Philips 32PF7320A 32″ LCD TV Review
November 4, 2005
Shopping for reasonably sophisticated TVs and displays is a pain in the butt. Even if you go into a store where items of comparable size and technology are grouped together (instead of having to look at a 26″ LCD next to a 61″ plasma), and are all showing the same program, it’s still hard to compare image quality. This is mostly because you don’t know how each set is adjusted (nobody leaves remotes out, for obvious reasons), or whether they are using comparable inputs, etc.
You also don’t get the option of seeing how each well each TV displays standard definition content, high-def content, and DVD content — the store will be showing only one or another (usually a DVD or a high-def satellite channel).
Unfortunately, since the world is far from HD-only yet, how well a set displays SD content is fairly important to most of us, and some HD sets make SD look even worse than it already is.
I think I wore an inch off the bottom of my shoes pacing back and forth looking at TVs this week, before finally deciding to give the Philips 32″ Pixel Plus LCD (32PF7320A) a try.
My final comparison came down between a Sharp Aquos, a Sony, and the Philips. To my eye (and not knowing how they were all adjusted), the Sharp had the better black level, while the Sony had better shadow detail. The Philips was pretty much right smack between — better black than the Sony, and better shadow detail than the Philips. The case design was a factor too; the Sharp is stuck with large, non-removable side speakers that limit tight placements, and the Sony had speakers at the bottom that for some reason threw the “look” of the unit off to me. Once again, the Philips was the compromise; non-removable side speakers, but much smaller, with a more “balanced” look to the unit.
What finally settled it for me though was the feature set.
Unlike the majority of flat screen TVs and monitors today, the Philips not only has a built-in NTSC (standard definition) tuner, but it also has a built-in ATSC (HDTV) tuner. This means that it can receive over-the-air HD off of the antenna feed with no additional boxes. It also the ability to decode unscrambled cable HD signals (QAM) and scrambled cable HD signals via a CableCARD, so you can get a CableCARD from your cable provider, slide it into the slot, and view (otherwise scrambled) SD and HD cable channels without a set-top box.
To be honest, I didn’t really =need= either of these features; I’m not a cable subscriber, and I seldom watch TV without a PVR attached; I don’t much need a tuner at all. But it’s nice to have, and since I expect to keep the unit for several years and things change, this gives me more options than I would have had otherwise.
The unit has a number of connection options (full specifications below), including two HDMI ports with HDCP support, component video and an array of SD connection options, plus a USB port for displaying image slideshows, and handling things like firmware upgrades, etc.
Unpacking and Setup
Software features include a number of automatic adjustments (that can be switched off) to dynamically adjust contrast, color balance, and picture width, plus Philips “Pixel Plus” image enhancement system.
Setting up the unit couldn’t have been easier; after unpacking (and the unit comes in a well-packed box that’s actually light and small enough to be easily handled), there are four screws to attach the stand, and you’re ready to plug it in. I hooked up my OTA antenna, and plugged in my Windows Media Center box via a DVI to HDMI cable, added power, and I was good to go.
The remote for the unit, as well as the on-screen menus, are a little off-weird. If the person who designed the user interface for the menus worked for me, I’d beat him like a red-headed mule. But they’re usable enough, once you get the idea, and for day-to-day use, the remote is satisfactory.
Picture quality out of the box for OTA broadcasts (both SD and HD) is outstanding; the automatic setup found all of my SD and HD channels, and the various automatic options do a much better job of producing a usable picture than most default settings do, and the automatic image zoom handled selecting the appropriate zoom for non-HD content quite well.
One feature I particularly like is that you can edit the channel list easily, and remove (for example) the SD channels in favor of the HD channels, as well as some of the “less useful” HD channels we get locally (how many weather radar channels do I need, anyway?).
Hooking up the PC (running Windows MCE 2005) was a little more problematic. The display seems to handle bad resolutions okay on PC bootup, apparently by forcing the PC (via plug-and-play, I assume) back to 640 x 480, or a few other odd low resolutions. Unfortunately, it doesn’t handle changes to off-resolutions nearly as well, leaving the screen blank. I had to set my display options to reboot the machine after changing resolutions to keep from getting stuck in a blank screen.
The monitor shows up in Windows as a Plug-and-Play monitor at 1920 x 1080; the manual shows that it will accept 1280 x 720 for a PC resolution, but I didn’t have any luck with either setting. I use an ATI Radeon 9800 Pro in the PC, and using the ATI Catalyst driver Display options (for “Flat Panel Display”) I was able to tell it to “Force 720p” — this immediately switched the display to a very usable 1280 x 720 (which I couldn’t achieve otherwise), with about 10 – 15 pixels clipped off of each edge. Not ideal, but good enough.
The display was a little off to the right, until I stumbled on a feature I didn’t find in the documentation — pressing the left and right arrows on the “scroll wheel” of the remote moves the image left and right. It doesn’t seem to do the same thing for up and down, but fortunately that seems to be well centered.
This would all be fine and good, except for one minor snag — shutting the display off seems to force the PC back to 640 x 480, and when you turn it back on, you’ve got a blank screen. Rebooting it is still at 640 x 480, until I go back into the Catalyst Display options and unselect and reselect “Force 720P”. I’m still looking for a resolution to this problem.
