As good picture quality is expensive to implement and difficult to explain, manufacturers seeking to differentiate between scads of televisions are turning to increasingly esoteric extras like passive or active 3D, 120Hz/240Hz/480Hz, QWERTY remote controls, and laundry lists of streaming video services. Philips has a new one: Wi-Fi MediaConnect. The feature, available on the PFL5706/F7 series reviewed here, enables the TV to display whatever's on the screen of a laptop PC that's running special software, without a wired connection between the two.
When it works the system functions well, but after our initial "Wow, cool!" reaction, we found MediaConnect's appeal more limited than most of those other extras. After all, isn't the point of Internet TV to ditch your PC altogether, or at least make its interface more like a DVR and less like a computer? Moreover, there are devices that provide the same function that work better than MediaConnect, as we'll discuss below. If you must have wireless PC projection built in, however, and don't mind this TV's mediocre picture quality, Philips is the only game in town.
Series information: We performed a hands-on evaluation of the 40-inch Philips 40PFL5706/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.
|Philips 40PFL5706/F7 (reviewed)||40 inches|
|Philips 46PFL5706/F7||46 inches|
|Philips 55PFL5706/F7||55 inches|
|Panel depth||4.3 inches||Bezel width||2 inches|
|Single-plane face||No||Swivel stand||No|
Nobody will mistake the PFL5706/F7 for a fashion-forward TV. Its biggest concession to style is the rounded shape of the corners and stand base. The thick bezel is basic glossy black, the stand doesn't swivel, and the panel itself appears chunky by today's standards--more so than many other non-LED LCDs.
|Remote size (LxW)||8.7x1.8 inches||QWERTY keyboard||No|
|Illuminated keys||No||IR device control||No|
|Menu item explanations||No||Onscreen manual||No|
The PFL5760 has a pretty basic remote and menu system. The remote lacks any illumination, and while the layout is fine, its buttons are too similar in size and shape, the labels are in tiny print, and Exit and Menu inconveniently occupy the same key. The menu is sparse with minimal icons and no explanatory text, and we often found the transparent settings background made values difficult to read. On the other hand, we liked the Home menu with its big icons for selecting from the major functions and found the overall system fairly simple to navigate.
|Display technology||LCD||LED backlight||N/A|
|3D technology||N/A||3D glasses included||N/A|
|Screen finish||Matte||Internet connection||Built-in Wi-Fi|
|Refresh rate(s)||120Hz||Dejudder (smooth) processing||Yes|
Philips' main differentiator for TVs is MediaConnect, discussed above, which allows the PFL5706 series to display the contents of a laptop PC screen wirelessly. The appeal of this feature is pretty limited, however. First off, with numerous streaming-video sources built into the TV (or your Blu-ray player or other device), using a laptop as a source seems kludgy and inconvenient. If you need to, however, you can get the same functionality by wiring any laptop via HDMI or VGA to any TV, or wirelessly via products like Veebeam and Intel Wireless Display. MediaConnect is for someone who wants to watch Hulu.com or other free Web-only video sources, or display video files stored on a PC, frequently enough to demand a built-in wireless approach.
Having installed the MediaConnect software, which is only available for PCs and comes with robust hardware requirements, we found using the feature was a mixed bag. When it worked the experience was good: picture quality was basically identical to what we saw on the PC's screen, audio was in sync, and playback was stable as long as we remained in range. The only issue was a 2-second delay in the TV's response that--similar to Veebeam--makes performing input-dependent tasks on the big screen well-nigh impossible.
Unfortunately the system only worked with one of the two routers we tried, a new Apple AirPort Extreme, and failed when used with an older SMC Barricade--our current AV lab workhorse that works flawlessly with many other Wi-Fi home theater products. While Philips doesn't provide an official list of recommended routers, a company contact gave us a list of models his lab has tested and confirmed to be compatible. Others may work fine, but then again they may not.
Distance was also a major factor. We couldn't get MediaConnect to work from the next room, about 40 feet away, even though the TV's other streaming services like Netflix worked fine from there via Wi-Fi. Philips claims a maximum range of 70 feet with no obstructions, and says the closer the PC and TV are to the router, the better. We experienced better stability and range when we connected the TV via Ethernet instead of using the TV's Wi-Fi connection. See Philips' FAQ for more information.
As with any such system, your mileage will vary depending on local conditions and hardware, and our testing lab is a pretty unforgiving location. Overall, however, we prefer Veebeam or Intel Wireless Display, both of which use dedicated hardware that doesn't depend on your home network's wireless router.
