Philips 46PFL7007 Smart TV

Philips' 2012 TVs may have arrived at the eleventh hour, but if the 46PFL7007 is anything to go by, it looks like it was worth the wait.

Also available in 40in and 55in versions, the 7007 is only two steps down from the flagship 9707. It's a beauty to behold, with a thin 5mm metal bezel and a smart wedge-shaped stand, which can also double as a wall mount.

It's an LED edge-lit 3D TV using active shutter glasses, of which you get one pair in the box, and has a built-in Freeview HD tuner, Wi-Fi, the signature Ambilight LEDs which light up your wall with colours to match the on-screen action, plus Philips' latest Smart TV hub.

It's not only the bezel that's super-slim: the set itself is just 30mm deep. There's also a fantastic array of ports and connections including five HDMI inputs.

See also: group test: what's the best 3D TV?

Philips 46PFL7007: Smart TV

One of the areas in which Philips' previous TVs were lacking was internet services. With the new version that's no longer the case. Press the remote's Smart TV button and, after a short delay, you're presented with a thumbnail of the current video source, and some icons for online services.

Philips 46PFL7007 iPlayer

These include the all-important iPlayer (where you get the choice of SD or HD streaming) and YouTube. The rest of the (presently) limited selection includes TED Talks, Ebay, MeteoGroup, Absolute Radio, Aupeo, CNBC Real-time and, slightly oddly, TomTom HD Traffic. There's Twitter and Facebook integration, a web browser (more on that below) and Skype, which gets its own icon in the main menu.

To use Skype, you'll need the £100 PTA317 webcam (you can't use any old USB model you have lying around, but the PTA317 actually costs around £60 if you shop around), but it's a great way to communicate with friends and family on the huge screen. The camera itself has two noise-cancelling microphones and offers a decent wide-angle view of your room so several people can be seen at once. The Skype app is easy to use and sound quality was good during our tests.

Philips 46PFL7007 Skype

The portal doesn't include any other TV catchup services, nor BBC News, but we're told Blinkbox and at least one other video-subscription service will be added in an update shortly.

The web browser isn't a reason to buy the TV. It's not a bad effort, but as there's no cursor it can be tricky to select links and text boxes unless you connect a USB mouse (which you can). Plus, it doesn't support Flash, so many web videos can't be played.

Philips 46PFL7007: remotePhilips 46PFL7007 Remote

The bundled remote is an RF unit, which is welcome as it doesn't need line of sight to communicate with the TV. Flip it over and you'll find a split QWERTY keyboard that's comfortable enough to use with your thumbs.

This makes it much more feasible to write those Tweets and Facebook updates as well as searching for YouTube videos or entering your Wi-Fi password. It doesn't work in every app, though, with iPlayer being a frustrating omission.

If you have an Android or iOS device, you can download the Philips MyRemote app which replicates the remote's buttons and has some other nifty features.

One is Simply Share, which allows you to show photos, music and videos from your smartphone or tablet on your TV via Wi-Fi. We tried this on an iPad, but it couldn't find our TV. Philips says a firmware update coming in November for the TV will fix this.

Another feature (Wi-Fi Smart Screen) which will be included in the same update is the ability to stream the live broadcast showing on the TV straight to your smartphone or tablet.

Another feature, which is only on tablets, is a programme guide. This is arguably easier to browse than the version on the TV itself, and doesn't interrupt your TV viewing. If you find a show you want to watch you can tap it to switch straight to it on the 46PFL7007.

Philips 46PFL7007: media playback and hard disk recording

As you'd expect, the 7007 can play back a variety of video, photo and music formats, both via its three USB ports, and across your network.

The menus for playing media are fairly nippy and easy to navigate. Connect a flash drive or hard disk and the media player will launch automatically, allowing you to select the type of media you're after at the top of the screen. It's then a case of navigating to a particular folder and playing the contents.

