- Very slim
- Exceptional 2D pictures
- Simple remote control
- Reflective screen
- 3D crosstalk
- Screen input lag
- Review Price: £1149.99
- LCD screen with LED backlight
- Four HDMIs
This has been particularly frustrating actually, for we’ve long believed – or maybe hoped – that if there was one brand out there which might be able to tackle the thorny issue of crosstalk that’s currently blighting the 3D LCD TV world, it was Philips.
After all, the brand has built a strong if sometimes controversial reputation on the back of its powerful image processing systems – systems which have the potential to combine with Philips’ shift this year to LED lighting in knocking crosstalk on the head. Or reducing it to tolerable levels, at any rate.
Our hopes in this department aren’t exactly reduced, either, by the suggestion from Philips that its 3D tardiness is down to it wanting to get it right before launching anything 3D on the Great British public.
Right, that should have your appetite well and truly whetted. So now we’re going to make you wait for our impressions of Philips’ 3D debut until we’ve got a bunch of more prosaic matters out of the way!
Though actually, as usual with a reasonably high-end Philips TV, there’s really not much prosaicness to be found with the 40PFL8605.
Its looks, for instance, are a cut above the norm. The extremely glossy, almost glass-like black bezel is exceptionally slim, cutely curved, and given extra, attractive emphasis by one of Philips’ nifty see-through wrap-around outer trims.
The TV is skinny too – a happy side effect of the set’s edge LED lighting, no doubt.
The only problem with the design is that a glass sheet has been placed over the TV’s fascia, and this proves rather reflective if you have much direct sunlight around, or wall lighting positioned opposite the screen.
The best thing to do if you can is darken your room and let the 40PFL8605 light it for you! For in keeping with Philips tradition, the 40PFL8605 sports Ambilight, whereby strips of LED lights down the TV’s rear left and right sides cast out pools of coloured light beyond the TV’s edges.
This light can be set to a colour of your liking, or clever processing can be employed to make the colours respond to the colour content of the picture, down to a startlingly localised degree.
The 40PFL8605 introduces a new Ambilight feature too: wall colour compensation. Tell the TV what colour your walls are and it can calculate the right Ambilight colour mix to compensate.
If you’re a fully paid up member of the brave new multimedia world, the 40PFL8605 is packed with just the sort of features you’ll probably be looking for from your next TV. An Ethernet port, for instance, allows you to not only visit a passable selection of ring-fenced online content, but also go online to the wider World Wide Web.
The Opera browser is limited in terms of the codecs it supports, but most websites will work at least partially, and navigation and address inputting is handled well considering you’re just using a normal remote control.
Actually, the 40PFL8605’s remote control isn’t particularly normal. It’s oval shape is unusual, its metallic finish is unusual, and its startling lack of buttons is highly unusual. But it works remarkably well all the same, making us wonder why so many other remotes insist on drowning us under a sea of buttons.
The Ethernet port that ushers in the 40PFL8605’s online features also lets you access a huge array of file codecs from a DLNA PC. We would normally add here that the Ethernet port can additionally be used for accessing future interactive services from the Freeview HD platform, but in a surprising oversight, Philips hasn’t actually included a Freeview HD tuner inside the 40PFL8605.
If hardwiring the TV to your network sounds too old school to you, then an optional USB dongle can enable the set for Wi-Fi. The set’s USB port can additionally play from USB storage devices the same wide variety of photo, music and video codecs streamable from a PC.
Finally on the multimedia front, the set carries both a D-Sub PC input, and an SD card slot that you can use for recording material downloaded via the online platform.
Driving the 40PFL8605‘s 2D and 3D pictures, meanwhile, is Philips’ top-level Perfect Pixel HD processing engine. We won’t go into this in detail here as we’ve covered it so often before, other than to say that its impact on sharpness, colours and motion are the most potent in the TV world right now.
The final feature point about the 40PFL8605 is that its 3D functionality isn’t actually built into the TV. Instead you need to use the (now included free) Philips’ 3D upgrade pack, comprising a 3D transmitter to attach to the TV, and two pairs of active shutter glasses.
Sadly, it doesn’t take long watching the 40PFL8605 with our growing pile of 3D sources for a sense of frustration and disappointment to set in. For no matter how much we fiddled with the 40PFL8605’s processing settings, including the integrated 200Hz system, the dreaded crosstalk noise remains alive and well and ruinous of our 3D enjoyment.
The double ghosting phenomenon LCD TVs currently seem unable to get round is there on everything 3D we tried, from Sky’s sports broadcasts through to our ”Avatar” Xbox 360 game and full HD 3D Blu-rays.
