Philips 42PFL6188S review

Pros

  • Excellent build quality and styling
  • Natural, detailed HD images
  • QWERTY keyboard remote
  • Four pairs of 3D glasses

Cons

  • Limited Internet content
  • Sluggish operation

'Beauty and Brains' proclaims the blurb that accompanies the Philips 42PFL6188S, by virtue of its slim 'frameless' design and Smart functionality.

It hails from Philips’ 6000 series, two steps down from the flagship 8000 range, but it still boasts an impressive set of features – making it a good option if you’re willing to sacrifice top-line frills to save a few quid.

Model-spotters take note – the Philips 42PFL6188S is similar to the 42PFL6008, but is the version sold by selected independent stores, offering slightly louder sound output and two pairs of Dual View gaming glasses (alongside four pairs of the regular passive specs).

Design and connections

Design plays a major part in this set’s appeal. It’s incredibly slim (just 32.5mm deep) while the thin silver bezel around the very edge of the set is supposed to make the screen look expansive.

However, Philips calls it a 'frameless design' which is a misnomer. Yes the screen is a single sheet of glass that extends to the outer silver strip, but when turned on there’s a black strip about 1cm wide around the edge of the screen that ruins the effect.

But this quibble shouldn’t detract from the sheer beauty of this TV. Around the sides and below the screen is a delightful brushed steel finish, with a silver panel at the bottom housing a discreet Philips logo.

It’s supplied with a thin but heavy metal stand that leaves a gap between the tabletop and screen to achieve the illusion of floating.

Back-end build quality is sturdy and the two rows of lights running up both sides are part of the Ambilight 2-Sided XL system, which emits light onto the surrounding wall to create a more immersive viewing experience. The colour automatically matches the TV picture too.

Also on the back is a generous selection of sockets, starting with four HDMI inputs. They’re all 3D, ARC and CEC compatible, so there’s no problem with it talking to your other kit. These are backed up by SCART (via adapter cable), optical digital audio out, a CI slot, VGA PC in and headphone out.

The three USB ports allow you to play media from flash drives, or you can connect an external HDD (250GB minimum) and record Freeview programmes. To pause live TV, you only need to connect a 4GB flash drive.

All the above are downward or sideways facing, so cables don’t interfere if you want to have it flush against the wall. There’s also a cluster of outward-facing sockets, including 3.5mm component, composite and audio inputs, plus an Ethernet port.

The set also boasts built-in Freeview HD and satellite tuners, with the relevant RF/LNB inputs on the back. For the latter, the set isn’t yet Freesat compliant, but TP Vision (which markets Philips TVs in the UK) is currently in discussion with Freesat to rectify that. For now, you can still install satellite channels, just without the Freesat structure and EPG.

Features

The Philips 42PFL6188S’s built-in Wi-Fi makes it easy to access Philips' Smart TV portal and to stream media from connected DLNA servers. Network hook-up is easy thanks to the step-by-step onscreen guides. You can connect via Ethernet if you prefer.

The selection of Smart content is okay, but not up to the standards of some rivals. Among the apps are BBC iPlayer, YouTube, Picasa, Blinkbox, Acetrax, Viewster, Facebook, Absolute Radio and AUPEO!. An eclectic range of other apps can be added from the App Gallery, including eBay, TomTom HD Traffic and National Rail, plus a cluster of adult-oriented apps like Hustler, Brazzers, Forno and Private (these can be blocked with a parental lock).

It’s a shame, however, not to find more catch up TV content here. Samsung’s latest sets offer the full gamut (adding ITV Player, 4OD and Demand 5), putting Philips at a disadvantage, although we’re told they will be added soon. Some may also lament the lack of Netflix and LoveFilm.

With built-in Skype, you can also make video calls from your sofa. There’s no integrated camera as found on the 7000 and 8000 ranges, so you’ll need to buy an optional PTA317 camera. Additionally, there’s a built-in web browser to visit sites outside of Smart TV’s remit, although this works using a slow and clumsy link browsing system.

There are other cool network tricks – Wi-Fi Miracast mirrors your phone screen on your TV (useful for gaming) while Philips’ MyRemote app lets you control the TV with a smartphone or tablet. Additionally, Wi-Fi Smart Screen will beam a live TV channel to your device and SimplyShare lets you send media files from your device to the TV.

The 42PFL6188S supports a wide range of media formats, including AVI, MKV, MPEG-1/2/4, WMV, AAC, MP3, WMA and JPEG.

It’s also 3D-capable and uses the passive system to produce its pictures, or 'Easy 3D' as Philips calls it. In the box are four pairs of glasses, looking like something Tinie Tempah would wear. The passive system isn’t for Full HD picture purists but provides a comfortable, cost-effective way of watching 3D.

Picture quality is boosted by 700Hz Perfect Motion Rate, which takes the native 100Hz refresh rate and increases it using backlight scanning. This mode, which aims to make moving objects look smoother and cleaner, is part of Philips’ Pixel Precise HD picture engine.

Operation

Inside the 42PFL6188S is a dual-core processor, which should make it a slick, fast performer but that’s not always the case. Many of the menus, including the EPG and Smart TV, are sluggish to navigate - a shame because they’re beautifully presented. It’s the same design as last year, but there’s still a fresh, contemporary feel about the colour schemes and fonts that make them visually engaging.

