Is there still a market for a Full HD TV this big?
What is the Philips PFT6550?The Philips 50PFT6550 is a Full HD LCD TV with an LED backlight. It supports active shutter 3D, although it doesn't come with any glasses, and includes the Android TV smart platform. Since this is a Philips TV, you also get 3-sided Ambilight and a dual-sided remote control with a QWERTY keyboard. The TV includes dual-core processing and a host of image enhancement features including Perfect Natural Motion, Micro Dimming Pro and Perfect Pixel HD. The PFT6550 can be picked up for £649 as at the time of writing (September 2015), which isn't a bad price. However with cheap Ultra HD TVs now available, including from Philips themselves, is there still a market for a 50-inch Full HD TV?
Design & ConnectionsAs is often the case with the Philips design team, the PFT6550 is a combination of traditional features and a few left-field additions. We certainly can't think of any other company aside from Apple who is as willing to include white in their designs as Philips. The PFT6550 uses a silver brushed metal effect at the front, with a 1cm wide bezel and a matching angled central stand. Unusually these days it's a more traditional stand and it can be swivelled, which makes a nice change. Of course if you'd rather wall mount the PFT6550 then that is also an option. There's a perspex block at the bottom of the screen in the centre, which includes an illuminated Philips logo, although this can be turned off. The TV measures 1124 x 647 x 77mm (WxHxD) and weighs in at 13.3kg without the stand; with the stand there's 7cm of clearance under the screen. The overall construction is largely composed of plastic, making the build quality reasonable but obviously keeping the price down.
Around the back it's an all-white finish and along the two sides and the top of the rear panel are the LEDs that make up the Ambilight feature. At the rear, on the right hand side as you face the screen, there's the two-pin socket for the power cable and on the left hand side are all the connections. These use a combination of downwards, rearwards and sideways facing inputs. The sideways facing connections are 12cm from the edge and here you'll find two HDMI inputs, two USB ports, a headphone socket and a CI (Common Interface) slot. Facing downwards there are two more HDMI inputs and another USB port, along with a digital audio output, a TV antenna socket and a LAN port, although the PFT6550 does include built-in WiFi. Finally the rearwards facing inputs cover all the legacy connections with composite and component video, SCART and analogue audio inputs. Interestingly all the HDMI inputs support ARC (Audio Return Channel) which is unusual, as there's usually only one supporting HDMI input.
The PFT6550 has a very lifestyle orientated design with a combination of silver brushed metal and white.
Control & Android TVThe PFT6550 comes with Philips's unique dual-sided remote control, which is finished in white to match the TV itself. On one side are the usual TV controls such as channel, volume, numbers, playback and navigation. The layout is sensible and the design suitably ergonomic, making it comfortable to hold and use. On the other side is a full QWERTY keyboard which is activated when held in the correct orientation. Whilst a keyboard might be less important these days, with most manufacturers offering remote apps, it's still useful to have and does make typing into the smart platform much easier.
In terms of the smart platform, the PFT6500 includes Android TV, which Philips are including on the majority of their TVs in 2015. There have been a few teething problems with the roll out of Android TV, which has delayed the release of a number of TVs this year but now that it's here it does show real promise. From Philips perspective it certainly makes sense to use a third party platform to boost their own offerings, as it limits the amount of money they have to invest in this aspect of a modern TV. The layout of Android TV is simple and intuitive, making it easy to navigate, and the content will be substantial thanks to the involvement of Google.
The platform is laid out in a series of cards that you navigate down to select the main section you want and then move right to go through the options available for that section. In terms of the Philips implementation of Android TV there's an initial section showing recommended content. This is followed by the Philips collection, which includes the apps and features made available by Philips. After that you have the Apps section, with content offered via Google Play, and these already include a lot of the really popular apps such as BBC iPlayer, Netflix and YouTube. Then there is a Game section before finally reaching the Settings at the bottom; whilst there's also a search feature. We'll cover the smart platform in more detail in a separate review.
Whilst Android TV might have been late arriving, it's simple, intuitive to use and shows promise.
Features & SpecsSince the PFT6550 is a Philips TV, one of the big features is 3-sided Ambilight. This technology, which is unique to Philips, uses LEDs in the rear of the panel to illuminate the wall behind the TV, creating built-in bias lighting. The feature itself includes a number of different options, some of which are more akin to having a disco in your front room but on the higher-end models there's an ISF mode that creates neutral white bias light. This actually works very well, creating a comfortable viewing experience at night and improving the perceived blacks. The PFT6550 doesn't have an ISF mode but the standard mode is a decent approximation and would be our choice of setting.
As mentioned in the introduction, the PFT6550 includes dual-core processing, which whilst not as fast as the higher-end models, still manages to power all the picture enhancement features on the TV. The PFT6550 includes Micro Pro Dimming which analyses the image in 6,400 different zones to improve the contrast performance. Whilst it isn't actual local-dimming where the LEDs are turned on and off in different zones but rather it manipulates the image itself. There's also Perfect Pixel HD for upscaling lower resolution images to match the Full HD panel and there's Perfect Natural Motion, which uses frame interpolation to increase the frame rate and thus smooth out motion.
