Philips 7000 series LED (37PFL7605) Review

Enter the new LCD LED edge lit TV from the Philips 7000 series...

by Phil Hinton
TV Review

15

Philips 7000 series LED (37PFL7605) Review
SRP: £1,100.00

Introduction

Philips has had a habit of doing things their own way and releasing TVs with features not seen from any other manufacturer. Just look at their 21:9 LCD TV, for example. But doing things your own way can sometimes fly in the face of how things should be done. So with that in mind we take a look at a new 7000 series TV from the company, the PFL7605. For such a new release it is surprising to find that this HDTV does not have a Freeview HD tuner. But it does have some pretty unique Philips features such as Ambilight Spectra 2, Pixel Precise HD, 100Hz frame interpolation and HD Natural motion. So will this Philips prove to be a must have HDTV? We are about to find out.

Design and Connections

Design is always a personal preference and a very subjective topic to cover. What looks nice to one person can be a complete no-go for others. This might explain the rather conservative approach to the design of the PFL7605. Its bezel is rounded at the edges and the chassis is slim thanks to its Edge lit LED backlight with a table top stand that is hidden beneath. The screen surface also sports a matt finish which goes against the current market of LCDs sporting glass panel fronts. This gives the Philips an edge for those with bright rooms with daylight or lighting hitting the screen surface. The rounded bezel edges also give the design a contemporary look that doesn’t offend with a brushed aluminium look to the finish. But don’t let the initial look fool you, the chassis is made from moulded plastic and because of this it weighs less than it it looks. This will certainly help those who want to wall mount the TV.

One area of design that frankly doesn’t work for me, but may appeal to others, is the design of the remote control. This is made from plastic and is oval shaped with icons used for the buttons instead of names. For me this is probably one of the worst attempts at a remote control I have ever seen, but like I said, some might very well find it appealing. I found it a pain to hold in every day use and the lack of direct access buttons hindered the flow of changing sources and settings. Everything has to go through the home page menu and as I will discuss later in the review, this is far from ideal.

As we move to the back of the Philips we get the LED Ambilights at each side of the chassis plus the source connections. Unlike other manufacturers, Philips has actually given the problem of a slim TV being wall mounted some serious thought. Instead of HDMI slots pointing outwards at the back, restricting how close to the wall you can get, the slots here face downwards to allow a closer finish when mounted on the wall. This is a great design touch which we have been pushing manufacturers to do for a while. But there is a problem! If you want to use high quality HDMI cables (like our DVI Gear cables which are rugged and thick for continual review use) then you will struggle to fit these into each of the three bottom HDMI ports. The reason is that the HDMI leads have thick covers which take up space and make it impossible to slot these into the ports, because they are too close together. This is problem number one. The next issue is that HDMI slots are also too close to the chassis body so you cannot get the HDMI cables to marry up as flat as you would like.

In the photo here you can see black and blue HDMI cables plugged into slot 1 and slot 3. The middle slot 2 is inaccessible as the HDMI ports are too close together to use with well built HDMI leads. Moving to the connections at the rear of the PFL7605 we are given a generous amount of connectivity. As mentioned we have three HDMI v1.4 slots facing downwards along with a fourth slot on the side of the panel. Plus we have two scarts, one component, VGA/PC input and an Ethernet port. There are also two audio RCA inputs, a coax digital RCA output and a 3.5mm headphone jack. On the side panel along with the fourth HDMI slot are a USB input and SD and CI card slots.

Menus

There are many good menus systems out there on the latest HDTVs, but this is not one of them. I found the entire make up of the menus to be awkward to use and not very intuitive for either the novice or experienced user. When initially setting up the PFL 7605 you are given a few options pages such as setting the TV for home viewing modes. The TV then takes you through the usual tuning screens to set up the DTV and Analogue channels (if available). This is easy enough and takes no more than a few minutes.

What is curious is the next set up protocol which involves setting the TV picture to your personal preference. Ouch! Where LG have an excellent feature called TV Wizard that uses built-in test patterns to set up the front panel controls correctly for brightness and contrast etc., the Philips takes a very unusual and disappointing route. This system presents two alternative settings side by side and prompts the viewer to select the one they prefer. What?! When I see features like this, which go against everything a TV should be, I get very angry. It’s lazy and old fashioned and makes a mockery of the whole point of correct TV set up and viewing content correctly to industry standards. I know why it is here, but there is no excuse for this kind of feature in today’s market place. Finally we start to see features like THX Certification on some TVs that does its best to get consumers correct picture quality... and then we have Philips. I mean come on, really? That kind of attitude towards picture standards doesn't bode well for calibration or achieving an accurate image from the TV.

