Philips PFL5605 (40PFL5605) Review

How does Philips latest no-frills entry level display measure up?

TV Review

21

Philips PFL5605 (40PFL5605) Review
SRP: £795.00

Introduction

The 40PFL5605 is the latest release from Philips and is aimed squarely at the entry level market but compared to some of its competitors the 40PFL5605 has a fairly anaemic set of features, even at this price point. There is no Freeview HD tuner built in and no internet capability either, which means this display’s performance will rest solely on its image quality. Here, at least, the 40PFL5605 seems well equipped, offering a full HD 1080p panel, with LED backlighting, and Philips’ Pixel Plus HD video processor. So let’s see how it performs on the AVForums test bench.

Design and Connections

The 40PFL5605’s price point is immediately evident when you look at the styling of the display. The overall feel is one of uninspired design with a rather cheap and plastic appearance. The screen is surrounded by a shiny black plastic bezel that is 5cm wide all around. The corners of the bezel are rounded and there’s a transparent plastic edging. However, the front is at least uncluttered and free of any unwanted lights or illuminated logos, there is just the name ‘Philips’ in silvered lettering at the bottom centre of the display. Unfortunately, as is usually the case, the screen itself is quite reflective but it is better than a lot of recent displays sporting all glass fronts. The back of the chassis is black plastic and the whole display rests on a black plastic and glass stand, that doesn’t swivel. The use of rear LED back lighting means that the 40PFL5605 is much deeper than many other displays on the market but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I don’t actually need my TV to be as thin as an After Eight mint and I find that all edge-lit LED displays suffer from clouding, to some degree or another. Another benefit of the largely plastic construction is that the 40PFL5605 is relatively light, which means you don’t run the risk of a hernia when lifting it and it’s easier to wall mount.

The remote control packaged with the 40PFL5605 is possibly the worst remote I have ever used. Whilst the oval shape is comfortable to hold, its build quality has a very plastic and cheap feel to it, much like the display itself. Worse than that, there are hardly any buttons on the remote, and those that are there, have no names, just icons. The only way to use the remote effectively is either by a process of trial and error or by looking at the manual. In my view a remote should be intuitive and easy to use, if you are forced to consult the manual for even the simplest functions then there is something seriously wrong. Some icons were relatively obvious, like a house representing ‘Home’ or an anti-clockwise arrow for ‘Back’ but others were a complete mystery. This design approach of oversimplification, resulting in something incomprehensible also extends to the menus which I’ll address later.

The 40PFL5605 has a rather limited selection of inputs compared to many of its competitors, but on the plus side, most of them are facing down, which makes mounting the display flush to a wall much easier. The only problem is that the inputs are identified by raised black letters on a black background, which are almost impossible to read, making it difficult to work out which connections are which. I had to get under the display and look up to see what connections were there and attach the various cables. The connections that face down are; 2 HDMI inputs (one of which is v1.4 with audio return); 1 SCART connector; a VGA socket; an aerial socket; a RCA digital out and audio in connector. Facing out, there is also a component video in and audio in, using RCA connectors as well as a 3.5mm headphone jack. At the side there is a third HDMI v1.3 input, as well as a Common Interface (C.I.) slot and a USB port. Once again the connections are identified using black raised lettering that is almost impossible to read but this was less of an issue because obviously the side is easier to see.

Menus

The menu system employed by Philips is perhaps one of the worst I have experienced so far. In an attempt to make the set-up and use of the 40PFL5605 easier Philips have employed a simplistic and process driven method to setting up and using the display. Unfortunately, this ‘idiot friendly’ approach only makes the menus harder to navigate and more frustrating to anyone who has actually used a TV before. I understand why Philips did this, and the 40PFL5605 is clearly targeted at AV Luddites rather than AVForums Members, but even so, I feel it is misguided. The situation isn’t helped by the fact that the buttons on the remote only have icons to identify their purpose and no names. In addition the menu was one of the more unresponsive systems I’ve encountered recently.

The initial set-up wizard starts off sensibly enough, with the 40PFL5605 asking you for your location and whether you are setting up in a store or at home. Then you tune in the Freeview channels, which took nearly 10 minutes and is a bit slower than I’m used to. Then you are asked if you wish to set the picture up, which involves choosing from a series of side by side images. This personal preference approach is the very antithesis of how to set up a display and is a far cry from other manufacturers, who use actual test patterns in their Picture Wizards. Next, you must allocate the different inputs to the devices you have connected to them, so, for example, you can allocate your Blu-ray player to HDMI 1. To select that input, when using the display, you must go into the Menu and select the desired device, there is no separate button for selecting inputs on the remote. I found this frustrating but I suspect it is very useful for the technologically challenged.

