Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
- Excellent high definition performance, reasonable DVD playback, attractive design, Ambilight and Pixel Plus features
- Overly complex connection options, some minor noise in our HD and SD tests
If you're in the market for a good all-round unit, the Philips 32PF9531/79 will fit the bill nicely.
Price$ 2,199.95 (AUD)
The Philips 32PF9631D is a 32in LCD TV with a native resolution of 1366x768. We tested the unit's standard definition and high definition playback and found it to be a jack-of-all-trades. In our high definition tests and in our standard definition tests, the TV performed well with only a few minor flaws to report.
High definition (720p, 1080i)
To test its high definition performance, we connected the TV to the same types of devices you might use at home. We ran gaming tests using the Xbox 360 and also checked the image quality by watching HD-DVD movies.
On the Xbox 360 we played Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 and Tony Hawk's Project 8 at 720p and found that the image quality was excellent. There wasn't any pixelation on curved and diagonal edges and fine details were easily visible without any aberrations. The black levels were also reasonable but not quite as rich as we have seen on other LCD panels. There wasn't any image noise or over-sharpening. If you plan to hook up an HD gaming console like the Xbox 360 or the Playstation 3, this TV will perform beautifully.
We also viewed the Empire State Building finale from the King Kong HD-DVD at resolution of 1080i. It looked impressive for the most part, except for a minor level of noise in some of the darker areas and in points of high contrast. From a regular viewing distance this problem isn't as noticeable, but AV purists may find it annoying nonetheless. This problem aside, the image quality from HD-DVD still looked great.
Standard definition (576i)
The most common source of standard definition video is your DVD player. As such, we tested the TV's standard definition performance using three DVD movies.
For our first test we used the Philips CE2006 Demo DVD, which consists of a series of still photos that are designed to check contrast, colour and sharpness. In this test we found few problems, most of which were easily correctable. There was very slight over-sharpening, but after we reduced the sharpness level using the on-screen display (OSD) it quickly disappeared. The colour was excellent. There weren't any overbearing colours and there weren't any contrast issues. As we found in the HD tests, the black levels on this Philips weren't as good as other TVs we have reviewed, but they were still quite reasonable.
In the second test we used the Digital Video Essentials DVD. This DVD also consists of still images, but they are test patterns, which are used to check for any image quality flaws at a fundamental level. We didn't find any problems in this test. In tests where many panels falter, the Philips passed with flying colours.
For our final standard definition test we watched the lobby scene from The Matrix. In this test we didn't find any over-sharpening or contrast problems and there weren't any pixelation or discolouration problems. The only issue to report was a minor level of image noise. This noise was above and beyond what we expect from the standard definition scaling, but it was only slightly worse than other TVs we have reviewed.
If you're buying this TV to watch DVDs, you will be largely happy with the result. There were a few issues that we detected, but they were either correctable or not severe enough to hamper regular viewing.
Design, speakers and tuner
The 32PF9631D is a two sided Ambilight system with Pixel Plus 2 HD technology and Digital Natural Motion. Have a look at our review of the Philips 42PF9831 to learn more about the features and benefits of these technologies.
This unit has a piano black bezel with a silver speaker underneath. It is also much thicker LCD panel than most TVs on the market due to the Ambilight system. If you were to look at this panel on face value, it would be considered an above average panel. However, the biggest flaw of this unit, and one that will frustrate users to no end, is its connectivity. At the rear of the unit there are two HDMI connections and two SCART connectors. SCART is a connection type that is used mainly in Europe, but it isn't generally used in Australia. To connect via SCART you will need to use the provided converter which adds composite and S-Video functionality. There is also one Component connection on the unit, but in order to use it with accompanying audio, you will need to use an RCA to 3.5mm stereo converter cable. This is unheard of in the LCD TV market. Normally, Component video connections are coupled with RCA audio ports. These connection methods are overly complex and run against the grain of what the average user is used to in this country.
The speakers on the 32PF9631D are top-notch. They supply rich audio with very little distortion at high volume levels. We tested both the serious and virtual surround sound options and found both to be quite impressive.
This unit also has a high definition TV tuner, which worked beautifully in our tests. The setup process was quick and painless and switching between channels was quick and easy.
If you're in the market for a good all-round unit, the Philips 32PF9531/79 fits the bill nicely. It can handle high definition beautifully and it's more than satisfactory for watching DVDs. However, those wanting to connect a PC will be disappointed as this TV doesn't have a PC output.
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