibility, and built-in wi-fi you can use for either streaming files from a networked DLNA PC or for going online with Philips’ NetTV service.
We covered NetTV in our review of the 46PFL9706T, so for the sake of brevity, we’ll limit ourselves here to saying that while it’s attractively presented, straightforward to use and equipped with the best on-TV open Web browser around, it could also do with adding a few more high-quality services.
In settling down to watch the 50PFL7956T, our first thought, sadly, was that it was unfortunate for the screen that it had arrived so soon after Philips’ 46PFL9706T ‘moth-eye’ set. For the moment we found ourselves watching a dark scene, it was abundantly clear that the 50PFL7956T’s black level response isn’t a patch on that of the moth-eye model.
In fact, it’s not as good as we’ve seen from a number of other edge LED TVs this year, as all dark scenes appear with a ‘grey wash’ over them.
However, before you get too deflated by this early negative, it should be stressed that dark scenes enjoy more shadow detail and thus depth than is common in the edge LED world. Even better, aside from a couple of very faint patches of extra brightness on the left hand side, the 50PFL7956T achieves better backlight consistency than we’d dared to hope for.
Because of these two strengths, the slightly washed out look to black colours isn’t nearly as problematic as it might normally be, and becomes something you acclimatise to unexpectedly readily.
The black level response is also more than adequate to allow dark parts of predominantly light, colouful pictures to look richly satisfying - especially as the light parts are delivered with exceptional vibrancy and brightness.
Colours look superbly punchy without becoming gaudy, meanwhile, and while there’s not quite the same amount of finesse when it comes to portraying tonal subtleties and range that we fell for on the 46PFL9706T, colours certainly look realistic and vivid enough to make it abundantly clear that the Pixel Precise HD engine is still accomplished, despite not having all the bells and whistles of Philips’ Perfect Pixel HD system.
The Pixel Precise HD system also plays its part in delivering HD images of startling sharpness, packed with detail and texture. And crucially this sharpness remains largely intact both when the image contains heavy-duty motion, AND when you’re stretching the picture out to fill the 21:9 image frame.