LCD TVs with souped-up LED backlights have propped-up the prices of flatscreen TVs this past year or so, but while brands such as Sharp and Toshiba slowly take LED tech down towards the entry-level, Philips has issued another reasonably high-end proposition that bears its trademark Ambilight feature.
For the uninitiated, Ambilight is basically a wow-factor feature. Built into the back of the TV only along the left and right sides ("stereo" lighting, if you will), this LED-powered lighting responds to what’s showing onscreen to send dynamically changing coloured light on the walls behind the TV. As well as providing a light show - or, if it’s set to just output white, a replacement for your living room’s "mood" lamp - Ambilight is designed to reduce eye strain. That’s the theory, and though Ambilight - presented here in its Spectra 2 incarnation - is hardly a must-have feature, it does introduce another aspect to the act of watching TV. Even with the lights switched-off the 40PFL7605 is a good-looking TV, with a brushed metal frame suggesting a high standard of production. Staying on design, this 40-incher is only 42mm thick - and that’s down to this set’s LED array behind the panel itself.
Although in the past sets like the 40PFL7605 - part of Philips’ mid-range 7000 Series - have featured ultra modern and rather unique styling, plus the inimitable Ambilight, for yonks, it’s only relatively recently that LED has crashed the party - and this is its first appearance on a mid-range TV from Philips.
If you're after "Full" or "Direct" LED technology, head for the brand’s 9000 Series (which also gets you 3D compatibility). If, however, you prefer the slimmer look and cheaper option, the 40PFL7605’s Edge LED backlighting is where it’s at (if you forget plasma, that is).
The advent of LED backlighting makes your choice of brand more important than ever. Where once LCD panels were bought-in by companies and essentially re-badged (though sometimes fitted with a modicum of electronics) LED is more of an open field. There are numerous ways of lighting a LCD panel with LEDs, with brands like Philips buying-in LCD panels and fitting their own specific LED lighting systems.
Philips’ version works really well, producing HD and SD pictures with loads of contrast and detail even in dark areas of the image.
There’s also some top tech at work; you’ll find a suite of picture processing called Pixel Precise HD, which includes all kinds of tweaks and noise reduction circuitry. Two features worth activating are 100Hz Clear LCD - to prevent blur - and HD Natural Motion. The latter introduces a fluidity to Blu-ray that’s really quite alluring, producing a judder-free picture that acts as the finishing touch on a picture otherwise studded with vivid, though lifelike colour and believable blacks. The only trade-off is a touch of flicker round moving objects, which could put you off - try it out. Digital TV pictures are upscaled well, though there is no Freeview HD tuner inside the 40PFL7605, which could put a huge dent in its appeal.
Other features include inputs that cover virtually any source we can think of, and wired internet access. A wireless dongle is available - you can see it here and buy it here - and we would recommend it if attaching a TV to a router isn't practical in your living room.
We say that because the 40PFL7605 can stream virtually any media file - including DivX HD - from a connected PC or Mac - to a high standard. It’s quick, too, though not as fast as using the USB input built into the TV’s side.
What isn't worth too much of your time is Net TV. This online portal includes YouTube and some downloadable content (to a SD card slot beside that USB) from ITV, though subscriptions apply. Unfortunately the interface is clunky and slow, while an Opera browser - which lets you surf the Internet at large - doesn't support video and is unnatural to use. Here simply because the market dictates, Net TV needs some love if it’s to succeed; at the moment its awkwardness actually detracts from the otherwise friendly feel of the TV.
The TV’s central user interface is excellent, with simplicity its core value. Icons for connected kit can be added to the home screen and there are endless tweaks available - but only if you have the desire; it cleverly bridges the needs of both serious and casual users.
What will appeal to all are both the 40PFL7605’s nicely designed oval remote and its high-grade speakers, which provide enough clarity and bass to serve both TV and films - now that truly is rare on a flatscreen TV.
Philips also claims that the 40PFL7605 uses up to 40 per cent less energy than a LCD TV, though the key words there are "up to", which - as usual - immediately renders that claim totally meaningless.
The lack of Freeview HD puts a serious dent in this otherwise attractively priced and advanced Edge LED TV. Excellent speakers, digital media playback and an easy-to-use interface and the highlights, though its ability with contrast, colour and judder-free Blu-ray are equally as impressive.