Philips' mid-range 5500 series includes three models:
the standard 5507 with two 10 W speakers (reviewed here)
the 5527 with a dark grey, brushed metal bezel and two 14 W speakers
the 5537 with a light grey, brushed metal bezel and two 14 W speakers
All three models come from the same factory and the same production lines.
But all three TVs have witnessed a change after being released: initially built and sold with UV²A panels made by Sharp, late this summer Philips began switching the panels during manufacturing with PVA panels built by Samsung. On the outside everything's the same, as are the model numbers and prices (barring the natural price drops that any product takes over time).
In May 2012 we tested the original version with the UV²A panel and gave it a full "Five Star" rating. Now we've tested the new version with the PVA panel and are changing our review accordingly. With this new Samsung panel we've observed a noticeable drop in quality and have bumped the entire series' rating down to three stars.
As of today, 5 October 2012, the only models being sent from the factory to retailers are the new models with the lower-quality PVA screens, but it's possible that both are still available in stores, being sold side by side. Philips claims it had no choice but to downgrade the panels due to an excess of demand
The finishing on the 5527 and 5537 is slightly better done than on the 5507.
All three models have the exact same software with Philips' online services and apps that, now as always, fail to entice us.
The media player has a lot more going for it: it's DLNA-compatible and reads almost any file format via USB. Pretty much the only format it doesn't play is the aging MKV. However, it doesn't read chapters and internal and external subtitles; this is an area where Samsung, LG and Panasonic hold a slight advantage.
The whole show is run with a rounded-edge remote control that feels perhaps a bit too plasticky, but it has enough shortcuts to make it a handy device.
Microscopic view of the new PVA panel
The chevron structure
in the new screen leaves no doubt: this is definitely a Samsung-built PVA panel, not a Sharp UV²A panel.
Microscopic view of the original UV²A panel
The original UV²A screen had both incredibly accurate colours and exceptional contrast, especially for a TV this price, of over 5,000:1. With a ratio like that, black comes out "perfect".
The PVA panel that Philips substituted this with is still very good with a contrast of over 3,000:1. But it isn't "exceptional" the way the UV²A panel was. The rendering has been slightly degraded due to less linearity in the shades of grey (the gamma has dropped from 2.2 to 2) and there are slight overtones of blue (the colour temperature is now 7,570 K, compared to the original 6,500 K). We're hoping Philips will correct this with a firmware update sometime in the near future.
The anti-glare filter is quite effective on both the UV²A and PVA panels.
Colours in Cinema mode: average Delta E = 3.3
Effective anti-glare filter
After we switched the screen to our recommended settings (see inset), the image turned out to be a rung below the UV²A panel in quality.
Contrast ratio = 3,380:1 on the PVA panel, compared to > 5,000:1 on the UV²A panel
Both panels also have different response times. Again, the UV²A panel was better, especially in lightly coloured parts of the screen.
This graph shows ghosting time, which is measured in ms and indicates the time it takes the TV
to remove a frame after displaying the next. The shorter the time, the more fluid moving images will appear.
There's good news for gamers, which is that the input lag is exactly the same on both panels. With an average lag of just 17 ms, this TV is one of the most responsive we've ever seen.
Clouding on the new PVA panel
Clouding on the original UV²A panel
The new PVA screen's Achilles' Heel is the clouding—those white patches that appear on some TVs in darkly shaded parts of the image. You can see the light from the diodes in the centre of the screen, on the sides and in the corners. The UV²A panel may not have been the best in this respect (we gave it four stars), but it clouded much less than this one does.
In fact, the clouding is so bad on this PVA panel that we've marked the 40PFL5537H down a whole star in its overall rating.
Naturally, the 5500 series has active 3D. But the glasses aren't included, so you'll have to dish out a bit more if you want to watch 3D with friends and family. Each pair costs around £30. They're light, comfortable and rechargeable via USB.
The two-millisecond difference in response time between dark and light areas of the screen make all the difference in 3D. We found more crosstalk on this PVA screen (crosstalk is when instead of producing a perfect 3D image the left and right pictures appear superimposed on top of each other, sort of like when you cross your eyes).
Here's the result as seen through 3D glasses, with the new PVA version on top and the original UV²A version on bottom):
With a perfect result, we shouldn't see any trace of the 'R' frame on the left, and, vice versa, none of the 'L' frame on the right.
Philips probably shouldn't have bothered including the 2D-to-3D conversion function, either. The simulated 3D effect just isn't good enough to warrant having to wear 3D glasses. It's the kind of feature you'll try out and then never touch again.
Green section = good / Orange section = tolerable / White section = torture
Whether you're listening to the 10 W speakers (5507) or the 14 W speakers (5527 and 5537), it's all the same: in both cases, the second you turn the volume up past halfway, the low-end saturates, which is where the towering peak at 260 Hz comes from. And the high-end comes with a heavy dose of distortion. The end result is torture on your poor ears. And to cap it off, the volume doesn't even go above 70 dB (whereas 85 dB would be the bare minimum for an enjoyable listening experience). If you want to watch movies on the 40PFL5507H and have good sound, you might want to consider buying a home cinema system
Like most LCD TVs, the 5500 series ends on a good note. On standby it uses less than 1 watt. When turned on the power use is low, although we've seen better. It consumes 78 W (176 W/m²), whereas the most power-efficient TVs on the market eat less than 110 W/m².