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Philips 32PFL9604H review: Philips 32PFL9604H

The 32-inch, 1080p 32PFL9604H LCD TV is a striking set for a number of reasons. Firstly, it's beautifully built. Secondly, unlike most rival 'online' sets, it offers full and enjoyable Internet access. Finally, its picture and sound quality are truly fantastic. This glorious TV doesn't come cheap, though

Alex Jennings
4 min read

As part of Philips' flagship 9000 series, we'd expect the £1,000 32PFL9604H to be fully loaded with features and technology. But this 32-inch LCD TV actually surpasses expectations, thanks to Philips' ground-breaking decision to let you access the whole Internet, rather than just a customised section of it, as happens with rival 'online' TVs.


Philips 32PFL9604H

The Good

Picture and sound quality are outstanding; it's got more features than we've had hot dinners; online functionality works surprisingly well; looks very attractive.

The Bad

Surfing the Internet isn't as easy as it is on a PC; no keyboard or mouse option is planned; steep price for a 32-inch TV; care needs to be taken with its picture settings.

The Bottom Line

With the online functionality of most TVs currently leaving us underwhelmed, it's really great to find the Philips 32PFL9604H giving us the surfing freedom we crave. But significant though the 32PFL9604H's online features are, it's ultimately the TV's stunning picture quality that really inspires

Beautifully built
Before we get onto the 32PFL9604H's key 'Net TV' functions, there's a trio of more immediate attractions to cover. Firstly, this set is beautifully built, sporting a strikingly slender brushed-aluminium bezel, offset by charcoal grey highlights. Secondly, this being a Philips TV, the 32PFL9604H boasts Ambilight technology, whereby pools of coloured light, similar in tone to the content of the image, spill from the set's left and right sides. Thirdly, the TV's connectivity is outstanding. Among the highlights are five HDMI sockets, a USB port (able to play back all kinds of photo, movie, slideshow and music files), and the all-important Ethernet jack for accessing the Internet.

The Ethernet port can also be used for streaming files from a DLNA-certified PC. If this dual use of the Ethernet port sounds potentially troublesome, fear not -- the 32PFL9604H also carries built-in 802.11g Wi-Fi. Cool.

Online opulence
The 32PFL9604H's online functionality comes in two 'layers'. The first layer is a lobby providing access to preferred content providers, with services specially adapted to work conveniently with the TV's swanky remote control. These services comprise YouTube, Funspot (online games), MyAlbum.com, a weather forecast site, and last, but certainly not least, the really rather nifty Tunin.fm online radio service. This is already a level above what's on offer with most rival online systems, but a link on the lobby page takes you through to the cherry on top: a full Internet browser.

The 32PFL9604H not only looks great, it offers full Web access and fantastic picture quality

Browsing the Internet via your TV remote isn't ideal. It's harder to navigate around pages and access links without a mouse, and inputting hyperlink text without a proper keyboard is always going to be a chore. But, thanks to a neat on-screen virtual keyboard and the possibility of inputting often-used Internet phrases like 'www' and '.co.uk' with the press of just one button, surfing the Web on the 32PFL9604H isn't nearly as frustrating an experience as expected.

This, together with the freedom of having the whole Internet at your disposal, means that the 32PFL9604H's online access is something you'll probably use regularly, rather than being a mere sideshow, as it is with most TVs.

Pristine pictures
The 32PFL9604H's Internet access and striking design are far from the only thing it's got going for it. It also boasts the latest version of Philips' Perfect Pixel HD video-processing engine. Capable of handling a gob-smacking 500m pixels a second, Perfect Pixel HD takes on a wide range of picture-improvement processes, targeted at everything from contrast and colour to noise reduction, motion reproduction and extra detail interpolation. And the system really does work.

For the vast majority of the time, the 32PFL9604H's pictures are simply outstanding. One of the reasons for this is that the TV enjoys a seriously impressive contrast range -- some of the richest blacks we've seen on a 32-inch TV sit side by side with bright, rich colours and whites.

Pictures are breathtakingly sharp, too. The set's 1080p resolution perfectly presents every pixel from high-definition sources, while the Perfect Pixel HD processing does an unprecedentedly excellent job of sharpening up standard-definition images by adding extra detail and applying sophisticated new noise-suppression techniques. The sharpness scarcely drops off at all when the set is showing motion, either, as the TV's motion processing and 100Hz engine pretty much eliminate LCD's common judder and smearing issues.

On top of all this, the 32PFL9604H also produces a startlingly vibrant, expressive colour palette that clearly proves the worth of a new 17-bit colour-processing engine.

The TV also boasts impressively potent audio. The set cleverly employs two mid-range drivers on the rear and twin dome tweeters in the fascia. This approach helps produce levels of clarity, volume and dynamic range rarely heard on such a small TV.

Aside from the fact that the 32PFL9604H's feature and performance prowess don't come cheap, there's only one thing we felt any concern about: you can mess pictures up quite badly if you're not unusually careful with some of the picture settings. For example, the Perfect Natural Motion tool can cause heavy shimmering around moving objects if you leave it set too high, while an 'advanced sharpness' option can actually make some pictures look rather gritty.

Philips' latest excursion down the TV innovation trail is a startling success. The 32PFL9604H's full Internet access makes it the most useful online TV yet. It's the set's terrific AV performance that really makes it special, though, especially if you don't mind regularly getting down and dirty with the myriad picture options.

Edited by Charles Kloet