The 42PFL8404’s pictures also have a number of flaws, however. For starters, while not as pronounced as with old Pixel Plus TVs, a marked shimmering halo can still appear around objects passing across the screen.
The processing’s attempts at boosting the image’s sharpness, meanwhile, tend to create a slightly glowing ‘ghost’ around really harshly defined edges, as well as sometimes exaggerating source noise more than the Perfect Pixel HD engine does.
Nor do colours look quite as consistently authentic as they do on Philips’ higher spec models – a function, no doubt, of the 42PFL8404’s 14-bit rather than 17-bit RGB colour processing, and the fact that the set doesn’t have Philips’ dedicated ‘Perfect Colours’ processing element.
I also felt that despite the fluidity of its motion handling, the screen suffered more with motion blur than Philips’ highest-spec screens – and a few screens from rival brands, come to that.
Other issues include some noticeable brightness ‘jumping’ if you use the dynamic contrast system; marked contrast reduction if you have to watch the screen from an angle (this being a very common LCD problem, obviously); and finally, while standard definition sources do look pretty crisp compared with the way they look on numerous rival brands, they don’t seem as sharp as on Philips’ Perfect Pixel HD TVs.
I realise it’s a little tricky from this list of negatives to pick out where the 42PFL8404 falls short, as you’d expect, of Philips’ top-line TVs and where it falls short, more tellingly, of rival TVs. So to keep things as simple as possible, let me just sum everything up by saying that while the 42PFL8404’s pictures are good – provided you’re careful with some of the processing settings – they’re not quite good enough to earn the TV a coveted 9 or 10 for picture quality when considered against the best Samsung and Sony have to offer for the same sort of money.
The 42PFL8404 does outgun its Samsung and Sony rivals sonically, though, delivering an appealingly dynamic, clean and potent soundstage as Philips continues to prove that decent sound and ‘flat’ TVs really can go together.
The 42PFL8404 is a very attractive, heavily featured TV with an unusually approachable price by Philips’ premium standards. The fact that it doesn’t use the brand’s top-line video processing system is pretty obvious in some aspects of its picture quality, but even a Philips TV firing on three-quarters of the brand’s cylinders is still worth at least an audition.