Philips 26PF8946 review

Philips continues its quest for flat TV domination

Our Verdict

Motion is the only sticking point: this is a versatile performer at a great price

For all its high-end - and usually well-realised - aspirations, Philips is also a company that's happy to knock out budget LCDs, which often impress both with their reasonable price and aboveaverage performance. So while this is no swanky 'Ambilight' screen - you know, the one that lights up in alternating colours in sync with the colours of the on-screen image - we're still hoping we'll get that Philips touch of class.

It's certainly a step down from the brand's 26PF9946, which is a good deal more expensive, and looks it. Clad in silver in the usual fashion, this is far from the thinnest or most exciting-looking LCD we've clapped eyes on - but that's not to say it's ugly.

PC users can rejoice, however, for around the back is not only an analogue D-Sub PC input but also a PC-only DVI jack. Picture-in-picture modes will also please PC users. Other inputs comprise two Scarts (one RGB), S-video and two aerial inputs. One is for the analogue TV tuner, while the other serves the 26PF8946's FM radio tuner - an increasingly common add-on for Philips' 'budget' LCDs.

It's also a feature that marks out the set as a bedroom or study LCD - something also indicated by the almost total lack of the picture processing cleverness that Philips fills its flagship models with. Still, there are facilities to reduce picture noise and increase contrast. And, as with all Philips products, the on-screen menus and remote control are well laid out and simple to use.

Sadly, a spin of Creep - a chilling horror set on London's Tube network - immediately revealed a major weakness. As the camera follows a tube train, backgrounds blurred to mush, while stationary shots featuring tube trains roaring past also included some quite serious incidents of blurring, especially over people running through the shot.

This is where the bad stuff ends, however. First on the list of good stuff is the fact that there was good detail in static shots and close-ups. Then there are the thoroughly decent black levels, which mean that tricky shots of utter darkness - and there are quite a few in Creep - benefited from some depth, while shadowed parts of better lit scenes look absolutely fine. That's not to say that blacks are anything like that found on a high-end plasma, of course, but the Philips is better than most at this price.

Brighter footage, meanwhile, looked sparkling, with primary colours especially good. Subtle gradations and paler colours did look a little washed-out, but skin tones were handled well.

The 26PF8946 is similarly adept with pictures from the analogue tuner, which looked stable and relatively clean.

Even the audio impresses. It's probably got something to do with this not being an especially flat LCD, as well as that FM tuner ramping up audio importance. Sets of this size usually lack bass, but not here, while music from the tuner gets the thumbs up.

Philips has showed that it's possible to succeed in both the high-end and budget arenas. We commend the brand for this very likeable mid-size LCD, and for helping to drive down prices in this sector.