Philips has managed to create one of the nicest-looking TV ranges we've seen from any manufacturer in a long time. The Philips 37PFL7605H/05's styling isn't especially revolutionary, but the metallic grey bezel makes it look smart and it will fit well into any room. Philips has also spent some time recently reworking other aspects of its televisions, which we'll go into later in the review. Suffice to say, we're impressed by most of the changes.
The Philips 37PFL7605H/05 costs about £800 online, which is still a little pricey for a 37-inch TV, but Philips has included loads of extra features on this LED-backlit LCD set, which might convince you to part with a little more money. Only if we say it's worth it, though, right?
No Freeview HD? Disappointing
We're inclined to moan about an £800 TV not having Freeview HD. However, with this being the first year of the high-definition terrestrial service, we're also forced to cut the company some slack. There are several legitimate reasons it might not have been possible to include such a tuner. While it's disappointing, it's not a show-stopper for us, as external receivers are available and there are plenty of other ways to get HD on your TV.
Unlike the more expensive TVs in Philips' range, this set has only a two-sided system, where there are LED strips on the left and right of the TV, but nothing across the top or bottom of the screen. This means you get a slightly less immersive experience than with some of the company's higher-end TVs, but it's still something we like having.
If you've never used Ambilight, we think you're missing a treat. It's one of those things we never thought we'd get on with but, in the end, turned out to be something we like a great deal. For watching movies in a darkened room, it really does add something special. It won't appeal to everyone, but give Ambilight a chance and it has the potential to change your viewing experience.
This TV does away with the traditional fluorescent tube-based backlight, and opts for an LED-based edge-lighting system. We like this, because it means the TV is beautifully thin, and has an improved contrast and better power consumption. Of course, this technology comes at a price. The LED backlighting is part of the reason -- along with Ambilight -- why the TV is a little more expensive than we'd expect.
Sounds good to usIf there's one area in which Philips rarely disappoints, it's audio performance. The speakers on this TV seem to be no exception. They sound tight, well-controlled and have a good range. They produce enough sound for a room of moderate size and they don't distort at the higher end of the scale, either.
Of course, nothing will convince us to change our advice for AV enthusiasts. If you're buying a TV, spend some money on external speakers and a good surround-sound amp. These extras will pay for themselves with the warm feeling of bass in your belly.
If we've said it in one Philips TV review, we've said it in them all. The company's picture processing is beyond a joke. Philips honestly won't be happy until every piece of video you watch on its TVs looks like it was shot on a cheap camcorder.
On its default settings, the 37PFL7605H/05 annihilates films and most other video content, too. The processing is so heavy-handed we can't bear it for more than a few moments. The good news is that these extra processing modes are configurable, and can be switched off. We suggest you head to the picture menu and disable anything that sounds like it might be a marketing buzzword, because it's likely to be destroying the picture.
What makes this processing all the more ridiculous is that, once you have shut it all off, what remains is a stable and likeable picture. Why Philips puts less-tech-savvy customers through this processing nightmare is beyond us, but we do wish it would stop.
In terms of standard-definition channels, the Philips does a passable job with the Freeview image. We didn't hate it, and tweaking the MPEG noise-reduction settings can smooth out the blockiness, albeit at the cost of some sharpness in the image. This is a matter of preference, though, so we suggest you tweak the settings until you're happy with the result. Just don't accept the default set-up, because it's dreadful.
It's with HD material that this TV really comes into its own. We attached an external HD tuner and found that BBC HD, 4HD and ITV HD all looked superb. What's more, Blu-ray looked even better, and we genuinely liked the results on our test discs. Casino Royale looked impressive, and there seemed to be good contrast and bright, vibrant yet reasonably well-balanced colour.
New menu system, new remote
Philips has updated its remote control and, while this isn't a press-stopping event, the new controller is radically different to the older one. It's a sort of rugby-ball shape and has a massively reduced number of controls. The key here -- pun most certainly intended -- is that the company has decided to move all the settings and input options to a home menu of sorts.
This is accessed by pressing the little house logo on the controller. From here, you can set up the picture and sound options, configure the network settings and browse your DLNA network.
You can also customise the external devices that appear on the home screen. So you can add icons for external recorders, Blu-ray players and a number of other things. This is simple, but the menus are a little sluggish and we think it's likely to confuse the people it's supposed to help.
We see loads of TVs and, by extension, TV menus, and it even took us a while to get used to it. We like the simpler remote, though. Most controllers have far too many buttons on them, so we see the logic of making the interface simpler. It's a decent effort, but we think Philips needs to do some more design work before we really take to this new system.
Is £800 expensive for a 37-inch TV? Yes, but this is an LED-edge-lit TV with Ambilight, which makes it seem a little better value. The Philips 37PFL7605H/05 will suit people who want a smaller TV screen, but don't want to compromise on quality. We think it's well worth a look, but just remember, you're in for a battle getting the picture processing to leave you in peace, so don't buy this set if you've got a phobia of setting up TVs.
Edited by Emma Bayly