Design and Connections
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
- Slim design
- Internet access that is not locked to proprietary widgets
- Correct 24p playback
- Good lag time for gaming
- Good energy consumption
- 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
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.
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