Philips 48PFT5509 review

Philips's rehabilitation continues with this great-value TV

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Our Verdict

Even though this 48-inch TV costs less than some 32-inch TVs it's a surprisingly strong picture and sound performer. Its design doesn't feel budget either, and while its Smart system is a little content-light, finding any Smart features at all on such a cheap set is a bonus.

For

  • Very good value
  • Attractive and robust design
  • Good HD picture quality
  • Decent audio

Against

  • Standard definition looks average
  • Limited smart TV content
  • Sluggish smart TV system
  • No Ambilight or 3D
Ratings in depth

Design 4 5
features 3 5
performance 4 5
Usability 3 5 5
Price 5 5

The Philips brand active in the UK TV market this year is a very different beast from the one we've become accustomed to seeing.

Gone are the extravagantly powerful, hugely feature-rich high-end models that have been in the brand's DNA for so many TV generations (though such models are still around if you happen to be popping over to certain other European territories, like the Nordics!).

What we've got instead is a new leaner, meaner Philips that's all about rebuilding brand awareness – and retail channels – through value and sales volumes. A new philosophy that couldn't be articulated any more clearly than it is by the 48PFT5509: a 48-inch full HD TV that's yours for just £530.

Design

The 48PFT5509 doesn't look like a particularly cheap TV. Its super-slim frame wouldn't appear out of place on a TV costing twice as much, while the stand it sits on is startlingly well built and attractive – especially as it reinforces the striking minimalism of the screen by using a 'barely there' open-framed rather than solid metallic design.

Philips 48PFT5509 review
The Philips 48PFT5509 isn't the best SD upscaler

The quest for cheapness does mean, sadly, that the 48PFT5509 doesn't carry Philips' cool Ambilight technology, where LEDs down the TV's edges cast out coloured light from the screen's edges. But it's still a substantial aesthetic cut above the norm for its price level.

A search for connections uncovers highlights of two HDMIs, two USBs, and both LAN and integrated Wi-Fi network options. The disappointment here is finding two HDMIs when we like to see even budget TVs these days managing three.

Philips 48PFT5509 review
The range of inputs on the Philips 48PFT5509

On the upside, though, it's decently generous of Philips to provide two USBs for playback of multimedia files, and it's also good to find that the network options support multimedia streaming from DLNA-enabled devices as well as access to both Philips' ring-fenced online content and an open Web browser.

The ring-fenced content is not as prodigious as I'd like it to be given the masses of stuff on offer via some rival brands' smart TV services. Especially noticeable by their absence are the ITV Player, 4OD, Demand 5, and Amazon Instant. However you do get, thankfully, Netflix and the BBC iPlayer.

Philips has improved the look of its smart menus for this year, and I'm actually quite relieved to see it not overloading its menus with reams of pointless gaming and infotainment apps that have little or no place in a TV environment. But there's no getting around the fact that it's certainly not an 'A List' smart TV service by 2014 standards.

Philips 48PFT5509 review
The Philips 48PFT5509 ring-fenced content includes Netflix and BBC iPlayer

It's a shame the 48PFT5509 isn't one of the 'powered by Android' TVs Philips unveiled at the 2014 IFA technology show in Berlin. But then it's not realistic to hope for that level of smart functionality on such a reasonably priced TV.

Turning to the 48PFT5509's picture technology, as well as delivering a full HD native resolution it surprisingly manages to offer micro dimming (which divides the picture up into hundreds of small 'blocks' for more accurate analysis and a degree of localised adjustment) and Philips' Pixel Plus HD processing engine.

Anyone who's followed Philips TVs over the years may know that Pixel Plus HD is actually pretty old now, having been superseded by Pixel Precise HD and Perfect Pixel HD (and the latter's UHD version).

It's true that the newer systems are more powerful and less prone to digital artefacting but finding a processing engine capable of delivering the extra sharpness and motion clarity of the Pixel Plus HD, at the 48PFT5509's price level, is impressive. Especially as the motion element of the processing is backed up by a pseudo-200Hz system delivered by applying backlight scanning to the native 50Hz panel.

Philips 48PFT5509 review
The positioning of the Philips 48PFT5509's LED lights make for better contrast

Also promising is the discovery that the 48PFT5509's LED lights are positioned not around the screen's edges but behind it – a configuration which has the potential to deliver better contrast and less backlight inconsistency.

If you're brave enough to explore the 48PFT5509's picture set-up menus, you'll find quite a few useful tweaks. Particularly worth playing around with are the set's multi-level dynamic contrast system, a series of contrast modes that include our favourite picture setting. There's also a sharpness-boosting super resolution mode, which actually needs to be handled with care if you don't want pictures to start looking noisy.

If you're one of the dwindling number of 3D fans out there, please note that the 48PFT5509 doesn't support 3D playback.