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Philips 47PFL9732D review: Philips 47PFL9732D

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Philips had made a living daring to be different with its HDTVs, from funky designs to built-in backlighting. The 47-inch 47PFL9732D, the company's least expensive 120Hz-equipped LCD for the 2007 model year, is no different. Sure, its external appearance cuts a less distinctive jib than many of the company's other sets, but it still looks great when turned off and still offers that unique Ambilight backlight, which is designed to light up the wall behind the TV. When the picture is turned on, this HDTV finds itself squarely in the middle of the pack, exhibiting adequate back levels and solid video processing. Its inaccurate primary colors keep it from earning a higher recommendation, however, and poor off-angle viewing doesn't help. Still, if you're looking for an HDTV that dares to be different, the Philips 47PFL9732D fits the bill nicely.

6.9

Philips 47PFL9732D

Pricing Not Available

The Good

Accurate color temperature after calibration; user-menu fine color temperature controls; 120Hz mode lacks de-judder processing; handsome styling with swivel stand; ample connectivity with three HDMI inputs.

The Bad

Inaccurate primary and secondary colors; poor off-angle viewing characteristics; awkward menu system.

The Bottom Line

While a few picture quality issues keep the Philips 47PFL9732D out of the top tier, it's still a solid nonconforming HDTV.

Design
The Philips 47PFL9732D represents one of the company's more staid designs. It's entirely black, with a glossy bezel around the screen and matte for the rest of the cabinet. Below the screen there's a subtly raked-back area that's perforated to emit sound from the speakers. Philips includes its customary glass-topped swivel base that supports the TV on a silver column. Overall, we really liked the set's understated, classy appearance.

Including stand, the 47PFL9732D measures 46.5 inches wide by 32.2 inches tall by 12 inches deep and weighs 90.4 pounds; without the stand it measures 46.5 by 29.6 by 4.6 inches and weighs 70.5 pounds.

Philips 47PFL9732D
A pair of Ambilight backlights, one on each side, can be found on the rear of the panel.

Though Philips has had some cool-looking but painful-to-use remotes in the past, this clicker is a bit better. Its angled lines and silver finish will look great on your glass-top coffee table, and it does include partial backlighting. Sure, there's no Exit key to back out of menus, and the color-coded soft keys are too close together for easy use, but otherwise, its spacing and button choice are perfectly acceptable. We can't accept Philips' menu design though. It takes seemingly forever to get to the picture menu, and in general we found navigation confusing and counterintuitive. The menus obscure the entire screen most of the time, and when you finally do get to an adjustment, the menu parameter still obscures half of the screen--we'd prefer a discreet, smaller overlay.

Features
Philips' trademark flat-panel extra is the Ambilight system, which, on the 47PFL9732D, consists of a set of colored fluorescent lights arranged vertically to either side of the back of the TV. Depending on the backdrop--a lighter wall produces brighter reflections--the lights create a colorful accompaniment to the onscreen image. A comprehensive set of controls handles the color and brightness of the lights, and you can choose whether to have the color and brightness mimic the onscreen image, display a constant color, or be turned off completely (our preferred setting).

Philips 47PFL9732D
Numerous controls are available to customize the Ambilight effect.

The 47PFL9732D is equipped with 120Hz technology, which the company says cuts down on blurring in motion. The explanation of the set's 120Hz feature, found in the menu, also claims a ridiculous number of other improvements, from black levels to viewing angle. See the Performance section below for our findings on this feature. It's worth noting here that, unlike Sony, Toshiba, and Hitachi, for example, Philips did not include any kind of "de-judder" processing in this model to go with the 120Hz--you'll have to wait for the company's '08 models for that.

Philips 47PFL9732D
The Philips' 120Hz mode can be turned on or off with a menu item, and claims numerous highly suspect advantages.

The Philips 47PFL9732D is a 1080p HDTV, which means it has a native resolution of 1,920x1,080, enough pixels to fully resolve the detail of 1080i and 1080p sources. All other incoming resolutions, such as 720p and 480p, are scaled to fit the available pixels.

Philips' set offers three nonadjustable picture presets, and when you make adjustments, it reverts to a "current" picture setting. Unfortunately, changing back to one of the presets erases your settings, so there's no way to use one preset for one kind of material or lighting condition and still save your settings. We did appreciate that, unlike previous Philips TVs, any changes are saved independently per input.

