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Philips 26PF5520D review

Does its great price translate to great value?

Our Verdict

A good gaming screen and HD-ready, but not quite as versatile as some of its rivals

Philips' 26PF5520D is labelled 'HD-Ready' and has a digital TV tuner - but you wouldn't think so when you look at its attractive price.

It's hard to see why it's so affordable at first, as this set has a DVI input that is able to take both high-definition video feeds encrypted with 'HDCP' copy-protection tags (making it ideal for Sky's HD service) and, more importantly for this group test, HDMI video feeds via a simple (and cheap) adaptor. Matched with a high screen resolution of 1,366 x 768, you should have no trouble hooking up a Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 next year to enjoy high-def gaming.

Which is all well and good, but we're here to decide on its usefulness with the current crop of games consoles - and in particular with Microsoft's current Xbox.

Fashion statement?

While the fussy among you might want a black-shelled LCD to match the Xbox, it would be hard to say that the 26PF5520D is ugly. With concave speakers emerging from the TV's side and a screen rimmed with a thick stripe of black, it surpasses its tag with ease.

What's more, it proves a good match for the high-octane action of Xbox - footage from all three of our test games looks smooth and very bright. There's no serious problem with motion, with little blurring evident, while lines - horizontal, vertical and diagonal - are all represented with some skill. Mind you, it's not the most detailed panel on show here, and it's worth keeping the sharpness setting fairly low in order to avoid the picture breaking up.

Sounding off

Xbox pictures may look good on the 26PF5520D, but it doesn't do so well with sound. The Dolby Virtual setting - which tries to create the illusion of surround sound from its stereo speakers - never manages to match rival sets' high performance.

Purely as a screen for the current Xbox - and taking into account its low price - the 26PF5520 seems a great option. But versatility isn't its strongest suit.

Yes, it's HD-ready - but only just. Annoyingly, that DVI input is also a PC jack and a component video input! A complex mess of adaptors is needed if you want to watch pictures from a progressive scan and component video output-enabled DVD player.

First, the component video cables have to be hooked up to a VGA adaptor, and then to a VGA-to-DVI adaptor. It's not difficult to do, and the adaptors are included in the box - but still! It means that anyone considering entering the world of high-definition (whether HDTV or the next generation of games consoles), or wanting to hook up a PC, will have to swap between cables and adaptors with tedious regularity.

Moans about connectivity aside, the 26PF5520D does pack in the features. The built-in Freeview tuner allows use of the seven-day electronic programme guide for simple navigation and recording, while its Active Control picture adjustment system automatically adjusts the picture according to the ambient light in a room.

With DVD sources colours are vibrant, while images are clear of picture noise and very detailed with high-def. As with our test games, however, movies do show some softness, and motion blur sadly also affects this kind of fare. What's more, the black levels are a bit lacking.

Very good with the current Xbox console and technically HD-ready, the 26PF5520D is also well-priced and includes a digital tuner. Cabling and connections niggles aside, it's a great buy.