All hail the smart TV. Loaded with online video, networking opportunities and touchscreen apps for smartphones and tablets, this 3D-ready Edge LED-backlit LCD TV from Philips is an attempt to produce a thoroughly modern telly in tune with our convergent times. The super-slim TV comes with sharp, brushed metallic looks to suit its ambitions. Built-in to 42PFL7666 is Wi-Fi and a SD Card slot for taking downloaded video, though the unique feature is undoubtedly Ambilight. The latter of which is a strip of LED lights down each side of the LCD panel, which creates coloured light around the viewing area that dynamically change to match the dominant colours onscreen. It’s all very clever stuff.
The Net TV home screen puts a simple 4×4 grid of app icons in front of you. In a plain design that is slightly spruced-up by a thumbnail of the live TV channel playing underneath. There are icons here for the essential must-have services such as BBC iPlayer; YouTube; Facebook; TuneIn Radio; Aupeo (another radio app); Picasa; Twitter Acetrax and Box Office 365. Both of the last two offer paid-for movie downloads, hence the 42PFL7666’s SD Card slot. There is also an open web browser installed.
The latter is a pain to navigate using the otherwise highly functional, and beautifully designed, rounded remote control. Web pages are slow to load and scrolling is not nearly fast enough. However, there is a partial solution – and it’s app-shaped (see below).
As well as fetching content from around the web, the 42PFL7666 can also stream from a networked PC or Mac, by using the DLNA protocol. We achieved this successfully, by using a download of TwonkyMedia’s Mediaserver for Mac, and managed to stream AVI; AVC HD files (hi-def files typically produced by camcorders); MPEG4 and MOV files. Not bad, but where’s MKV and WMV support?
The 42PFL7666’s media player can also cope with an impressive range of digital media files stored on a USB thumb drive; in this test we did manage to play the key video formats – AVI and MKV – as well as MPEG4 and WMV files. Not an exhaustive list, but it is much better than via a network, and about as advanced as any TV currently available. The JPEG, MP3 and WMA formats are supported from both USB and a networked PC/Mac.
Smartphone & tablet control
Aside from the provision of the BBC iPlayer and YouTube, built-in apps aren’t the 42PFL7666’s strongpoint – though there is a nicely designed download for iPhone, Android-based smartphones or tablets. This is called MyRemote and is primarily a mobile device version of the TV’s various onscreen menus. It’s a simple affair, with swiping between screens (say, the home icon-led screen, basic channel-up/down/volume up/down screen, or even playback controls for a connected DVD or Blu-ray player) and the ability to call-up a virtual keyboard. In theory, it’s much easier than trying to use the hard-button remote, in order to operate the virtual keyboard on the TV’s screen. The app does have a habit of hanging, then re-connects and doesn’t always replicate what’s going on in front of you. Our two attempts at entering text into the URL box on the web browser failed; once we saw totally unrelated text entry onscreen, and then it remained empty. MyRemote ends on high, though, with a Gallery feature that instantly put photos that were already on our iPhone, straight on the TV. Nice.
2D & 3D performance
The 42PFL7666 does have a built-in Freeview HD tuner, for accessing the likes of BBC One HD and ITV HD. Live TV can even be paused and also recordings can be made, if a USB stick and/or HDD are hooked-up to it via USB. Although, the software that governs digital TV is very slow and basic.
The Philips TV is much more at home with Blu-ray, in both its 2D and 3D flavours. The 42PFL7666’s 3D skills are its headline act, though there’s a new twist for 2011. Unlike its previous incarnations, Philips has now dumped the impressive, but expensive ‘active shutter’ system with its glasses costing £100, each. This is in exchange for ‘passive’ 3D, which uses the same specs given away in the local multiplex – with two pairs of glasses included. 3D images are certainly punchy enough, with noticeable depth effects that are hugely comfortable, with just about enough quality to make-up for less detail and frequently juddery front 3D effects. Die-hard videophiles with burgeoning 3D Blu-ray movie collections are likely to disagree.
The 2D processing options are more than adequate, and border on overkill. Super Resolution, for the upscaling of DVD to fit the full HD panel; HD Natural Motion and a 400Hz mode (for cancelling-out blur) all play their part in producing a highly detailed and relatively stable 2D picture. The colours are always spot-on and Ambilight helps create an immersive experience, though contrast isn’t the set’s strongpoint; mixed brightness screens tend to take on an average between blacks and whites.
As if to underline this TV’s core quality, built-in sound is verging on awesome – and that’s despite a paltry 37mm depth. And when you’re done with the 42PFL7666, just put Ambilight into Lounge Light mode, switch off the TV, and relax in the instant soft lighting.
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- BBC iPlayer; brushed metallic design; MKV support from USB; onscreen slideshow from smartphone.
- No MKV support over network; slow web browser; choice of online video apps; Freeview EPG.
Philips’ attempt at a highly polished, zeitgeisty TV ends-up being mostly about excellent picture quality, with heavy focus on the networking and online features. Its online video service isn’t engaging, enough save for BBC iPlayer. The other networking skills are inconsistent, but the 42PFL7666 remains a great value option for anyone after top-notch 2D and 3D pictures.