One of the first vendors to rush onto the scene is Philips and its latest 7000-series Flat TV, the Dutch's first true 1080p entry to the Asia market. Will there be significant corners cut to offset the lower margin? We put the 47FPL7422 under heavy scrutiny and our usual torture test to find out its potential.
Design of the Philips 47PFL7422 (47-inch LCD)
Compared to past years' lineups, Philips has seemingly taken a step back in terms of aesthetics. We were hardly impressed by the 47FPL7422's rather conservative design, centered on a dated black-and-silver color scheme. An all-round glossy treatment would have been more appealing, though there were still a couple of nice touches here. The ones that really stood out were the glass-top swivel stand and, to a lesser extent, the streamlined and angled bottom speakers. For those into bling, the Power LED toggles from amber (standby) to soothing blue upon power-up.
It was another mixed bag of impressions when it came to the onboard controls and socket layout. While we had little issue with the longish left-mounted buttons, we were simply clueless over the awkward side A/V jacks. These were installed flush on the chassis, around 3 inches away from the corner. In the same light, the rear terminals were also vertically mounted, which were not easily within reach. But this was for a good cause this time round--to minimize wall-mounting depth and accommodate thick cords. This arrangement worked in tandem with a detachable cover for simple cable management.
Short, compact or cute? Whichever way you call it, the bundled remote controller is definitely one of a kind. Easily dwarfed by others, this one is decked out with semi-translucent buttons which got us excited at first glance. It was a short-lived one as they neither glowed nor lighted up in the dark. What these offered were ample tactile feedback and adequate response for fatigue-free prolonged usage. As expected, there weren't many shortcut keys due to space constraints. Same went for dedicated input key omission, which is a potential hassle for the impatient.
We had our first obvious sign of cost-cutting when navigating through the intuitive but sparse software menu. Kudos to Philips for throwing in the stylish graphical user interface and companion onscreen guide, but there was a lot more to be desired in the A/V configuration spread. There were very minimal tweaking options beyond the basics. Speaking of which, there was no Tint setting and this was configurable only under Personal mode. However, an independent set was available for each video input, while the rest of the factory presets were permanently locked out.
Features of the Philips 47PFL7422 (47-inch LCD)
The main selling point for the 47FPL7422 is its ultra-high resolution full-HD LCD panel. This packs over 2 million pixels and has enough muscle to resolve every detail from your HD-DVD and Blu-ray titles. That said, its typical contrast lacks the usual mouthwatering figures hawked by its Japanese and Korean competitors. Though we usually question the merits of the numbers gimmick, its humble 3,000:1 rating does pale against many other models. Looking on the brighter side, there is still a competent 500cd/m2 brightness and ultra-wide 178-degree viewing angle.
Wouldn't it be nice if Philips could power this model with its upcoming Perfect Pixel HD video processor? Well, you pay for what you get, and for the price it would have to be plain-vanilla Pixel Plus HD. What you will miss out, among others, are functions such as Digital Natural Motion movement enhancement. As a consolation, there is a suite of automated video optimization which eliminates users' guesswork and adapts to varying room lighting condition. These include Dynamic Contrast Enhancer which provides on-the-fly backlighting adjustment.
To complement the above video element, there is its proprietary Incredible Surround audio technology. Conceptually similar to the incumbent SRS TruSurround XT and Virtual Dolby Digital, this digital signal processing-based software engine promises enveloping effects without deploying additional speakers. For something more tangible, there's a five-band software graphics equalizer to personalize sound quality of the modest 20W-driven stereo speakers. Furthermore, there is a coaxial audio output which allows pristine digital interface with external sound systems but does not work with TV broadcasts.
Connectivity-wise, you will have just about every socket relevant for Asia. This ranges from a pair of 1080p50/60-enabled HDMI terminals to dual sets of component-video sockets and the usual mix of legacy jacks--S-video inclusive. For computer hookup, we have PC input compatible with widescreen resolutions but which accepts up to only 1,360 x 768-pixel signals. We are delighted to report that there is no European-centric SCART port featured in the selection, something that we would rather go without though you could purchase cumbersome adapters to utilize them.
Performance of the Philips 47PFL7422 (47-inch LCD)
The Toshiba HD-XE1-drivened and SpyderTV Pro-calibrated 47PFL7422 was put into a rigorous pace of back-to-back real-world materials and test pattern evaluations. In addition, we also integrated, for the first time, HQV's standard and hi-def benchmarks in our workflow. To kick off the process, we tuned into the local MediaCorp off-the-air broadcasts. There was clearly visible dot crawl and, like most 1080p models, the overall visuals were generally soft. On a positive note, the TV's noise reduction system was extremely effective in suppressing background grain.
It was a quick turnaround when we checked out the panel's grayscale performance and color-decoding accuracy. These were skillfully tackled and reproduced with near perfection. But moving onto HQV, the set fumbled again by displaying heavy jaggies and moire patterns during the waving flag and 3:2 detection (film-to-video conversion) tests, respectively. To countercheck these observations, we played back a DVD copy of Blade 2. Shadows details were distinctive in many of the movie's dark scenes, though the severity of the HQV's issues might be too overrated.
The relatively sharp DVD pictures received an instant boast once we switched over to native HD content. We could easily make out Vin Diesel's battered facial texture and perspiration in The Chronicles of Riddick with subtle depth that added a layered 3D effect. Nonetheless, it was HQV again that flagged the red light during its HD video resolution loss test, with heavy flickers indicating possible frame- over pixel-level video processing. Strange vertical streaking was also picked up on the grayish road of Ridge Racer 7, which undermined its otherwise ghosting-free motion reproduction.
Since the 47PFL7422 is equipped with PC input, we test drove the review unit with an HP 6910p laptop running off a 1,360 x 768-pixel video output. As expected, the combination of analog interface and heavy scaling resulted in rendered text that was nowhere close to crisp. This, however, automatically filled the entire screen without any objectionable border clipping. Putting on our reference color banding test pattern, the gradations of the various hues were largely smooth. Part of this strong showing can be attributed back to its uniform backlighting.
The sonic performance of the 20W amplifier and stereo speakers was kind of disappointing. Not only was bass on the lighter side, treble was also a bit muffled. Engaging Incredible Surround did little to expand the sound field, while stereo imaging was mediocre at best. All-in-all, the Philips 47FPL7422 is a commendable attempt by the Dutch company. It may not be a high-flyer in A/V delivery, but this shortfall can be pardoned for its pocket-friendly tag. At S$5,999 (US$3,946.04), this is about the lowest you can get away with a future-proof 1080p HDTV.