Philips PFL5907 series review: One of the better LED TV values

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MSRP: $799.00

The Good The Philips PFL5907 LED TV has impressive picture quality for the price, anchored by relatively deep black levels, good shadow detail, and a natural color palette in most areas. The TV has a diverse feature set, including MediaConnect PC mirroring.

The Bad The Philips exhibited a really shallow optimal viewing angle. Colors could be better; its reds and blues lack the vibrancy of some of its rivals', while near blacks can look purple.

The Bottom Line The Philips PFL5907 series has commendable picture quality and features, making it one of the better LED TV values.

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7.1 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 7
  • Performance 6
  • Value 8

In my native land of Australia, Philips hasn't sold a television in four years -- not because the TVs aren't popular, they just aren't actually sold there. Here in the U.S., it's almost easy to think the same thing, especially when Philips releases lackluster models such as the mellifluously named 40PFL5706, which CNET reviewed last year. But you know what? The company has picked up its game; the new PFL5907 series is actually pretty good!

Its strengths include deep black levels and good shadow detail for an LED TV, natural-looking color in most scenes, and a good mix of features -- including a unique mirroring solution for compatible TVs. Yes, its picture has its bad points, too, and those combined with lack of 3D make it an inferior value compared with the excellent Vizio M3D0KD, for example, or one of the better cheap plasmas like the Samsung PNE450 series. That said, the Philips PFL5907 is still worth considering by people who want a well-balanced, aggressively priced midrange LED TV.

Series information: I performed a hands-on evaluation of the 46-inch Philips 46PFL5907/F7, but this review also applies to the other screen sizes in the series. All sizes have identical specs and according to the manufacturer should provide very similar picture quality.

Models in series (details)
Philips 42PFL5907 42 inches
Philips 46PFL5907 (reviewed) 46 inches
Philips 50PFL5907 50 inches
Philips 55PFL5907 55 inches

While its competitors toss out rectangular pieces of plastic that masquerade as the sole support of 80-pound glass weapons, Philips has adopted a more elegant and sturdier approach to TV stands. The Philips PFL5907 features a swiveling, heavy, tempered-glass base that adds to the weight of the TV in an anchoring, rather than harmful, way. The design of the TV is otherwise nondescript, with a piano-black gloss frame surrounding the screen.

The remote is not very intuitive to use. Sarah Tew/CNET

How do I put this delicately? Philips' remote is weird! It's the gadget equivalent of a one-bedroom apartment with two bathrooms -- it has two back buttons. Additionally, the horizontal (rather than vertical) arrangement of its Channel and Volume buttons is counterintuitive.

Philips' menu design is reminiscent of those iconic

T-shirts from a few years ago, with a similar black-on-white starkness and contemporary feel. It's fairly easy to navigate, too, even if the VU meter-like icons for each setting's value would be better replaced by actual numbers.

The menu has a contemporary look but could be more informative. Sarah Tew/CNET

Key TV features
Display technology LCD LED backlight Edge-lit
Screen finish Glossy Remote Standard
Smart TV Yes Internet connection Built-in Wi-Fi
3D technology No 3D glasses included No
Refresh rate(s) 240Hz Dejudder (smooth) processing Yes, No
DLNA-compliant Photo/Music/Video USB Photo/Music/Video
Other: MediaConnect PC Mirroring

Philips' MediaConnect service, introduced last year, lets you mirror whatever's on your PC screen. As it suffers from significant lag, making mousing and typing a frustrating experience at best, its main purpose is to stream music and video. In use I found it to be very fiddly, and it would only run with my PC set to 1,024x768-pixel resolution over a state-of-the-art router (an older router, despite being Wireless-N, wouldn't allow it to work at all). Last year this feature was still unique, but as WiDi and AirPlay mirroring have gained more support, it's become even less relevant than it was before.

MediaConnect enables PC mirroring. Sarah Tew/CNET

Otherwise the PFL5907's features are typical for a midrange edge-lit LED TV. As it doesn't have 3D, you don't have access to 3D Blu-ray content, but that also means you don't have to pay through the nose for peripherals you probably won't use. The 5907 includes a new 240Hz motion compensation engine for smoothing/dejudder that Philips calls Perfect Motion Rate. This feature joins Philips' Pixel Plus HD picture processor.

Smart TV: Until LG and Philips' Smart TV Alliance comes into effect, Philips continues to use its NetTV platform. Its charcoal-gray interface looks a bit dated and somber compared with the slick, rich 2012 smart TV offerings of LG, Samsung, and others.

The NetTV interface is a little drab. Sarah Tew/CNET

Philips' latest development is Smart Cloud, which means that the installed apps are updated automatically, with no need to root around in an app store yourself. Unfortunately, the addition of Smart Cloud icons does confuse the interface a little. The App Gallery function is confusing, too, as it seems like it should be an App Store, but it simply gives an even more limited selection of apps than what's offered by the front page.

The standout apps here are Netflix, Hulu Plus, Vudu, YouTube, and Pandora; the main video service missing is Amazon. While Philips has the obligatory Facebook and Twitter apps, it does lack a Web browser or the handy Skype. If you're a puzzle game fan, though, the free inclusion of Bejeweled 2 should keep you busy for a time.

For a look at the full Philips NetTV suite and how it compares with competitors', check here.

Picture settings: One of my colleague David Katzmaier's complaints about last year's Philips was its lack of picture controls. However, in 2012, tweakers like ourselves will rejoice! The TV includes a two-point grayscale as well as a Color Management System (CMS). While it doesn't work that well (see the calibration notes for more on this) at least it's a start. My only gripe is that as soon as you touch a control in one mode -- Cinema, for example -- it immediately switches you over to Personal, which can be confusing. Philips isn't the only manufacturer to do this, though.

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