Philips has given the 37PF9830 two advantages: a new Ambilight system and the new Pixel Plus 2 HD, designed to improve high-definition pictures.
Philips' flatscreens are some of the most attractive around, and this 37-inch set is no exception, with a silver inner frame and a dark glass-fronted outer frame that adds cool to any room. The rotating stand shows the company's designers put thought into these sets.
The connections also show consideration. As the set is HD-ready the component video inputs and HDMI are expected, but the extra DVI is a bonus. Although it can't transmit digital sound (as the HDMI can) a £20 adapter will allow the set to accept video feeds from two HDMI sources (such as a DVD player and Blu-ray Disc player).
Other additions are a multiformat memory card reader and USB ports, for attaching card readers to view stills from a digital media device, like a stills camera or a camcorder.
HD gets a boost
The first upgrade in this TV is Ambilight 2. This consists of two fluorescent strips at the back of the TV that projected coloured light that complement onscreen colours. This is supposed to increase the screen's perceived contrast ratio, reduce eye strain, and look pretty.
Ambilight 2 allows the lights to project different colours to enhance Ambilight's effects. This can be distracting, but it still looks good.
The second is Pixel Plus 2 HD. This system has been tuned to maximise the quality of high-definition video. Some may see this as unnecessary, given the HD's quality, but it works. Our upsampled Fight Club DVD did have a slightly sharper picture, but more dot crawl and grain.
This isn't Pixel Plus' fault, as it emphasised what's already there, but the occasional flickering edges and shimmering artefacts were due to its attempts to boost sharpness. That said pure high-definition feeds (such as an Xbox 360) look amazing.
Pixel Plus 2 HD makes a big difference with standard-definition feeds. Side-effects are minimised and while it won't turn SDTV into HDTV, it makes other TV's SD pictures look drab.
Pixel Plus may cause the occasional problem, but it can be turned off and it does improve the quality of most feeds.
Even without Pixel Plus colours are rich and well-saturated, without becoming cartoon-like; black levels are very deep, especially for an LCD, revealing a high amount of detail; and motion smearing is noticeable by its absence.
The speakers prove more than adequate, giving a strong performance with no distortion at either end of the aural spectrum.
While this Philips can be a challenge to set up, and won't tolerate weak sources, your patience will be rewarded by a top-class picture performance. The only downside is the lack of a digital TV tuner.