Having produced some of the best TVs at this size in the past year, Philips is making the most of its glowing reputation with this feature-packed, aluminium-clad 32in TV. While the inclusion of Ambilight and wireless web browsing are the headline acts, the 32PFL9604 has got much more up its sleeve.
It's exceptionally well connected, with Net TV being Philips' first foray into internet features. Unlike most sets that offer a ring-fenced platform on a wired ethernet connection, the 32PFL9604 can access the Net TV portal using Wi-Fi and even browse the internet at large.
Further digital niceties come in the form of DLNA networking (wired or wirelessly) from a PC, a USB port that plays video files and a stunning five HDMI inputs.
It all helps create a unique TV, but the engine room is elsewhere. On board is Philips' Perfect Pixel HD processing, which includes separate circuitry to improve contrast (Perfect Contrast), get rid of blur (100Hz Clear LCD) and lose judder (HD Natural Motion).
A staple of Philips TVs is Ambilight, which appears here in its Spectra 2 guise. It projects a dynamic light show onto surrounding walls that mimics the changing colours on screen.
Ease of use
Navigating the icon-based home page is a cinch, but finding what you want can be long winded. For example, switching the surround sound effect on or off during a movie takes so long that you will need to pause the disc.
We've also got issues with its major picture features, most of which are hidden away. The set really should come with a sheet of tips and hints on getting the best picture, especially since most of its excellent settings for Blu-ray and DVDs – HD Natural Motion and 100Hz Clear LCD – are not activated by default and can be tricky to find.
On the multimedia side, the 32PFL9604's USB slot can play MP3, JPEG and video files including MP4, MPEG and DivX, although the latter takes 15secs to load.
Those same files can be watched from a PC or Mac over a Wi-Fi network by simply entering your broadband router's WEP key, though loading times can become much longer.
FULL ACCESS: The remote for Philips' 32PFL9604 allows control over the TV's internet functions
The streamlined remote features a dedicated button to access the Net TV menus, which include icons for various content partners, including YouTube, a weather channel, internet radio and some simple gaming.
Loading times are reasonably fast, but not quite as impressive as Panasonic's Viera Cast. Manually entering web addresses is a pain, loading times are slow and no favourite sites can be set, but it's better than nothing.
The rich colour of The Matrix on BD hits you immediately, enhanced by Ambilight. As a fireball rips through the lobby in slo-mo, the vivid oranges and reds are stunning, as is the appearance on the wall behind the TV of a fierce glow.
Blacks are inky while containing loads of detail, as demonstrated by Neo's suit in an early scene. Perfect Contrast almost lives up to its name, though we did notice some light leakage from the top of the panel.
DOMESTIC BLISS: The 32PFL9604's image quality and features list make it ideal for the living room
The helicopter scene atop a building shows off some terrific detail both in close-ups and surroundings, though as Trinity pulls Neo from the floor there are some noticeable artefacts around his shoulders and hair as he moves. The same flickers around moving objects are visible during the final scene where pedestrians walk past Neo as he leaves the phone box.
HD Natural Motion is the reason for this. Set it to its minimum setting and these artefacts become less noticeable, but they don't disappear entirely. Meanwhile 100Hz Clear LCD removes all but minute traces of blur. All in all, HD pictures are fabulous and unbeatable at this size.
The 32PFL9604 also makes a decent stab at upscaling our DVD of The Last Emperor, though even with MPEG noise reduction switched on there are jagged edges aplenty as the servants move around the Forbidden City, and a lot of picture noise in backgrounds.
It's a different story with Freeview, where some tennis on BBC2 reveals unusual depth, colour and contrast, with an odd shimmer of the net being the only issue.
With 15W speakers and two mid-bass drivers visible on the rear of the TV, it's no surprise that the 32PFL9604 serves up rounded audio, though its 'surround' mode is best avoided for dialogue-rich films.
The results from Blu-ray are something to behold and with Freeview also much stronger than on rival sets, the 32PFL9604 makes an ideal TV for the living room.
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