This is particularly sad because in other ways – brightness, colour richness, HD detail – the 40PFL8605’s 3D pictures are rather good.
The crosstalk is perhaps not quite as aggressive as we’ve seen it on some rival sets. But it’s still routinely distracting and merely reaffirms what we’ve long felt: that we comfortably prefer the slightly dark, soft but crosstalk-free 3D pictures of Panasonic’s 3D plasma TVs to the brighter, richer but crosstalk-afflicted pictures found with LCD TVs like this Philips model.
What makes reviewing the 40PFL8605 a rather confusing experience, though, is that while its 3D talents – which are an optional upgrade, don’t forget – are flawed, its 2D performance is mostly exemplary.
Particularly mouth-watering is the exceptionally dynamic look 2D pictures have, thanks to the set’s mammoth contrast range. We can’t, for instance, think of any other edge LED LCD TV that’s delivered a deeper, richer black colour. What’s more, the TV produces this black profundity while still delivering some decent shadow detailing and without forcing bright parts of predominantly dark pictures to take nearly as much of a brightness hit as we would usually expect on an LCD TV.
In fact, the 40PFL8605’s pictures are unusually bright, even by LCD standards – a fact that doubtless plays a part in the radiant way extremely rich colour saturations are propelled out of the screen to be devoured by your eager retinas.
Despite their aggressive tendencies, though, the 40PFL8605’s colours are by no means unnatural looking or ‘cartoonish’ – not least because the processing power pulling the TV’s strings is apparently so effortlessly capable of delineating even the most minute shift in colour tone or blend. This helps pictures achieve a strong sense of solidity and definition.
Talking of definition, this is another area where the 40PFL8605 excels in 2D. HD pictures look so full of texture and precision that it sometimes feels like you’re watching old favourite scenes for the first time, while the workings of Perfect Pixel HD ensure that even standard definition pictures look remarkably crisp and detailed.
The 40PFL8605 keeps an impressive lid, too, on LCD’s old problem of resolution loss over moving objects. In fact, you can pretty much remove it – and judder – completely via the HD Natural Motion circuitry Philips provides.
The only catch with this is that it can generate some side effects if used on too high a setting (though there are actually impressively few side effects on the processing’s low settings), and produces an ultra-smooth effect that just doesn’t work for some people – especially movie buffs. But hey, if you don’t like the motion processing, you can just turn it off, and still not find the picture plagued significantly by motion blur.
Inevitably, the 40PFL8605’s 2D pictures aren’t perfect. We’ve already hinted at the fact that you can, as ever with Philips’ processing-heavy TVs, end up with a very processing-heavy and unnatural picture if you don’t learn your way around the set’s many processing options. Also, we detected an offset secondary image when viewing from a wide angle, presumably caused by the glass sheet sitting across the TV’s fascia.
As a side note, gamers should note that the processing on the 40PFL8605 can introduce noticeable signs of the input lag that can so spoil online gaming experiences. But actually, the majority of this lag disappears if you stick with the provided Game picture preset when gaming.
Joining the 40PFL8605’s rather mixed picture fortunes if you take 3D into account is a pretty satisfying audio performance. You don’t get as much bass or definition as you do with Philips’ 9000 series, but the sound is still slightly louder, clearer and generally more convincing than it is with most TVs – especially TVs as thin as the 40PFL8605.
The 40PFL8605 appears to have been designed primarily as a 2D TV, with 3D merely an upgrade option. And as a 2D TV it’s a considerable success, making a better job of justifying its existence in Philips’ range than last year’s 8000 series models.
It’s also nice to find the 40PFL8605 offering a different aesthetic to the majority of Philips’ current range, even if the glass panel on the front creates a few problems.
The 40PFL8605’s 3D pictures are considerably less successful than its 2D ones, though, thanks to crosstalk noise. It’s fortunate, then, that Philips doesn’t appear to be charging very much for the 3D package it’s now bundling with the TV.
This doesn’t alter the fact, though, that in the end the set will likely only satisfy someone interested in 2D quality and multimedia features first, with only a passing interest in 3D (or no interest in it at all!). People really keen on 3D would be advised to look elsewhere.
How we test televisions
We test every TV we review thoroughly over an extended period of time. We use industry standard tests to compare features properly. We’ll always tell you what we find. We never, ever, accept money to review a product.
Score in detail
3D Quality 7
2D Quality 9
Sound Quality 8
|Digital Tuner||DVB-C (MPEG4), DVB-T (MPEG4)|
|Refresh Rate (Hertz)||100Hz|
|Height (Millimeter)||59.6mm, 636mm|
|Width (Millimeter)||103mm, 965mm|