We definitely missed having a backlight control, which controls the intensity of the light emanating from the screen and can really improve black-level performance if adjusted properly (that is, turned down). Among the advanced controls the Philips does offer, we left most turned off. According to the manual, Pixel Perfect HD performs a host of enhancements designed to "make every single pixel the best it can be," although in our testing we couldn't tell much difference. Dynamic contrast, Active control, and the light sensor all automatically adjust the picture on the fly in response to content or room lighting, so we left them turned off. And color enhancement didn't seem to do anything, so we left it off as well. We did appreciate the noise reduction controls, however, and used the adjustable color temperature controls to good effect during calibration.

Philips 47PFL9732D
User-menu selections allow advanced users to tweak the Philips' color temperature beyond the presets.

Philips also includes a Settings Assistant, which is a step-by-step tutorial designed to help you adjust the 47PFL9732D's picture. When you start the Settings Assistant, it splits the screen down the middle and shows you a series of images; then you determine whether you like the left or right side better. For whatever reason, this option seemed to work better on the 47-inch 47PFL9732D than it did on the 42-inch 42PFL7432D we reviewed earlier. After choosing the options we liked best--namely ones that showed shadow detail and weren't too bright, edge-enhanced, or oversaturated--the picture came pretty close to ideal for home theater in our darkened room. A manual setup still works better overall, but naturally it's much more time consuming.

Philips 47PFL9732D
The Settings Assistant on this Philips model produced perfectly acceptable results.

Aspect-ratio control is a mixed bag, with the 47PFL9732D offering five modes for standard-def sources but only two for high-def. The two high-def choices are Unscaled, which is a "dot-by-dot" mode displaying every pixel of 1080i and 1080p sources with no overscan, and Widescreen, which produces some overscan if you want to eliminate interference on the outer edges of the picture. There are no zoom or stretch modes for high-def sources, which will disappoint anyone looking to eliminate black bars on 4:3 aspect ratio program material.

Philips 47PFL9732D
Three HDMI and two component-video inputs highlight the 47PFL9732D's input bay.

Connectivity is solid on the 47PFL9732D, beginning with the trio of HDMI inputs on the back panel. There's also a bank of analog AV inputs; the first offers a choice of component video, S-Video, or composite video; the second only composite video; and the third only component video. Additional rear-panel connections include a coaxial optical digital output (most TVs use optical) and an unusual matching input for getting digital audio from source devices to play through the TV's sound system. Unlike most flat-panel LCDs, this Philips lacks an RGB-style PC input. A set of AV jacks on the left side of the panel, with composite and S-Video, offers easy access. The same-side panel bay also includes a headphone jack and a USB port, the latter for displaying digital photos on the screen and playing digital music files though the TVs speakers.

Philips 47PFL9732D
The side-panel includes a USB port in addition to the usual AV inputs.

Performance
The Philips 47PFL9732D delivered acceptable black-level performance and very good color temperature after calibration, and in certain tests its 120Hz mode did address image blur relatively well. But those strengths are balanced by weaknesses in primary color accuracy and off-angle performance.

During setup, when we executed our customary calibration to achieve optimal image quality in our darkened theater, we definitely appreciated the Philips user-menu color temperature detail controls. That's because the set's most accurate color temp preset, labeled "Warm," was entirely too bluish compared with the standard. After adjustment, however, the Philips was nearly perfect (see the Geek Box for details). For our full user-menu settings, click here or scroll down to the tips section.

To evaluate the Philips 47PFL9732D's picture quality, we set it up alongside a few competing and reference HDTVs, including the Pioneer PDP-5080HD and the Sony KDS-55A3000 (our current black-level and color references, respectively), as well as the 120Hz Sony KDL-46XBR4, the Westinghouse TX-47F430S, and the Olevia 252FHD (three large-screen LCDs). We watched Rescue Dawn, set in the lush jungles of Vietnam, on the Sony PlayStation3 at 1080p resolution. (In case you're wondering, we traded out our customary reference Blu-ray player, Samsung's BD-P1200, because it refused to play that disc--among others--and the Sony delivers excellent BD playback in its own right).

Black-level performance was about average among late-model LCDs. Black areas, for example the deep shadows inside the hut where the POWs are kept in lockdown, looked deeper than on the Westinghouse and the Olevia, although not as deep as those on the Sony LCD or either of the reference sets, for example. Shadow detail was also average, showing less than the Sony but more than the Westinghouse in the folds of Christian Bale's outfit as he unlocks the handcuffs, for example, and we appreciated that black remained neutral, as opposed to becoming bluish as we saw on the Olevia.

