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Image enhancing system Pixel Plus 2 HD is back, only this time it’s cheaper in Philips’ latest 32 inch LCD flagship: the 32PF9830.


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The 32 inch 32PF9830 represents an affordable route into the world of Pixel Plus 2 HD. The set holds no surprises aesthetically, wearing the familiar frame-within-a-frame screen bezel (complete with flatpanel NXT speakers), and boasting Philips’ Ambilight technology, whereby two fluorescent strip lights down each side of the TV’s rear flash coloured light in sympathy with the main colour content of the picture.

The 32PF9830’s connectivity is very good. Particularly of interest are separate DVI and HDMI digital jacks, both switchable between PC and video use. But also good to find are a dedicated set of component video jacks, and a trio of Scarts. You even get USB slots and a multiformat card reader via which you can play digital photos, MP3s or .alb multimedia slideshows. The only disappointment is the absence of any connections you might associate with a built-in digital TV tuner. The simple reason for this is that the TV doesn’t have one.

Unsurprisingly, the 32PF9830 is HD Ready, with a native resolution of 1366 x 768 and compatibility with all the essential HD formats. It’s worth pointing out, though, that the 1366 x 768 resolution is lower than the 1920 x 1080 of its sibling 37in screen. The 32PF9830 improves on the 37in model with its huge claimed maximum contrast ratio of 6000:1. According to our independent measurements, real world contrast is still an impressive 560:1.

Performance

The 32PF9830’s picture performance is comparable with that of the 37in model. In fact, they’re arguably slightly better, since the smaller screen size seems to mask the sporadic processing artifacts that Pixel Plus 2 HD can throw up.

The amount of extra detail and perceived sharpness PP2 HD introduces really is startling. And I’m not just talking about standard-definition sources; even high-definition sources gain a resolution ‘boost’ with PP2 HD switched on, achieving a sort of ‘extended definition’ effect that is at times simply breathtaking.

The vibrancy and brightness of the set’s colours are outstanding, painting footage of every sort with a palette that manages to be vivid and eye-catching without over-egging the pudding and becoming gaudy or overtly unnatural. Once calibrated, it comes close to the 65K colour temperature standard. Subtle colour gradations are portrayed with extreme delicacy too, making the picture look more three dimensional and stopping fleshtones from looking too waxy.

The set’s black level response is good. The opening scenes of Alien suffer precious little with LCD’s common low-contrast greying over of their dark parts, giving the picture depth and scale, as well as enhancing the potency of the colours. Like all LCDs, though, this black level diminishes when ambient lighting decreases.

Of LCD’s problems with motion smearing, meanwhile, there’s nary a trace, and most other types of noise are equally well handled. Even the slight boost in grain we occasionally noticed during PP2 HD-enhanced high-definition viewing on the 37in set seems here far less noticeable.

Similarly, we were less disturbed by PP2 HD artifacts during standard-definition viewing. Sure, with analogue tuner fare and some of the digital broadcasts some footage can take on a rather processed, almost DV-like finish.

There are a couple of other smallish negatives to mention, too. First, although it’s better than on previous Pixel Plus generations, fast-moving objects (especially during camera pans) can suffer minor shimmering artifacts around their edges. Second, HD playback can sometimes seem a touch flickery. But we suspect most people – not all, perhaps, but the vast majority – won’t find these little glitches much of a price to pay for all the benefits PP2 HD brings. And anyway, if you’re not happy with what PP2 HD does to a specific source picture, you can always turn it off for a bit!

Those NXT speakers prove worthy partners for the stunning pictures, providing a much more wide-ranging frequency response and greater power output than we would have expected. Only truly severe amounts of bass cause distortion.

Conclusion

The 32PF9830 is a superior LCD screen. We concluded that Pixel Plus 2 HD improved the quality of around 95 per cent of everything we watched. Combined with the wonders of Ambilight, it makes for a neat package. The only downside to the screen is its analogue TV tuner. Given the sophistication of the rest of the specs, this shortcoming is rather unfortunate.

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Philips 32PF9830 | $4995 | www.philips.com.au
For: Stunning pictures with good sources; great looks; connectivity
Against: No digital tuner; Pixel Plus 2 HD can highlight noise in poor sources
Verdict: Pixel Plus 2 combined with Ambilight makes for a neat package




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