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According to all the research we've seen, the vast majority of us would really like to hang our new flat TVs on the wall. But the same research consistently shows that precious few of us actually get round to doing it. Cue the 42-inch Philips Essence 42PES0001D LCD TV, with a 'Full HD' 1080p resolution. This set has been purposely designed to be so easy to hang on a wall that even your gran could do it.
It's available now for around £1,850.
The Essence really is a design marvel. For starters, it's amazingly thin, at just 38mm. And that depth applies across the TV's entire rear, not just the skinniest bit. It's also remarkably light, weighing in at a wall-loving 17kg.
Its glamorous silvery bezel is unusually narrow too, and adorned, to eye-catching effect, with a translucent shroud that curves teasingly out around the TV's outer edge. Another smart design touch is the TV's separate speaker bar, made to the same width and depth as the TV. The speaker bar slots onto the TV's bottom edge and rather niftily receives its audio from the TV via touch contacts.
As well as delivering better sound quality than built-in speakers, this external bar approach also gives you the option of not using the speakers at all if you have a separate audio system.
Speakers aren't the only thing not built into the TV's main body. It also lacks a tuner and the usual array of connections. Instead, the tuner and sockets have all been stuck into a sleek external media receiver. As well as enabling the TV to be as thin as it is, this external receiver also means you only have to put up with a single cable running into the screen -- perfect for wall-hanging purposes.
It's when you come to place the Essence on your wall that its most brilliantly simple innovation becomes evident. The wall bracket supplied with the TV features an unusual curved mounting rail, so that, even if the holes you drill for this mounting panel aren't level, you can just slide the TV around the curve until your spirit level confirms that it's perfectly aligned. Confirmed DIY haters that we are, this bracket presented us with a moment of genuine surprise and delight.
The outstanding combination of style and practicality manifested in the Essence's design is only the start of its charms. Its connectivity is impressive too, with Ethernet (for PC multimedia-file streaming) and USB ports particularly catching our eye. Plus, it's just about the most feature-heavy TV around, boasting an extraordinary number of picture tweaks and options -- many based around the set's use of Philips' powerful, and mostly very successful, Perfect Pixel HD video-processing engine.
After such a spectacular build up, it's a relief to find that the Essence is also the best Philips performer available, with the exception, perhaps, of the LED-based 42PFL9803.
Colours are extraordinarily intense, for instance, while also being believable in tone and subtly shaded. Black levels are among the best we've seen using standard LCD technology, while the brightness of images is extreme. Also, the Essence is almost completely free of motion judder or blur. Noise is superbly suppressed and the picture is phenomenally sharp -- even with standard definition.
Couple the Essence's picture prowess with some well-rounded, clean and powerful sound from the speaker bar, and we're not expecting the negatives part of this review to be very long.
As we've noted with other recent Philips TVs, you have to be very careful with some of the Essence's picture settings, to the point of revisiting some options regularly to adjust them to suit different source types. Otherwise, you can sometimes see processing glitches -- most notably, shimmering halos around fast-moving objects.
Our other main issue with the Essence is that it's quite intimidating to use, and so may not be the best option for a technophobe.
A smaller problem is that the Essence is so thin that Philips hasn't been able to fit its enjoyable Ambilight technology into the bodywork.
The Philips Essence 42PES0001D clearly isn't cheap for a 42-inch TV. But it's performance is genuinely special, and the set offers a hugely desirable, utterly unique combination of looks and practicality. We suspect many people will find themselves powerless to resist.
Edited by Charles Kloet