Pros: bright picture, fantastic color, styling and stand
Cons: black levels and off angle image quality are poor
“LED” TVs do not have better image quality than standard LCD TVs. There I said it, accept it as truth, and understand there really is no such thing as an “LED” TV. It’s a marketing scheme started by Samsung and to say it’s been successful is a wild understatement. The only other marketing ploy that’s been more successful is the ‘megapixel’ myth (that more is always better) pushed by all digital camera makers.
TVs marketed as being “LED” are really just LCD TVs. The only real difference is that in place of the standard CCFL (cold cathode fluorescent light) LEDs make up the backlight. To make matters even more confusing, there are two configurations of LED backlights. Currently, the vast majority of TVs using LEDs do so in an ‘edge lit’ configuration. The sole purpose of using LEDs along the edge with a diffuser to spread the light around is to achieve those super sexy thin dimensions.
Superior to, but rare in numbers are LEDs in a full array configuration that can be dimmed in groups, often called local dimming. Most of those TVs are chunkier, looking more like standard LCD TVs. Currently, only LG offers a local dimming LED TV that’s thin like an edge lit one, and the price proves that LG is rather proud of the technology.
Often LED TVs do look better than a standard LCD TV sitting right next to it, but it usually has nothing to do with the LEDs. In general, TVs that use LEDs as a backlight also make use of better panels or panels that are a higher generation. For example one LED TV might be using a 10th generation panel, while a standard LCD TV right next to it could be using a 7th generation panel.
Another reason for the disparity is that TV makers like Sharp and Samsung reserve their ultra clear (glossy) panels for their LED versions in most cases. Most people don’t notice how a matte screen can negatively effect image quality until there’s a TV right next to it with a glossy screen. So it’s easy to see why some might be duped into thinking that LED TVs are superior. LED TVs have the potential for a wider color gamut, and they are energy savers over their CCFL counterparts however. Bottom line, don’t pay a premium for an LED TV unless it has other features that you consider to be must have. Edge lit LED TVs can actually take a hit in image quality over standard CCFL versions, I’ll get to that later in this review.
Philips 7505 series LED TV
This TV is the black model, and I have seen the aqua colored one available at various stores online. To be honest, I’d take the aqua colored one over the black even though I’m no fan of aqua colored anything. We are still in the model-T ages when it comes to the styling of flat panel TVs. Every single maker of flat panels seems to think all is well when you can get your TV in any color as long as it’s black. There are only two companies in the entire world making TVs (40 inches or larger) that are white. That would be Haier and Favi. Good luck finding any reviews or any stores that actually carry the TVs so you can at least get a good look at the image quality.
Currently this TV is on the way out and no doubt its replacement should be rearing its pretty head any time now. When I first noticed this TV, early in 2010, the price was usually around the 1,000 dollar mark, in the last few months I’ve noticed the price slip a bit. Target just recently slashed the price again to $649. That’s usually a signal that they are clearing out the model to make room to the impending replacement. At that price, this TV was in some cases cheaper than some of the standard LCD TVs sitting right next to it. After returning a 400 series Sony TV just days earlier, (reviewed here) I used that money to take this one for a spin.
size of the box, build quality and first impressions
My first gripe came when I had to load this TV into the back seat of my Ford Taurus. The 400 series Sony LCD purchased about 10 days earlier slid right in and sat in the back seat with room to spare. So when the sales person at Target brought out this box, now larger despite the svelte dimensions of the TV I was a bit disappointed and perplexed to be honest.
As we both walked to my car I started to wonder if I would need to remove the TV and collapse the box to make everything fit. Well the TV went it, and snug doesn’t describe it. One door had to be coaxed into closing. So why the bigger box? Well Philips decided they needed more air around the TV because that’s what made the box that much larger, nothing else.
Starting out life as a much more expensive TV, this unit was nothing like the Sony I had just returned. Instead of the 1 pound plastic stand, this unit came with very heavy glass and metal stand. It’s a thing of beauty really, and the swivel part, well it’s a very slick thing. This TV weighs just over 29 pounds, and the stand is just shy of 10 pounds. For reference, a 12 pack of Coke weighs about 10 pounds.
Another detail that jumped out at me it that despite being nearly half the thickness of the Sony and Vizio TVs I’ve owned, the TV wasn’t really lighter. It’s a dense thing, and while it’s not too heavy to for single person to move around, the shape makes it awkward to deal with at times, so get a friend to help out. The TV also has thinner bezel and is classy in an understated way.
