Philips has been beavering away mostly at the premium end of the TV market of late, with its stellar 9632D range and iconic 9900 'Aurea' models, with their innovative light frame technology. But today's £600 37PFL5522D couldn't be more different; it's a no-frills TV that has little more on its mind than delivering 37 inches of screen size as cheaply as possible.
The 37PFL5522D's main attraction is its price. Widely available for £600 or less on the Internet, it really is exceptionally cheap for a 37-inch LCD TV. It's also robustly built for the money, and outguns many of its uber-cheap rivals by sporting a dynamic backlight system to produce deeper black levels. As a result, the TV claims a contrast ratio of 7,500:1 -- considerably higher than the figures that tend to be bandied around at the budget end of the market.
An unexpected bonus on the 37PFL5522D is Philips' Pixel Plus HD image processing. Before you get too excited about this, the version of Pixel Plus we're talking about is not the latest one. In fact, it's a good two or even three generations behind Philips' latest Perfect Pixel HD Engine processing technology.
As our experience would lead us to expect, despite its age, its talent for adding detail and sharpness to pictures still has plenty of impact, helping high and standard definition sources alike look markedly more textured and crisp than we're accustomed to seeing in the budget zone -- even though the screen's native resolution is 'only' an HD Ready 1,366x768 pixels rather than 1,920x1,080 pixels.
We kick off this section with the 37PFL5522D's looks, which are bland, and a million miles from the ultra-glamorous approach of higher-end Philips models.
It's also disappointing to find the set only carrying two HDMIs -- especially as the absence of any D-Sub input means that you'll have to use one of those precious HDMIs to connect your computer if you want the 37PFL5522D to double up as a PC monitor.
It has to be said, too, that aside from the ageing Pixel Plus system and dynamic contrast arrangement, the 37PFL5522D isn't exactly overburdened with features. By far the most disappointing thing about the 37PFL5522D, though, is its AV performance. In terms of pictures, for instance, it suffers more with a couple of old LCD problems than we find comfortable. Whenever anything passes across the screen, it tends to lose resolution and generally look blurred, even with Pixel Plus HD in play. Also, colours look muted and flat -- a real surprise from a Philips TV, especially one with such decent black levels.
Other little issues include a slight shimmering halo around moving objects at times, and a rather poor viewing angle that means pictures lose significant colour saturation and black level if viewed from more than 40 degrees or so off axis. As for the 37PFL5522D's audio, the set's budget level is again slightly more apparent than we'd like. There's no real breathing room available in the mid-range, which can cause dense-sounding scenes to appear muddy and even distorted. To make matters worse, there's also no bass to speak of, which leaves most things you listen to on the TV sounding decidedly thin.
We had high hopes that enough of Philips' high-end grandeur would be able to filter down to this budget TV to make it something quite special. But in the end, Philips has had to cut a few corners too many to get the price so low, leaving the 37PFL5522D looking like just another run-of-the-mill budget TV.
Edited by Shannon Doubleday