Aside from MediaConnect, and the welcome inclusion of built-in Wi-Fi, the PFL5706 is a fairly standard midrange non-LED LCD TV.
|Amazon Instant||No||Hulu Plus||No|
Philips' Net TV service has a good selection but nonetheless lacks quite a few major services that its competitors support, as shown in the chart above. Still, we're happy it uses the newer Netflix interface, including search.
The main Net TV interface for accessing applications and services was relatively sluggish at times. Backing out of apps was also annoying; many times we had to exit Net TV completely, then re-enter. Streaming quality was fine, although we missed having picture controls for the video services.
Unlike most other major TV makers, Philips doesn't put an app store on its TVs, although Vudu Apps is available with items like Twitter and Facebook as well as numerous others. Vudu's interface is clean and easy to navigate, and its apps are generally well-implemented, although most occupy the whole screen, so you can't watch TV while using them. Standouts include access to numerous full episodes of the PBS staples "Nova" and "Nature" (albeit in painfully low quality), Wikipedia, and a solid selection of podcasts. We love that the apps display star ratings, although we couldn't figure out where they came from, and we wish categories were more specific given the numerous choices. Check out the Vudu Apps site for a full listing of available apps, but know that most of the premium show-based apps (such as "Dexter" and "True Blood") offer clips and not full episodes.
The CloudTV service is something we haven't seen on other TVs. It's a sort of meta-app that offers a second Facebook app as well as a clock/weather/stocks/scores widget (which again occupies the whole screen) and a bunch of ad-supported games--none of them widescreen, unfortunately. Also unique to Philips TVs in our experience is Film Fresh, DivX's pay-per-view cloud video rent/buy service with both movies and TV shows. In vTuner's video section you'll find a bunch of podcasts broken down nicely by genre, many of which populate the main Net TV page as well. The TV also has vTuner's Internet radio app.
|Adjustable picture modes||1||Fine dejudder control||No|
|Color temperature presets||3||Fine color temperature control||No|
|Gamma presets||0||Color management system||No|
The selection here is anemic. Philips doesn't include independent input memories, just a bunch of global presets that apply to all inputs. The presets can't be separately adjusted, and when you do adjust any of the picture parameters and then select another preset, you'll find that your adjustments have been erased. We were also peeved at the lack of a dedicated backlight control, something found on most other LCDs regardless of price. In short, people who like tweaking the picture will want to choose another HDTV.
Philips' Settings Assistant shows you a few images and asks you to choose between them. It can be used for very basic settings if you don't have much time, but there are better ways to set up your TV by eye.
No picture controls are available with MediaConnect or any of the streaming services we tried, so when viewing those sources you're stuck with what appears to be the default picture--happily there's no dejudder on that setting.
|HDMI inputs||3 back, 1 side||Component video inputs||1 back|
|Composite video input(s)||1 back||VGA-style PC input(s)||1 side|
|USB port||1 side||Ethernet (LAN) port||Yes|
The Philips PFL5706/F7 isn't missing any major connection types: it has as many HDMI inputs as the best of the competition, and the standard number of analog connections. The downward-facing HDMI jacks were difficult to reach, however, and thicker cables required too much bending.
Although it's adequate for casual viewing, the Philips PFL5706/F7 won't impress careful watchers with its image quality. The biggest issue is color accuracy, a problem that could have been easily rectified with a better selection of settings or better default presets--options that many similarly priced LCDs do include. Its best feature is a matte screen, which helps reduce reflections in bright rooms, and its picture uniformity is average.
Philips' Cinema picture preset came closest to producing an accurate picture, and we couldn't do much to adjust it during calibration. We disabled Active Control, including the light sensor, tweaked black and white levels, dialed down color---and that's about it. As you can see from the results below, just about every color characteristic could use significant improvement, but that's just not possible given Philips' sparse controls.
For image quality tests we used "Hereafter" on Blu-ray and compared the Philips with the following TVs. Many are more expensive, and only one is a fellow non-LED, but they're the closest comparison models we had on hand at the time of testing.
|Samsung LN46C630||46-inch LCD|
|Panasonic TC-L42E30||42-inch LED-based LCD|
|Sony KDL-46EX720||46-inch LED-based LCD|
|LG 47LW5600 (color reference)||46-inch LED-based LCD|
Black level: The PFL5706D delivered the second-worst absolute level of black among the TVs in our lineup, as only the Panasonic's black appeared brighter. We could see the difference most clearly in dark scenes like the nighttime cityscape in chapter 2, where the shadows of the buildings and the letterbox bars were relatively bright and less realistic.
