Philips 46PFL8008S review
46in, Freeview HD, 1,920x1,080 resolution, 3D: yes, 4x HDMI
For this review we tested the 46in model in the Philips 8000 series, but it's also available in a 55in (55PFL8008S) screen size. All models have identical specifications except for their dimensions and power usage. We're confident that image quality will be practically identical across the range.
If you're looking for a top of the range TV that can turn heads, a Philips model could be just what you need. The company's unique Ambilight ambient lighting system has always been a talking point and that remains the case for 2013's top-end 8008S. It creates a dynamic halo of light behind the TV, matching the action on screen to create a greater sense of immersion for films and games. It's not all gimmicks though, as the 8008S has a comprehensive feature list, lots of image quality settings and a gorgeous design.
Philips has used a combination of brushed metal and raw aluminium to create an ultra-thin bezel, which would look great on a wall. The bottom edge is slightly thicker to make room for the built-in webcam – it has a sliding cover if you're concerned about privacy and can be used with Skype to make video calls right from the TV.
The slim bezel is paired with an even slimmer stand; barely any thicker than a pencil, it gives the screen a floating effect yet manages to stay firmly in place without any wobble. The stand swivels from side to side, letting you adjust for the best view.
The Ambilight LEDs are recessed into the rear top and sides of the TV, leaving plenty of room towards the bottom for inputs. You get four HDMI ports, plus composite, component and SCART video via adaptors. DVB-T and S2 antennae let you watch Freeview HD, but Freesat HD isn't supported so the satellite connection is only useful for picking up foreign channels.
There's a Common Interface slot for pay TV services, digital optical and analogue phono audio jacks, a headphone jack and three USB ports, to connect an external hard disk for rudimentary PVR duties or play multimedia files from a flash drive. You can also stream them from a NAS device or PC using DLNA. With integrated Wi-Fi, you won't need to connect an Ethernet cable to get online either.
There are plenty of extra features for anyone with a smartphone or tablet too. The TV is Miracast certified, so you can pair a compatible device wirelessly for big-screen playback, and you can control the set, browse the TV guide or even share TV channels to your tablet using Wi-Fi Smart Screen.
Like all modern TVs, the 8008 has plenty of Smart TV apps. A recent firmware update has added Netflix to the growing list of on-demand and catch-up services. It joins BBC iPlayer, AceTrax, Blinkbox and YouTube. You also get Social TV, an overlay which puts Facebook and Twitter feeds alongside live broadcasts, in case you want to tweet along with the latest episode of a must-see drama. There's a modest app store, although the ratio of useful downloads to adult content is alarming.
It's great to see Philips adding new services, but unfortunately the 8008 suffers from the same sluggish interface we've seen from the company in the past. The UI can often take several seconds to switch between pages of the TV guide or load the main menu, and there's even noticeable lag when turning the volume up or down. This is a real shame, as the interface is easy to navigate and the remote control, which has a complete QWERTY keyboard on the rear and Wii remote-style motion controls, is among the best we've seen for using Smart TV features.
As the 8008S is currently the top-end TV in Philips' 2013 line-up, it should come as no surprise that it is equipped with a huge range of image quality settings. You'll want to jump into the menus before settling down to watch anything, as out of the box the picture is aggressively bright and colourful. We had to drop the backlight brightness, contrast and colour settings significantly to reign in the vibrancy.
Once we'd switched to the ISF picture modes as a base setting, and dropped the contrast to around half its original value, the image looked far more natural and black levels fared much better. They aren't perfect, as dropping the backlight brightness too far meant losing detail from darker scenes, and raising it too high led to unwanted clouding from the backlight.
You'll also want to turn off the noise reduction and dynamic contrast settings for Blu-ray playback, but Perfect Natural Motion – the Philips branded version of interpolation – can be left at the minimum setting. It smooths out films without adding unwanted artefacts. Raising it higher makes video look unrealistically smooth, so less is definitely more.
Standard definition television can be saved slightly with sparing use of the sharpness and noise reduction settings, but don't expect miracles – sit around 6 feet away and the low quality channels just about hold up to daytime viewing. For High definition video and Blu-ra, however, the 8008 produces some impressively detailed and crisp pictures.
We were also impressed with the 8008's excellent sound quality. For such a slim TV, we weren't expecting the clear speech, crisp high end or bass presence the speaker drivers managed to produce. We lowered the treble a little to soften the high-end slightly. The 3D surround sound effect adds an extra dimension to films and volume was reasonable, although it won't blow you away. External speakers are still preferable, but not essential here like they are with other TVs.
Philips only uses passive 3D for its mid-range TVs, so the flagship 8008 uses active shutter technology. Two pairs of glasses are bundled with the set, which have two modes. They can both be used to watch 3D films, or set to two-player mode for playing split-screen multiplayer games across the entire screen. There was absolutely no screen flicker, with only the tiniest distraction from the fluorescent lights in our test room, but this won't be a problem in the average living room. From a 6-foot viewing distance there was no crosstalk either, but get too close and it's unavoidable.
If you're prepared to calibrate it correctly, and don't mind a slightly sluggish user interface, you can get a breath-taking picture from the 8008S. Ambilight is a welcome inclusion too, adding a greater sense of immersion, but the limited Smart TV system and complicated image quality settings mean it isn't as comprehensive as similarly priced models from LG or Samsung.