Philips 46PFL8007T LED 3D TV Review

Benchmark Test Results

Important information regarding input lag measurements:

For TV reviews beginning in 2013, we are using the Leo Bodnar Input Lag Tester device as a replacement for the previous standard method (PC with cloned video output and digital camera).

This is a more scientifically consistent method which removes more variables (including any small lag inherent in the CRT itself) from the measurement process, and means that measurements can be compared on a level playing field between all review outlets and readers using the device.

The lag test device reports higher numbers than the old method as a result of testing the entire video system rather than using the CRT as reference. This is a result of the change in measurement process, and does not mean that manufacturers are releasing slower displays than previous years.

Dead pixels None
Screen uniformity Right of panel slightly brighter, non-uniformity throughout – standard for edge-lit LED
Calibrated black level (black screen) 0.052 cd/m2
Calibrated black level (ANSI checkerboard) 0.052 cd/m2
Black level retention Stable in calibrated [ISF] modes
Primary chromaticity Excellent
Scaling Very Good
Video mode deinterlacing Good jaggies reduction
Film mode deinterlacing Failed 2-2 PAL film mode test
Viewing angle Standard for VA-type LCD: contrast, gamma and colour shift from sides
Motion resolution 300, increases to 800 with motion interpolation on
Digital noise reduction Optional
Sharpness Very minor horizontal edge enhancement
Luma/Chroma bandwidth (2D Blu-ray) Full Luma, chroma horizontally blurred (except in Game mode)
1080p/24 capability No judder in 2D, mild judder in 3D
Input lag 53ms using LB Lag Tester (see notes above!)
Full 4:4:4 reproduction (PC) No, 4:4:4 input subsampled

Power Consumption

[Natural] mode (2D) 59 watts
[Natural] mode (3D) 58 watts
Calibrated [ISF Night] mode (2D) 71 watts
Calibrated [ISF Day] mode (3D) 116 watts
Standby 1 watt

Note: Measurements taken with 50% full-field grey screen.

Picture Performance

Black Level

The Philips 46PFL8007T presents fairly solid blacks which measured 0.052 cd/m2. If you’re not familiar with the technical readings, just know that a black level of 0 cd/m2 (no light at all) would be the ideal goal – the lower the better, and the closer to true black.

That puts the 46PFL8007 in a considerably better position for contrast quality than LCD televisions using IPS panels (which are typically the domain of LG and Panasonic). As an example, a recent LED LCD TV using an IPS panel gave black level performance of 0.155 cd/m2, which is considerably more greyish than the 46PFL8007T’s 0.052 cd/m2. We’re not sure where the panel in the 46PFL8007 comes from, but it’s roughly on par with Sony’s higher-end LCD offerings. It’s still some way away from the best plasma TVs, however: a £500 cheaper 2012 Panasonic plasma will give you inky blacks measuring just a hair under 0.01 cd/m2 (although the black level will rise when viewed in a brighter room).

Being an LCD-based display, the depth of the blacks depends on how you have the Backlight set. In all HDTVTest reviews, we align the backlight setting so that a full white screen measures at 120 cd/m2. The purpose of this is to ensure that the contrast performance is always assessed on a level playing field, not to suggest that all readers do the same (120 cd/m2 produces plenty of light output for a dark room, but would look dull in brighter environments). Keep in mind that the brighter you set the whites, the greyer the blacks will be, but again, your perception of those two extremes again depends on the brightness of your room.

Surprisingly for a modern LED LCD display, the Philips 8007 doesn’t feature any undefeatable auto-dimming tricks. If you’re in the ISF modes with the various dynamic backlight features off, the TV won’t ever dim its LED lighting. With most LCD-based TVs, feeding a black screen will usually result in the television cutting its light output off entirely. Perhaps Philips don’t do this because they have nothing to hide: the 46PFL8007 displayed a surprisingly consistent shade of very dark purpley-blue. Only near the extreme edges of the screen could we detect a little bit of brightening.

As a result, the Philips 46PFL8007 is free of any luminance shifting issues (although those are rare on HDTVs which do employ these tricks), unless you choose to enable Dynamic Backlighting.