The remote is a bit heavy, and I have no idea why. It’s glossy black like the TV bezel so expect it to show every finger print and scratch within a day. I left the protective plastic on the remote just in case I decide to return the unit. Also, there’s no backlight on the remote, and I’m a bit surprised considering the original price point. One nitpick, I find that the IR eye in the TV doesn't have the widest view. I find that sometimes I've got to point the remote in a very precise way at times to connect.
I wondered when HDTVs would finally start to drop support for the old analog standard def connections like composite and s-video (S-VHS), well wonder no more. There are two only component connections, and one is a dual or shared connection with a composite connection. There are no S-video connections. You have 4 HDMI inputs, one VGA (PC) and one audio analog input to go with that connection and it’s shared with HDMI 1 in case it’s used with DVI (with adaptor). There’s a USB port for firmware updates and for playing back your jpeg images, MPEG1/2 and Divx files. And since I'm on the subject, while the TV does a fine job giving your photos the slideshow treatment, that's about all it does. Trying to manually flip through photos is a bit clunky, and you can't zoom photos, a big negative when photos are in portrait mode.
There’s one coax (RF) input for standard and digital cable and there’s one digital output for your surround sound set-up. Instead of the more popular optical connection (TosLink) Philips went with a digital coax or RCA jack to carry that information. It’s not an issue for me as my receiver has both connections, but make a note of it if you have a surround sound system or receiver, not all have the coaxial version.
Yes this is a 120hz TV
Time for a major gripe. Yes this is a 120hz television. And no it’s not a simple matter of simply increasing the refresh rate like you would with your PC monitor. What these TVs are actually doing is something called “frame interpolation”. Hardware and software in the TV is actually creating additional frames by making a calculated guess on what frames will look like in between the real frames, and inserting them. Frame interpolation was developed because LCD TVs have major drops in resolution when there’s motion.
This causes two problems. First, it requires massive calculations that require time to complete. This causes a lag between the image and the sound from my surround sound system. That’s a minor problem because it’s something you can kind of ignore or simply become accustomed to. The problem can be reduced if you insist on using this feature because there are two settings. One is a minimum setting the other a maximum setting. Philips calls their frame interpolation ‘digital natural motion’. I like to think of it as motion sickness, or just plain ugly.
So immediately I turned this function off. Take my word for it don’t pay extra for a 120hz TV. Younger people tend to like this effect because younger eyes are not as accustomed to how video and film should look. The only way I can describe it is that 120hz TVs make major motion pictures look as if they were shot on a camcorder. If you want to learn more about this effect, just use your favorite search engine and plug in the term ‘the soap opera effect.’
There’s only one instance when I like the frame interpolation and it’s during credit rolls. The judder is gone and replaced by the smoothest motion you’ve ever seen. I don’t watch sports of any kind, but I can imagine it can be useful in that situation. Frame interpolation on this TV also causes artifacts along the edges of moving objects or people. It's not hard to spot in major motion pictures. I did notice however that those artifacts are rarely seen in CG titles like Pixar's Up for example.
Image quality only blu rays and HDMI connections
So with the digital natural motion off, I gathered up some blu rays to test out this panel. A few of my favs for critical viewing are Star Trek (2009) i, Robot, Serenity, Up, Bolt and Transformers. My first issue was the lack of controls for the image on this Philips. You have no control over gamma or individual controls for red, blue and green. So right off the bat, without getting into the secret service menu, your legs are kind of cut off, because there’s no way to deal with any color push issues. There are only a handful of preset color temp options, tint, and basic controls like brightness and contrast. Despite this issue I was able to get an image that I was happy with. I chose the cool temp setting because I like my whites to be white. Because there was no direct control over blue, sometimes the temp is too cool and whites have an ever so slight blue cast.
I also found that the brightness setting (dynamic contrast on) 52 is the magic number. Going lower will not result in darker blacks. So right off the bat, I can see that my recently returned Sony (with Samsung panel) had deeper blacks. The difference isn’t major, but I can see it. When viewed from dead center, the black level is still pretty good, but nowhere near the best. Off angle, at say 30 degrees, the image is worse to these eyeballs than the 400 series Sony.
But it gets worse. When the sun set, and my room was totally dark, where the Sony had an ever so slight light leakage evenly across the screen, the Philips was slightly worse. The Philips leaked light predominately from the corners. Off angle that ‘flashlighting’ in the corners and the uneven light leakage becomes apparent an it’s pretty bad. But to be honest, these dark situations last only a second or two during most viewing. So picky videophiles this isn’t your TV, but at the right price, you might find yourself tolerating this. This is where edge lit LED TVs show their disadvantage over standard LCD TVs. The LEDs in the edge of the TV have their light spread around with a thin diffuser, and it’s not perfect at what it does and it shows.
