The TV industry could probably do with a George Lucas-penned reminder that in a film context “sound is half the picture”.
Rivalling the Miss America pageant in their pursuit for slimness, TV brands have typically prioritised appearance over sound quality, squeezing speakers into ever-thinner frames.
This 24in Full HD Philips is a slender telly but gets round any sonic repercussions by having its wedge-like, cheese grater-sized stand double up as a speaker (driven by a 16W amplifier).
It is hardly a new idea – Linsar has previously spun a similar concept for a small telly, and now the ‘Big Four’ TV brands are pursuing better sound in its flagship sets – but it’s a long overdue one anyway.
Despite jutting out in little in front and behind the panel, which prohibits the telly from being wall-mounted, the Philips’ speaker concept is not only beneficial from a performance perspective but a features one too.
While it omits internet (and therefore smart) capability – that’s where a Google Chromecast stick or smart-enabled Blu-ray player can come in – the speaker has built-in Bluetooth for streaming music from a laptop, smartphone or portable device.
There’s also a single USB input for photo, video and music playback, and twin HDMI and SCART and component inputs, plus an optical output if you choose to upgrade to a separate soundbar.
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We’ve condemned many autonomous speakers this size for sounding thin, but the Philips is surprisingly ample.
As we settle down for a sing-a-long to Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book adaptation, Bill Kingsley’s narration (as Bagheera) comes through with plenty of body, and there’s solidity behind Idris Elba’s best tiger roar – notably more than the average small flatscreen TV is capable of.
That’s without any midrange boost, although the ‘Personal’ sound mode (as well as a ‘Clear Sound’ setting) can step in to add extra clarity and projection to voices if you so wish. Personally, our preference lies with the most balanced ‘Movie’ mode.
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The speaker doesn’t just gift weight to the presentation, there’s a satisfying amount of detail, dynamics and volume too.
It has the insight to carry Shere Khan’s threatening tone, keep the jungle noises discernible beneath dialogue, and communicate the faint pitter-patter of rain.
In the opening jungle chase as Mowgli darts from tree to tree, the galloping momentum of the backing track is carried well enough to get your feet twitching in anticipation.
We switch to Hans Zimmer’s Interstellar soundtrack and the Philips handles the droning bass undercurrent competently.
Organ chimes sound big and bold, and there’s a sense of immediacy and dynamic presence you can only otherwise expect from a standalone budget soundbar.
You don’t have to push the volume to 11 to get a room-filling soundfield either. In fact, we’d avoid its loudest quarter, where a little hardness pollutes upper mids and treble.
Playing Bluetooth-streamed music doesn’t hamper our praise for the 24PFS5231, its presentation is explicit, balanced and distortion-free – even with a low-res Spotify stream.
It delivers an enjoyable rendition of Thin Lizzy’s Whiskey in the Jar that drives the electric riffs with clarity, and conveys the feeling in the vocals.
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The impressive sound makes you hanker for a larger screen, but thankfully the quality of this 24in one more than meets the high standards set by the speakers.
The TV menu may not be the most intuitive we’ve seen, but it’s where you’ll find the usual contrast, brightness, sharpness and colour settings, all of which we tweak with the aid of a THX Optimizer disc.
Switching to ‘Standard’ or ‘Natural’ picture modes, which provide the best colour balance, and turning down contrast a tad are good starts.
Peculiarly, there’s no motion processing setting, which is a shame because with The Jungle Book, camera pans and animal scraps carry a little inescapable judder.
Despite being the Philips’ soft spot, the rest of its picture talents more than make up for it.
With both Blu-ray and Full HD TV broadcasts, it’s crisp, sharp and clean enough to sit right up close to and, from the green jungle leaves to Mowgli’s red pants and Shere Khan’s orange coat, colours strike a natural balance that’s easy on the eye.
The downgrade to DVD is kind, which is partly due to the Philips’ diminutive size but also its credible upscaler.
Edges carry some blur, but the levels of sharpness and clarity are mostly retained. You only need the black bars and a shot of space to show that contrast is too, and hues don’t lack potency or punch.
It’s also refreshing not having to caution readers about the quality of standard-definition broadcasts, as we’ve become accustomed to with some 4K tellies.
More than watchable, the delivery won’t put you off watching old episodes of Top Gear on the Dave channel.
While most people buying a new TV for the living room telly might opt for 4K and HDR technology, the chances are it’ll be some time before those technologies are a requirement for a household’s second telly, and even longer before they are standard on a modest screen size.
If your current needs require an affordable small screen that serves up a solid picture and prioritises sound quality more than most, whether for films, TV shows or gaming (or all three!), the Philips 24PFS5231 is a compelling, and rare, find.
See all our Philips reviews