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Philips 32PF9830 review: Philips 32PF9830 LCD TV

If you're after a TV to impress people with the quality that LCD can deliver, there are few models that can line up with Philips Philips 32PF9830 for pure picture quality.

Alex Kidman
Alex Kidman is a freelance word writing machine masquerading as a person, a disguise he's managed for over fifteen years now, including a three year stint at ZDNet/CNET Australia. He likes cats, retro gaming and terrible puns.
Alex Kidman
5 min read
Whether the 32PF9830 features a good design or bad design is a matter of personal taste; on the one hand it's a very stylish looking 32 panel suitable for either wall mounting (a bracket is provided) or free standing, and a motorised stand is provided as part of the package. Some of our test viewing participants/subjects did note that the main bezel is rather thick, and this has the perceptual drawback of reducing what you'd presume the visible area to be, in the same way that very thin bezels can seem to enhance the perceived screen size. As a 82 cm (32-inch) panel, it's a tad smaller than the current industry darling size of 106 cm (42-inch), although depending on your room configurations, an 82 cm screen is actually better suited for smaller rooms.

The panel itself measures in at 1000 x 605 x 96mm with an overall weight of 20Kg -- more if you're including the motorised stand. Initial installation is very simple indeed, as once you've got it unpacked and screwed into the stand (or mounted on the wall), the setup process takes you through a very simplified process for initial contrast and brightness settings. It uses a series of visually split pictures with differing contrast levels, and you simply pick which one looks best in your situation. While it's no substitute for finely tuning your panel, it's a good way to quickly get a decent picture out of the 32PF9830. It's worth noting that each individual input on the 32PF9830 can store its own picture settings, so you can have both real theatre blacks for your flicks and radiant colours for those late-night gaming sessions.


Philips 32PF9830

The Good

Superb picture quality. Simple or complex setup. Comes with motorised stand. Plenty of inputs, including DVI and HDMI.

The Bad

DSP can make poor quality pictures look uneven. No integrated digital tuner. Speakers only average. Expensive.

The Bottom Line

If you're after a TV to impress people with the quality that LCD can deliver, there are few models that can line up with Philips Philips 32PF9830 for pure picture quality -- as long as you've got plenty of high definition content to display it with. With the perilous state of digital TV in Australia, that's hardly a sure thing, but even with standard definition signals the Philips 32PF9830 impresses.

The included remote is on the chunky side, but it's very well laid out and common functions are exceptionally easy to locate even in a darkened room. Likewise, the on-screen display -- which includes features for picture-in-picture display and automatic or user-selected zooming as required -- is clear and easy to understand, with plenty of hidden depth for tinkerers who like having their picture settings to be fractionally perfected.

The 32PF9830's 82 cm panel has a top resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels in 16:9 format. This makes it suitable for all the HD video formats, as well as most PC applications. In terms of signal processing, it supports Philips Pixel Plus 2 HD and Digital Natural Motion technologies -- these are essentially designed to enhance picture quality and smoothness which is a common complaint for LCD TV viewing.

It also features the 2nd generation of Philips Ambilight technology. On first glance, Ambilight seems somewhat like a marketing gimmick -- a pair of lights at the back of the screen flare up in sync with the on-screen display, theoretically enhancing the visual experience by reducing eye strain and focusing on the display. The 2nd generation of Ambilight allows each side light to act independently of each other, so if there are wildly different tones on each side of the screen they'll match appropriately. The 32PF9830 lets you set the Ambilight modes from the rather hefty remote, or if the whole idea annoys you, switch it off for all time.

The 32PF9830 features three inbuilt and very well hidden speakers with reasonable tone and range, although we're somewhat at a loss to imagine too many people who can stump up five grand for a TV not being able to afford at least a low-range audio system to plug into it. There's no integrated digital tuner of any type, so you'll need to take up one of the 32PF9830's inputs with a digital set top box in order to get any free-to-air HD or SD content into the 32PF9830.

The 32PF9830 is well provided with connection options with a total of seven connectors -- three SCART RGB (which with the right convertors can be used for RGB, Composite and S-Video connections) as well as component, DVI and HDMI connectors running from the base of the screen. There's also a set of composite and S-video connectors and a stereo audio connector on the side of the panel, presumably with the video gaming crowd in mind. The 32PF9830 also features a multi-format memory card reader for displaying pictures as well as a USB port that can read picture data from USB thumb drives as well as performing firmware upgrades.

The 32PF9830 features an astonishing level of clarity with HD content; it's one of the most impressive display panels we've ever seen with the right content. In terms of making a future-proof investment in digital TV, it's a good bet, but right now you'll have to hunt and peck to find HD content being broadcast. Standard definition signals were equally quite good, although we did notice that the further down the connection quality chain you went, the more the 32PF9830's inbuilt signal processing tended to introduce corrective errors that gave some signals -- especially composite ones -- an unnatural look.

The inbuilt Ambilight 2 features do seem to smack of more marketing talk than reality, until you sit down for some time and watch it go to work. We tested with the 32PF9830 on its stand, so the experience may differ for a wall mounted unit where the light could be caught more on the wall. Once you get over the initial shock of having an glowing blue (or whatever) wall, you'll accept it as part of the overall TV package; we had to keep pushing our eyes away from the screen to keep up with the rapid Ambilight changes in some scenes in The Matrix -- and that kind of focus on the screen is exactly what Ambilight's meant to do.

The 32PF9830's isn't a cheap TV, and five grand could buy you a lot more screen space in a plasma or even a larger LCD in a lower-quality display. If you've got the cash to splash, however, there are few TVs that can match up to this exceptional panel.

(Author's disclaimer: The author personally owns a Philips 32PF9830 LCD TV, which is used for general testing of TV products for CNET.com.au and other publications.)