At just £450, the Philips 32PFL5604H is almost half the cost of some of the company's flagship 32in LCD panels and there has clearly been some corner cutting to get that price.
Build quality has obviously been compromised. Where Philips' more expensive screens have the robust build of a battleship, combined with the finesse and curves of a supermodel, this budget set feels like it's made of cardboard.
But, despite its chunkiness, it's not a complete dog of a screen to look at and it has a glossy finish and a stylish embellishment of sorts in the shape of a transparent plastic edge to the screen surround.
Connectivity is a bit more convincing, with highlights including three HDMIs and a USB port for displaying digital snaps, video, and playing back MP3s. Unsurprisingly, the feature list also shows where cutbacks have been made.
You won't find any of Philips' fancy Ambilight technology (where sympathetic light to what's on screen is projected onto the wall behind the TV), internet connectivity or wireless PC connectivity here. Instead, picture processing is limited to the near-ancient Pixel Plus HD engine, which like most ageing relics knows a thing or two, but goes about its business a touch slower than you'd like.
It lets the user finetune four key elements of the processing: dynamic contrast, dynamic backlight, colour enhancement and MPEG artefact reduction.
Breaking with tradition
Traditionally, Philips screens have been easy to pick out thanks to their stunning image processing. HD pictures shimmer with clarity and detail so ultra-precise it's almost too good to be true. Sadly, that's not the case here.
Despite the screen's full HD resolution, scenes from our test movie lack that scary snap we've become used to. More tellingly, they also lack bite versus our rival screens today, even the same-priced Toshiba. Part of the reason is that motion tends to blur and smear a touch – quite a shock given the fluidity and clarity with which it is normally handled by Philips.
More bad news finds the 32PFL5604H's colours looking a bit more muted and compressed than we'd expect. Meanwhile, black levels – something else that have traditionally been a strength – are decidedly average, with an unsightly mist hanging over dark scenes. Careful reduction of the contrast, brightness and backlight settings seems to do little to solve the problem.
While it might sound like we were deeply unimpressed with this model, we should clarify that this is in the context of Philips' normally excellent (and more expensive) higher-end sets. Pictures aren't a complete disaster and are generally decent with HD material making this a good budget option. We'd even go as far as suggesting that the handling of judder (something that afflicts most screens during motion and horizontal camera pans) is among the best here.
Standard-def pictures tell a similar story to HD ones, looking a touch too soft for our liking – something that a more up-to-date version of Philips' screen processing would deal with.
Partnered with some lacklustre audio, it's hard to think of this TV as anything other than average looking, with basic features and uninspiring pictures.
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