So far, the whole ‘internet through your TV’ phenomenon currently sweeping the television world has left us feeling a touch cold. Not because we don’t like the idea, but because the ring-fenced, carefully controlled services seen so far have offered such limited content.
Which is why we’re so intrigued by the Philips 32PFL9604: the UK’s first mainstream TV with full internet access.
The 32PFL9604 sets its high-tech stall out right away, with an eye-catching, almost industrial design based around a glinting aluminium bezel.
More signs that the 32PFL9604 is no ordinary 32in TV become apparent from its connections, which include no less than five HDMI inputs, a D-Sub PC port, a USB input capable of playing a startlingly wide variety of multimedia file formats, and the all-important Ethernet port for accessing the internet.
Many manufacturers claim they don’t allow full internet access from their TVs because the necessary interfaces and software protocols would be too cumbersome.
Yet while the 32PFL9604’s internet interface is no substitute for PC browsing, it’s certainly easy and fast enough to make the 32PFL9604’s internet features genuinely useful and not just a gimmick.
If you really can’t be bothered with inputting long internet addresses from your TV remote, though, the 32PFL9604 also provides links to ‘special’ online content optimised for navigation via a TV.
At the time of writing, this specially formatted content includes YouTube, the MyAlbum online photo storage facility, the tunin.fm online music service, and the Funspot game server.
Startlingly, the 32PFL9604’s extreme connectivity and unique internet access are just the tip of its feature iceberg. For it also bears Ambilight, where coloured light spills from the screen’s left and right edges, and the latest version of Philips’ Perfect Pixel HD video processor, capable of handling a sweat-inducing 500 million pixels per second.
This system really delivers the goods, too, with pictures that are little short of majestic.
For instance, the set reproduces dark scenes with some of the deepest, most authentic black colours we’ve seen on a small(ish!) flat TV. The lack of the usual grey mist over dark scenes also helps the 32PFL9604 present dark scenes with consistency, stability and depth, and helps colours look unusually vibrant and believable.
The 32PFL9604 also excels with the sharpness and detail of its pictures. This is, of course, especially true with HD sources, but the 32PFL9604’s processing is also truly exceptional at making standard definition images look sharper than they do on arguably any other 32in TV.
Also contributing to the image’s sharpness is some excellent motion handling, achieved through the joint efforts of Philips’ powerful motion processing system and a 100Hz engine that doubles the usual PAL refresh rate.
Most relatively small flat TVs have more or less pants sound quality. But thanks to a couple of strikingly hefty mid-bass drivers on the TV’s rear and a pair of ultra-efficient tweeters on its front, the 32PFL9604 produces sound potent, clear and dynamic enough to shame almost all rivals.
Looking for trouble
If forced to find fault with the 32PFL9604, we’d point out that you have to be careful with the TV’s reams of settings to consistently get the best from it.
For instance, if you leave the motion processing circuitry on medium or high while viewing a film or sports footage, you’ll find images troubled by such processing glitches like shimmering halos around horizontal motion.
Still, while the 32PFL9604 might require more effort than your average run-of-the-mill TV, the key point, surely, is that your efforts are handsomely rewarded with the finest all-round AV performance the 32in TV world currently has to offer.