It may cost a fraction of Philips' high-end sets, but the 42PFL5008 has some surprisingly high-end features.
The first is undoubtedly its good looks; the black plastic bezel around the screen measures a mere 7mm, and though there's a further 4mm of blank black space between the edges of the panel and where the image begins, it's impressive stuff nonetheless.
We particularly like the rounded edges, which lend the 42PFL5008 a soft look. Along the bottom of the screen is a silver, metallic strip that creates a 20mm bezel, though it tapers to around 30mm at the middle to encompass a Philips logo.
That metallic effect lifts the 42PFL5008 as a whole away from its hardly-there-at-all skeleton desktop stand to create a floating look. We've seen this before on high-end Philips TVs, so to find it in play on the 42PFL5008 is heady stuff.
So too for Ambilight, which also marks out the 42PFL5008 as something special. It graces the step-up 42PFL6008, but its appearance here is unexpected. Ambilight – here in a two-sided array – consists of strips of LED lights along the rear of the TV that emit ever-changing lights onto your living room walls.
It's fair to say that Philips has struggled to keep up with the other major TV brands' smart TV platforms, but the latest effort – simply called Smart TV – is an improvement. It's light on on-demand video apps, sure – unless we're talking X-rated 18+ apps, that is – but most viewers will be happy with the headline apps Netflix, YouTube, BBC iPlayer and Blinkbox. Add passive Easy 3D to the mix and the 42PFL5008 could be a catch-all TV for living rooms.
The 5000 Series – which also includes the 32-inch 32PFL5008T (£600), 47-inch 47PFL5008T (£900) and 50-inch 50PFL5008T (£1200) – is low down in the Philips line-up for 2013. While its 9000 Series is all about 4K Ultra HD TVs, its 8000 Series represents the pinnacle of its Full HD TV collection. The next step up from the 8000 Series is the so-called 'Elevation' TV, the remarkably slim 60-inch Philips 60PFL8708S (£2,800), which is Philips' first attempt at producing a TV with four-sided Ambilight.
The use of a transparent stand is designed to give this 13.5mm-slim TV a floating look. It's out in September, and – like our review sample – uses the polarised Easy 3D system (almost all other Philips TVs use the active shutter 3D Max system). If you're after as good-looking a TV as possible, keep an eye out for the Philips 55PDL8908S (also £2,800), whose glass screen stretches over the electronics and right down to the floor in such a way that it appears to float, too. On this one-off DesignLine screen, 3D Max is used.
Other curios in the Philips line-up include the all-white PFL7108 Series, available in 42-inch, 47-inch and 55-inch sizes. This is a variant of the 7000 Series, which is where three-sided Ambilight begins.
For a reasonably priced 42-inch TV, the 42PFL5008 is well connected. With Wi-Fi and wired LAN on board, online options are covered, though the main sacrifice is a fourth HDMI slot. The rear ins and outs – all of them outwards-facing – comprise two HDMI ports, an RGB Scart (full sized), a LAN slot, 3.5mm audio input jack, a digital optical audio output (for routing all sound from its built-in Freeview HD tuner to a home cinema), a set of component video inputs and associated phonos, and an RF in to fuel that Freeview HD tuner. There's also a side-panel that includes the third HDMI slot, two USB slots, a Common Interface slot and a headphones jack.
Smart TV apps are an odd mix of must-haves, curios, and porn. In the former camp we find the BBC iPlayer, YouTube, Blinkbox and Netflix (note the lack of Lovefilm). Curios include the impressive TED Talks app alongside the likes of National Rail, Picasa, iConcerts, Facebook, CNBC Real-Time, Viewster, MeteoNews, Picasa, Foreca (weather),Funspot (simple games), Euronews, Screen Dreams (wallpapers), CineTrailer, Absolute Radio, Aupeo, eBay, Tunin.FM and the TomTom HD Traffic app. More are available in the App Store, including a batch of 18+ rated apps that can be locked by a PIN code; Forno, Hustler, Playboy, Private & Brazzers. Skype is on hand if you buy a Philips PTA317 (opens in new tab) for about £75.
As for 3D, the 42PFL5008 is blessed by the appearance of Easy 3D, which is Philips-speak for an LG-made Cinema 3D 'passive' FPR panel that requires only cinema-style 3D glasses. Two are provided in the box, which is a bit stingy – they only cost a quid each.
Alas, despite all of these ins and outs, apps and extra features, there is a characteristic of the 42PFL5008 that likely relegates it to the lower reaches of the Philips line-up of TVs for 2013:
Pixel Plus HD. While it's not exactly a weakling in the world of picture processing engines, it's an older, less powerful and less capable collection of video improvements than Philips' Perfect Pixel HD, which is found on the 42PFL6008.
The use of a basic 100Hz panel is understandable at this price – even expected – but there's little in the way of tech to suppress either blur or judder. Pixel Plus HD contains only four features: Advanced Sharpness, Dynamic Contrast, Dynamic Backlight and Colour Enhancement, none of which go beyond what we'd expect from any edge LED TV.
However, what the 42PFL5008 does have is 300Hz Perfect Motion Rate, which isn't an option, more a panel characteristic. The backlight blinks in an effort to suppress motion blur, effectively presenting a 300Hz-like image (or that's the theory/marketing blurb).
Still, with the step-up 42PFL6008 boasting a 500Hz version, this is still an under-powered feature. There isn't much in the way of carefully programmed pictures presets either. The likes of Vivid, Natural, Standard, Movie, Photo and Energy Saving are fairly rudimentary options.