Bad light stops play
What is the Philips PFS6609?
The Philips 6600 Series offers an awful lot for its price-tag.Besides the suitably large screen real estate, you get Philips super Ambilight system, Smart Cloud TV, active shutter 3D technology and lots more besides. The model specifically under scrutiny here is the 55PFS6609 but there are also the 48PFS6609 and 40PFS6609 amongst the range, where the first two digits denote the screen size.
As a company, Philips has been undergoing some fairly drastic changes, behind the scenes, and this is actually a TP Vison TV branded as Philips but, as we understand it, most of the brains and engineering nous from their base in the Netherlands are retained. We’re hoping the result is part Chinese Cracker, part Dutch Master. Let’s take a look.
Philips PFS6609 Design & ConnectionsThe PFS6609 features a very tiny bezel in a powdery silver finish which is complemented by a base-stand in a similar colour. Refreshingly, the stand swivels generously and we like the body-less design too. It came as a bit of shock that the rear panel is made from bright white plastic but it probably helps with reflecting the Ambilight effect on to the wall.
Ambilight, in case you’ve not come across it before, is Philips proprietary system utilising a series of LEDs placed around the edges of the back panel and projecting backwards to produce a ‘halo’ of backlighting to the TV. This is actually a great idea, if you like watching in low light conditions, as it will preserve your eyes as well as boosting the perception of contrast. The 6600 Series utilises two sided Ambilight, which we’ll take but three - or even four - would be better.
There are a very comprehensive set of connections around the back and sides. There are four HDMI ports, where two point downwards from the bottom and two project sideways but are far enough from the edge of the bezel not to cause untidy wire issues. You also get a couple of USB ports, legacy video, Wired and Wireless LAN, a digital audio out and both satellite and a Freeview HD digital tuners.
The remote is also in white. The plus side to this is that it will stand out from all the others but we can imagine it’s going to look grubby in time. It’s quite a lightweight object and lacks the rear mounted QWERTY keyboard we saw with the Ultra HD, PSU7809 but we guess they have to cut costs somewhere along the line. It’s a decent handset of a comfortable size to hold, however, and most of the vital buttons are easy to find.
Philips PFS6609 MenusYuck. We wish we could leave it there as it pains us to talk about Philips’ menu systems but it’s not the done thing. On a positive note, the 6609 does get isf Calibration controls but those, and the picture settings in general, are unfathomably difficult to access. It takes six button presses on the remote control just to set a picture mode (style) and other, more advanced settings, a lot more. They are slightly better than last year’s but not by much and they are even worse than Sony’s, with which they seem to share some of the XMB DNA. The ISF controls, already mentioned, include two-point white balance, a stripped down colour management system and some gamma pre-sets - assuming we can ever find them
The menu system is just plain odd
Philips PFS6609 FeaturesFortunately, for me, there has already been a dedicated review for the 2014 Philips Smart TV Platform published. You can find it here and it paints the tale of a system strong in certain key areas such as networking and connectivity but more limited when it comes to app support. Philips has spruced up the interface to good effect and the Dropbox support brings in the cloud and you also get the likes of Netflix and Spotify. There’s a really good app for both iOS and Android, too, but you really need to read the review linked above for the full low-down.
Philips PFS6609 Test ResultsPre Calibration
It’s good to see isf picture modes in the menus, even if using the controls associated with them is an unbelievable pain in the derriere. We’ll get to that in a moment but, for now, we’ll look at how they perform out-of-the-box, with just a few simple adjustments made. There are a silly amount of controls under the banner ‘Contrast’ – four, in fact, and balancing them out isn’t the easiest task. Two of them, engage some form of dimming system, whilst the others work in tandem, or against one another, depending on your view point. We eventually managed to strike a balance between the two where we achieved the required light output whilst being able to see maximum detail in whites, but it was quite painful.
We can see from the chart, top-left, that greyscale is actually tracking quite well (the contrast controls also have a large bearing in that), with just a general excess of green and some blue, here and there. Gamma was tracking far from ideally however, with an image that was generally too bright in tone for a darkened room. The colour performance, observed in the charts, top-right, was better with a general under-luminance being the most observable error.
We coined at least three brand new expletives during this process. The first issue is that the White Balance and Colour adjustment menus appear exactly where you want to be taking the measurements. The workaround for this is obviously to measure, exit out of menus (several button presses in itself), make adjustment, re-enter the menus (several more button presses), measure again, rinse and repeat. Greyscale calibration is an iterative process so, as you can imagine, this took quite some time and it wasn’t especially helpful that the TV menus kept locking up when the patterns were displayed. The result of that ‘feature’ is that we had to add in the complexity of removing the HDMI lead of the input source each time we wanted to adjust. None of this is going to be particularly pertinent to most reading, but we just needed to get it off our chests.
After some time (more than we want to share), we eventually came upon a combination of settings that saw greyscale tracking extremely well and a gamma response much closer to target. Given the method required, we’ll snap your hands off for delta Errors almost all below one! Fortunately, the colours didn’t require much further adjustment as the management system is poor, with small adjustments making huge differences and adversely affecting elements of the picture they shouldn’t be. They aren’t perfect but good enough to exit this painful chapter with just a mention of the over-saturation in blue and the under-saturation in red.
Contrast, Black Levels and Screen Uniformity.
There’s some good here but also some very bad. To get the negativity out of the way, the PFS6609 sample tested had some of, if not the worst, bright screen panel uniformity issues we’ve seen to date. You can see from the graphic below that there are many areas in the centre of the screen that show lighting that is coming through far too bright and is illuminating the panel array too. The three hottest of hot spots you can see were almost permanently visible, whatever the content, and were of course very distracting. The rest of them you could see frequently when panning shots were on-screen and it is simply not an enjoyable phenomena.
