Philips has never done anything by the rulebook when it comes to release schedules. Last year, the first samples of its 2012 range arrived with us in November, so it’s nice to see the Philips 55PFL8008 up and running in our testing rooms at the same time as its competitors in 2013.
And maybe there’s good reason. Take the Philips 55PFL8008 out of its box and it’s immediately obvious it means business.
Philips 55PFL8008 review: design
This 55in Philips certainly looks every bit the £2500 TV, with a slim design measuring in at 3cm deep, an ultra-thin 1cm brushed metal bezel in gunmetal grey and a sturdy, silver rectangular stand.
The back panel on the 55PFL8008 is made from black plastic, which takes away from the premium feel just slightly, but it’s sturdy enough and we didn’t notice any flex in it when connecting wires. At the bottom of the screen there’s a small lip that holds the Philips logo and a camera for Skype calls.
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This being a Philips TV, there’s also Philips' Ambilight technology on board. The 55PFL8008 uses the XL version, which sends a customisable glow from three sides of the screen onto the wall behind.
You simply set the colour of your wall and the lights adapt to complement the colours on screen (or display a solid shade instead). We enjoyed the immersive effect the Ambilight created, but it can be turned off if it isn’t for you.
Philips 55PFL8008: specs
As you’d expect from a high-end TV, the Philips 55PFL8008 is pretty well connected and has a good selection of ports for your home-cinema kit.
There are four HDMI inputs for one thing (one more than many rival sets this year), and they’ve been placed with a bit of thought too: three of them face downwards for a tidier result when the TV is mounted on the wall.
Also present are three USB ports, a Scart connector, an ethernet socket for a wired internet connection (there’s wi-fi on board too), component video in, optical digital out and a 3.5mm output for connecting headphones.
The aerial connector lets you connect the built-in Freeview HD tuner, and although this isn’t a Freesat-certified set, the satellite socket gives you access to that service’s channels. However, they aren’t presented in an organised menu format as you’d get with a Freesat HD tuner.
Philips 55PFL8008 review: set-up
Setup is a breeze on the Philips, and it does a good job of taking you through the various options so you’re all ready to go by the end of it, with network settings set, channels tuned and even some simple picture options tweaked.
We would, of course, recommend a more thorough look at the latter with a THX Optimizer disc, but it’s a nice place to start for those less experienced with such things.
After setup is complete, though, it’s fair to say the menus on the PFL8008 can be somewhat confusing, with seemingly little structure or common sense as to where you’ll find things. We unearthed the brightness setting in “Advanced Controls”, for example, which seemed odd. At least it’s a snappy experience thanks to the TV’s dual-core processor…
The fairly large Philips remote control doesn’t have a Settings button to take you straight to those menus either, which seems like a bit of an oversight and means you’ll often have to go through a fair few button presses to get to where you want.
Once you’re there, though, those in-depth menus are offset by the option to make simplified adjustments – better for users less inclined to plough through pages of menus to fine-tune their picture.
Philips 55PFL8008: picture quality
Menu niggles aside, this TV’s performance speaks for itself, delivering an image that projects detail and clarity in spades.
It’s wonderfully sharp and does a great job of bringing out the subtler elements of a picture, with a colour palette that leans just slightly to the cooler side of neutral compared with the warmer tones of the LG 55LA860W or Samsung UE55F8000.
It demonstrates a seriously strong grip on contrast too, capable of delivering a very bright image while still showing off impressively inky blacks and plenty of shadow detail that competitors such as the Sony KDL-55W905A and the Samsung F8000 lose completely to darkness.
Philips’s 1400Hz Perfect Motion Rate processing technology works well at keeping movement smooth and natural, and we witnessed a very stable performance, even during the busy, fast-moving opening shots in Hugo.
Switch to the 3D version of this film and the performance is just as impressive, keeping its wits about it at all times with little noticeable crosstalk, and delivering a gorgeous sense of depth and texture that creates a truly immersive 3D experience.
We didn’t feel our eyes working quite as hard with the active-shutter tech as with other sets either, but this should still be a consideration for those sensitive to fatigue associated with the system.
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As for standard-definition performance, flicking over to the set’s Freeview HD tuner, we discovered the set’s excellent handling of video processing in HD is replicated for lower-resolution content, too.
Demonstrating visibly sharper outlines to those shown on LG’s 55LA860W, the 55PFL8008 handled upscaling well, and though we noticed occasional noise, there’s an overall natural feeling to the set’s upscaling that makes it a more-than-acceptable watch.
Philips 55PFL8008: smart features
When it comes to smart features, Philips has always been playing a bit of catch-up with the more impressive services from the likes of Samsung and Sony. However, the Philips 2013 Smart TV offering is slowly getting there, even if it still isn’t as competitive as it could be.
The interface is nicely designed, with a live video window in the top-left corner with all your apps underneath. This is customisable, of course, so the apps you use most can be first to hand (and there’s an app gallery for downloading more).
However, its app selection is where the Philips offering falls down next to its peers. Netflix has recently been added, singlehandedly making the video-on-demand selection immediately better, but there’s still some way to go.
It joins BBC iPlayer and Blinkbox, but LoveFilm and all other TV catch-up services are nowhere to be seen. Philips says LoveFilm should be joining the service soon, so it’s certainly something that’s being addressed – but if on-demand content is important to you, you might want to bolster Philips’ offering through your Blu-ray player or a YouView box.
Social networking is a better represented, with apps for Facebook, Twitter and Skype (the latter providing a clear picture in our tests), while the built-in web browser is good, offering tabbed browsing, all made easier thank to the Philips’ full QWERTY remote control.
Philips 55PFL8008: remote control
Browsing the web on a TV has never been the best experience, but the keyboard remote control included with the 55PFL8008 is certainly the best way we’ve found to surf from our sofa.
The QWERTY keyboard is built into the underside of the standard remote and makes typing in search terms and web addresses much quicker. There’s a pointer tool built in to this remote as well, which comes into play on the smart TV menus to help navigation.
While all this makes for a rather chunky remote, it’s nice to have it all included on one, rather than the current trend for an ordinary remote and separate ‘smart’ wand. As if we needed any more in our living rooms…
Philips 55PFL8008 review: verdict
While the smart functionality is a bit of an Achilles’ heel for the Philips, we have to say that this TV's all-round performance more than makes up for it.
Stunning 2D pictures, a great 3D performance and black levels deep enough to challenge those on a plasma speak for themselves. Philips has pulled out all the stops for the 55PFL8008, and the result is a resounding success.
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