Top-end Philips sets usually cake-walk the picture quality section, but the 40PFL8605 is undermined by its hugely disappointing 3D performance.
At first glance it looks really promising. Colours are superbly vibrant and richly saturated once you've got Philips plasticky – but acceptably comfortable – 3D glasses perched on your nose and there's nothing like the extreme reduction in brightness and vibrancy you get with Panasonic's 3D plasmas.
High definition 3D pictures are sharp and detailed, while the combination of 200Hz and Perfect Natural Motion keeps movement smooth.
Poor 3D performance
The main problem is that old 3D LCD chestnut of crosstalk. This materialises when watching alternate frame 3D sources (as opposed to the lower resolution side-by-side format) in the form of secondary 'ghost' images around certain objects in the picture.
All full HD 3D TVs we've seen to date have suffered with this phenomenon to some extent, but the 40PFL8605H displays markedly more than one or two rivals, most particularly Panasonic's 3D TVs.
Its appearance is very common on content with the 40PFL8605H, and appears aggressively enough to make it impossible to ignore. In fact, it frequently leaves the picture looking blurry and indistinct, damaging the very HD-ness of the 3D image that alternate frame technology was designed to preserve.
All of the above concerns seem especially acute for the first hour or two after you turn the TV on - after it's warmed up a little it's slightly less noticeable.
If you look for crosstalk issues you'll soon find plenty of them; 3D viewing will become frustrating and tiring as your eyes try to resolve the artefacts.
There are a few lesser issues with 3D viewing. The most troubling concerns the reflective nature of the glassy panel that sits across the screen. This means that if you have a bit of ambient light in your room, you can see reflections of objects in your room sitting flat across the front of the 3D pictures, creating a rather confusing viewing experience.
You'll really need to make your room as dark as possible when watching 3D.
We'd extend this recommendation to 2D viewing, as reflections can also have a negative effect if you have any light shining directly onto the screen (although this isn't nearly as distracting as it can be with 3D).
Our other small 3D issues are that the depth of field feels rather limited on the 40PFL8605H, possibly in part because of the crosstalk; that the picture reduces in brightness considerably if you tilt your head to an angle and that for us, a 40in screen just doesn't feel big enough to create a truly immersive three-dimensional experience.
This latter issue, of course, isn't really the 40PFL8605H's fault, and there will be plenty of people out there who just can't countenance a bigger screen in their home.
Frustratingly, the 40PFL8605H's 2D performance is exceptional. Black level response is particularly outstanding for edge LED, with dark scenes getting rendered with startlingly little evidence of the grey clouding that troubles so many rival edge LED and CCFL LCD TVs.
Also impressive is how consistent the 40PFL8605H's brightness is across the screen, with none of the extra-bright 'hot spots' we have so often seen with edge LED technology.
Making this black level depth and consistency all the more impressive is the set's high brightness level. In other words, the TV is not having to damp down its light output as far as might be expected to produce its excellent black colours.
The 40PFL8605H's colours are terrific too; exceptionally vibrant, yet also totally credible in tone and replete with the sort of blend subtleties and tonal range that sometimes eludes such aggressive pictures.
Philips' heavy-duty processing systems have long been renowned for their ability to make standard and hi-def pictures look remarkably sharp and detailed and the 40PFL8605H continues this fine tradition. Crucially, though, the Perfect Pixel HD system does so without generating nearly as many of the grain and edge over-emphasis issues that have plagued earlier, less powerful processing systems.
More controversial is the powerful motion processing that's also part of the Perfect Pixel HD engine. This reduces both judder and motion blur to an unmatched degree, but in doing so can generate some distracting other side effects if you leave the processing set too high.
Plus, some people just don't like having the judder taken out of their pictures, especially when watching films.
The good news here is that the motion processing system delivers its benefits while generating precious few side effects, provided that you don't use the highest settings. Or, of course, you can turn the motion processing off totally if you just can't get along with it.
The only complaints we can raise about the 40PFL8605H's 2D pictures are that you need to use some of the many adjustments contained within its extensive onscreen menus with care if you don't want to introduce artefacts, softness or noise and that you can see a slightly offset double image if you have to watch from a wide angle.
This reminds us of a similar phenomenon noted with Panasonic plasmas, and we suspect it's caused by the addition of the extra glass panel that sits across the TV's fascia.