It’s a pity because the native black level performance of the PFS6609 was actually rather good, although it wasn’t really helped by the dimming systems, which both introduced graininess into darker shades. From a chequerboard pattern, the Philips registered an average black level of 0.052cd/m2 and a result contrast ratio of around 2,000:1 with peak white averaging about 102cd/m2. To be fair, the backlight uniformity problems weren’t as noticeable in darker scenes, but they were always around the corner.
Update: TP Vision were understandably concerned about our findings with the review sample and they thought it unrepresentative of the range. As we do with all manufacturers, we offered the opportunity for them to send a further sample for consideration, in case something had happened to the original in transit. The second sample was much better than the first, with just a small amount of clouding visible on darker screens but none of the invasive issues with bright screen content were apparent. Obviously we can't test every PFS6609 but at least we can say we know there are good examples out there.
Philips PFS6609 Video Review
Decent contrast performance which all goes to waste
The Philip’s TVs generally display strong video processing and the 55PFS6609 was no exception, with cleanly scaled standard definition images and good video deinterlacing. The PFS6609 managed to lock on the 2:2 film (PAL - European) cadence and also handled 1080p24 (most Blu-ray) material without undue judder.
The Philips 55PFS6609 is not a TV we could easily recommend to serious gamers. There is a game mode in the picture menus which reduces input lag down to the 55 milliseconds region, which might be acceptable for some, but it induces some ghosting that takes away the immersion factor. Without the Game mode on, we’re in to the almost unplayable 130 millisecond category so you’re between a rock and a hard place if gaming is a major concern.
The following measurements were taken with a full screen 50% white pattern:
Out-of-the-Box – Standard Mode (Ambilight On): 69W
Out-of-the-Box – Standard Mode (Ambilight Off): 62W
Calibrated – Movie Mode (Ambilight On): 95W
Calibrated – Movie Mode (Ambilight Off): 89W
Calibrated - 3D Mode: 145W
Philips PFS6609 Picture QualityIf it weren’t for the backlight uniformity issues noted above, this would have been such a different story but as it is such a pervasive problem, most of the good work is undone by it. The PFS6609 has strong native contrast and good colours so images appear natural, with a decent amount of pop. Motion handling is reasonably good to the eye but, of course, when there are panning shots on-screen, the uniformity issues are highlighted even more.
The weekend prior to publishing was dominated by The Open Championship and the first test between England and India, and the pale greens of the grasses did not come out of it well; every time the camera panned, a silhouette of the panel array could be seen right across the screen and the brightest of the bright spots of uneven light would become even more apparent.
It’s not an issue limited to sports viewing, however, and we could see the same things with all content but greens and whites is where we saw it most. Unfortunately, the dimming effect of the supplied 3D glasses wasn’t enough to prevent the array banding and dirty screen effect(s) showing up which is again a real pity as, otherwise, the PFS6609 put up a good show there with the same decent dynamic range and convincing colour palette helping to produce 3D images with good pop and plenty of depth. There was a little crosstalk, especially with objects in negative parallax (in front of the screen) but it certainly wasn’t as off-putting as the light uniformity problems.
Owing to the nature of mass production, and the technology involved with LED/LCD TV technology, you will get the odd example like we have here so we’re entirely willing to concede that there will be better examples of what the PFS6609 can do in circulation but this one doesn’t cut the mustard, in frustrating ways.
What a different story it all could have been
- Great price
- Impressive blacks
- Accurate colours
- Decent Smart TV platform
- The stand swivels
- Ambilight is great
- Extremely poor screen uniformity(Rectified with second review sample)
- Awful menu system
Philips 55PFS6609 (PFS6609) TV ReviewThe PFS6609 is contemporary in appearance with a powdered silver bezel which is very slender and a skeletal base-stand which quite remarkably swivels. The back panel is also unusual in the fact that it’s white which is no doubt to aid the LEDs used in the Ambilight system, which we like. There are a healthy set of connections, including 4 HDMI ports, 2 USB and both wired and wireless LAN.
The supplied remote control is also white which we have no particular issues with but we can’t help thinking it will look mucky, over time. Philips refocused Smart TV platform is mostly all about Video on Demand and streaming services but there is handy Dropbox integration for access to your cloud stored media files.
When it comes to the general user interface – especially the Menu system - we have to say that we don’t find the Philips take on things to be the most user friendly. This is especially the case when accessing the picture controls and the calibration process was nightmare inducing as a result. Still, we did extract an accurate image out of the PFS6609, after much huffing and puffing (read, bad language).
As well is its convincing colour palette, the 55PFS6609 is also helped by good native contrast performance but all that was undone by some unusually bad backlight uniformity issues. We could see several ‘hotspots’ on-screen almost permanently and the panel array was visible with virtually every camera pan. We would stress that we don’t expect that every PFS6609 out there will share the problems we encountered, but it’s something to watch out for, when demoing.
Had it not been for the manufacturing issues this would have been a very different verdict but they were such that they could not be overlooked. We certainly wouldn’t want to put people off from going to take a look as the 55PFS6609 could be outstanding value for less than a grand but we’d make sure we got plenty of demo time before committing to buy.
Update: TP Vision were understandably concerned about our findings with the review sample and they thought it unrepresentative of the range. As we do with all manufacturers, we offered the opportunity for them to send a further sample for consideration, in case something had happened to the original in transit. The second sample was much better than the first, with just a small amount of clouding visible on darker screens but none of the invasive issues with bright screen content were apparent. Obviously we can't test every PFS6609 but at least we can say we know there are good examples out there. In light of this, we have now revised our scoring and deemed the PFS6609 well worthy of an AVForums Recommendation.
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level8
2D Picture Quality8
3D Picture Quality8
Ease Of Use5
Value for Money8
Our Review Ethos
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