We did notice some uniformity issues in darker areas, however. The sides of the screen appeared lighter than the middle--a common affliction among LCDs, but a bit worse than average on the 47PFL9732D. This issue becomes more obvious as you move off-angle to view the set from the sides as opposed to straight-on. We also noticed some very minor brightness variations across the entire screen in bright scenes with camera movement, such as when the camera pans over the sky when Bale surveys the jungle from his outcropping, but they were basically invisible in most other scenes and even when the camera stopped moving.

Off-angle performance on the Philips was among the worst we've seen recently on any LCD. When seen from one spot to either side of the sweet spot in the middle of the couch, darker areas became noticeably lighter, and from more extreme angles the problem worsened considerably.

The set's accurate post-calibration color temperature contributed to good-looking skin tones, from Bale's relatively healthy look early in the film to Jeremy Davies' sickly pallor. Primary and secondary colors, on the other hand, looked much less accurate than we'd like to see, and, surprisingly, measured much worse than on the 42PFL7432D we reviewed previously. The numerous shots including jungle foliage revealed the Philips' bluish greens--worse than those of any other TV in the room--and the way-too-intense skies and greenish-looking water accentuated its inaccurate cyan. Like everything else, the difference would be less noticeable outside of a side-by-side comparison, but nonetheless we believe people sensitive to color accuracy will definitely notice, especially in material including lots of natural colors.

To evaluate the performance of the Philips' 120Hz mode and its ability to reduce motion blur, we checked out a "motion resolution" test from a disc we obtained from Pioneer. As you'd expect, Pioneer's plasma, along with Sony's SXRD-based rear-projection set, looked best on this difficult test, which consisted of a fixed shot with cars moving across the screen. The license numbers on the cars appeared less blurry in 120Hz mode on the Philips than the Westinghouse and Olevia LCDs, and about the same on the 120Hz Sony KDL-46XBR4. Seeing the difference on program material, such as the football and hockey matches we watched, was a lot more difficult, but if you're sensitive to motion blur (and don't want to get a plasma or an RPTV) then getting a 120Hz model might be a good move. Of course, since the Philips lacks the de-judder processing found on the Sony and others, we didn't see any smoothing of motion when we engaged its 120Hz mode.

The Philips, as expected, did resolve every line of a 1080i and a 1080p resolution source, and details on the set looked as sharp as on any of the other HDTVs in the room. We did appreciate the fact that the 47PFL9732D passed the film resolution loss test from the HQV Blu-ray disc--which most HDTVs fail--but for some reason it failed the video resolution loss test, which most HDTVs ace. Go figure. Either way, we'd prefer to see the film test pass, although as usual we had a difficult time spotting the difference in program material.

With standard-def sources, tested using the HQV DVD at 480i resolution via component-video, the Philips 46PFL9732D turned in a solid performance. We noticed that the highest-resolution lines in the color bar patterns, while fully resolved as they should be, would flicker every few seconds regardless of picture setting. This isn't a huge deal, though, because we found the flicker difficult to spot in program material. The Philips cleaned up the edges of moving diagonal lines extremely well, and rendered the stripes on a waving American flag as cleanly as any TV we've tested. Details on the stone bridge and grass were a bit softer than some sets we've seen, but not terrible. Each of the four noise reduction settings did a progressively more aggressive job of trading fine detail for less noise, and maximum did an extremely good job. Finally, the set engaged 2:3 pull-down.

Note that we did not test the Ambilight feature on this television because it's identical to the one found on the 42PFL7432D. Please refer to the Performance section of that review for details.

TEST RESULT SCORE
Before color temp (20/80) 9,203/7,402 Poor
After color temp 6,438/6,489 Good
Before grayscale variation +/- 1790K Poor
After grayscale variation +/- 63K Good
Color of red (x/y) 0.654/0.324 Average
Color of green 0.221/0.645 Poor
Color of blue 0.144/0.078 Poor
Overscan 0 percent Good
Black-level retention All patterns stable Good
Defeatable edge enhancement Yes Good
480i 2:3 pull-down, 24 fps Yes Good
1080i video resolution Fail Poor
1080i film resolution Pass Good

Philips 47PFL9732D Picture settings
Default Calibrated Power Save
Picture on (watts) 250.1 130.7 N/A
Picture on (watts/sq. inch) 0.26 0.14 N/A
Standby (watts) 1.4 1.4 N/A
Cost per year $76.80 $40.54 N/A
Score (considering size) Good
Score (overall) Average

6.9

Philips 47PFL9732D

Pricing Not Available

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 7Performance 6