If you've read our reviews of Philips' 9000-series TVs and found yourself wishing you could afford one of them, you'll probably be interested in the £620 Philips 32PFL7404H/12. This 32-inch, 1080p LCD TV offers you at least some of Philips' high-spec picture-processing power and reams of features at a fraction of the cost.
Pretty as a picture
The first thing to say about the 32PFL7404H/12 is that it doesn't have Philips' unique Ambilight technology. But, while we missed the pools of coloured light that come from the sides of other Philips TVs, the lack of Ambilight doesn't stop the 32PFL7404H/12 from being very attractive. In fact, with its strikingly slender, high-gloss bezel and transparent outer frame, it's one of the prettiest 32-inch TVs around.
It's very well connected, too. Four HDMI ports -- three on the rear and one on the side -- establish the set's high-definition ambitions. There's also a PC jack, and a USB port via which you can play a huge variety of multimedia file formats.
Few cut corners
Multimedia fanatics will doubtless rue the lack of an Ethernet port on the 32PFL7404H/12, denying the user the chance to stream files from a PC or access the Internet like you can on Philips' 9000-series models. But, for the average buyer, the missing Ethernet port will probably seem like a pretty reasonable corner to have been cut in Philips' quest to make the 32PFL7404H/12 affordable.
Precious few corners have been cut elsewhere. For example, despite its 32-inch size, the 32PFL7404H/12 is a 1080p model, and its claimed contrast ratio of 80,000:1 is up there with the very best we've seen from a 32-inch set.
Among its attractions, the 32PFL7404H/12 even manages to offer 100Hz processing. It doesn't have all the picture-processing technologies found on the 9000-series models, though. Instead of Philips' top-of-the-line, remarkably powerful Perfect Pixel HD picture-processing engine, it carries Pixel Precise HD, a slightly stripped-down and less powerful system. It can 'only' handle 250m pixels a second, as opposed to 500m pixels.
Mightily impressive images
Given that the 32PFL7404H/12 is substantially cheaper than the 9000-series 32PFL9604H/12, you can't expect its picture and audio quality to be as good. Camera pans and objects crossing the screen don't look quite as sharp, black levels don't seem as intense and believable, standard-definition pictures aren't quite as detailed, and there are a few more processing side effects (shimmering haloes and occasional flickers, for example), no matter how much time you spend delving into the TV's endless picture menus.
These are all pertinent points for anyone searching for picture perfection no matter what the cost. But bargain hunters will be pleased to hear that, while the 32PFL7404H/12's pictures might not be the very best Philips can manage, they're still mightily impressive for a TV of its price. In fact, besides from the processing side effects, the areas identified as weak compared to the 9000-series set all turn into strengths when the 32PFL7404H/12's compared to other similarly priced TVs.
The 32PFL7404H/12 also offers impressively vivid colour saturation, sparklingly detailed and clean high-definition images, and some impressive judder reduction when watching Blu-ray material.
While the 32PFL7404H/12's audio predictably doesn't sound as punchy and authoritative as that of the 9000-series models, it still manages to sound slightly better than many other 32-inch TVs in its price range.
Our only significant gripes about the 32PFL7404H/12 are that you have to be careful with some of the image settings (the 'advanced sharpness' mode, for instance, should be avoided at all costs), and its realistic viewing angle is rather limited.
The differences in AV quality and features between the Philips 32PFL7404H/12 and 32PFL9604H/12 are sufficient to make saving up for the higher-spec model worthwhile. But that doesn't make the 32PFL7404H/12 in any way a bad TV -- it just shows that the 9000-series model is great. Judged against its direct rivals, the 32PFL7404H/12 is easily one of the finest TVs in its class.
Edited by Charles Kloet