It's great to see MKV support along with AVI, MP4, MPEG and WMV. Naturally, JPG photos can be viewed, and as well as MP3 for audio, you can also play WMA and Apple's AAC files.

Philips 46PFL7007 media playback

If you press the Pause button after connecting at least a 32GB USB drive, the 46PFL7007 can format it and use it to pause live TV. If you also want to be able to record broadcasts, you'll need a 250GB or larger disk. Recordings are encrypted, so you can't copy them to a computer.

However, we'd recommend using a hard disk only for pausing and rewinding live TV (which works well). Recording both SD and HD shows is possible but the system is unwieldy. You can't pause or rewind during recording, nor can you even watch another source, which seems unnecessarily restrictive. Plus, features you might expect to see, such as Series Link are missing.

Next page: Picture quality

Philips 46PFL7007: 2D picture quality

Although image processing is a step down from the 8000 Series, the 46PFL7007 still has the same 200Hz LCD panel. Unlike the 9707 there's no moth-eye filter, so the screen has a semi-gloss finish which is quite reflective.

Rather than the top-end Perfect Pixel HD engine, the 7000 Series has 'Pixel Precise HD'. This can't process as many pixels per second as Perfect Pixel HD, but it's difficult to tell.

Indeed, detail levels are incredible. From a good-quality Blu-ray, you can see the blades of grass on a football pitch, individual hairs in a cat's fur and every last blemish pan models face. The picture is so sharp, it feels as if the action is happening right in front of you.

Motion resolution, too, is another strength. Images moving across the screen remain in sharp focus, making this a great set for watching sports.

Philips 46PFL7007 Ambilight in action

Contrast is excellent, as long as you're sitting almost directly in front of the 46PFL7007. This is partially thanks to micro-dimming, where the scene is analysed and the backlight adjusted in small segments according to whether it's a bright or dark area of the frame.

Blacks are deep and convincing, but things change as you move off-centre. Narrow viewing angles mean colour saturation drops off, even at 45 degrees, making blacks look bluish and faces take on a corpse-like appearance. Colours also appear to invert, giving people a plastic look.

The panel can swivel on its stand enough to counteract this effect if you're sitting on a sofa at the side of the room, but when several people are watching on opposite sides of the room, only those directly in front of the screen will see the best quality.

Philips 46PFL7007 TV show info

In our technical tests, displaying a variety of solid colours on the screen, the backlight is pretty even. On our test sample, however, tiny dark patches were evident in the bottom corners. These aren't noticeable in normal circumstances, but you might see them on a news channel with a coloured bar at the bottom.

Again, as long as you're sat square-on, colours are absolutely stunning, with deep reds, bright yellows, and convincing blues and greens. When you move off centre, colours quickly fade.

Of course, you won't be watching HD video the entire time, and the 46PFL7007 does an admirable job of upscaling standard definition Freeview. We'd advise leaving the sharpening control disabled, though, as it only leads to artefacts and haloing.

Philips 46PFL7007: 3D picture quality

You get only one pair of 3D specs in the box, but you should be able to pick up a free second pair during in-store promotions.

Philips 46PFL7007 PTA507 3D glasses

Importantly, though, 3D quality is good, with scenes being both deep and immersive. There's little perceptible crosstalk (it reared its head only in occasional scenes in Prometheus on Blu-ray) but being active shutter glasses, other light sources within your vision flicker.

It's possible to adjust the 3D depth, but only between two settings: Normal and More. We'd have preferred to see an additional 'less' option.

A useful trick is the ability to play two-player games in 3D, where each player gets to use the entire screen rather than squinting at half the screen. Each pair of 3D glasses lets you select whether you're player A or B, and then they synch with the TV so both eyes only see the left 3D frame while the other player sees only the right frame.

Next page: EPG, menus and sound

Philips 46PFL7007: menus and EPG

Given that there's a dual-core processor capable of dealing with millions of pixels per second, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the TV's menus would be snappy. Sadly they're not. The animations would be great if they weren't so slow, and there's no way to disable them.