Dynamic Backlighting

Philips’ Perfect Pixel HD processor includes optional use of dynamic backlighting – via a menu option, logically called [Dynamic backlight]. Including the Off switch, there are a couple of modes, called Standard, Best power, and Best picture. The latter of these appears to more aggressively dim dark scenes, whereas “Standard” was more subtle.

However, the dynamic backlight system does more than just raise and lower the intensity of the backlight (actually edge-lights), it also does contrast stretching at the video processing level so that the full dynamic range of the LCD panel is being used. As a result, it can sometimes blow out some highlight details, when very bright areas have to exist on screen beside very dark ones.

As a result of shifting values around, greyscale tracking can change, too. For example, during a scene with a black background and white text, the white text shifted between having a slight blue tint and a slight red tint as the TV varied its video processing. On the whole, we found the system to be worthwhile for watching in a dark room, despite the fact that, as technical viewers, we were aware of it operating: LCD blacks can look greyish under these viewing conditions, and the 46PFL8007T’s dynamic backlighting helped address that issue. In any case, full control is given and it can be turned off if its inner workings become too apparent.

Motion Resolution

Anyone who follows HDTVTest reviews of LCD televisions (and that includes LED-lit models too) probably won’t be surprised to hear that the baseline motion resolution of the Philips 46PFL8007 is… you guessed it, 300 lines.

Engaging the [Perfect Natural Motion] motion interpolation system – even on its “Minimum” setting – results in a significant improvement, bringing motion clarity up to a much sharper 800 lines. Of course, that does also introduce the video-like “soap opera” style motion into film content, so we don’t recommend enabling it for films (unless you actually want to simulate a high-frame rate look). Fortunately, as we always point out, the frame rate of films (24 or 25fps, depending on the transmission method) is low enough to make the low motion resolution of LCD TVs less of an issue anyway (although details in predominantly dark scenes can still become smeared). It’s possible to jump back and forth between “Off” and “Minimum” depending on what you’re watching.

Unfortunately, the setting is buried quite deep in the menu structure, so if you find yourself making the switch a lot, you could also set the ISF Day and ISF Night modes up to mirror one another, but store a different [Perfect Natural Motion] setting in each, to facilitate jumping between the two (the “Picture Style” setting is quicker to change than the deeper menu options).

There is one other control in here, called [Clear LCD]. This has to be enabled in order to gain the higher motion resolution. Turning [Perfect Natural Motion] on without it will result in almost no difference – motion interpolation (smoother motion) without the benefit of higher clarity.

In case you’re wondering, turning [Clear LCD] on without the motion interpolation makes no difference to motion resolution. You can’t have increases in motion resolution without interpolation, as you can on some Samsung LCDs (with varying results).

3D

Tri-dimensional output on the Philips 46PFL8007T is in full 1920×1080 resolution across the entire dynamic range, which is not unusual for LCD-based TVs (some “Full HD” plasmas actually operate at half vertical resolution the majority of the time, which is not true 1080p 3D in our opinion).

The 46PFL8007 gave us a very satisfying 3-dimensional experience, with a sufficiently bright picture and low crosstalk. As we discussed during the calibration section, the picture had a visible but not devastating greeny-blue tint due to the active-shutter glasses, and given how rare 3D calibration is both as a DIY practice and commercial enthusiast service, we imagine that even our target audience will watch 3D in these conditions. It’s not a terrible problem, and the Philips 46PFL8007 is little different to most other 3D TVs in this regard, but the fact remains that a huge improvement can be made by calibrating to take the tint of the glasses into account. Still, the average user will notice the enveloping sense of depth and bright 3-D images more than the colour balance issues.

For the lucky few who are in a position to see calibrated extra-dimensional images, the image quality reaches a new level, with the greeny-blue tint being almost completely removed. Naturally coloured 3D video is a rare sight to behold, especially when it’s done with such brightness and relative freedom from crosstalk. The image still looks a little different to the 2D panel display mode, with the right eye image appearing slightly stippled, which is consistent with most other VA LCD panels that we’ve seen in Samsung HDTVs (you’d have to sit close to notice this very minor point, but sitting close is a good idea with 3D anyway). The slight granularity visible in the right eye image isn’t distracting, like it has been on some Sony LCDs. The IPS TVs we’ve reviewed are still in the lead here, with active-shutter 3D LED LCDs from Panasonic (of which there will be no new models for 2013!) offering the silkiest, most 2D-like picture quality.