Anyway, it was time to find out what kind of correction control we had over the picture of the PFL7605. This brought us the main menu system which does take a little getting used to. The main menu gives you access to the picture and audio settings along with extras like the Ambilight set up and full factory reset options. Within the picture menu we do have some control over the image set up, but it is lacking in some key areas.

We are given a selection of picture presets ranging from Vivid, Natural, Cinema, Game, Energy Saving, Standard, Photo and custom. Picture quality varies considerably between all the presets and I’m stuck as to why there should be so many (certainly more than any other TV). Ideally you would have an accurate mode for TV and film viewing and maybe one for Gaming (as many games still don’t seem to follow any standards) and that would be it. (You don’t need one for photos as long as the accurate preset is Rec.709 which mirrors sRGB for photos). Thankfully the Cinema preset looks as accurate as it could to the standards, so we chose this for our out of the box setting. Next are the main front panel controls for Contrast, Brightness, Colour and Sharpness.

We also have selections for white balance that Philips strangely calls Tint, where we can select custom and then enter a custom tint menu which gives very basic greyscale control for one point (as opposed to two in normal menus or 10 in good systems like LG’s). We then have a large amount of control over the various picture processing features which thankfully all have an off button. The Philips processing is over the top and totally redundant for accurate image reproduction, it is however a marketing dream. The only section we want to set here is the Gamma selection which, whilst basic, is better than having no control. The last important area to set up correctly, especially for HD content is the picture format menu. For HD material we want the unscaled selection so we get 1:1 pixel mapping.

The next area to set up if you are not using a stand alone audio system are the speakers on board the PFL7605. Here you are given plenty of options and customisable settings to get the small speakers to sound correct in your room. However as for the actual sound quality, it is rather lacking even for a flat panel TV. Turning the volume up to even moderate levels introduced distortion and clipping of the higher frequencies. It is clear that the speaker system here is under par, even for a TV. We would therefore suggest a separate audio system. Finally, once set up, you have the main home menu which is used for all navigation on the Philips. This is rather annoying to use because we have no direct access keys on the remote control for switching sources, hence we are forced to go via this home page on a regular basis. While I am sure the thinking here was to make things easy for the common user, it is actually very annoying when you want to change settings or sources quickly.

Features

The failure to add a Freeview HD tuner to the PFL7605 could perhaps be seen as short sighted given that most of this TVs rivals in today’s market are equipped with the latest tuner. However, Philips has added quite a few other features to this new HDTV. The most obvious is the introduction of edge LED backlighting which has allowed the Philips to achieve its slim design. There is no doubt that adding LED technology does have benefits with design, energy consumption and in some cases perceived contrast levels. We will test this fully in the picture assessment area of the review.

There are also a number of picture processing features that are unique to the Philips brand. Included here are the Pixel Precise HD and HD Natural Motion features that boast finer detail, better motion and minimised judder due to the algorithms employed by the processing. I find it strange that Philips feels the need to have two very similar technologies which they clearly want to have individually listed, but that more or less attempt the same end goal. Ah well the power of the marketing team strikes again…

Next up is Net TV which is Philips' online service. This includes the usual 'You Tube' video services along with picture viewers and so on. Again like most systems included on mid-range TVs these days, most of the available content has a fixed scope for usability. However what is different is that the Philips also allows you to surf the internet via its inbuilt browser. This is not a fully featured browser and some websites may not display correctly, but in the short time I used the feature it worked pretty well. The drawback is page navigation and this is where a remote like that seen on the new LG TV, which offers a pointer that can be used from the armchair, would have been very useful. But kudos to Philips for allowing full internet access.

The PFL7605 also has full DLNA network capabilities where you can view pictures, music and video from your home network by connecting to your router. This function worked pretty well during testing, playing back all video files I had available. However it should be noted I didn’t check MKV playback due to issues with my drive at the time of reviewing the TV.

Finally we come to the Ambilight Spectra 2 system. This uses two LED light strips on both sides of the TV chassis and it can be configured to work in a number of ways. The main dynamic setting matches colours and brightness on the TV and projects this on the wall behind. Whilst this is entertaining for five or so minutes it also gets very annoying, very quickly. This effect also causes issues with on-screen colour production and perceived contrast which makes things look very odd. I am actually a believer in having the correct bias lighting behind a screen that is going to be viewed in dimmed rooms, but not lighting that changes every second and scene by scene. Where the Ambilight feature is useful is in the custom setting where you can set the result to the correct 6500k setting for a bias light. This also allows the light to be set so there is no fading or flashing as scenes change and helps with eye strain when watching in a dimmed room. However, I doubt this was Philips intention for the Ambilight system, rather it’s a feature to sell to those wanting flashing lights behind the TV and in that configuration it changes the viewing of content in a way that will affect colour reproduction and accurate viewing.