As I have mentioned earlier, the 40PFL5605 only comes with standard Freeview and the corresponding EPG is rather basic and uninspired and a long way from the best I’ve seen. The biggest problem is working out which button on the remote is actually for the EPG, in this case it is the ‘Book’ icon, which Philips refers to as Browse in the manual. Even then, once you’ve located the button, you are given three different choices, one option for the EPG, one for a list of all the TV stations (presumably for quicker access to a particular channel) and one that gives you access to the various Digital Interactive features on the Freeview platform.

Once set up, the majority of the functions are accessed by using the Home menu button although there are other buttons. including one which Philips calls Experience, which gives you access to Picture Format (which changes the aspect ratio), Smart Picture (for frequently used picture settings), Smart Sound (for frequently used sound settings), Speakers (to configure TV speakers for Philips EasyLink) and Picture Shift (to adjust the position of the picture). Finally there is a button called Options, which offers convenient settings related to what is on screen, this is quite an important button as it provides additional choices, when in other menus, such as the EPG.

The Home menu offers you the following choices: Help, which allows access to the electronic user manual; Watch TV, which switches back to the aerial source if another source is currently selected; Browse USB, which allows you to browse a connected USB storage device;Scenea, which switches to the Scenea wallpaper; Add Your Devices, which allows you to add new devices to the Home menu and, finally, Setup, which allows access to the Picture and Sound controls as well as other TV settings.

Within the Setup menu there are choices for: Personalised Picture & Sound (which use the same set up methodology I mentioned in the initial setup phase); Search For Channels (which guides you through the channel installation which once again I mentioned in the initial setup);Advanced Channel Settings; Update Software (via USB); Advanced Software Update andWatch Demos. At the bottom of the menu screen is an option called Advanced TV Settings, which gives you access to all the main picture and sound settings.

Within the Advanced TV Settings are all the picture controls although, as mentioned, some of these can be accessed by other menus and remote buttons also. The Smart Picture function allows you access to all the different picture modes, which includes the usual selection of Vivid, Natural, Game, Energy Saving, Photo, Standard, Cinema (which I used for the out of the box measurements) and Custom (which I used for the calibrated measurements). Like other Philips displays, there is no dedicated control for the backlight, instead, the Contrast control changes both the backlight and the white level. There are however the other standard controls such as Brightness, Colour, Hue (only accessible with NTSC signals), Sharpness, Noise Reduction and Tint, which is actually a wwite balance control. In addition there is an option to set the Picture Format (aspect ratio) where the best option is Unscaled which, as the name suggests, will display a high definition image without any scaling. There is also a control for the Light Sensor that controls the dynamic backlight, as well as controls for changing the picture size (Screen Edges) and the position of the picture (Picture Shift).

Finally there is an option called Pixel Plus HD which allows access to the additional video processing controls. First there is ‘HD Natural Motion’ which uses frame interpolation to create smoother images but, like all these features, just ends up giving everything a video-like quality that ruins most images, in my opinion. The ‘100Hz Clear LCD’ function also uses the same algorithm to try and improve the motion resolution and thus gives images a similar processed look. It would be better if Philips gave you the option to double the frame rate to 100Hz, without frame interpolation, as this might actually improve the image. The Advanced Sharpness control results in selective enhancement at the expense of actual resolution. Both the Dynamic Contrast and Dynamic Backlight functions automatically adjust the backlight and white level in an attempt to improve the dynamic range of the display but is inconsistent and best left off. The ‘MPEG Artefact Reduction’ is designed to reduce MPEG artefacts like blocking and the ‘Colour Enhancement’ over-saturates the colours for a more vivid image. Finally there is a control for adjusting the gamma setting of the display.

Features

The 40PFL5605 is relatively short on features compared to a lot of other recent displays, it doesn’t have a Freeview HD tuner, there is no LAN socket which means no internet functionality or DivX and it isn’t DLNA compliant so it can’t stream videos and music. However, there are plenty of other features that Philips have included. First, the 40PFL5605 includes Philip’s ‘Pixel Plus HD’ which offers video processing for improved sharpness, natural detail, vivid colours and smooth natural motion on all qualities of HD, standard TV signals and multimedia content, for high definition displays. The 40PFL5605 also uses Philip’s ‘HD Natural Motion’ to minimise juddering effects that are visible with movie-based picture content. The award winning algorithm estimates motion in the picture and corrects juddering movements in both broadcast and recorded movie material (such as DVD and Blu-ray Disc).