Back to the Philips 46PFL8007: it doesn’t have any resolution limitations when scaling Side-by-Side 3D content (beyond the halved horizontal resolution, of course, which is inherent to this transmission method). However, it doesn’t do brilliantly with motion in the third dimension. The design is 60hz-centric, which is ironic given the Philips brand’s European past. Therefore, 60hz content (video games, US/Japanese/Korean video material) plays back without judder in the 3D output mode, whereas 24fps film (Blu-ray 3D) contains a little bit of stutter. To be clear, there are no dropped or skipped frames in 24p 3D, but some frames are duplicated, presumably to address the panel at 60hz. The effect wasn’t hugely distracting.

More serious is the stutter that exists with 50hz 3D material, like you’ll receive from European TV services such as Sky 3D. The 46PFL8007T appears to output this at 60hz too, simply holding the 50th frame for an additional 10 frames at the end of each screen update. That means that fast camera pans in 50hz content from European sources will appear with motion judder.

Standard Definition

Standard definition content is a mixed bag on the Philips 46PFL8007. Overcompressed Digital TV sources especially suffer slightly from the television’s non-linear gamma tracking in dark areas of the picture – in other words, its tendency to exaggerate noise in shadowed areas. Granted, there are noise reduction controls (which can be set on their lower settings without causing many artefacts), but this only calms the movement of the noise very slightly – it would be better to just avoid the issue in the first place.

A more minor, but still demonstrable issue is that the chroma processing on the built-in digital TV tuner feed is not very good (this doesn’t apply to SD interlaced video input over HDMI, only the tuner). The edges of highly saturated objects (reds make it easiest to spot) can appear pixellated, and there’s some false colour artefacts created as a result of the lower than normal chroma resolution (for example, white text on a blue background can appear with a small amount of turquoise-coloured glow).

There’s two ways of looking at that: on one hand, most SD digital TV is of poor quality anyway, so the 46PFL8007T’s less than ideal handling of the coloured “layers” is probably not a huge deal (and we should emphasise the fact that, if you feed upscaled SD video into the 8007 from an AV reciever, DVD/BD recorder, or satellite or cable decoder, then the chroma upscaling is fine). By the same argument, standard-def broadcasts are low resolution anyway, and the fact that they are chroma subsampled (with the colour stored at an even lower resolution than the black and white “base layer”) means that the 46PFL8007 ideally would be making the most of the tiny amount of coloured detail that the picture does have.

Sky news

On the other hand, when fed standard-definition video over the HDMI input, it does a good job of the actual scaling step, where SD sources are resized to fit the 1920×1080 HD panel. When fed with an ideal test image (a SMPTE RP133 resolution test chart), the 46PFL8007 translated the smallest details in the SD image to fairly crisp details in the HD resize, with only a very minor bit of ringing on fine horizontal details. We imagine that in 2013, most users will be feeding the HDTV with already-upscaled video, or better yet, true 1080-line HD, for the most part.

Unusually, the Philips 46PFL8007T lets you select “Unscaled” as an aspect ratio choice, which results in standard-def sources being shrunk to their native resolution, with the unused extra space filled in black. It’s a strange feature to see, considering nobody would want to watch TV this way, but good from a video education perspective. (Selecting it when feeding 1080-line content to the TV enables 1:1 pixel mapping, for the best quality image from sources such as 1080p games consoles and Blu-ray Disc players).

Finally, the 46PFL8007 handles diagonal interpolation during the deinterlacing stage fairly well, with two out of the three bars on the HQV deinterlacing test appearing smooth for the most part. In real world viewing, that results in diagonal lines in interlaced sources (like standard-definition TV broadcasts) being largely smooth and free of jaggedness. Film mode deinterlacing doesn’t always work correctly, with the Philips 8007 falling in and out of sync with the 2-2 cadence of Film-to-PAL video transfers. That means that films broadcast on European SD TV can occasionally show with a little bit of vertical jaggies, but the effect is not too severe.

