The TV side of Philips' business is now jointly owned by Chinese company TPV Technology, which was formerly best known for its AOC computer monitors. This shake up seems to have made the pricing of its sets more competitive.
The mid-range 55PFL6007 can be bought online for around £1,300 -- that's roughly in line with the likes of LG's 55LM860 and Sony's 55HX853. It's got a similar specifications too, with 3D support, smart TV features and 400Hz processing.
User interface and EPG
Philips has carried out a complete revamp of the user interface it uses on its TVs and the 55PFL6007 is the first one I've seen to benefit from this. The layout is more intuitive and easier to navigate than the older system.
Calling up the menu now presents you with a banner of scrolling icons across the middle of the screen, giving you access to stuff like the setup menu, TV guide and smart TV features. The last two can also be accessed directly via dedicated buttons on the remote, and there's now a secondary, two tier settings banner that can be accessed via the options button.
The presentation is quite slick, as the menus are animated, and there are some thoughtful touches such as the way it can determine the type of kit that's connected to its HDMI ports and automatically label them in the input selection screen.
The menus aren't quite as straightforward to find your way around as they could be however, and despite the fact the TV is powered by a dual-core processor, the menu system feels sluggish to use.
The EPG has been improved though. It still uses a traditional horizontal timeline layout, but now the EPG shows more programmes on a single page, making it easier to plan an evening's viewing. You can also set up reminders from here, or program timed recordings if you've got a USB drive attached to the TV. Like many of it's peers, this model has rudimentary PVR features. There's only a single tuner though, so you can't record one channel while watching another as you can on a full blown PVR. It's also annoying that the EPG cuts all video and audio when you open it up.
Digital media and Internet features
Philips has also updated its smart TV system and improved the lineup of apps. Alongside iPlayer you'll now find movie rental services such as Blinkbox and Acetrax. Naturally YouTube is here too and there's also support for the Napster music subscription service. You get a full browser (based on Opera), but this is a tad tricky to control via the standard remote. Some of the apps are disappointing too. For example, the Facebook app really just opens the full Web version Facebook, meaning that just like the browser, it's not very easy to use via the zapper.
The new lineup of apps is definitely an improvement on what was previously available on Philips' TVs and there's now even an app store where you can download a few extra services such as eBay and TomTom HD. Netflix and 4oD should be added in the future, but there's no definite word yet on when this will happen.
The set also supports digital media playback from USB drives as well as media streaming across a network from DLNA devices like PCs and networked hard drives. Here it actually puts in a very strong showing. Format support is good as it had no problem playing HD MKV files, as well as DviX, Xvid and WMV videos. Folder navigation is a tad sluggish, but once a video has started playing, the fast transport controls are very responsive. It also plays ball with JPG pictures and MP3, WMA and AAC music files.
Design and connections
Philips has produced plenty of stylish TVs in the past and thankfully the 6007 shows that it hasn't lost its deft touch when it comes to design. This is a very handsome set due to its clean lines and the narrow 1cm bezel that runs around the top and sides of the display. The metallic grey finish is suitably high end, and the set is slim too, despite the addition of the Ambilight strips on the two sides.
This model is also well appointed when it comes to ports. As you'd expect on a 55-inch model, it's got four HDMI sockets splits between three on the rear panel and one on the side panel. There's also a set of component inputs and a Scart socket, which both need to be attached using short breakout cables. Additionally, there's a PC VGA input, as well as a digital optical audio output. All three of the rear-mounted HDMI ports are positioned on a downward facing panel, so you should have no problems connecting your kit up to the set if its wall mounted.
Your digital needs will be similarly well taken care of, as Philips has provided three USB ports and an Ethernet socket, with Wi-Fi integrated too.
Philips has in the past produced some of the best sounding flat screens I've heard. Despite the fact that it includes larger than usual drivers on the rear of the set however, this model's audio isn’t in the same league as some of the company's previous efforts.