Picture Settings Out-of-the-BoxThe PFT6550 includes a number of different Picture Styles but in terms of out-of-the-box accuracy either of the ISF modes is best. These automatically turn off most of the picture enhancement features and they also select the best colour temperature for white. Rather confusingly Philips call the control for adjusting the backlight Contrast, whilst the control that is traditionally referred to as contrast is called Video Contrast in the menu. We performed a basic setup, with Contrast, Brightness, Video Contrast and Sharpness adjusted using basic test patterns and then took our measurements.
As you can see from the graph above left, there was a slight excess of green and blue and a deficit of red, resulting in whites having a noticeable push towards cyan (which is composed of green and blue). The gamma was also problematic, with the curve peaking at 2.3 at around 10IRE, hitting 1.5 at 90IRE and dropping down to 2 in the middle. The colour performance shown in the CIE chart above right wasn't great either, with over-saturation in many of the colours and sizeable errors in the brightness (luminance) of most of the colours. Overall this is a rather disappointing out-of-the-box performance, especially as we have seen a big improvement in this area from many manufacturers this year.
The out-of-the-box accuracy was disappointing, which even the calibration controls could do little to improve.
Picture Settings CalibratedThe PFT6550 includes a short cut feature to access certain picture controls but for access to all the calibration menus, you need to go to the Android TV home page and then select Settings. This process is a bit laborious and when the various menus are up they cover the meter, which means you have to keep coming out of the menus to take measurements and then go back in again to make further adjustments. The PFT6550 includes a two-point white balance control for adjusting the greyscale and a colour management system (CMS) for calibrating the colour gamut. In reality it's unlikely anyone would get a TV at this price point calibrated but it remains interesting to see just how accurate the TV can be, especially given the disappointing out-of-the-box performance.
The PFT6550 includes a two-point white balance control, which Philips call Custom Colour Temperature, and whilst not perfect, it did allow us to significantly improve the greyscale performance. The levels of red, green and blue were now tracking equally and the cyan tinge to whites was gone. There was nothing we could do about the gamma unfortunately, which remained seriously baggy in the middle. The CMS, which Philips call Colour Control, only adjusts the Saturation and Hue with no control for the luminance (brightness), although there appeared to be interaction between all three of the elements of colour. Initially it appeared that the Colour Control had at least improved the hue and saturation performance but it quickly became apparent that the colour performance was seriously affected by the Colour Control and that ultimately it was unusable. So the best approach was simply to calibrate the greyscale and leave it at that.
Philips 50PFT6550 Picture SettingsIn light of what we discovered in the previous section, we wouldn't recommend using the CMS at all, let alone copying anyone's settings. However a good basic setup can bring improvements and the Custom Colour Temperature settings might help. So for that reason we're including our settings in the video below although as always, just copying the settings from another TV, even of the exact same model, is no guarantee of a better picture:
In terms of performance, let's start with what the PFT6550 does well. The backlight uniformity is very good, with only a tiny bit of clouding that you wouldn't see unless you were watching in a pitch black room. Although that's really not the right environment for any LCD TV and besides the Ambilight feature provides some bias lighting behind the TV, making the viewing experience more comfortable and improving the perceived blacks. Although for an LCD TV the Philips actually had great native blacks, with 0IRE measuring at a decent 0.03cd/m2. The PFT6550 had plenty of brightness too, easily hitting our target of 120cd/m2, which resulted in an on/off contrast ratio of 4,000:1. However, the ANSI contrast ratio was equally as good, coming in at 3,528:1, which is impressive for an LCD TV.
The Philips uses a VA panel, which is why it has decent native blacks but the flip side is that the TV has a limited viewing angle, with a noticeable drop-off in contrast once you move more than 45 degrees off centre in either direction. Whilst a limited viewing angle is to be expected with a VA panel, what's more disappointing is the general lack of definition just above black, with limited shadow detail. We suspect this might be a result of the Micro Pro Dimming, with the processing improving the perceived blacks and contrast at the expense of actual detail in darker scenes but since this processing can't be turned off, it's hard to confirm that theory.
That's not the only example of processing that can't be turned off on the PFT6550 because there was a degree of motion smoothing occurring even with the Perfect Natural Motion turned off. We were able to check this was the case using our FPD Benchmark disc and despite having Perfect Natural Motion turned off, there was clearly still some frame interpolation being applied. Although we didn't need to use a test disc to see the effect because it was apparent with any film-based material. As always, we recommend not using Perfect Natural Motion with film-based content but there is the opportunity to use it with fast paced sports content. So whilst we have no objection to frame interpolation being offered as a feature, it is important that you have the option to turn it off.
