When Philips announced around a year ago that its future TVs were going to be manufactured by Chinese company TPV Technology, alarm bells started ringing.
Regardless of the spin, it sounded very much like the Dutch company was selling off its TV business, which gave us visions of a once-premium, occasionally envelope-pushing company being reduced to making poor-quality supermarket-specials.
We needn’t have worried, though. For once the spin turned out to be truth – Philips was genuinely joining forces with TPV Technology to create a joint venture called TP Vision that could marry together the research and design of the Dutch company with the large-scale manufacturing might of the Chinese, and ultimately compete with the biggest of the big boys in the TV market.
Philips 46PFL8007: Build quality
The Philips 46PFL8007 (opens in new tab) we have here is the first fruit of that joint venture to grace our testing rooms, and from the moment it’s pulled from the box it’s clear that this is a Philips TV.
The metal construction, thin bezel and stylish stand mark this out as a premium option, and it’s mighty thin to boot. This is a uniform thinness right across the chassis, too – it’s not one of those sets that hides all its weight in a bulge around the back like a pair of so-called slimming pants.
The styling of the remote control is a more qualified success. The metal face is very Philips, but the chunkiness most certainly is not – and while the QWERTY keyboard on the reverse provides an excuse for the uncharacteristic girth, the plain white styling isn’t exactly pretty. If you don't want to use the remote, Philips also offers a free iOS control app.
The remote isn’t the only accessory you get in the box. Hidden among the adapters and instruction manuals is a fairly compact Skype camera with a very flexible clamp that makes it easy to install on the top edge of the TV. It certainly isn’t as neat as the integrated camera you’ll find on the likes of the Samsung 8000-series sets, but for an add-on device it’s not bad.
Round the back the Ambilight bars of old have been replaced by rows of rear-facing LEDs along three edges, and while they they look quite dinky, they chuck out a lot of light and have the same beautiful, depth-enhancing effect as before.
You also get two USB sockets, and an ethernet connection, but on a set this thin there's no room for full-size scart and component sockets, so there's an adapter for each in the box.
Philips 46PFL8007: Picture setup
For a long while now Philips has been the only TV manufacturer to include picture personalisation as part of its initial setup, and for this new model the process has changed slightly. Instead of a number of side-by-side pictures that are built into the TV, live television is used to illustrate the various adjustment options at your disposal.
The whole process is a sequence of simple options – do you want more or less brightness, more or less contrast, etc – with each selection changing the on-screen picture.
By the end the television should be displaying an image suited to your personal preferences, and in practice we found that to largely be the case. A bit of time spent with a THX Optimizer will still pay dividends for those determined to get the very best from their new display, though.
Whether or not you decide to spend the extra time fine-tuning the picture, you’ll inevitably find yourself delving into the menus sooner or later – and you’ll find them a rather mixed bag.
On the one hand the graphics are bright, clear and well spaced, and thought has gone into the often-animated transitions between them. The thing is, the 46PFL8007 doesn’t seem to have the processing power to really handle the action, so what should be neat graphical flourishes are often reduced to slow, clunky stutters, which is a big shame.
Philips 46PFL8007: Picture quality
Anyway, put that to one side and stick on a Blu-ray and there’s much more to smile about than to frown at. Play Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (an oldie but a classic tester) and it’s clear from the off that this is a set capable of serious contrast, with the bright white light emerging from the centre of the screen while the edges of the picture remain inky black.
Weirdly, though, the set seems unable to handle those contrast levels consistently, with many darker scenes being artificially lit more than they should. That does mean that insight into black areas is excellent, but it also robs those scenes of some impact and intensity.
Otherwise it is largely a very impressive performance – colours are vibrant, slow pans (both vertical and horizontal) are handled with silky smoothness, and while it doesn’t have the overall sharpness or fine detail recovery of the very best in class, it does provide an exceptionally clean, smooth picture.
Philips 46PFL8007: 3D performance
Switch to 3D and don the very light, very comfortable glasses and the performance is generally very good. There’s the usual loss of brightness that we’ve come to expect from active-shutter systems, but you also get sharp, well-defined edges, convincing depth and fairly balanced colours.
It’s not immune to getting confused by a bit of fast motion, mind, with Scarlett Johansson’s fight at the beginning of Avengers Assemble quickly degenerating into a mess of uncomfortable double-images. Admittedly that’s party because the scene’s 3D production itself is rather poor, but we’ve seen TVs that handle it better.
Watching broadcast TV on the Philips is a real pleasure. Pressing the Guide button proves that an EPG can be both colourful and clear and easy to read, and adding channels to your favourites – and therefore making them easy to flick to in the future – is a snap.
Philips 46PFL8007: HD & smart TV
Naturally that’s where we put the four currently available HD channels, all of which look crisp and vibrant. Of course, you’re going to end up watching some standard-definition stuff every now and then, so it’s a good job that the Philips does a decent job with it, maintaining colour balance and digging up a reasonable amount of detail (even if noise around edges isn’t kepte entirely under control).
Naturally, we can’t end a review of a modern telly without mentioning smart features, and here Philips has been doing a lot of work. For music you’ve got Napster, Aupeo! and Absolute Radio, there’s Acetrax, iPlayer and YouTube for video, and social butterflies get Facebook.
There’s also a full web browser that’s surprisingly nice to use thanks to quick page loading times, clear text, and the general responsiveness on offer from the QWERTY remote.
Philips 46PFL8007: Verdict
This is clearly an accomplished set, and that bodes well for the TP Vision future of Philips. It’s a touch short of the very best, but this has made us very excited for the rest of the new range – especially next year’s 9000-series Moth Eye model…