One issue we ran into relates to motion fluidity. Occasionally when presented with high-motion video content, the Philips 46PFL8007 would begin showing only every second frame, resulting in a film-ish, jerky motion effect being applied where it doesn’t belong. (If you’ve read our reviews, you’ll know we generally object to films being made to look like video, and the same applies the other way around!) News channels with scrolling headline tickers are the most obvious showcase for this: the headline ticker should appear as smooth and high-motion at all times, but it can sometimes be seen switching frame rates at times on the 46PFL8007T/12. We’d speculate that the reason relates to the relatively low motion of newsroom footage confusing some motion threshold in the video processor (perhaps we need some livelier news anchors to wave their hands around once in a while).

Interestingly, we’ve seen similar issues present on some Samsung LCDs, depending on how the de-blur and de-judder motion settings are configured (although the underlying cause seems different). On the Philips 46PFL8007 though, the “half motion” issue occurs even with the two LCD motion improvement systems shut off. Enabling the “Game” or “Computer” mode under the “Game or Computer” submenu avoids it, but that option isn’t selectable for the built-in tuner input.

High Definition

On the whole, the Philips 46PFL8007T presented good HD performance, with some room for improvement. Having a look at the Blu-ray disc of Saving Private Ryan, we felt that the positives definitely outweighed the negatives. It produces deep contrast, and as an LED LCD TV, most of its contrast strengths come from the huge amount of light it can pump out (a real advantage for rooms where the screen has to compete against sunlight). Its black level performance is fairly good, too.

After only adjusting the Gamma (the default setting in both of the ISF modes produces a greyish image lacking in punch), overall colour quality (taking into account Greyscale tracking and the various aspects of colour performance) was very good, with only a little bit of a blue tinge detracting from accuracy.

Saving Private Ryan

Further calibration of Greyscale and Colour is possible, and this does result in an improvement, although the preset mode is hardly lacking in any severe way – once the milky-looking default Gamma setting has been quickly altered, that is.

As an LCD-based product (LED LCD), the 46PFL8007 suffers from the usual issue of picture quality degrading when the screen is viewed from an off-axis position: as with all LED LCD TVs, you need to sit face-on with the screen to get the best possible quality. From the sides, the picture loses vibrancy, and flesh tones (to give an obvious example) turn a little purple-ish.

Likewise, motion clarity is servicable, but not up there with the best performers. You’ll get none of the false contouring, dithering, or afterglow artefacts that exist on plasma TVs, but as an LCD-based TV, you’ll certainly see some motion blur (which isn’t any worse than any other comparable LED TV) during high-motion video footage like sports games. Enabling [Perfect Natural Motion] will alleviate the blur, but instead you’ll be open to motion interpolation artefacts (although for the average viewer, these are perhaps less visible). Still, this isn’t a viable option for film content, for several reasons.

Saving Private Ryan screenshot 2

The most notable observation we can make about the 46PFL8007′s performance is in its handling of shadow detail. We discussed the unusual near-black gamma performance earlier in the review, but we also noticed that shadowed areas of the picture were taking on higher levels of saturation than normal. Dark areas that would ideally be barely visible areas of colourless grey often became areas of saturated purple or dark blue on the 46PFL8007T. It’s likely that this is a side effect to the irregular near-black gamma performance we discussed earlier. This can change the look of dark scenes, and it can also bring compression artefacts and noise that were previously invisible, out of the shadows.

Screen uniformity is fairly good. Edge-lit LED LCD TVs don’t do well in this area, but the Philips 46PFL8007 doesn’t have any hugely distracting non-uniformity visible during actual content, except for a pinch of bright light on the far right of the panel. Naturally, you’ll be able to see unevenness if you display some greyscale test screens and look for it, but that’s no different to any other ultra-slim edge-lit LED LCD.

Note for the die-hard videophiles: resolution performance was good, although even on the lowest Sharpness setting, the 46PFL8007T added a tiny amount of horizontal etching. It’s not enough to be seen in photorealistic movie content, though, but is verifiable, along with a little bit of surprisingly coloured aliasing (which goes away in “Game mode”) on a luminance zone plate test pattern.