In addition, the 40PFL5605 also uses LED backlighting technology which combines a minimalistic design with improved image quality and very low power consumption as well as 100 Hz LCD which creates extreme motion sharpness for clear and vibrant images even with fast on-screen motion. The 40PFL5605 includes a 2.1 speaker set up with 40 W sound (2 x 10 W + 20 W virtual power) and there is also ‘Clear Sound’ which is an innovative audio technology that significantly increases the intelligibility of vocalisations, whether spoken or sung. It ensures you hear every word, so you can enjoy what you're watching to the fullest. Finally, the USB connector allows access to JPEG photos, MP3 music and video files on most USB sticks (USB memory-class device). Plug the USB into the slot on the side of the TV and access the multimedia content using the easy on-screen content browser.

Test Results

For the purposes of this test I started by using the Cinema preset and then calibrating the Contrast and Brightness controls to ensure there was no clipping or loss of shadow detail. I also set the Sharpness control to zero, left the Colour control on the middle setting, chose a Warm setting for the colour temperature, turned off all the video processing features and selected Unscaled for the aspect ratio setting. As you can see, the greyscale performance was very average and the errors were quite noticeable when looking at a step crossed greyscale. Blue is tracking between 10 and 15% over the target line whilst both Red and Green are tracking 5 to 10 % below. In addition the Colour Temperature was far too high and Gamma was conversely too low. The Colour Gamut shown on the CIE chart was much better than the Greyscale when measured out of the box and wasn’t too far from Rec.709. As you can see, Green is fairly close but Red and Blue are slightly over-saturated. In the secondary colours, Yellow is fairly accurate but there are errors in Cyan and Magenta.

As previously mentioned the White Balance control is called Tint on the 40PFL5605 and uses a rather unusual method of calibrating the Greyscale. When in Custom Tint, the controls only seemed to allow the adjustment of Red, Green and Blue across the whole range. However, using this rather crude and unorthodox approach, I was able to improve the Greyscale performance and reducing the DeltaE (error) to less than 3, which should be imperceptible to most people. After calibration the colour temperature was measuring much closer to D65 and the Gamma was measuring much closer to the 2.2 target. Overall this is quite a good Greyscale performance. The greater accuracy in the Greyscale has resulted in improvements in the colour Gamut and reductions in the DeltaE error. Red is still a little oversaturated and there is now an increased error in Cyan but Green, Blue, Yellow and Magenta are much improved. Without a Colour Management System (CMS), there is little further that can be done; the Colour control could be used to reduce the oversaturation in red slightly but overall this is a fairly solid colour gamut.

As far as video processing goes the 40PFL5605 was a bit of a mixed bag with some elements being handled quite well and others appearing rather poor. The scaling was quite good and the 40PFL5605 produced all the detail in both the PAL and NTSC colour bar tests on the HQV DVD’s, without introducing any unwanted ringing. The detail tests were also reproduced correctly, showing all the detail in brickwork and roofs. However, the 40PFL5605 failed the 2-2 PAL film cadence test, as well as just about every other cadence test I tried. Ironically, the only cadence test it passed was the 3-2 test on the NTSC HQV disc. The 40PFL5605 detected and locked on to the film detail test without any problems, resulting in a stable image with no aliasing. However in real-world usage it is unlikely that the jaggies, that would result from this improper deinterlacing, would be that visible. With video material the 40PFL5605 also performed rather poorly in the jaggies tests, showing jaggies at a relatively steep angle, on the first test, and showing slight jaggies on all three lines on the second test. This problem was evident in the waving flag test on the HQV disc but to be fair this is an extreme example.

One area where the 40PFL5605 did perform well was in displaying video text over film material, it passed both the HQV and Spears & Munsil tests. The 40PFL5605 also passed the sharpness tests without adding unwanted ringing and displayed down to a video level of 17 without crushing black and up to 255 without clipping white. With high definition material, I also found that the 40PFL5605 handled some aspects better than others. It was fairly mediocre in deinterlacing 1080i material but, again, it handled text over film material well. The 40PFL5605 was able to display 24p material correctly, with no judder, and as long as you made sure you had the aspect ratio set to Unscaled, you could see all the detail in the high definition image.

In the calibrated Custom mode (which had most of the extraneous processing turned off) the 40PFL5605 measured an input lag of 40ms which is actually very good and better than a lot of other displays I’ve tested. However in Game mode that improved to less than 20ms which is excellent and should keep even the most hardened gamer happy.

