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Philips 32PFL9632D review

Sexy looks, clever specs and the Ambilight system make this Philips 32-incher like no other at this price

Every TV manufacturer has its own specific ‘hook’ to snare you. Samsung has those high-gloss black finishes, Pioneer puts its faith in the awesome black levels of its plasma screens, and Philips uses it ‘Ambilight’ system, which appears in a range of sets including the 32PFL9632D.

The joy of Ambilight

This system, whose built-in lighting enhances your viewing experience by reacting in sympathy to the signal being displayed, is no gimmick. It’s based on solid scientific principles laid down by industry boffins SMPTE.

And in practice, we love it. In the 32PFL9632D, the lighting emanates from each side of the screen, and it really helps the viewing experience, not only by drawing you into the picture, but also by making the set appear to be larger than it actually is.

Style hound

So, what else do you get for your cash? First, considerable style: the Philips makes great use of glass in its screen surround, and artfully mixes black and silver to superb effect.

You also get an excellent specification for your cash. The Philips blends a comprehensive socket fit (three HDMI 1.3 ins, plus a USB in) with 1080p/24fps support, 100Hz image processing and the company’s Pixel Perfect HD scaling.

And the performance? In the main, very good indeed: images look detailed and crisp from the off-air tuner, and are little troubled by unsettling blocks of background noise.

Switching to Blu-ray is, as you’d expect, even better: big epics like Flags of Our Fathers have uncanny three-dimensionality, an effect made all the more dramatic by that cunning Ambilight system.

Blacks could be a bit blacker

There’s a downside, though. This set doesn’t deliver black levels to rival the best set this class – which is Panasonic’s excellent TX-32LXD700. It just doesn’t reveal as much low-light detail as it ought to: you can either set it to very dark, or fairly detailed, but not both.

And while we’re being picky, the 32PFL9632D seems wedded to a not-entirely convincing colour balance, too. Tweaking improves things, but here, both Panasonic and Sony do it better.

Now don’t get us wrong. We’re being picky, because we have to be. This is an entirely desirable telly, and its Ambilight system gives it an advantage no 32in rival can emulate (so long as you like what Ambilight does, of course). We’d urge you to give this Philips a try: there’s much to admire here.

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Stuff Says…

Score: 5/5