All in all, it’s mostly good news. The contrast performance is good by LED LCD standards, the same goes of uniformity, colour accuracy (including greyscale) is good, and there is no undefeatable noise reduction to smear fine details. For sheer overall picture performance, it can’t beat the best plasmas, although as an LCD-based display, it’s free of image retention and is an overall better bet for very bright environments.

Console Gaming

After selecting “Game” from the “Game or Computer” submenu, the 46PFL8007T’s input lag dropped to 53ms using the new Leo Bodnar Input Lag Tester (see notes), which is a fairly good result. It also increased chroma resolution quite a bit, meaning that fine coloured details were no longer blurred out. We couldn’t see any major downsides to using this mode during normal viewing too (when selectable), although it does deny you access to the motion interpolation system (“Perfect natural motion”).

Philips also has a mode which exploits the active-shutter 3D glasses and fast display to deliver two different 2D views to different players. The 46PFL8007 can take either top-and-bottom or side-by-side split screen views and deliver them to two individual players. Of course, the video appears stretched, and thanks to crosstalk, it’s still possible to see remnants of the other player’s view, but it’s a neat idea to bring a new edge to split-screen gaming.

Smart TV

We had few complaints with Philips’ Smart TV platform. Our UK version gave us access to YouTube, Facebook, BBC iPlayer, and AceTrax, to name a few. It responds quickly to user input, and there’s also a web browser which is pretty usable by in-TV standards. We couldn’t see any sign of access to Netflix or Lovefilm, though.

Ambilight

We can’t end a review of a Philips HDTV without mentioning Ambilight. Our readers are probably aware of what this feature is, but if not, a refresher: the back of the unit has strips of LEDs which cast a coloured glow of diffused light onto the wall behind the television.

Philips 46PFL8007T Ambilight

That coloured glow can either be dynamic, with the different sides of LEDs sampling the video content and lighting up in the most prominent colour, or it can even be set to act as a white bias light (there’s even an ISF-branded “Warm White” mode). A decent amount of users end up installing DIY bias lighting behind their TVs to counteract eye-strain in dark rooms, or more frequently, to increase the perceived contrast performance of the screen, so for those users, Ambilight can act as a much neater way of achieving the same effect.

While the dynamic Ambilight mode (which samples colours from the video content) might be overkill for movies, we think it also has its uses. For example, during live music shows, like the half-time music during the US Super Bowl, Ambilight caused the eye-catching stadium lighting to extend beyond the screen and into the room, which is really a pretty appealing effect which helps take what’s on screen beyond the frame.

Conclusion

The Philips 46PFL8007T produces picture performance which is good, on the whole. However, it’s also fairly expensive: if you can track one down, expect to pay somewhere in the range of around £1500. There are plasma TVs on the market which give better picture quality for less money – provided you’re not watching in a very bright environment, and provided the annoying (but not lethal) issue of image retention isn’t a deal-breaker for you. On the Liquid Crystal side, rival models like Sony’s KDL-46HX853 avoids some of the Philips’ picture quality imperfections for less money – and that particular example, like the Philips 8007, actually does include a speaker-integrated stand to address the typical flat-screen TV issue of puny sound.

With that said, the Sony is an anomaly in that regard, and Philips’ speaker integrated stand still produces considerably better TV-generated sound than almost any other flat-panel television on the market. There’s also Ambilight, which can be configured as a bias lighting system to reduce eyestrain and make the image perceptibly richer when viewed in a dark environment – if you’re a fan of this, Philips is your only choice. What’s more, the 46PFL8007′s overall colour accuracy – in the ISF-branded modes – is good by “out of the box” standards (although the default Gamma settings need a quick adjustment to avoid the picture appearing washed out and greyish). The fact that it has no less than 5 HDMI inputs doesn’t hurt, either.

In spite of some picture imperfections and a high price tag, the overall package manages to remain compelling for these various reasons, meaning that we can recommend the Philips 46PFL8007 in spite of some smaller technical points. Your only problem may be finding one!

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