Test Results

As always in this section of the review we set up the Philips in the best out of the box picture presets by eye, selecting a warm white balance (or tint on the Philips) and Gamma. Then brightness and contrast were set using the usual test patterns for our review room for daylight and dimmed viewing. We start by looking at the greyscale results which makes up the backbone of the image. The goal here is to have a Greyscale where red, green and blue are mixed correctly to make the desired colour of white (and grey as luminance is reduced). No TV will be perfect in this regard out of the box, but some can get very close if the presets are factory calibrated correctly. So how does this Philips perform?

The Greyscale results are quite encouraging in the cinema and warm presets. There are errors with green tracking to high by about 5% and Blue tracking low by the same amount. Red tracks quite well at the 100% mark. What this equates to on-screen is a slight yellow cast to the overall image content most noticeable on skin tones. However, although visible it is not overly distracting and most users would probably miss the effect. Gamma meanwhile is a little on the low side and thus a little brighter than it should be. However, again we don’t think it would be that noticeable to viewers as it may be lighter but only a fraction so.

Moving to the colour gamut and again in the Cinema preset it does at least measure towards the Rec.709 target than the usual over the top oversaturated results seen with most LCDs. There are however some obvious errors with the primary and secondary colour points. All three primary colours (red, green and blue) are slightly oversaturated against the points where they should line up on the Gamut CIE chart with red having the largest drift in both saturation and brightness (luminance). Green and blue also follow suit with the same errors, albeit slightly smaller in nature. Plus the secondary points of cyan and magenta have saturation and hue errors. All points apart from blue also have too much brightness (luminance) which is a big error that will be seen on screen with normal material. Sadly, as feared, the Philips has no Colour Management System (CMS) controls so we will not be able to fix all the issues and get the image completely accurate.

While the Philips has lots of marketing features like the HD Pixel Precise processing and Ambilights, it doesn’t have many important calibration tools to correct the most important point of the TV, its picture quality. Our aim is to always match the industry standards for white balance and colour reproduction so we can watch content as it is intended to be seen, not by personal preference. So with the limited control we do have, these were the results.

Because the out of the box Greyscale, while not mixed correctly, did track in a uniform manner we were able to use the one point correction provided by the Philips and get a good result. The Greyscale was now mixed at levels where the errors would not be visible to the vast majority of viewers as the DeltaE errors were below 2. This was a very good result which also helped to correct the Gamma which is now tracking much closer to the desired 2.2 reference point. Overall, even with the lack of total control we managed excellent results here, mainly because the out of the box tracking was uniform to begin with.

Because we managed to get the Greyscale tracking well, this did help with the secondary colour points to some degree with the hue errors reduced for cyan and magenta. Whilst not perfect this is better than the out of the box results. The only other thing we could do was use the main colour control (decoder) to reduce saturation slightly which reduced the large brightness (luminance) errors to more acceptable levels. Sadly with no CMS available this was the best result possible but there are still errors. Red is the main concern here as it still has large saturation and luminance errors which will be visible with most content. Plus with the same slight green errors football pitches do look lusher than they should. I can’t help but feel if we had a CMS we could have managed excellent results. This is where you should be focussing some of your R&D budget Philips.

With so many picture processing tools available on the Philips you would imagine that good results should be second nature. Well that’s sadly not the case as most of this processing power is used to add frame interpolation and motion elements that are not required in the vast majority of cases. Starting with the SD scaling and the PFL7605 does a reasonably serviceable job of scaling SD images to the native panel resolution. There are some slight ringing artefacts seen but nothing that would detract or can be seen from normal viewing distances. With good source material fine edges are well defined without blur. However de-interlacing and diagonal interpolation was slightly lacking with only the two top bars on our HQV test discs looking clean enough and the bottom bar showing more jaggies. With normal material this result did show some instances of being visible with lines on football coverage.

Sadly the SD film cadence detection was also not that great with the Philips failing the Pal 2:2 tests on the HQV test disc. Perhaps it is a surprise that the 3:2 American NTSC test did pass on the Philips, ironic seeing as the company pulled out of the US market some time ago and is European based. Moving to HD interlaced signals and again results were mixed with some jaggies and flicker seen with interlaced concert footage in 1080i. However 24p playback was of a good standard with no induced judder present. This was with all processing switched off. Looking at the frame interpolation presets, these did smooth motion and improved perceivable motion resolution, but as always this was achieved by adding in artefacts and a ‘soap opera’ look to film content. After checking all the various options available, ‘Off’ seemed to work the best! In terms of motion resolution with everything switched off, the Philips managed to resolve around 450 lines, which, given the inherent LCD technology traits, was a good result.

Testing the PFL7605 in all the presets, excluding game mode, gave a result of 40ms which can be best described as average. However in games mode, this improved to 25ms which can be considered a good result even for quick gamers.