To be fair to it though, sound quality is far from bad. It matches most Samsung and LG models in terms of crispness and clarity of dialogue. It shares their foibles too, as the set struggles to produce much in the way of bass -- something that past Philips models have tended to excel at. The result is that while standard TV shows like news broadcasts and soaps sound fine, it lacks the warmth and low-end heft to do justice to movies soundtracks and music channels.
Certainly, the likes of Sony's similarly priced HX853 does a better job, even if it does cheat slightly by including speakers in its stand – something that Philips pioneered and still uses on its higher-end models like the 7000 series.
2D Picture quality
The set is not short of processing goodies. It has a native 100Hz panel, but by combining this with backlight blinking and frame interpolation Philips has upped the set's headline rate to the 400Hz. It also uses Philips Pixel Precise HD processing system.
As you would expect from a Philips TV, there's also Ambilight technology on board. This model uses two LED strips down the side of the TV to project coloured light onto the wall behind the TV to complement the colours appearing onscreen. The system works extremely well, helping to create a more immersive viewing experience that really sucks you into what you're watching onscreen.
The TV produces very sharp HD pictures and its colours look beautifully rich and natural. It also does a very good job when it comes to contrast performance, handling complex scenes with lots of shadows and lighting texture with relative ease. Black levels aren’t as inky deep as on Sony's 55HX853, but they're still pretty impressive and although there's some backlight bleeding and clouding visible during very dark scenes when you're watching with the lights turns down low, it's not as bad in this area as a lot of similarly priced sets we've seen. The Ambilight system also helps to distract you from this anyway.
Nevertheless, it does have some picture quality problems. Philips' picture processing may be powerful, but in many ways it's not as smart as that of the competition. The problem is that although it's possible to get extremely good images by tinkering around with the controls, it's also possible to produce very poor results too, especially when it's working on standard-definition material. Get things wrong and the processing often highlights problems such as mosquito noise (especially noticeable on static and scrolling text on news channels) and MPEG blocking to an unacceptable degree.
As a result, you often have to tweak the picture presets quite heavily for different sources -- say, for example, when you switch from standard-definition to HD channels or Blu-ray. Most people simply won't bother with this and as a result will end up with less than startling image quality on one or the other.
The motion processing also tends to introduce some flickering on the edges of objects. All motion processing systems tend to suffer to some degree with this, but the Philips system used here looks worse and is more intrusive than Sony's system on the similarly priced 55HX853. With motion processing turned off there's also a fair bit of motion blur, so you really do have to have some combination of the set's Clear LCD and HD Natural Motion settings turned on most of the time, leaving you in rather a Catch 22 position.
3D picture quality
Sadly, most TV buyers seem to be not all that fussed about 3D these days. That may be due to the poor quality of the vast majority of the 3D flicks that are currently about. Nevertheless, if you slap a good 3D movie, such as Scorsese's Hugo, into your Blu-ray player to watch on this set, you'll be pretty impressed by the results.
The TV uses a passive 3D system, so it relies on a polarising filter in front of the panel to split the image so that alternative lines are sent to each eye. This cuts the vertical resolution by half. On smaller screens this loss of resolution is not usually that visible, but on lager displays it can be more noticeable. Despite the larger screen size of the 55PFL6007, the set's passive 3D image quality is pretty amazing, with its 3D pictures retaining very high levels of sharpness. There's still some line structure visible if you sit unnaturally close to the TV, but from a normal viewing distance it's really not noticeable.
Throw in the fact that the passive glasses are very light and comfortable to wear and don't suffer from flickering, and you've got a TV that really excels for 3D viewing.
This is a set with a lot of strengths. It's sensibly priced and has a very stylish design. Its Ambilight system works extremely well in darkened rooms and the TV produces excellent HD and 3D pictures for the most part.
The smart TV system is not, however, on a par with the likes of Samsung and Sony's offering, the menu system is on the sluggish side and the picture processing lags behind that of the competition in terms of ease of use. Ultimately, while there's a lot to like here, there's not quite enough to turn our heads away from similarly priced TVs such as Sony's excellent 55HX853.