Philips's 30PW9818 is the company's top-of-the-line 30-inch, direct-view, HDTV-capable set. Along with Samsung's TXM3098WHF, it's one of the few wide-screen televisions of this size, offering HDTV and wide-screen DVD in a package that won't devour half your living room. The 30PW9818 includes a well-populated jack panel and a proprietary picture-processing mode, Picture Plus, which cleans up cable and satellite TV images nicely. The catch? You'll pay significantly more for this set than for the Samsung or even some 34-inch models. That factor, combined with a few performance-related complaints, puts this slick-looking Philips at a disadvantage in today's hotly contested HDTV marketplace. This handsome little tube set sports the fashionable all-silver finish and a clean, almost antiseptic front panel that'll complement a minimalist decor. The stereo speakers are stealthily hidden behind fine, perforated grilles to either side of the screen. A single power button is the only other visible feature; you may miss other front-panel buttons if you misplace the remote.
Side-panel A/V inputs with S-Video make for convenient camcorder and/or video game hookup without the wire clutter of conventional front-panel A/V inputs, although they're also less convenient to connect. The universal remote, although extremely comprehensive in its functionality, is somewhat awkward and complex in its layout. A red backlight, activated by pressing a button at the side, illuminates the number and channel/volume +/- keys. The 30PW9818's feature package includes a couple of performance-related items. The Digital Natural Motion line-doubling converts standard TV to more stable progressive-scan 480p but unfortunately lacks 3:2 pull-down processing (see Performance for more). The other mode for use with regular TV, Philips's proprietary Pixel Plus, purportedly adds additional pixels to every line for increased sharpness and detail in the picture. Like most other HDTV-capable sets, the 30PW9818 will display a 1080i signal without processing, but 720p HDTV must be converted by an external high-definition tuner.
A total of four picture presets are onboard, in addition to one custom mode for adjusting brightness, contrast, and so on. Unfortunately there's no way to save more than one set of adjustments or to associate custom settings with specific inputs. Three color-temperature modes give you a choice of the overall tone of the picture. A good selection of aspect ratios is available to fill the wide screen, including Automatic, Super Zoom, 4:3, Movie Expand 4:3, Movie Expand 16:9, 16:9 Subtitle, and Widescreen. A best-of-breed 3D YC comb filter cleans up composite-video sources such as VHS and cable TV.
You'll also find slew of convenience features. The ones worth mentioning include dual-tuner PIP (picture-in-picture) with a side-by-side option, a volume leveler that tames the peaks of volume between programs and commercials, a built-in subwoofer and four-channel surround sound, and several preset sound modes.
The connectivity suite on this set is fairly well fleshed out, the highlight being a total of three component-video inputs. AV 1 will accept only 480i/480p signals from a DVD player, while AV 3 and AV 4 are supposed to support 480i/480p- and 1080i-component sources, respectively. Strangely, our review sample's AV 3 and 4 inputs would accept only 1080i HDTV and not 480p from our Panasonic DVD-RP62 DVD player (though they worked fine with the Philips and Samsung players we tried). On the back panel, there is also one S-Video input, one composite-video input, and an RGB input for use with a computer. The side-panel A/V inputs with S-Video include a headphone jack. Unlike some HDTVs, the 30PW9818 does not have a DVI input for use with next-generation set-top HD receivers. We noticed pluses and minuses with the 30PW9818's performance, but overall, the set was a little disappointing compared to the competition. The Warm color-temperature setting was reasonably close to the NTSC standard of 6,500 Kelvin at the top of the grayscale, measuring 7,500 Kelvin, but quite blue at 9,500 on the bottom. Unfortunately, we were unable to obtain the information necessary to enter the service menu and calibrate the grayscale, so we had to settle for calibrating the set with the picture controls in the user menu. Afterward, the color decoder still exhibited a significant red push, making it necessary to reduce the color setting to produce natural-looking color.
Looking at the opening of Star Trek: Insurrection, we were disappointed to find that the set's line-doubling lacks the all-important 3:2 pull-down processing, which helps remove motion artifacts from film-based sources. Such an omission is unacceptable considering that just about everything else on the market does. While a progressive-scan DVD player will take care of this problem for DVD movies, it is important to note that 75 percent of prime-time television on cable, satellite, and off-air broadcasts is produced on film and would benefit greatly from 3:2 pull-down.
The Pixel Plus feature has two settings: Progressive Scan and Pixel Plus. Pixel Plus added an objectionable amount of edge enhancement to DVD material, but it works well to clean up poor broadcast signals, particularly cable TV.
After our limited calibration of the set, we checked out chapter 31 of Charlotte Gray via the interlaced outputs of the Panasonic DVD-RP62K. Color wasn't as saturated as we're use to because we had to compensate for the red push, and we noticed some motion artifacts. Otherwise, the image looked good.
We were limited in our HDTV evaluation because both AV 3 and AV 4 component inputs stopped working midway through our evaluation. We assume something was wrong with our review sample. Philips has promised to replace our review sample, and when it does, we'll update this review accordingly. The little we did see of X-Men from the JVC HM-DH3000U D-Theater D-VHS deck looked awesome, with none of the softening we've seen on some direct-view HDTVs.