The Philips TV division has gone through some pretty drastic changes recently. It's been spun off into a joint venture between Philips and Chinese company TPV. The latter was previously best known for producing computer monitors.
The 46PFL7007 is one of the latest fruits of the joint venture's labours and fills a gap between the mid-range and high-end models in Philips' current lineup of TVs. Priced at around £1,300, it's got a stylish metallic design, Ambilight technology, 800Hz processing power and 3D support.
User interface and EPG
Philips has overhauled the user interface it employs on this year's models. The new system is based around a series of scrolling banners that run across the middle of the screen, which have large icons for features such as the TV guide, smart TV features and set-up screens.
There's also a handy secondary menu that you can access via the options button on the remote that gives you quick access to other settings, such as the picture and sound presets. I very much like the way the TV can automatically detect the type of equipment you've got attached to its HDMI ports and then name each input automatically.
The menu system looks attractive and there are neat scrolling animations as you move through the different options. Despite the fact the TV uses a dual-core processor however, navigating around the various screens feels quite sluggish and accessing certain settings, like the advanced picture controls, is annoyingly long-winded.
The EPG has also gone through some changes. It uses a pretty traditional horizontal timeline layout, but it shows more programmes on the screen in one go than older Philips TVs. Another nice touch is that the channel logos are displayed next to each channel in the EPG, and also appear when you switch between channels using the zapper.
The EPG is far from perfect though. It doesn’t include a video preview window and it also blanks all audio when you call it up, so it's very intrusive to use if you're watching a programme, but just want to check what's coming up on other channels later.
Digital media and Internet features
Philips has given its Net TV system a bit of a spruce with a new user interface and the addition of some extra apps. You'll now find the Acetrax and Blinkbox movie rental services sitting alongside the likes of BBC iPlayer, YouTube and Viewster. Netflix and 4oD are due to make an appearance in the future, although there's no definite timeline for this yet.
You do get a full Web browser -- based on Opera -- too, but it doesn’t support Flash for online videos. Philips has included a clever two-sided remote though with the TV that has a keyboard on the bottom. This is very handy for typing in Web address passwords and the like on websites. The remote has a sensor built in, which knows which way up you're holding the zapper and automatically disables the buttons on which ever side is pointing down.
The set also includes support for Skype, although you need to shell out extra for an optional camera to make use of this. At around £100, it's quite pricey.
The Net TV system is a definite improvement over what was available on last year's models, but it's still a long way off similar systems from the likes of Sony, LG and Samsung in terms of content and the general user friendliness. The Facebook app on NetTV, for example, is very poor. It simply shows the full Facebook website, which isn’t easy to navigate using the remote.
On the plus side, there are some other useful smart features. If you attach a hard drive to one of its USB ports (it has to be at least 250GB in size) you can pause live TV or schedule recordings. There's only a single tuner, so you can’t watch one channel while recording another, but it's still a feature that some people may find useful.
The on-board media player is also quite good. It had no problems playing back my test MKV, DivX and Xvid files, and supports JPG pictures and MP3, AAC and WMA music tracks. All the formats which played from USB keys also worked when they were streamed across a network from my hard drive. The folder navigation is a tad sluggish, but the transport controls are nice and responsive.
If you download the MyRemote app for your iOS or Android device you can also stream the current channel from the TV's tuner directly to your portable device, which is a great idea even if there is quite a bit of a delay between requesting the stream and it starting to play on your device.
Design and connections
Philips has a knack of churning out great-looking TVs and it's worked its magic again on the 46PFL7007. This model looks very luxurious thanks a narrow metallic bezel that runs around the outer edge of the screen, as well as the brushed aluminium effect used on the stand. Despite the presence of two LED strips on the back of the set to facilitate the Ambilight feature, the TV is still quite slim, measuring around 22mm deep.
Like some of Philips' previous models, the stand houses the set's sound system, and so connects back to the TV's chassis via a small cable. Even more ingenious is that by rearranging the stem and exchanging a few bolts, the stand can double as a wall mounting bracket for the TV. This means you don’t lose the audio feature if you prefer to have your telly hanging on a wall rather than perched atop a unit.