I’ve not dug out my Avia display calibration DVD yet, but I did run it through MCE’s screen calibration, and ended up with a very nice and watchable picture for both SD and DVD content on MCE 2005 (at this point I don’t have any HD tuners in the Media Center).
My only gripe with the picture quality at this point is the black level; it’s still not dark enough for my tastes, although I’m going to bite the bullet and see if I can get used to it, because otherwise I do really like this unit.
It just dawned on me yesterday that I do have an additional HDMI port I’m not using, and an empty HDMI output on the DishPlayer 942 in the living room (it’s connected to a rear projection TV via component video). Combine this with the RF remote that came with the 942 and a reasonable length of HDMI cable (on its way!), and I’ve got access to all of the 942 HD programming as well as the MCE 2005 box. (in fake Guiness commercial voice) “Brilliant!”
Currently, 32″ displays appear to be the “sweet spot” in LCD pricing; the jump from there to 37″ ramps up the price-per-inch considerably, and it goes up alarmingly from there. The Philips isn’t a “bargain basement” priced unit (nor does its picture quality look like it; most of the sub $1K units I saw were very, very sad looking), but it’s priced pretty much in the middle, well below some of the high-end brands like the Sony, and yet has a feature set that’s hard to match on any of them. If you want a 32″ LCD that performs well, looks great and has a lot of connectivity options, you could do far worse.
Aspect ratio : 16:9
Brightness : 550 cd/mÃ‚Â²
Diagonal screen size (inch) : 32 inch
Diagonal screen size (metric) : 80 cm
Display screen type : LCD WXGA Active Matrix TFT
Picture enhancement : Pixel Plus, Progressive Scan, Active Control + Light sensor, 3/2 – 2/2 motion pull down, Widescreen Plus, 3D Combfilter, Contrast Plus Screen enhancement : Anti ageing circuit, Anti-Reflection coated screen
Panel resolution : 1366 x 768p
Response time (typical) : 8 ms
Dimming Backlight Contrast : 800:1
Viewing angle : 176Ã‚Âº (H) / 176Ã‚Âº (V)
Supported Display Resolution
Computer formats : 640 x 480, 60Hz, 800 x 600, 60Hz, 1024 x 768, 60Hz, 1366 x 768, 60Hz
Video Formats : 640 x 480i – 1Fh, 640 x 480p – 2Fh, 720 x 576i – 1Fh, 720 x 576p – 2Fh, 1280 x 720p – 3Fh, 1920 x 1080i – 2Fh
Sound Enhancement : Smart Sound, Auto Volume Leveller, Digital Signal Processing, Dynamic Bass Enhancement, Graphic Equaliser
Sound System : Virtual Dolby Digital
Output power (RMS) : 2 x 15W
Built-in speakers : 2
Ease of Installation : Autostore, PLL Digital Tuning, Plug & Play, Automatic Tuning System (ATS)
Ease of Use : On Screen Display, Side Control, Smart Picture Control, Channel list, Smart Sound Control, Delta Volume per preset
Remote control type : RC4345/01
Remote Control : Amp, DVD-R, Multi-functional, Sat, VCR, DVD
Screen Format Adjustments : 7 Widescreen Modes, Auto Format, Subtitle and Heading Shift
Child Protection : Child Lock+Parental Control
Picture in Picture : HDMI-Component PIP
Clock : Smart Clock
Teletext : Closed Captioning Full Text
Digital Content Management : Digital Media Reader
Multimedia connections : USB memory class device
Playback Formats : JPEG Still pictures, MP3, Slideshow files (.alb)
TV system : ATSC, NTSC
Video Playback : NTSC
Aerial Input : 75 Ohm F-type
Cable : Digital Cable Ready CableCARD, Unscrambled Digital Cable -QAM
Other connections : Cable Card Interface, Monitor out, CVBS, L/R (cinch), SP-DIF in (coaxial), SP-DIF out (coaxial)
AV 1 : Audio L/R in, CVBS in, RGB+H/V, S-Video Y/C, YPbPr, Component Video in, (1, 2, 3Fh autoranging), Y/C
AV 2 : Audio L/R in, CVBS, S-Video
AV 3 : S/PDIF digital coaxial, YPbPr, (1, 2, 3Fh autoranging)
AV 4 : HDMI
AV 5 : HDMI
Front / Side connections : Audio left/right in, CVBS in, Headphone out, S-video in, USB 1.1
Power consumption : 135 W
Standby power consumption : < 2 W Mains power : AC 108 - 132 V, 60 Hz Ambient temperature : +5 -/+ 40 C Dimensions Product dimension (WxDxH) inch : 4.7x20.0x36.7 inch Product weight : 18.2 kg Product weight in lbs : 42.5 Weight incl. Packaging : 22 kg Set Width : 933 mm Set Height : 507 mm Set Depth : 119 mm Color cabinet : Bicolour Black and Pearl White Silver VESA wall mount compatible : 200,100 mm Accessories Included Accessories : Table top stand