Shadow detail was fine; in chapter 2, areas like the underside of the building (9:28) and the shadowed faces of the guests appeared with nearly as much detail as on the LG and Sony, and with significantly more than on the Samsung.
Color accuracy: The Philips was the worst in our lineup in this department, primarily because of its poor color decoding and grayscale. Its decoder emphasized red over green and blue, and as a result skin tones, such as in the face of Marie in chapter 10, appeared ruddy and almost sunburned. Other colors appeared oversaturated as well at times, even though we turned down the color control significantly during calibration.
Meanwhile the set's grayscale also under-represented green, making white areas like the walls of the agency appear too bluish. We also noticed that shadows and black areas appeared quite blue, an issue accentuated by the lighter black levels.
Video processing: The Philips didn't fare well in this category either. Unlike the other 120Hz TVs in our lineup, it failed to properly reproduce the cadence of 1080p/24 in our "I Am Legend" test. Instead of a relatively smooth (but not too smooth!) pan over the aircraft carrier, we saw the characteristic hitching motion of 3:2 pulldown.
Speaking of smooth, the two dejudder settings, labeled Minimum and Maximum in the Digital Natural Motion menu, delivered the characteristic smooth motion that as always looked artificial to our eyes. In either setting we also noticed that artifacts, for example halos (around the secretary's body at 1:29:54) and breakup of fast-moving objects (the letter that's flipped into the bin at 1:36:39), appeared more frequently than on the other dejudder-equipped sets aside from the LG.
Motion resolution was typical for an 120Hz LCD in either DNM setting. With dejudder disabled, despite the lower motion-resolution measurement, we couldn't discern any difference or extra blurring in program material.
Unlike most other TVs we've tested, the PFL5706 failed our 1080i deinterlacing test, so you may see some minor artifacts in 1080i film-based material.
Uniformity: Our PFL5706 review sample was in the middle of the pack here. A couple of brighter areas interrupted its screen during dark scenes, specifically in the upper corners and along the right side. It still outdid the edge-lit Sony and Panasonic in this area, but the screens of the Samsung and LG were more uniform in darkness. Bright-screen uniformity was fine.
From off-angle the Philips' dark areas became washed out and discolored more quickly (at lower angles) than the Samsung, but maintained fidelity better than the others. In night scenes it fared worse than the LG and the Panasonic.
Bright lighting: Like the matte-screened LN630, EX720, and LG, the matte-screened PFL5706 did a better job of reducing glare from reflections than the glossy-screened Panasonic. It also preserved contrast (black level) at least as well as the other LCDs.
PC: The Philips' image via VGA looked soft, with fuzzy details and some edge enhancement. In the DisplayMate test the TV couldn't resolve the full resolution of 1,920x1,080 pixels, although it did accept the signal.
Power consumption: The Philips 40PFL5706/F7 is one of the least efficient non-plasma TVs we've tested in the last couple of years. It uses more power than many larger non-LED LCDs, and significantly more watts per square inch than smaller ones. Of course it gets trounced in this category by LED models. Note that, as do many TVs, this Philips comes with its ambient light sensor engaged by default; we disable it, as always, for our readings.
|Black luminance (0%)||0.0181||Average|
|Near-black x/y (5%)||0.2911/0.2891||Poor|
|Dark gray x/y (20%)||0.3172/0.3086||Poor|
|Bright gray x/y (70%)||0.3158/0.3145||Poor|
|Before avg. color temp.||6720||Poor|
|After avg. color temp.||6428||Good|
|Red lum. error (de94_L)||3.6024||Poor|
|Green lum. error (de94_L)||5.2973||Poor|
|Blue lum. error (de94_L)||4.1702||Poor|
|Cyan hue x/y||0.2113/0.3187||Poor|
|Magenta hue x/y||0.3407/0.1606||Poor|
|Yellow hue x/y||0.433/0.4793||Poor|
|1080p/24 cadence (IAL)||Fail||Poor|
|1080i Deinterlacing (film)||Fail||Poor|
|Motion resolution (max)||600||Average|
|Motion resolution (dejudder off)||400||Poor|
|PC input resolution (VGA)||1,920x1,080||Poor|
|Philips 40PFL5706||Picture settings|
|Picture on (watts)||137.22||158.39||N/A|
|Picture on (watts/sq. inch)||0.2||0.23||N/A|
|Cost per year||$30.13||$34.77||N/A|
|Score (considering size)||Poor|
Philips 40PFL5706/F7 CNET review calibration results