On top of this, getting to the picture quality settings takes at least 9 or 10 button presses - there's no dedicated setting button on the remote.

As we've come to expect from Philips, there are more than enough quality settings to satisfy those who like to tweak. That's a good thing, since the preset modes are really only starting points which you'll almost certainly want to adjust - mainly to disable all the unnecessary processing which is turned on by default.

Particularly frustrating is the inability to quickly enable or disable Perfect Natural Motion, Philips intelligent frame creation system. Typically you'll want to disable it for movies, but enable it for sports.

Settings are saved for each input source, so it can take a while to get things just right if you have, say a Sky+ box, an Xbox and a Blu-ray player.

Philips 46PFL7007 menus

The programme guide takes up almost the whole screen, so it's easy to read, and shows two hours' listings for six channels. Annoyingly, it cuts both the picture and sound of the programme you're watching.

As if this wasn't annoying enough, there's no easy way to change days, no way to jump back to the current time and pressing the Ok button for a programme switches to that channel's live feed rather than displaying information for that show, or scheduling it for recording.

Philips 46PFL7007: EPG

Philips 46PFL7007: sound

Thin TVs typically have poor sound quality, but the 46PFL7007 isn't bad. There's a pair of 20W speakers built into the base and these deliver loud, decent quality sound. Bass is just about audible, but not a patch on Philips older sets. Still, audio is better than pretty much every other thin TV we've seen recently.

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Philips 46PFL7007: Specs

  • 46in LCD TV
  • 1920 x 1080 pixels
  • Brightness: 450 cd/m2
  • Contrast ratio: 500,000:1 (dynamic)
  • Stereo speakers with 2 x 20W amplifier
  • Freeview HD tuner
  • 7-day EPG
  • 5 x HDMI, 1 x SCART, 1 x Component, VGA D-Sub
  • Digital audio optical S/PDIF
  • Headphone jack
  • 10/100 ethernet
  • 802.11n Wi-Fi
  • 3 x USB 2.0, CI slot
  • Video Playback Formats. Containers: AVI, MKV, H264/MPEG-4 AVC, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, WMV9/VC1
  • Music Playback Formats: AAC, MP3, WMA (v2 up to v9.2)
  • Picture Playback Formats: JPEG
  • 85W average power consumption
  • 1042 x 599 x 30 mm (with stand)
  • 14 kg
  • 1 year warranty
  • 46in LCD TV
  • 1920 x 1080 pixels
  • Brightness: 450 cd/m2
  • Contrast ratio: 500,000:1 (dynamic)
  • Stereo speakers with 2 x 20W amplifier
  • Freeview HD tuner
  • 7-day EPG
  • 5 x HDMI, 1 x SCART, 1 x Component, VGA D-Sub
  • Digital audio optical S/PDIF
  • Headphone jack
  • 10/100 ethernet
  • 802.11n Wi-Fi
  • 3 x USB 2.0, CI slot
  • Video Playback Formats. Containers: AVI, MKV, H264/MPEG-4 AVC, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, WMV9/VC1
  • Music Playback Formats: AAC, MP3, WMA (v2 up to v9.2)
  • Picture Playback Formats: JPEG
  • 85W average power consumption
  • 1042 x 599 x 30 mm (with stand)
  • 14 kg
  • 1 year warranty

OUR VERDICT

There's lots to like about the 46PFL7007. 2D picture quality is searingly sharp, with bright, realistic colours and superb blacks. 3D is also impressive, even if there's slight crosstalk from time to time. It also looks fantastic, and the Ambilight makes things even more immersive. The range of ports is unparalleled and Wi-Fi is integrated. What we didn't like were the restrictive viewing angles and reflective screen (the latter being a common feature of just about all TVs this year). The slow menus with options buried too deeply were also frustrating. The Smart TV needs more content, including more catch-up TV services such as 4oD.

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