A year ago, a 42-inch LCD with an integrated HD tuner would have cost upwards of AU$5,000. Fast forward 12 months and Philips has released the 42PFL7532D for well under AU$3,000. No, it's not one of its (literally) flashy Ambilight models, but just what do you get for this more reasonable price point?
This 42-inch Philips is not an unattractive LCD TV, it's just that there's not much more to say about the design other than it's a simple wide-screen display surrounded by a 5cm, now de rigueur, high gloss black deco frame. If you're looking for slim and simple, this is it, as the speakers are situated underneath the display and the set itself is quite compact for its screen size. It does have a very solid silver desktop stand that swivels approximately 30 degrees each way, which is fabulous for adjusting the viewing angles in large, open plan rooms.
The remote control is a slender, light-weight unit. The buttons are quite small, but the frequently used ones are well located -- the power button stands out in the middle of the top of the remote and the mute key is situated on its own between the channel and volume up/down bars in the middle of the remote.
This TV does have two HDMI ports, which is pretty much the minimum for HD TVs these days. It also has one component connection and strangely, two SCART ports, which is a type of connection commonly found in Europe, but rarely on AV devices in this country. Our demo unit came with one SCART to S-Video/composite adaptor, but with the way it was configured, it would not be possible to use a second adaptor to make use of both SCART ports. Unless you're using an AV receiver in your set-up, this connectivity issue may be a limitation, depending on what devices you want to hook up to this display or your willingness to purchase extra SCART cables.
A side panel does offer headphones, USB, composite and S-Video connections should you want to link up things like games consoles, camcorders and cameras. Its multimedia browser allows you to view JPEG photos and play music and movies stored on a USB device.
Although it's not full 1080p high definition capable, with a resolution of 1366 x 768, the 42PFL7532D can handle 720p and 1080i HD signals. An HD digital tuner is integrated in the unit, so the days of the external set-top box are pretty much over, even for mid-range LCD TVs.
It has pretty good specs for an LCD panel in this size/price range: a dynamic contrast ratio of 7500:1 and a 5ms response time. The remote has a dedicated EPG button that displays a Now + Next electronic programming guide.
Set-up is fairly simple, with the menu system easy to understand. Many menu options that deal with calibration have text explanations which are helpful, if not thorough enough to do the job accurately.
Pixel Plus 2 HD is a signature Philips technology that purports to enhance each pixel of the incoming signal to better match surrounding pixels, resulting in a sharper and more natural looking picture. Indeed, we have few complaints with the image quality of the 42PFL7532D -- the colours are vivid and the skin tones natural, but the clarity in black scenes was somewhat less successful.
As expected, its picture performed best with higher resolution sources. Watching an HD DVD disc of Mission Impossible 3 on the Toshiba XE1, the 42PFL7532D handled its many action scenes with no blurring. Beads of sweat on Ethan's face during the interrogation scene were depicted with an almost 3D realism. There was some lack of detail in dark scenes, but that result could be in part due to the movie itself.
Watching our standard test DVD King Kong through a Samsung upscaling DVD player was also pretty satisfying. We saw none of the cloudiness or backlight inconsistencies in its many dark scenes that often plague LCD panels. Putting the same DVD in a standard player predictably showed up less detail, but the colour rendition was still impressive.
Considering the size of the two 15W built-in speakers underneath the display, the audio is quite good. Mid-range and dialogue sounds fine, but not surprisingly, it is tested at low and high registers. The bass does sound a bit fuller when the Virtual Dolby Digital option is activated.
One quirk we encountered was its Auto Format Feature. When this is on, the picture can unexpectedly jump to zoom in to fill the screen or just as quickly zoom out. This is particularly common when there is text onscreen, as when credits roll at the end of a movie. It is annoying, but quickly fixed by changing the Picture Format setting to wide-screen.