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The Philips' 32PF5520D certainly isn't breaking any new ground when it comes to design, sporting the simple yet functional black frame and silver trim many other flatscreen sets now seem to have. That's not to say it doesn't look good -- it does, with its neat design it will easily match any living room environment. Philips has also gone a step further down the minimalist track by not including any controls on the front of the unit, with only the company logo on the bottom to intrude on the clean design. The television's included silver stand is similarly minimal.
The 32PF5520D's main controls can be found on the left side of the panel, including a power switch, volume and menu buttons. There's also an AV input and digital audio out for ease of access. The bulk of the Philip's connectors can be found at the back of the television, and are mounted facing down as opposed to facing out the back. This means that cables stick down vertically instead of horizontally -- obviously ideal if you plan to wall mount the set, but it's initially tricky to deal with as your head needs to be below the set to see which connectors are which.
Philips has obviously heard CNET.com.au's constant pleas for new televisions to come pre-installed with high definition tuners, as the 32PF5520D is fitted with both an analog and digital tuner (as does its plasma equivalent, the 42PF7520D). The good news is tempered by some bad, however, as unlike the high definition LG range of flatscreen plasma and LCDs, the digital tuner in this Philips is only standard definition. Still, an SD tuner does get you into the digital domain, with its picture still a marked improvement over analog.
Specifications-wise, the Philips 32PF5520D has some decent if not outstanding features befitting its mid-range status. Panel resolution is a high 1366x768 pixels, which is good enough for 720p high definition should you choose to get a high def tuner. This Philips LCD has a brightness of 500 cd/m2 and a contrast ratio of 600:1, which is a little on the low side compared to what LG is claiming with its new 32-inch 32LX2D (600 cd/m2 brightness and 1200:1 contrast) and Sony's mid-range Bravia KLV-S32A10 (480 cd/m2 brightness and 1000:1 contrast ratio). The 32PF5520D's response time is rated at 18ms, which is once again a little on the unimpressive side compared to other similar models, such as the Sony Bravia which is rated at 8ms. Response time rates how fast an LCD screen can refresh the image it's displaying, with quicker response times (the lower the number, the faster) resulting in smoother movement.
The 32PF5520D comes with an HDMI input, the all digital connector for both sound and vision. It's an impressive inclusion, and is the standout offering in an otherwise basic set of connections. As well as HDMI, the set has one component, one PC-VGA and two S-Video/composite inputs. Another high definition connector like HDMI or component would have been welcome.
As for sound, this Philips television features 2x15W of power, as well as Virtual Dolby Surround audio technology and Dynamic Bass Enhancement. If you're serious about your home theatre, you'll obviously want to have a proper surround sound system in place. But the sound this Philips pumps out is more than adequate if it's meant to be a second television in your home.
Philips has loaded the 32PF5520D with a host of picture enhancing add-ons including jagged line suppression, sharpness adjustment, digital noise reduction and its own Digital Crystal Clear technology. Sharpness seems to be the main benefactor from all this whiz-bangery, with the 32PF5520D producing an exceptionally detailed picture with crisp edges. We took the set through its paces using the AVI Video Essentials DVD as our reference, and when it came to sharpness the Philips set was outstanding, recreating arrow straight lines without any jagged edges.
Colours on the set appear natural, although the television's default settings could give the picture an oversaturated look at times. We played the first Papa Midnight scene from the recent film Constantine, which features plenty of deep blacks and reds, and found the Philips struggled somewhat to reproduce the picture. The reds in the scene had little gradient and could at times appear splotchy. And while the black levels of the 32PF5520D were acceptable, it still seemed a little bright for our liking. We tested the Philips side by side with a Hitachi plasma and found blacks much deeper on the plasma set. In the bug attack scene in Constantine, the Philips could only pick minimal detail on Keanu Reeves wet, black jacket.
That said, for normal television viewing (particularly through the in-built digital tuner) the Philips excelled, producing an impressive picture that was pleasing to the eye.
The 32-inch space is a hotly contested one in LCD televisions at the moment, with plenty of offerings from all of the major manufacturers. Philips 32PF5520D is a decent performer with some notable pluses (such as its built-in digital tuner), but for a mid-range offering its price of AU$3699 puts it perilously close to the high-end models of players like LG and Sony. For only AU$300 more, LG is offering higher specs and a built-in digital tuner with its 32LX2D, while the top of the line Sony Bravia KLV-V32A10 is similarly priced at AU$3999.