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The 26-inch Philips 26PF5320 is one of the smallest LCD televisions you'll find -- anything smaller is usually classified as a computer monitor, really. This makes it ideal for bedroom use, but not so good for a living room theatre.
It's a fully integrated unit, meaning that it comes with a tuner (analog), speakers and a detachable stand. The chassis is mostly plastic to keep costs down, and while you can't tell just by looking at it, the overall feel is not quite as solid compared to the metal behemoths we're used to.
Speaking of the stand, it doesn't allow for swivelling, so you're stuck watching from the one position unless you physically manhandle the unit each time you move. Granted, the wide horizontal and vertical viewing angles, both of which are 178-degrees, offer some viewing flexibility.
Looks-wise, the 26PF5320 is as attractive as any other sub-30" panel currently on the market, adopting a familiar black and silver colour scheme. Thankfully, the display is coated in a matte rather than a glossy finish, so you won't have to put up with your reflection -- no matter how pretty it may be -- staring back at you while you're watching.
Port and button placement on the unit is excellent. The front of the chassis is mostly bare, with all control buttons being located on the side. Another particularly fine inclusion is a set of composite, S-Video and headphone ports on the left-hand side of the panel, which is very handy for when you need to hook up external devices (such as a camera) on an ad-hoc basis.
Ports are positioned so that cables plug in vertically from the bottom of the unit. This is required for clean wall mounting -- since you can't access the back of the panel when it's flush against a wall -- but is a little tedious when you're trying to hook up components when the panel is attached to the stand. Thankfully, this issue is minimised by the aforementioned side ports.
The panel is HD-ready, supporting signals up to 1080i. It's also got an HDMI connector, which is a big plus (particularly in this price range) since many current and future home theatre components are adopting this standard. Yet like most fully-integrated TV sets, it doesn't offer a digital TV tuner. Instead it's hobbled by an analog offering that fails to realise the full potential of this HD-ready display. Suffice it to say, prospective buyers of this set should definitely factor an HD or SD set-top box into the cost of the set.
For a 26-inch display, the 26PF5320 offers up a high native resolution of 1366x768, which was a pleasant surprise. Its maximum resolution when connected to a PC is 1024x768, however, so you can either use the display as a PC monitor or have PC content showing in a second window while you watch TV.
Connectivity options are impressive and consist of component, two sets of composite, a VGA input and HDMI. There are also a number of left/right stereo audio connectors, but no digital audio support (unless you're hooked up via HDMI which supports the transfer of both digital audio and video through the one cable).
There's no DVI connector per se -- which offers a higher quality digital connection to a PC -- but if you're not using the HDMI connector it's possible to buy a HDMI-to-DVI adapter from most Hi-Fi stores. Alternatively, if your PC doesn't offer a DVI output, you can connect it to the display using the VGA connector.
The set offers up five video presets -- Personal, Rich, Natural, Soft and DVD/VCD -- and four audio presets -- Personal, Theatre, Music and Voice. We found that "natural" was the best video preset, as the rest added noise to the image. For audio, we were most impressed with the theatre mode overall.
For our performance tests we employed a mix of synthetic and real-world benchmarks. Our synthetic testing included various reference patterns from Digital Video Essentials, which is an extremely useful tool for those looking to properly calibrate their display. We also tested the panel's TV playback capabilities through its integrated tuner and an HD set-top box, and rounded out our evaluation by running through a viewing of Constantine on DVD.
For starters, the integrated tuner picked up all free-to-air channels without issue, but being analog, image quality was underwhelming. When we hooked up our HD set-top box and DVD player via the component connection, the panel's image improved tremendously. Colours are vibrant, while skin tones are uniform and don't suffer from an orange tint. The picture is also suitably bright by default, and required minimal adjustments from the default settings (unlike the Sanyo LCD27XR1 whose brightness and contrast settings were set at unnaturally high levels to attract eyeballs in store showrooms).
Like many LCD T V sets, the 26PF5320 has some trouble displaying full detail in darker scenes. This is particularly evident in Constantine, whereby objects -- such as clothing and furniture -- in scenes that use low-key lighting are somewhat lifeless and blend into the background. You have to be concentrating to notice, but it's an issue nonetheless.
Thankfully, motion blur was a non-issue thanks to the panel's low 8ms response time. This makes it a great panel for avid gamers.
The sound quality produced by the two 5W stereo speakers is, as expected, sub-par. It's muddy at the low-end and piercing at the high-end, particularly noticeable at high volume levels. It's passable if you're watching in an enclosed space with lower volume levels, but prospective buyers should definitely consider upgrading to a dedicated audio system.
All in all, the Philips 26PF5320 offers great image quality, HDMI support and an attractive, compact design. It's a stellar choice for your next bedroom TV upgrade.