Middle of the road
What is the Philips 48PFT5509?It’s a mid-range Smart TV from TP Vision’s Philips TV brand and whilst it’s not exactly widely available, you can pick it up online from one very major retailer for a shade below £530 (September 2014: Update 9/1014: There are more retailers on board now) The Philips 5500 series also comes in three other screen sizes 32PFT5509, 40PFT5509 and 55PFT5509 with all featuring the same range of Smart TV services, 200Hz scanning and built-in WiFi.
DesignAs bezels get slimmer and base-stands more wiry, there’s less and less description we can apply to your everyday LED LCD TV, but we like the floating screen effect and the PFT5509 keeps it ultra-minimalist with its discreet all-black design. The cut-out stand can make it difficult to conceal wires that, for example, you might be hooking up to a soundbar but it does add the airy look and feel.
Only 2 HDMI ports is stingy!
ConnectionsWe would have preferred more than 2 HDMI inputs but we trust Philips has done their market research on target customer requirements. At least both are Audio Return Channel (ARC) capable, so if you are hooking up an outboard audio solution similarly endowed, you’re well covered. Additionally, the PFT5509 has old-school Scart, Component and Composite video inputs and a Toslink digital audio output. You also get built in WiFi, a wired LAN connection, 2 USB ports, on the side, and the 48PFT5509 is Freeview HD capable via its aerial input.
Is the PFT5509 easy to set up and use?Well, we didn’t have any real issues with getting started. The set up procedure is friendly and informative and you’ll be guided through channel tuning, network setup and there are even tutorials for the more complex features. We can’t say we’re big fans (understatement) of the Philips TV menu systems, however, which are a total chore to navigate if you want to make any meaningful picture adjustments.
Menu navigation isn’t really made any more tolerable by the remote which, despite being reasonably well planned – button wise - is slippery to handle and doesn’t have a finger indent on the back to help keep it steady. OK, it’s a minor thing but it all adds up! The only thing we would note is that we had problems getting the ARC feature to work (as in, it wouldn’t) with a Panasonic soundbar in for review at the time. We can’t apportion blame one way or the other with any certainty but it’s a heads up for any other owners out there.
iPlayer, YouTube and Netflix will do for most
Philips Smart TV AppsIt’s all about the ‘Cloud’ with Philips Smart TVs although that’s mostly more about terminology than it is about application. We do like the Dropbox functionality though, which allows you watch and listen to your cloud stored content and it also allows you to share it with family and friends. You also get plenty of video streaming services, although quite a few of the big hitters are missing. Still, Netflix, YouTube and BBC iPlayer does for most folks. You are also provided with a (dodgy) web browser, a media player and miracast for your locally stored videos, photos and music plus there’s the option of adding Skype video calling with purchase of the necessary (PTA317) peripheral.
We mentioned above our distaste for the Philips menu system and its only made worse by an arduous calibration process, hampered by options and controls which are buried and sometimes badly labelled. That’s not to mention the GUI which gets in the way of the measuring equipment. We’ll spare you further details only to report that the Movie ‘Picture style’ yielded results closest to industry standards.
We can see in the RGB balance graph, above-left, that the default settings show a deficit of red in the greyscale and an opposing excess of green and blue. Errors weren’t too large but darker portions of the picture were far too dim, as gamma response was ‘over’ target near black. The colour charts, top-right, paint a picture of over-brightness and the red and green primaries were noticeably off hue.
By hook and some crook we managed to get greyscale tracking really quite well and gamma much closer to where we want it. It took quite a combination of controls to get there but the effort was worth it. The colours we could do little about and we were forced to compromise the results with blue and cyan for the rest. The hue errors were still noticeable with familiar video material however, particularly in the occasional unwarranted neon green, but our hands were effectively tied by the lack of picture controls.
Greens never look quite right on the PFT5509
Input LagYou need to delve in to Advanced section of the Picture Menu and then locate the Activity sub-heading to uncover the Game modes in the 5509. It’s worth doing though, as it cuts input latency down significantly. Without it, you’re looking at a game changing 100 milliseconds of lag but its use means you’re facing a far more responsive 37 milliseconds. It’s not the absolute quickest out there but it's certainly one of the better we've measured this year and should be fine for all but the most competitive.
Philips PFT5509 Picture QualityEven in the Movie mode, there are quite a lot of picture controls enabled in the menus that you really don’t want to be, so it’s worth taking the time to get some basic settings right to get the most out of the 5509. The Sharpness control is particularly aggressive but, other than leaving Dynamic Contrast at minimum, we’d advise switching off the other fancy sounding options. Once that was done and we’d tickled the picture controls, the 48PFT5509 produced decent, if not outstanding, images thanks in large part to the creditable native contrast of the panel, which is certainly better than average for an LCD TV. However, whilst the PFT5509 has decent blacks, it doesn’t really pack much dynamic range into its images, a lack of detail in darker portions of the pictures sees to that.
Whilst making some picture adjustments definitely improved things – skin tones, in particular, were made much more natural – there were elements of the pictures that never looked quite right. The off colour performance of green, in particular, was very evident on grasses and foliage, with quite a yellow tinge to them. That said, there were times when the PFT5509 impressed, usually with brighter scenes which were fairly static, where the inherent sharpness of the panel brought detail to life.
Decent black levels but not much dynamic range
Naturally, it’s with a good Blu-ray disc where the Philips looks best. Its handling of high definition film material is spotless, in terms of motion handling, but standard definition content was less sympathetically handled. Generally the scaling systems we see these days are pretty good but this one seems to highlight blocking flaws, caused by compression. There are some noise reduction options that are partially effective but we’d rather not be diving in and out of the settings, depending on what source we’re watching.
Philips 48PFT5509 Video Review
Are there any issues?Yet again, it is screen uniformity issues that we’re picking a LED LCD TV up on. There were uneven patches on darker screens which could, at least, be largely rectified by using the dimming system but then you’ll be subject to the odd jarring jump in screen luminance, as it’s neither the fastest nor most accurate. That said, we’d still use it on Minimum but it could do nothing to hide the dirty screen effect evident on panning shots over bright colours. It manifested as grey/brown blotches on the screen on the likes of sports pitches and cloudy skyscapes. It was by far our biggest irk with the PFT5509 but, as ever, it is something of a lottery with this technology.
- Decent black levels
- Nice design
- Some good smart features
- Reasonably priced
- Some uniformity problems
- Off-hue greens
- Lack of shadow detail
- Awful menus
Philips 48PFT5509 (PFT5509) TV ReviewIs the Philips 48PFT5509 good value?
We think the pricing of this TV is about spot on. You get a nice looking bit of kit which produces reasonably good pictures, most of the time, and there are a good set of smart features included. We would like to have seen better screen uniformity and the menu systems need a rethink but there’s enough positives for it to merit the price-tag.
What are the alternatives?
£500 to £600 to spend on a Smart TV you say? Hmm, let’s see. Well you could take a look at the Samsung UE48H6500. It’s a smidge over budget but you’ll see why when you try it. There’s also the price-comparable Toshiba 47L6543 which didn’t have the same decent black levels as the Philips but did boast better general screen uniformity. And for some more general advice, you could take a look at our various Buyers Guides.
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level7
2D Picture Quality7
Ease Of Use6
Value for Money7
Our Review Ethos
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