Philips 42PFL7432D 42-inch LCD HDTV Page 2

The Short Form

Price $1,650 ($1,799 list) / philipsusa.com / 888-744-5477
Snapshot
A good picture, Ambilight, and outstanding menu options make for an excellent value in this 1080p LCD.
Plus
•Accurate color and solid blacks for an LCD •Simple, user-friendly remote •Clean reproduction of 480i/p programs •Extensive Ambilight options
Minus
•Onscreen menus block video image
Key Features
•1,920 x 1,080-pixel screen •Two-sided Ambilight backlight •Auto Settings Assistant •Backlit remote •Inputs: 3 HDMI; 1 component-video; 1 component-/composite-/S-video; 1 composite-/S-video; 1 composite-video; RF antenna; USB •41.3 x 27 x 4.5 in; 60.8 lb
Test Bench
With the Philips's Movie and Warm color-temperature presets, grayscale showed a blue bias and tracked ±736 K off the 6,500-K target from 30 to 100 IRE. Adjustments in the user menu reduced this to ±109 K, excepting a modest 218-K lean toward blue at 50 IRE - good for an LCD. Color points were spot-on for red and only slightly off for green and blue; color decoder error was -7% for green and 0% for both red and blue. The set fully resolved 1080i/p and 720p test patterns via HDMI, but they were slightly softer and showed mild noise via component. Gray fields had good uniformity for an LCD, though the very darkest (30 IRE and below) were a bit brighter in the top-right/bottom-left corners than in the center. The set failed the video- and film-mode deinterlacing torture tests on the Silicon Optix HD test disc when delivered as 1080i, but no instability was obvious in program material. Full Lab Results
I also experimented with the TV's Ambilight settings. For those unfamiliar, Ambilight is an exclusive Philips feature in which LED-driven light bars along the back edge of the bezel project soft backlight toward the wall behind the set, with the intended effect of making the screen seem larger and reducing eye fatigue. At any given moment, the lights on each side assume the dominant hue contained in that side of the screen image. I found most of the Ambilight presets distracting, but the Relaxed mode provided a nice, subtle glow on the projection screen I set up behind the TV to simulate a white wall. I could feel the image collapse dramatically when it was turned off, and in our fully darkened theater room it lent a welcome and satisfying effect.

PERFORMANCE I began my critical viewing of the Philips with a look at the first few tense minutes of Oliver Stone's World Trade Center on HD DVD, and I was quickly impressed with the solidity of the image: It had little evidence of the busy, jittery quality I see on some LCDs. And I found color accuracy unusally good for an LCD. As a New Yorker, I appreciated the convincing blue stripes on a white Metro Transit bus and the red awnings on the bodegas in lower Manhattan. World Trade Center has a muted look, but the screen really popped alive with a long shot of the bus full of Port Authority cops speeding across 14th Street toward the burning skyscrapers. The TV dramatically captured the sun-bathed brick buildings and the gawkers lining the avenue, along with the dark plumes coming off the Twin Towers in the clear fall sky. Detail was outstanding: I could even see the street number on a sign across the intersection, and close-ups on the face of Sgt. John McLoughlin (Nicolas Cage) easily revealed his stubble.

Meanwhile, a high-def broadcast on HDNet of the Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan flop Joe Versus the Volcano looked especially stunning. Scenes of the two actors floating in the ocean on a makeshift raft of roped-together sailor trunks showed a good range of natural colors, from the yellow of Ryan's rain slicker and the khaki of Hanks's safari suit to the detail in the studs and buckles of the red leather trunks. Blacks were good and dark on the night scenes (again, with Dynamic Contrast engaged), and the set nicely revealed shadow details in the moonlit surface of the ocean.

Reproduction of standard-def was another strong suit for the Philips. It tamed most of the video noise inherent in typical 480i broadcasts and some DVDs even before I engaged its noise-reduction menu option. Turning that circuit to its maximum setting further cleaned up the worst signals without robbing significant detail, and its activation did not noticeably degrade clean HD signals.

BOTTOM LINE After a slow start, it's almost hard to believe how far LCD TVs have come in the last year, but we're now testing models with the kind of accurate color and solid blacks that even an enthusiast could live with. Philips clearly had both the everyday shopper and the serious viewer in mind with the 42PFL7432D 42-inch LCD HDTV, and it shows. The set's good picture quality, extensive menu options, excellent remote, Ambilight feature, and competitive $1,650 street price make this 42-incher a solid value in a crowded field.

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