A great build and involving pictures make this one of the best TV's to come out of the Philips labs but it's not for the faint hearted
Excellent form factor and build
Involving HD pictures
Separate media box not for everyone
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The 38mm deep 42PES001D Essence LCD sees Philips attempt at catching a slice of the skinny TV market. And the brand must be taking it seriously – it's even eschewed its unique Ambilight technology.
With that USP discarded, the 42PES0001D Essence relies rely on its picture quality, super-slim design and modular build to catch punters' eyes.
That modular approach is two-fold. Firstly, the Essence ships with a boxy, black connectivity hub, which packs the TV tuner, three HDMI inputs, USB, a multimedia player that is networkable via Ethernet and other connective goodies.
This plugs into the screen via a single cable, which also powers the TV – meaning you can have the Essence wall-mounted with only one wire dangling.
Furthering the screen's visual appeal is the 1/2in thick bezel, which is manna from heaven as far as I'm concerned: when I watch TV I don't want to watch the actual TV.
Secondly, the TV's speaker bar is completely detachable, so you can opt to get rid of it you have an external sound system.
The supplied wall bracket is well designed, too: if you don't fasten the bracket to the wall completely level, you can slide the TV round on its fittings until it's perfectly aligned.
Picture on the wall
As with Philip's other high-end TVs, the Essence utilises its Perfect Pixel HD Engine, 100Hz Clear LCD tech and Perfect Natural Motion tomfoolery to help deliver HD and SD sources that are smoother, cleaner, sharper, more colourful and, dammit, better than anyone else's. Well that's the idea...
Baz Luhrmann's outback epic Australia has a sumptuous AVC 2.40:1 encode which the Essence displays with generally stunning results. The rich, earthy hues of war-era Oz are warm and seductive, with edges so sharp you could skin a kangaroo on them. Black levels are also impressive, though maybe not up to the inky standard exhibited by Philips' own LED-backlit 42PFL9803H.
The weird thing is, I achieved this by rummaging around in the Philips' cavernous picture processing menus and turning pretty much everything to 'Off'. Rely too much on Perfect Pixel HD Engine and its stable-mates and you can end up with a right hash of an image: for instance, I found the 100Hz mode created a quite artificial-looking picture with objects that didn't so much move as mysteriously float around.
Of course, other picture tweaks, like Noise Reduction, work well – so it really is a case of suck it and see. Just be warned: you could end up sucking for a very long time...
Standard-def performance is good enough, with punchy colours and deep blacks, and the speaker bar delivers credible sonics.
From an aesthetic point of view, the Essence is possibly the sweetest screen Philips has yet produced. And, thanks to its unique design and discreet form, it's dying to be wall-mounted.
However, it also comes with a serious price tag and offers involved calibration options – in short, I wouldn't regard this as a screen for ordinary Johnny Consumer. Audition if you're man enough.