A 48in Full HD Smart TV, Philips' 48PFT5509 rides into town waving a £500 ticket in the face of potential cash-conscious buyers. Its affordable nature isn’t obvious from its design. The frame is on-trend slim, and the open metal stand mirrors much of the competition, too. You don’t, however, get Philips’ Ambilight technology, but I suppose this is a logical enough sacrifice in targeting that £500 mark.

Something else that’s had to give is HDMI provision. There are only two inputs here – ideally even a budget set would have three. But you do get dual USBs, plus wired and wireless network options that support either DLNA playback from networked devices or access to Philips’ Smart TV system. This is a ‘b-list’ affair, thanks to a lack of content (Amazon Instant, Demand 5, 4OD and the ITV Player are noticeable by their absence) and a lack of features (its ‘learning’ abilities are half-cooked to say the least).

Picture features include a 200Hz-emulating system achieved by using backlight scanning with a native 50Hz panel; micro dimming technology that breaks the image down into multiple segments for more accurate analysis and a degree of local optimisation; and Pixel Plus HD processing. The latter is fairly old, having been superseded by at least two newer iterations. Yet that’s not to say it’s incapable of boosting picture quality, especially, experience suggests, in the sharpness department.

Perhaps the biggest compromise Philips has elected to make with the 48PFT5509 to keep it affordable is to not offer 3D.

Standing up to be counted

Performance is decent – this isn't a bargain-bin screen by any stretch of the imagination. Contrast levels in particular impress, with the set achieving deeper, richer blacks than I was prepared for, while HD sources are displayed with ruthless sharpness. Detail levels in pristine sequences, like those in the combat training hall in Edge of Tomorrow, are very high, and pictures sometimes appear so sharp you might imagine you’re looking at a resolution higher than Full HD.

This combination of stygian blacks and cutting sharpness helps the 48PFT5509 with its colours. My Captain Philips Blu-ray comes through with levels of blend finesse well beyond some £500 screens, and Philips' Pixel Plus processing boosts colour and sharpness without invoking as many irksome side effects (such as motion haloing and dot crawl) as I’ve witnessed with older generations of the system.

There are areas where the 48PFT5509’s affordable nature sneaks into view. Standard-definition material isn’t upscaled very well to the TV’s Full HD resolution, for instance, ending up looking a bit messy and simplistically coloured. Sticking to an HD diet is therefore recommended – especially as shadow detail curiously takes a hit with standard-def viewing.

Additionally, sharpness levels with HD can look over the top using the TV’s presets, leading to graininess and harshness until you take the Super Resolution feature down a few notches. At the same time, Kill Bill’s action sequences reveal a reduction in sharpness over fast-moving objects.

Still, the 48PFT5509 generally performs admirably, and its image talents are joined by a healthy sound quality. A woofer on its rear helps it produce noticeable low frequencies, and makes it easier for its other speakers to produce an open-sounding and clear mid-range. There’s not much treble detail, but at least what treble information there is doesn’t sound harsh.