Once the Philips was adjusted, we arranged it next to a few other flat-panel sets we had on hand--namely the Sharp LC-46D6U LCD, the JVC LT-40FN97 LCD, Philips's own 42-inch 42PF9631D plasma, and the Panasonic TH-50PH9UK plasma--and slipped SWAT into our Samsung BD-P1000 Blu-ray player. Note that we used the player's 720p output, because according to our tests, 1080i looked softer; we recommend using 720p with the Philips whenever possible.
It wasn't long before the two most noticeable aspects of the Philips's image quality came through. The depth of black it produced, from the letterbox bars to the black guns and the underside of a helicopter, to the shadows as the team descends from the roof into the back halls of the bank, was very good--nearly as deep as that of the Sharp and the Panasonic, and noticeably deeper than the JVC's. As always, deep black levels contributed plenty of impact to the image, and also helped increase color saturation. We did notice that shadows didn't have quite as much detail as with the plasma, but they were comparable to other LCDs' in the room.
The other aspect we immediately noticed, however, was not so desirable. The dark areas of the picture, especially those letterbox bars, near-black shadows, and dark police uniforms, were tinged with too much blue, more so than on any of the other sets we had on hand. This was due to the set's inaccurate color temperature in dark areas, which persisted regardless of which preset we chose or what we did to calibrate the Philips. Luckily, it didn't extend into brighter areas, which generally exhibited much more accurate color, although they still weren't as good as we'd like to see. Color accuracy wasn't helped by the Philips's slight red push, which limited saturation somewhat, and its significant de-accentuation of green areas, which made areas such as the grass on the training range appear less saturated than we'd like to see. Finally, the primary color of red was off by quite a bit, causing red areas to appear somewhat more shifted toward orange than they should.
As we mentioned above, resolution patterns revealed that the Philips 37PF9631D delivered superior sharpness with 720p sources than with 1080i. It was difficult to see the difference between the two in program material, so it's not a huge issue, but we recommend going with 720p when you can. In its favor, the Philips didn't introduce any edge enhancement when we turned the sharpness down all the way.
The Philips showed better uniformity across its screen than many LCDs we've tested. When the image went black, there was only a slightly brighter area on the left edge, which basically disappeared on almost all program material. Compared to other LCDs we've seen, the 37PF9631D stayed relatively true from off-angle, although its darker areas did wash out somewhat more than did those on the Sharp, for example.
When we ran the Philips 37PF9631D through the HQV test DVD via 480i component-video to evaluate its standard-def performance, the results were mixed. It passed the 2:3 pull-down test well, quickly engaging film mode to eliminate moving lines in the bleachers behind the race car. It also aced the noise reduction sections; engaging maximum DRN cleaned up the noisy images extremely well, with little loss in sharpness. The Philips did little to smooth the jagged edges in moving diagonal lines, however, and details in a stone bridge and a gold statue were somewhat soft. We tried engaging the Pixel Plus processing in many of these tests, and it did sharpen the edge of moving text slightly, so we'd recommend leaving it engaged.
Next, we tested the Ambilight feature. As in the past, we didn't find the modes where the lights aped the onscreen action--the dynamic modes--all that desirable. The lights shining on the back wall tended to distract us from the action, especially during dark scenes when they seemed too bright, regardless of the brightness setting. Of all the dynamic modes, we liked the least intense one, called Relaxed, the best, but it still changed too abruptly. In a scene from SWAT in a dark restaurant, for example, our attention to the film was diverted by the sudden increase in the intensity of the backlight as the shot switched between a mostly dark wide shot and a mostly light close-up. Soon afterward, the light seemed to become too red, then dimmed for little reason. The disconnect between the lights and the screen material again contributed to distraction.
Then again, maybe we're just easily distracted; at least one CNET staffer who watched the lights didn't seem to mind the effect. We all preferred the static backlight, however, and the Cool White setting looked the most neutral. When we measured it, Cool White came commendably close to the ideal for a home-theater-quality backlight. It's an important benefit of Ambilight that, especially with a midsize television, it can help reduce the incidence of eyestrain when you watch TV in a darkened room. Of course, you could buy a backlight to use with any TV and get the same effect.
|Before color temp (20/80)||9,441/7,069K||Poor|
|After color temp||7,918/6,502K||Poor|
|Before grayscale variation||+/- 774K||Poor|
|After grayscale variation||+/- 256K||Average|
|Color of red (x/y)||0.614/0.340||Poor|
|Color of green||0.270/0.601||Average|
|Color of blue||0.144/0.063||Good|
|Black-level retention||All patterns stable||Good|
|2:3 pull-down, 24fps||Yes||Good|
|Defeatable edge enhancement||Yes||Good|