While there’s no doubt that we’re hurtling towards a 4K/UHD TV future, we’re not quite there yet. Much as we might love 4K, there are still a huge amount of living rooms, bedrooms, kitchens and studies across the UK where 4K is either not wanted, not needed or not affordable. So it’s good to know there are Full HD sets like this Philips that still care about picture quality.

Unbox the 40PFT6510 and it immediately makes a winning impression. Its thin frame is finished in a light silver hue, its rear is adorned in a fashionable white, and its left and right sides produce a riot of coloured light that can be set to match – with impressive tonal and positional accuracy – the content of the images you’re watching courtesy of Philips’ Ambilight technology. Spectacular stuff for a £480 TV.

The 40PFT6510 continues to set a great up-front tone with its connections. It carries four HDMIs – as many as I’d expect from even the most expensive TVs – as well as three USBs and built-in Wi-Fi for multimedia playback. It can also go online, of course, and unlike previous Philips TVs the online features available are pretty interesting thanks to the introduction of Google’s Android TV platform. This hugely boosts the number of apps Philips can offer (previously it's been behind the pack when it comes to on-demand content), and it runs on the 40PFT6510 more slickly than it does on Sony’s sluggish Android sets.

It’s a pity Philips doesn’t provide a point and click-style interface to accompany the Android engine, though its large remote is unusual for sporting a full QWERTY keyboard on its rear.

Potent potential

The 40PFT6510 boasts some seriously potent picture specifications. It’s lit by a direct LED rather than edge LED system, which should lead to enhanced contrast – especially as the lighting system is powered by a Micro Dimming Engine that analyses the image across 6,400 separate segments for improved accuracy.

An 800Hz-like motion reproduction system should keep judder and blur at bay, and – best of all – the 40PFT6510 carries Perfect Pixel HD, Philips’ most powerful non-4K image processing suite.

One further surprise considering this screen's price is its active 3D support, although no 3D glasses ship with the set, and none were available in time for this review. I could, however, test the 40PFT6510’s 2D performance, and I’m happy to report that this is excellent.

King of contrast

The star of the show is the screen’s contrast. The direct lighting and Micro Dimming technology allows it to deliver an outstanding combination of deep, black colours and punchy bright scenes without either feeling forced or unnatural. Even better, the screen delivers the simultaneous dark and light elements of scenes like Max’s frantic tunnel escape near the start of Mad Max: Fury Road exceptionally effectively.

There’s no issue with backlight clouding either, and nor do you feel distracted by the light halo problems that often show up with direct LED TVs.

The 40PFT6510’s black level talents provide an excellent foundation for the screen’s wider colour palette. It rises to the challenge of Mad Max...’s insanely varied, often ultra-bright and ultra-stylised presentation supremely well, delivering it with a combination of subtlety and aggression that’s practically unheard of on today’s increasingly limited Full HD TV pool.

Colours hold up nicely during darker sequences too, while the precision of the colour and greyscale handling joins forces with Philips’ impressive video processing to craft some of the sharpest, most detailed-looking HD pictures I’ve seen. What’s more, the Perfect Pixel HD system works so effectively that the sharpness is delivered without the image tipping into edge noise or excessive grittiness.

Good native motion-handling keeps images blur- and reasonably judder-free, even through Mad Max...’s most kinetic sequences. However, if you want to try the provided motion processing, be assured that it improves clarity quite nicely without causing excessive processing side effects. As long as you use it on a relatively low-powered setting, that is. Set it to maximum and the effect is unpleasant.

With Philips' processing also doing an unusually good job of upscaling standard-definition sources, it’s tough to find fault with its pictures. The best I can muster is that, as with most LCD TVs, the screen loses contrast and colour if viewed from an angle of more than 30 degrees. You'll also need to be careful when using some of the TV's processing tricks, such as Super Resolution an HD Natural Motion, to avoid image-affecting side effects. But this isn’t too onerous a burden given the results you can achieve after a tweaking session.

The 40PFT6510 doesn’t handle Mad Max...’s woofer-blowing soundtrack as effectively as it handles its explosive visuals. The climactic multi-car battle sounds bass-light, slightly harsh and occasionally a little distorted at ‘cinematic’ volumes. Provided you stay within its volume limitations, though, the 20W speaker array ditches the harshness and distortion to leave you with good detailing and a fairly wide soundstage.

HD excitement

With its combination of Android smarts, killer looks, excellent pictures and sub-£500 price tag Philips' 40PFT6510 injects some much-needed excitement back into the HD TV market. It will easily cut the mustard as a second room screen or centre-point of a budget AV setup. And it makes me keen to see what Philips’ imminent new range of 4K TVs can accomplish