Aside from the issues we've already mentioned, when watching actual content on the PFT6550 the picture was often quite good. Despite the slight errors in colours and luminance, they weren't overtly obvious when watching normal material and many people might like the over-saturated image. Although there was a slight cyan tinge in the whites, once again this wasn't especially noticeable and didn't detract from the overall experience. The video processing worked well with lower resolution content, upscaling it to match the Full HD panel without introducing ringing or other artefacts. So if you plan on watching a lot of standard definition content, a Full HD TV like the PFT6550 might be a good choice.
Naturally when it came to high definition content the PFT6550 handled them with ease, including both broadcast TV and Blu-ray. The Philips also handled 24p Blu-ray effectively, aside from the slight smoothing. The PFT6550 does support active shutter 3D but, as is so often the case this year, no glasses were provided with the review sample. Unfortunately none of our other glasses worked with the Philips either, so we were unable to test this aspect of the TV's performance.
Since the CMS didn't work properly, there was very little difference between the out-of-the-box performance and the calibrated performance. In fact most of the attributes discussed in the section above are just as applicable whether the display has been calibrated or not. In the unlikely event that someone did decide to get their PFT6550 calibrated, there's little a professional calibrator could do to improve the picture much beyond a basic setup. The one area where a calibration could offer an improvement is in terms of the greyscale and here using the white balance control did result in a cyan tinge being removed from whites. Otherwise the calibrated performance had the same strengths and weaknesses as the out-of-the-box performance.
The PFT6550 delivered some excellent blacks, an even backlight and a surprisingly good contrast ratio.
Philips 50PFT6550 Video Review
Sound QualityThe deeper chassis on the PFT6550 does allow for larger speakers to be used, but their position in the bottom firing downwards is always going to limit their effectiveness. The TV has 20W of built-in amplification, with 10W per a channel and the 50-inch screen size does allow for a reasonable amount of stereo separation. However despite big improvements being made this year in terms of the sound quality of TVs, the PFT6550 was never more than adequate. It could certainly handle the majority of normal TV viewing, with dialogue centred quite nicely but it struggled at any kind of high volume and the front soundstage was fairly limited. It's certainly sufficient for general viewing but if you're a movie fan a soundbar would definitely be a better audio option.
Input LagThe PFT6550 measured an input lag of 40ms, which whilst not bad, isn't as good as the 20-30ms we've been seeing on other TVs this year. It's certainly low enough for all but the most demanding gamer and given its Full HD resolution, the PFT6550 might make a good choice for someone looking for a decent sized screen for gaming. The Philips certainly delivered a decent image with gaming content, the experience was responsive and the native resolution matches the current gaming consoles well. So if you're looking for a reasonably priced big screen TV for gaming, the PFT6550 might fit the bill.
The picture quality was reasonable but the presence of some backdoor processing was annoying.
- Great black levels
- Good backlight uniformity
- Android TV has potential
- Nice features
- Poor out-of-the-box accuracy
- Lack of shadow detail
- Backdoor processing
- Faulty CMS
Philips 50PFT6550 Full HD TV Review
Should I buy one?
There are certainly aspects of the Philips 50PFT6550 that are worthy of recommendation, with the TV delivering an excellent native black level and surprisingly good contrast numbers for an LCD TV. The backlight was suitably even, the Android TV showed promise and the input lag was reasonably low. Philips unique two-sided remote control is handy and Ambilight remains a useful feature, as long as it's used just to provide neutral bias lighting behind the TV itself.
However in other aspects the PFT6550 was something of a disappointment, with a general lack of accuracy in terms of its greyscale and colour gamut. Whilst the former could be improved with the available calibration controls, the colour management system was faulty, leaving the overall colour accuracy lacking. There was also some backdoor processing in terms of frame interpolation that couldn't be turned off, which was annoying, and the shadow detail was severely compromised.
Regardless of the issues we've just mentioned, given the number of large screen Ultra HD 4K TVs now available for less than £1,000, it's debatable whether there is even a market for a 50-inch Full HD TV in 2015. We expect that next year the only Full HD TVs available will be in the smaller screen sizes intended for kitchen, studies or bedrooms, which certainly makes more sense, and anyone looking at a larger screen size should really consider an Ultra HD 4K TV.
What are my alternatives?
If you're determined to buy a large screen Full HD TV then Sony's KDL-55W805C offers a similar set of features, including Android TV, and a larger screen size for a few hundred quid more. Perhaps more importantly it delivers vastly superior out-of-the-box accuracy and a better overall performance. However, the best alternative is probably Samsung's UE48JU6400 which is nearly as cheap but offers Ultra HD 4K resolution, state-of-the-art smart features, a lower input lag and a superior level of accuracy. You might lose two inches in screen size but you gain in terms of performance and future-proofing, making the JU6400 a tough act to follow.
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level8
2D Picture Quality7
Picture Quality Out-Of-The-Box6
Picture Quality Calibrated7
Ease Of Use7
Value for Money7
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