On paper the Philips 32PF5520 looks like a winner with both a digital tuner and HD Ready badge and all at a reasonable price. But without Pixel Plus, will its pictures be good enough?
The 32PF5520 is a bit of a plain Jane. The drab grey colour, resolutely rectangular shape and relatively large rear end just didn't excite me. In terms of design, it's a dud.
The 32PF5520D's connections are rather stingy. The biggest bone of contention, oddly, is the DVI jack. While pleased to see this future-proofing input, I was less impressed that it doesn't come with a separate set of component video inputs.
The DVI jack takes analogue component feeds via a complicated component-to-VGA cable and VGA-to-DVI adaptor. Both the cable and adaptor are included. Plus, of course, the DVI jack can accept a VGA PC feed. But this surely places too great a burden on just one input, which will no doubt lead to faffing behind the TV to change connections over.
While it only has two Scarts, it sports a coaxial digital audio output to route the Freeview tuner's audio to a separate sound system.
Beside its HD readiness and digital tuner, there's support for the Freeview 7-day EPG, complete with direct selection timer setting and genre filtering. There's also a noise reduction system, and a basic version of Philips' Active Control system, which automatically adjusts facets of the picture to suit the source and - if you wish - the amount of light in your room.
The 32PF5520D's pictures are surprisingly average. All sources bar high definition seem rather soft, lacking the fine detail, clarity and texture of the better screens. I also couldn't help but notice some characteristic LCD smearing over fast motion.
Lack of black level is another problem. Dark picture areas bottom out into grey murkiness more readily than most, making pictures seem flatter, more lifeless and lacking in background detail.
Even the 32PF5520D's colours - usually a dead cert for a Philips TV - struck me as slightly disappointing. They're fine at the bright, fully saturated end of the scale, but subtle hues can look just a little washed out. Sonically, it is also slightly off the pace. It sounds a touch cramped, with mid-bass hollow and distorted, and treble squeezed.
Hopefully Philips' upcoming Pixel Plus equipped LCD TVs will get the brand back in its customary premium groove. But in the meantime, I would say that it would only merit serious consideration if you can find the 32PF5520D selling for significantly closer to a grand. John Archer