Like most LCD TVs, this TV has at times, serious issues with shadow detail that goes blue and false contouring and solarizing issues. The worst example of blue shadows was in a blu ray that has issues across the board and that would be Hancock starring Will Smith. Early in the movie in an aerial shot of the city, every building shadow is deep blue and not grey or black as it should be. The worst problem that comes to mind is early in the movie Star Trek 2009.
After the opening scene where we starship Kelvin is destroyed and a giant Star Trek logo fades in, the false contouring is horrendous. Because this showed up in both the Sony and the Philips, I can’t say for sure it’s not my blu ray player. Dynamic contrast a feature that does give most images a more contrasty, punchy look isn’t implemented as well as it could be. Sony did it better in the 400 series. The major problem with it is that it doesn’t pick a value for a given scene and stick with it. Instead you can catch the backlight going up and down during a scene where there is very little or no change. And in totally black scenes, it doesn’t seem to have the ability to turn the backlight off completely the way the Sony can.
Any advantage having LEDs?
Yes, but I can’t say they are deal breakers or makers, it just depends on what you want. The TV is slimmer and so much better looking than the 400 series Sony I returned. It also consumes less energy in most cases. I also noticed that whites are truly white and don’t have that slightly warmer look that the Sony had. This panel seems to have brights that have a bit more punch than the Sony, but the blacks just aren’t as deep. I do like the color of this TV over the Sony. On the Sony they just didn’t have that pop, and I’m not talking about simply boosting the color saturation.
When watching the blu ray versions of Disney’s Bolt and Pixar’s Up the color and detail are stunning. While any budget LCD TV can deliver a fine picture with titles like this, the color is better here. Most TVs in this price range (excluding plasma) seem to have issues producing a true deep red. This TV seems to be a bit better when it comes to reproducing a deep red. The Sony seemed a bit more orange-y at times and light reds tended to be every so slightly pink. That seems to be the case with most of the standard LCD TVs. Also trying to find out who actually makes this panel wasn’t so easy. With the Sony it didn’t take me long to find the secret service menu and the information to confirm it was a Samsung panel. Apparently Philips has used panels from a great number of manufacturers and I couldn’t pin it down.
I liked the graphic interface of the Sony more than the Philips. The Sony was more modern and classy looking. The Philips uses font that’s too large and chunky. It’s not bad, but considering that it was more of a mid-range/high-end TV when first introduced, it should have been better. I didn't spend much time listening to the sound coming from the TV speakers. Because they must be small and thin to fit into this very slim TV, they sound small and thin. All sound goes through my sound system, so I've got nothing else to say about the sound coming from this TV.
On the positive side, anyone that has a proper sound system to handle things will be happy to know a few things. SRS TruSurround HD is available to add some kick to non-surround material. Also included are a five band equalizer and auto volume limiter to keep commercials from blasting you out of your seat. There is also something called ‘delta volume’. With it, you can adjust the sound for each input in case one source is too soft or too loud, kudos to Philips for these touches.
There is a firmware update for this TV. There have been three updates for minor bugs. The Philips I currently have came with the oldest software (314) with a build date of Aug 2010 for the TV. I went to the official Philips site and found an update version 317 and the newest is version 323. The update was super easy. I downloaded the update to a jump drive, plugged that into the TV USB port and instructed the TV to update the firmware. The TV found the proper software and updated in about 1 minute. I did this the second day that I owned the TV.
Higher-end features like 120/240hz, 3D, Internet based services, LED backlights and deeper black levels are coming to TVs that are closer to entry level prices. Those facts make this TV a good value only after the price slashing. At the original price, I would avoid this TV at all costs. For the 40 inch version, under 700 dollars it’s worth checking out. If any remaining stock go for $600 or less, it’s a definite buy. Despite my nitpicks, the image quality of most blu ray discs is good, and CG animated blu ray titles have stellar image quality and color that’s a notch better than most panels in the same price range.
color 45, 50 for animated titles
color temp cool
dynamic contrast on
digital natural motion off
noise reduction off
mpeg artifact off
color enhancement on
active control off
[This review applies to both the 40 inch 40PFL7505D and 46 inch 46PFL7505D models. Both are identical in features and have the exact same panel, and only differ in size.]