There’s a nice collection of sockets on the back and side panels with no less than five HDMIs. USB and Ethernet, compatible with DLNA networks, are of course there. Something that is rare for TVs, the digital audio socket is in the coaxial format; most other manufacturers use an optical out.
The Full HD panel is matte with an anti-reflective coating. We’re surprised however that Philips is only using it on two of the PFL9604H sets: the 32 and 37 inch.
The remote has a nice finish and is easy to use. Forget the old one with its capricious rotating scroll. It’s a shame however that this one isn’t backlit.
There are also innovations in the design of the settings menu. We've been waiting for this for a long time and finally it’s here. Without necessarily being up there with the best of the current menu interfaces (overly austere), it does have a more modern feel overall. The major drawback is the absence of cyclic menus: once you get to the last option, you can’t get back to the first in one click but have to return to it step by step.
The new Philips TV menu.
Ambilight is of course included on this set with two rows of diodes placed on either side of the frame at the back of the television. The colour of the light emitted and its intensity can be set via the menu. This system can easily be disactivated with a button on the remote.
The worst aspect of the spec is the fact that the backlighting cannot be adjusted. The brightness of the panel is fixed and only varies when told to do so by the automatic brightness sensor, with the viewer entirely at its mercy and no recourse to manual settings.
A direct consequence of fixed backlighting is that the depth of blacks is fixed around 0.39 cd/m². Much too high to guarantee deep blacks. Here the blacks are rather grey, above all if you’re in a dark room. When the blacks lack depth it generally means that the screen is a bright one. At 290 cd/m² you can comfortably watch your TV in a bright room. In the dark however it is glaringly bright and Ambilight comes into its own, especially as it makes blacks look deeper. The other readings are more than satisfactory (colours, gamma curve etc).
Ghosting is very slight, especially if you take into account the display frequency that is 100 Hz here, while Samsung and Sony – and soon to follow, LG and Toshiba – have models at 200 Hz. Of course this Philips is a little less sharp as a result, but the ghosting is one of the slightest in comparison with other 100 Hz TVs.
Angles of vision are one of the strong points on this model. Indeed the fact that the blacks tend towards grey when you're opposite the screen means that light leakage is less when you move away to one side or another. The DeltaE reading also underlines a slight attenuation of colours when you are at a 45 degree angle from the TV. In practice, apart from the fact that the blacks are not very deep, the results are very good both in HD and SD. In SD however the image is lacking sharpness when the advanced definition mode is not activated in Perfect Pixel HD. When activated however small artefacts do sometimes appear as well as aliasing on the default lines noticeable both in SD and HD.
Like all TVs, the 32PFL9604H handles upscaling from SD sources (576p) a lot worse than the PS3.
Another filter, HD Natural Motion, gives fluidity to videos and films. The results are pretty good as long as you don’t push it to its max as this causes problems with areas in movement.
Lastly and in contrast to other Philips TVs tested in the past, PC mode works well and has no major faults.
Even when a TV scores 5 out of 5, the results are far from what you’ll get on a specially designed home cinema. Nevertheless the sound quality here is decent, by far one of the best we’ve heard on a flat screen.
With energy consumption on standby close to zero, the PFL9604H might have gained a very good score here. The backlighting cannot however be set manually and you cannot therefore calibrate it at 200 cd/m², as we usually like to do. At 290 cd/m² it is at a disadvantage in comparison to the competition.
- Wide angles of vision
- OSD menu redesigned
- Nice finish on the remote
- 5 HDMI sockets, built-in Wi-Fi
- No manual settings for backlighting
- Blacks lack depth
- Remote not backlit
With many good qualities to please the general consumer (Ambilight, finish on the remote etc), the PFL9604H will find it harder to make an impact on the home cinema fan, who will be disappointed at lack of control of the backlighting.