philips 42pfl6805h

There are effectively three sides to the Econova's picture quality story: how it measures up to rival 42in TVs generally, how it compares to Philips' higher-spec models and how it acquits itself when running at maximum eco-efficiency.

Considered in the context of the 42-inch TV market at large, the Econova's pictures are capable of being extremely competitive.

Light and colour

They can go surprisingly bright, for a start, immediately proving that while Philips has equipped the Econova with the tools to make it a class-leadingly efficient runner, they've also provided the wherewithal to permit you to choose raw, energy-guzzling picture quality over planetary well-being for a bit if you feel like it.

Colours are capable of extreme intensity, in what's becoming a familiar and very welcome Philips trademark. This makes pictures eye-catching, dynamic and involving, and single-handedly does much to distract you from the occasional picture issue.

Also impressive by any reckoning is how sharp pictures are. HD sources look clean, crisp and extremely detailed. What's more, provided you avoid the Advanced Sharpness tool, this excellent HD clarity is achieved without generating too much video noise.

Standard-definition pictures are extremely sharp too – more so than you see with the vast majority of standard-definition pictures on other 42-inch TVs.

Contrast

The 42PFL6805H's black response, meanwhile, certainly looks a little greyer and less rich in detail than that of Philips' direct LED 9000 series models. But within the context of the wider LED market, the black levels achieved are very respectable.

Action scenes reveal solid-to-good motion handling with minimal motion blur or resolution loss and, while there's a bit of judder at times, HD Natural Motion system tackles this extremely thoroughly.

The only catch is that HD Natural Motion can generate rather obvious processing side effects. It's in this area that the Perfect Pixel HD engine in Philips' 9000 Series TVs arguably delivers its greatest benefits.

Overall, there's no doubt that if you put picture quality ahead of green features, the Econova isn't up there with the stunning Philips 9000 series. But then that's not its point - and rather crucially, the Econova is still a good £400-£500 cheaper than the equivalent size from the 9000 series.

Compare the market

It's more useful to confirm that it holds up pretty well against the wider TV market. Though in making this generally positive comparison, it should be said too that some aspects of the best rival sets do highlight one or two little issues.

Standard-definition pictures tend to look either a touch noisy or a bit soft, for instance, depending on how you've set up the noise reduction and sharpness processing tools. Noise levels can also rise rather sharply if you don't rein in the brightness and contrast settings.

The Pixel Precise HD engine is a bit more source-dependent with its upscaling than some rival processing engines, too. In other words, if a source is of a very low quality, the Econova doesn't convert it to its full HD resolution quite as cleverly as you might like.

Colours occasionally lack subtlety, adopting a slightly patchy or waxy look, especially where skin tones are concerned.

At this point, it must be stressed that the Econova's best picture quality results, probably inevitably, were obtained without really paying much attention to the set's key eco-friendly features. In fact, in terms of brightness, the optimum settings for picture quality tend to run counter to the TV's eco ethos.
If you're able to make your room extremely dark, in some ways you might prefer the set's eco-focused pictures to those you get with brightness, contrast and backlight levels set higher.

There are two reasons for this. First, the much-reduced light output of the screen when running in Eco mode makes the noise noticed earlier much less aggressive and obvious. Second, really ramping down the image's brightness has an excellent impact on the screen's black level response, making it one of the most convincing we've seen from an LED TV.

When it comes to colours, skin tones tend to look slightly more natural with all green guns blazing. However, other tones look markedly more muted, and the picture generally less dynamic. And it's this relative lack of brightness that means you probably need to have a fairly dark room if you're going to be able to make the most of the eco warrior features.