The now end of life Philips 42PFL5604 represents the 42″ model of entry level 5000 series range. Despite it being Philips’ entry level 42″ LCD TV, it is still a Philips product; this means at around £650 it is not entry-level pricing, but then it certainly does not deliver entry-level performance.

The 42PFL5604 is a compelling choice as an entry level Full-HD 42″ monitor. Large format, entry-level monitors are only capable of displaying screen resolutions of 1024×768, and carry a price tag similar to that of the 42PFL5604. Most TV’s, even Full HD ones, can only display VGA video at resolutions no higher than 1368×720, but Philips are different in this respect, it can natively display VGA at the Full HD resolution of 1920×1080. To get similar results, you would need to spend over  £1400 on a Full HD capable monitor, and you wouldn’t get built-in speakers or the same diversity of inputs.

First impressions

In the box you get a manual, CD manual, remote control and table-top stand.

First impressions of the set is that it is well built, but only as solid as a plastic trim can be. The styling and the bezel is similar to that of a BenQ monitor or even a Sharp LCD TV, nothing spectacular. The curved piano black plastic bezel is fairly chunky, but then it does need to hold a sizeable LCD panel in place. The unit has none of the high-end Philips features such as Ambilight or advanced video post processing.

The back of the unit has only a basic set of inputs which should be sufficient for most applications, these include VGA, 3 HDMI, 2 SCART, Component, USB and composite. The table-top stand is sturdy and heavy and provides solid support for the TV set and allows for the set to be pivoted on the base over a reasonable arc.

Usage tests

After powering on the unit you are run through a set-up menu, which is notably, err, prettier than most set-up menus, in fact it is better than most TV sets we have worked with. The same smooth graphical style reappears when the TV provides feedback on remote control commands (volume, input selection, etc). The set-up process also includes basic image calibration process which anybody can complete.

Our tests centred on typical ‘TEA London’ usage scenarios which is almost exclusively computer generated video – Windows Media Centre  et al, so although this is a TV, we have not conducted intensive testing on its tuner capabilities – and given that over half of the FreeView channels are highly compressed, there seemed little point to test this as our viewing would invariably settle on the best, BBC and the worst, Viva/ITV/Five.

VGA output is clear, well defined and sharp. Using standards Windows applications that are displayed legibly at our test distance of 3 metres away from the screen. There is a slight softness to text and hairlines, so the display output is not as well defined as a professional monitor such as the Panasonic TH-42PF11 series plasma monitors, so this monitor is perhaps not the best choice for the display of text based video output such as spreadsheets, high resolution charts and small text.

With graphics applications it is certainly a comfortable size to be working off. The TV’s settings give you quite a number of display calibration settings, and with some work you can get accurate colour reproduction on the screen, although I would not go so far as to recommend that professional photographers, publishers and graphic designers use the 42PFL5604 as a primary reference, but if you don’t have the cash for a monitor, this is the next best thing you can buy, although to any professional I would always recommend they spend their £850 on a high-end sub 26″ monitor instead.

When it comes to video, this is where the 42PFL5604 starts to shine. The TV did need some image calibration, the out of the box settings are not bad, but the image can be greatly improved by applying some manual tweaks to the settings applied by the set after running the initial Philips Image Set Up routine. No matter what video we threw at the monitor, it produced an excellent image, that is well defined and shows no strong or visible motion blurring in fast moving scenes. The set smooths out lower resolution video cleanly, and shows pin-sharp definition with HD content such as blu-ray movies. In fact we can find very little wrong with the 42PFL5604’s performance considering its price point, you would be hard pressed to find something with similar performance for the same money.

So what we have is a TV set that is capable of being used as a monitor which opens up a number of possibilities at this very compelling price point. To put it simply, no TV can match the sharpness and brightness of a professional monitor, nor would a TV be flexible to reliably display resolutions other than its native resolution. The build quality of professional monitors is far better than any entry to mid-high level TV, the monitor will have a glass front, normally uses a higher quality display panel and is engineered to have a very long lifespan – so please do not take this review as an endorsement that a TV should be chosen over a monitor for computer generated video, but the Philips 42PFL5604 does provide you with a compelling choice for an entry level large format LCD display.