One of the cheapest 4K TVs out there, but it isn’t as futureproof as the competition
NOT ONLY DOES Philips’ 65PFL9708 let you watch Ultra HD content on its massive 65in screen, but it can also upscale Full HD content to an Ultra HD resolution of 3,840×2,160. Although Ultra HD TVs are becoming more common, they’re still expensive, so one of the most attractive features of the 9708 is its price. The 65PFL9708 is cheaper than Ultra HD TV sets from Sony, Samsung and LG.
The 65PFL9708 has a good selection of connection ports, with no fewer than five HDMI ports. The fifth port feeds directly into a dedicated processing board designed to handle Ultra HD content. Unfortunately, it doesn’t conform to the new HDMI 2.0 standard, so users won’t be able to view Ultra HD content at 60 frames per second until Philips releases an external upgrade kit.
The 65PFL9708 also has component and SCART video inputs, an optical digital audio output, three USB ports, a Common Interface slot and an Ethernet port.
The 65PFL9708 makes good use of Philips’ AmbiLight system. This uses an array of LEDs on the back of the TV to project colours on the surface behind the television. The Ambilight LEDs change colour to reflect the colours onscreen so the pictures you’re viewing appear to bleed out of the top and sides of the frame. This effect provides a greater sense of immersion when watching films and sport.
Philips provided us with a video server for the purposes of our review; this contained ultra high-definition video footage. However, the footage was mostly made up of high-resolution time-lapse photography that had been spliced I together to make a video rather than native Ultra HD motion video. The detailed vistas, brightly coloured skies and sharp textures looked impressive, but to see how the TV coped with proper Ultra HD video we watched the Blender Foundation’s open-source Ultra HD video Tears of Steel.
DETAILS OF THE UNEXPECTED
The extra detail present in Ultra HD video is breathtaking. Facial features, cloth textures and texture detail in things such as brickwork and metal look incredible, thanks in part to the 9708’s brilliantly sharp picture. A further Ultra Resolution setting added more details, but most people won’t be able to spot them from an average viewing distance.
Action sequences were more troublesome, and we did see artefacts, such as when watching football on the supplied footage. The artefacting doesn’t ruin the picture, but it is distracting.
Philips has used a VA panel for the 65PFL9708. VA panels may not be able to match IPS panels for viewing angles, but the 9708’s VA panel helped to create excellent contrast in darker scenes. The Colour Enhancement option made colours look a little too saturated, but the 65PFL9708 produced more natural-looking images when we switched Colour Enhancement off, changed colour temperature to neutral and slightly reduced the colour saturation setting.
The 65PFL9708 can upscale Full HD footage to Ultra HD thanks to its Ultra Resolution feature, but this produced a slightly grainy image that was only a little sharper than with the Ultra Resolution feature switched off. Hair, facial features and clothing looked more natural when upscaled than at Full HD resolution, but only up close. Differences were minimal from a distance, even on the 65PFL9708’s 6Sin screen.
Although Ultra Resolution mode can add a little extra detail to Blu-ray films, it can’t rescue standard-définition broadcasts. Low bit rate channels such as Dave and BBC News are unsalvageable, so we saw compression noise and a lack of detail when watching those channels.
The 65PFL9708’s Ultra HD 3D picture quality was above average. This TV uses passive 3D technology, so there is zero flicker, almost no crosstalk and minimal reduction in brightness. It’s also harder to spot the reduced vertical resolution inherent in passive 3D systems when watching 3D content, which is a bonus over existing 1080p passive 3D TVs.
The 65PFL9708 produces clear, powerful audio. At higher volume levels, it impressed us with its dynamic range. The TV even produced a reasonable amount of bass.
Sadly, we were unimpressed with the speed of the onscreen interface. We often waited for the TV to respond to the remote when we changed menus or used Smart TV apps,
The online services provided by the 65PFL9708 are fewer than we’d like, too. Philips has increased the number of services and you can use BBC ¡Player, Netflix and YouTube to find entertainment, but there’s no LoveFilm, ITV Player, 4oD or Demand 5. Philips has integrated Facebook and Twitter into the 65PFL9708 very well. The TV places a sidebar at the side of the currently playing channel so you can post as you watch TV. The most welcome new feature is Cloud Explorer, which lets you stream multimedia content from your Dropbox web storage.
The online services provided by Philips’ TVs are getting better, but we still found the 9708’s Smart TV J interface less user-friendly than Samsung’s Smart Hub or Sony’s SEN.
Currently, the 65PFL9708 is one of the cheapest Ultra HD TVs you can buy in the UK. Even with a large 65in panel, the 9708 costs far less than the competition. However, lack of a HDMI 2.0 input and the delicate balance of settings required to get the best from it mean you still make sacrifices for early 4K adoption.