The energy consumption of a LCD display tends to be very consistent and largely depends on the brightness setting of the backlight, rather than being affected by the on-screen images. However dynamic contrast functions will affect energy consumption because these controls vary the backlight and brightness of the display depending on the image. In the Normal mode setting the 40PFL5605 consumed approximately 42w at 0ire and 57W at 50ire and 100ire and using the calibrated Custom setting it measured about 63W at all three levels; the difference was mainly caused by me disabling the dynamic contrast and backlight functions. In standby mode the 40PFL5605 consumed less than 1W of energy, so overall the energy consumption performance was very good.

Picture Quality

Aside from the deinterlacing issues, already mentioned, the 40PFL5605 produced a relatively good picture, especially with a high definition image. In the calibrated mode, the reasonably accurate Greyscale and colour performance resulted in a very nice image when watching Blu-rays, especially movies at 24p. If I used a separate Freeview HD decoder the resulting 1080i images of the broadcasts from Wimbledon and the World Cup were also pleasing to look at, allowing for the inherent motion limitations of LCD technology. With standard definition DVD’s, the excellent scaling resulted in some very nice images but I found Freeview broadcasts to be even worse than normal. For some reason the Freeview images had a very processed look, that wasn’t just because of excessive compression. I couldn’t really work out why this was because I had all the video processing turned off but I found the Freeview tuner to be one of the worst I’ve seen. Given that the 40PFL5605 doesn't have a Freeview HD tuner I would definitely recommend buying a separate Freeview HD PVR.

As usual, I found the motion performance to be quite poor but this is largely a limitation of LCD technology rather than a criticism of Philips. I did however find that neither the HD Natural Motion or 100Hz Clear LCD functions made any difference and, in fact, were detrimental to the image as mentioned previously, so I left them both off. For the same reason I also left the Dynamic Backlight, Dynamic Contrast, Advanced Sharpness, MPEG Artifact Reduction and Colour Enhancement functions off. Aside from the normal motion issues, another weakness of LCD displays tends to be their black levels, unless the manufacturer resorts to tricks like global or localised dimming. Here the 40PFL5605 was again rather weak, producing a very dark grey that never really results in video actually looking black. On the plus side, the use of LED backlighting rather than side lighting does result in a uniform backlight when viewing a 10 IRE screen. The 40PFL5605 clearly uses a VA panel because, as is usual with this type of display, there is a noticeable drop off in contrast when viewed off-axis. Once again this is really a limitation of the technology itself rather than a direct criticism of Philips.

Verdict

5
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

Pros

  • Uniform LED backlighting
  • Good scaling of standard definition content
  • Built-in speakers are quite good
  • Correct handling of 24p input
  • Excellent input lag in Game mode
  • Very good energy consumption

Cons

  • Poor cadence detection
  • Black level could be better, resulting in loss of dynamic range
  • Off-axis performance is weak
  • Lack of CMS or a proper Greyscale control excludes accurate calibration
  • Badly designed remote
  • Menu system is slow to respond and can be difficult to use
  • EPG is very mediocre
  • No Freeview HD tuner
  • No internet capability or DivX
  • Not DLNA compliant

Philips PFL5605 (40PFL5605) Review

The 40PFL5605 is a competent but rather uninspiring display that is clearly aimed at a particular segment of the market. However, I found that its attempt to simplify a lot of the controls actually ended up making the 40PFL5605 more complicated to use and the lack of buttons or labels on the remote was just annoying. The absence of Freeview HD is strange for a new release like this, as is the lack of any Internet capability. Whilst the overall image was quite good the lack of any real calibration controls was a major drawback, as was the poor black levels and off-axis performance. The scaling of standard definition material and the handling of high definition material was good, but let down by poor cadence detection. On the plus side, the backlight was very uniform, the sound was quite good and the input lag in Game mode was excellent. I would find it hard to recommend the 40PFL5605 because ultimately there are better displays available, that are in a similar price range, but have more features and a superior image.

Scores

Sound Quality

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6

Smart Features

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3

Ease Of Use

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.
.
4

Build Quality

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.
6

Value for Money

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.
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.
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5

Verdict

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.
.
.
.
5

Picture Quality

.
.
.
.
.
5

Video Processing

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.
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.
.
5

Greyscale Accuracy

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.
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6

Colour Accuracy

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6

Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level

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.
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.
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5

Screen Uniformity

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5
5
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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