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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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 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.
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.