As with most LED LCD TVs this Philips provided fairly consistent power consumption with all the unnecessary features turned off. Measuring at three brightness points of 0 IRE, 50 IRE and 100 IRE the PFL7605 measured 87 watts at all three levels.

Picture Quality

Starting with SD material and in the out of the box settings of Cinema and Warm, the Philips managed an average performance. Colours were visibly oversaturated and skin tones slightly off kilter. There was also a slight yellow/green cast to the overall image which was visible with most material as expected with the greyscale results. SD looked as sharp as you would expect with no signs of over processed fine lines or ringing. However with sports, especially football, the inherent LCD trait of image blur with fast moving objects was here to see, which is more an issue with the technology than with the Philips. The in-built tuner did a reasonable job with low bit rate broadcast material but I didn’t find the resulting image quality overly appealing to watch for any length of time.

The now usual trait of screen uniformity raised its head during viewing. The Edge LED configuration may add slimness to the design but it also impacts on picture quality. It was clear to see light pooling in the top third and bottom corners of the screen even when watching bright images. This became more obvious with darker content such as Batman on Sky Movies. Within dark scenes shadow detailing became impossible to make out as the darker areas of the image became just pools of grey with no depth or detail visible. Plus it made the screen uniformity issues more pronounced. This was true in dimmed viewing conditions and in normal daytime viewing and in both out of the box and calibrated modes. The calibration results did improve the colour reproduction slightly, and the yellow/green cast was gone thanks to better greyscale tracking. However this didn’t resolve the lacklustre black level performance with shadow detail still missing due to the contrast restraints of the panel.

HD material did look good with bright and vivid images and no forced edge enhancement meaning full levels of detail were visible on screen. Skin tones, even in calibrated mode still didn’t completely convince and there was still the odd over saturated red and green issue from time to time with certain material. Some times I will remark that the majority of viewers won’t notice this unless they have a reference monitor to compare it with, but in this case the colour reproduction issues are slightly visible, especially with football content as the green pitch and red tops look over done.

Viewing angles on the Philips are also average at best, with contrast and colour balance starting to suffer as you get beyond the 20 degree point. This means that off-axis viewing will suffer in some room layouts. We suggest you demo the set to determine if this will be an issue for you. So overall it was a very mixed performance from the Philips and those interested in demoing the TV should now have areas to look at during your demo.

The above comments are obviously based on using the Cinema mode and Warm white balance settings, along with our calibrated mode. However we did sample the various other picture presets available with the same material. These presets highlighted the mentioned issues in varying degrees but most notably an overly blue greyscale in the brighter Standard and Natural settings with strong blue whites and skin tones that looked washed out. Artefacts with low bit rate content were more noticeable and the overall colour reproduction was too bright and vivid, with some colours looking extremely cartoon like and neon. If you want to get at least some way towards accurate, the Cinema preset and warm white balance settings are without doubt the best this TV has to offer without a full calibration being possible.

Verdict

5
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

Pros

  • Slim design
  • Internet access that is not locked to proprietary widgets
  • Correct 24p playback
  • Good lag time for gaming
  • Good energy consumption

Cons

  • Poor screen uniformity
  • Visible light pooling from LED edge lighting
  • Black level and contrast are average with lack of image depth and shadow detailing
  • Lack of calibration control including CMS and poor greyscale control
  • Poor remote control and unintuitive menu system that is also slow to respond
  • Ambilight is a distraction rather than a useful feature
  • Too many different processing features that add nothing of value
  • No Freeview HD tuner!
  • Colour reproduction should be better

Philips 7000 series LED (37PFL7605) Review

It’s clear that Philips want to do things their own way when it comes to HDTVs and that shows with the features included here and the results from them. There seems to be technology for technologies' sake with this TV yet none of that goes towards producing an accurate image for content reproduction. The Philips really will appeal to those who want to go their own way and have a picture that is personal preference ahead of accuracy.

Most of the technology also seems to exist to help the marketing department. This is frustrating to see as HD finally gives users the chance to see their content as it should be seen. Added to this is the lacklustre image quality in the best out of the box settings and a lack of absolute contrast. This affects the black levels and shadow detailing that should be present, plus, the uneven screen uniformity that is easily seen even in bright viewing conditions. With our retail model there were also issues with light pooling from the edge LED backlight.

The PFL7605 offers a slim design and average image quality. It is a rather uninspiring display that doesn’t offer the AV enthusiast or mass market anything they can’t get elsewhere done better for about the same money. Disappointing.

Scores

Sound Quality

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4

Smart Features

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4

Ease Of Use

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4

Build Quality

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.
.
.
.
5

Value for Money

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.
.
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.
.
4

Verdict

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.
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5

Picture Quality

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5

Video Processing

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.
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5

Greyscale Accuracy

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7

Colour Accuracy

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5

Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level

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5

Screen Uniformity

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5
5
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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