From the moment you first fire it up, the set walks you through everything from channel tuning to picture optimisation. Smart TV novices will love it.

The Setup screen has two levels – 'quick' options and full setup menus. Picture adjustments are positively labyrinthine, but that’s nothing new – Philips always crams its sets full of high-powered processing and this is no exception.

The main menu is superimposed over the live picture, and lets you launch any function – Watch TV, Smart TV, Source, EPG and so forth. It uses large buttons containing simple icons and crisp white text. It may be sluggish but the Smart TV menu looks great. Top left is a live TV screen, with various recommendations on the right including stuff from the App Gallery, on-demand movies from Acetrax and free streamed video.

At the bottom are two rows of downloaded apps, as well as the App Gallery and the web browser. You can also search for content by keyword, or use Social TV to tweet about TV shows.

The music and video menus are visually arresting but confusing in places, sometimes leading me on a wild goose chase through a trail of folders only to inform me that a file can’t be played.

The EPG is instantly eye-catching, with its fiery orange/red background and the use of channel logos in the timeline grid. But on the downside there’s no live TV screen and it’s slow to react.

Elsewhere an Options menu provides handy access to picture and sound adjustments, eco settings and other key functions.

The double-sided remote is a terrific idea well executed. On one side are all the usual buttons, arranged in a sensible layout, but on the other is a full QWERTY keyboard, which lets you enter passwords and web addresses in double quick time with your thumbs. There are also direction keys and enter for browsing the web, and it’s even fitted with gyroscopic sensors so it knows which way up you’re holding it.

Performance

Firing up my current favourite Blu-ray – The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – the Philips 42PFL6188S easily does justice to its incredible visuals.

From start to finish the movie’s crisp, intricately-detailed CG characters and landscapes are brilliantly brought to life by the set’s superb detail reproduction. Individual strands of hair in the dwarves’ beards are visible, while the grotesque skin textures of orcs, trolls and goblins are sharp and focused – making the motion capture effects more convincing than ever.

This outstanding detail is backed up by equally insightful colour reproduction. It’s natural and balanced, never garish. Bilbo’s skin tones have a peachy hue, while the dwarves look suitably ruddy-faced without being lobster-like. Even better is that colour blends are smooth with no banding to speak of.

This is also a very busy film, with lots of little objects darting around invariably hitting each other. At no point did I feel the 42PFL6188S was struggling to keep up. 700Hz Perfect Natural Motion and Clear LCD make motion look zippy and smooth with very little evidence of blur. It’s best not to push the processing too hard – in Maximum it tended to make edges feather up and flicker a little – but restrain it to minimum and it does an effective job.

If there’s a weakness, it’s black level performance. Dingy caverns look a touch misty in places, while hollow black holes in the background lack detail and definition. But in the light, black objects seem deep and solid, while detail has plenty of punch.

Switching to 3D, the Philips 42PFL6188S delivers smooth, deep images through passive glasses. Don’t expect the same super-sharp, crystal clear pictures as 2D though – there’s a significant drop in detail while the visible line structure makes certain lines look jagged. But for an instant sense of immersion without disorienting side effects, Philips’ passive tech does the trick.

Hi-def Freeview is hugely enjoyable – again due largely to the set’s fabulously sharp detail reproduction – while Pixel Precise HD does an impressive job of upscaling SD material. Detail is focused and colours convincing, but some smudgy noise remains.

Sound

Somehow Philips has made its sets rise above the LED masses with sound quality that’s actually quite exciting. That’s because Philips has supplemented the 2 x 12W stereo speakers with a built-in woofer that bulks out bass and brings extra clout to action scenes.

The thumping EDM used to flesh out daytime property shows sounds punchy, while the overlaid narration remains clear and treble is crisp and open. I’m not saying you should jack in plans to buy that home cinema system, but if you do happen to find yourself watching Die Hard through the TV, then you won’t be completely deflated by what you hear.

Verdict

The 42PFL6188S is not the slickest or most feature-packed TV in its price class, but makes up for it with an impressive picture performance. Hi-def pictures look remarkably sharp, while colours are perfectly judged and motion is smooth. Also impressive is the QWERTY keyboard remote, the bassy sound quality and sumptuous design.

Anyone hoping for extensive Internet content or a fast, fluid operating system should look elsewhere, but the set has enough going for it elsewhere to make it feel like good value for money.

Specifications

Manufacturer and model

Philips 42PFL6188S

Screen size (inches)

42

Resolution

1,920 x 1,080

Backlight technology

LED

Digital tuner

Freeview HD and satellite

3D ready

Yes

3D technology

Passive

3D glasses supplied

4 pairs

2D-to-3D conversion

Yes

Wi-Fi

Yes, built-in

Online content

Smart TV

DLNA streaming

Yes

Smartphone control

Yes

Contrast ratio

500,000:1 (Dynamic)

Brightness

400cd/m²

Refresh rate

700Hz Perfect Motion Rate

Speaker power

24W (2 x 12W)

Energy efficiency class

A+

Dimensions (with stand, W x H x D)

953 x 633 x 205 mm

Dimensions (without stand, W x H x D)

953 x 562 x 32.5 mm

HDMI

4

Component

1

Composite

1

SCART

1

Digital audio output

1 (optical)

PC input

Yes

USB

3

SD card slot

No

Ethernet

Yes

CI slot

Yes