First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.
The Philips 42PFL7532D is a 42in LCD TV with a native resolution of 1366x768. It can accept video signals in resolutions ranging from 480i through to 720p and 1080i. The proprietary Philips technologies of Digital Natural Motion and Pixel Plus 2 are also employed, but unlike other models in Philips' range, it does not use Ambilight. For explanations on all these technologies, check out our review of the Philips 42PF9831.
- Excellent image quality in standard and high definition modes, Excellent colour reproduction, Attractive design
- Non-standard rear connections with no supplied specialty cabling, Auto aspect ratio bugs, some noise in darker elements in standard definition mode
While the image quality is high and the sound quality is good, the connectivity options on the 42PFL7532D, as well as the required calibration time, aren't user-friendly.
Price$ 2,899.99 (AUD)
Our testing showed high quality images in standard and high definition modes, but there were a few problems with the unit overall, most of which could be worked around. The most frustrating element of this unit, in comparison to other Philips TVs we have reviewed, is the connectivity at the rear of the device. While the types of signals it accepts are consistent with other flat panel TVs on the market, the way it accepts them is not. The component connectors are present, but rather than have an accompanying RCA audio connector, there is a 3.5mm headphone-style jack and no RCA to 3.5mm stereo adaptor is provided. Similarly, the unit uses SCART for two of its connectors. SCART is a connection type that is largely used in Europe and is found on very few devices in this country. While a SCART adaptor is provided, only one is provided and it only converts to composite video or S-Video. What this boils down to is that if you buy this TV, you can't just take it home and plug in your devices without buying extra cables.
To test the high definition capabilities of this unit, we connected an Xbox 360 using a Component connection and ran gaming and HD-DVD movie tests at resolutions of 720p and 1080i, respectively. In both sets of tests, the image quality was excellent. However, for the gaming test, some calibration was required due to irreparable over-sharpening, some pixelation in high-detail areas and moments of odd jittery motion. This calibration, oddly enough, involved switching off Digital Natural Motion, Pixel Plus 2 and Digital Noise Reduction. We also had to reduce the sharpness as there was excessive over-sharpening by default. Finally, we increased the brightness and maxed the contrast to 100. This gave a stunning result where motion was natural and textures were highly detailed without any pixelation. Colours were reproduced accurately and the black levels were rich without backlight discolouration. If you plan to play video games with this unit, you will not be disappointed. There was some very slight pixelation along some curved edges, but if you are sitting at a comfortable viewing distance, this wont be a problem.
For the HD-DVD test, we viewed the Empire State Building finale from King Kong. Since they are technologies designed for movie viewing, we turned on Digital Natural Motion, Pixel Plus 2 and Digital Noise Reduction for our movie tests. The image quality was top-notch with no pixelation at all, high detail and no contrast stepping. There was a little noise in the clouds at the beginning of the scene, but no more than most panels we have reviewed, and not enough for it to be noticeable when watching it from the comfort of your couch. The colour was accurate, the whites were pure and the blacks were convincingly dark. Overall, in this test and the gaming tests, we were more than satisfied with the performance of the unit. The image quality wasn't quite as crisp and clean as other high-end units on the market, but it was certainly of a high calibre.
Standard definition mode was tested using our Digital Video Essentials (DVE) DVD and by viewing the Lobby Scene from The Matrix. Digital Video Essentials is a series of still calibration images that are an excellent way to check from problems in a unit at a fundamental level. During the grey bars test, we detected a moderate level of noise in low grey, which suggests that the panel can potentially have issues displaying dark shades of colours. This was particularly noticeable when we watched the Matrix footage as darker areas tended to have an elevated level of noise over the usual interpolation artefacts. The DVE greyscale showed a slight green discolouration at mid-grey, but we couldn't see any evidence of this translating to actual image quality degradation. There was no discolouration during the Matrix footage or during the DVE colour tests, but we did experience noticeable over-sharpening and noticeable pixelation on curved edges. While the image quality was acceptable in standard definition, it was not the best we have seen and was slightly less detailed than what we usually see when viewing standard definition content.
Harking back to the connectivity issues we experienced, another bewildering design choice is the exclusion of a D-Sub port on the rear panel of the unit. This doesn't mean that it doesn't support a PC input - the support is there. However, to connect a PC you have to have a special cable that has a VGA connector on one end and five video cables on the other. These are then connected to the Component port and the two ports below it to achieve PC connectivity. We have never seen a TV with this kind of PC connection and since this special cable is not supplied, we were unable to test the unit in PC mode.
Another quirk we discovered was with respect to the auto scaling of 4:3 and 16:9 video signals. When viewing the HD-DVD film Full Metal Jacket, the image would randomly zoom in and crop the sides of the image, then a few seconds later, zoom back out. This could be a fault of the TV, or a fault of the source material, but it was easily corrected by manually setting the TV to 16:9 'widescreen' mode.
The 42PFL7532D has a piano black gloss finish and is rather attractive. The stand doesn't come pre-assembled, but putting it together isn't too complicated nor time consuming. Like other Philips TVs, the 'smart' initial setup procedures are excellent and involve very simple-to-follow instructions on how to set the TV to settings that are favourable to your style of viewing. The speakers do a good job but are by no means exceptional. The bass is a little lacking at times and the high treble registers are limited in range. The sound works well when viewing films with good element separation, but lacks enough body to really pack a punch.
While the image quality is high and the sound quality is good, the connectivity options on this 42PFL7532D, as well as the required calibration time, can make it seem user-hostile. While it does have some user-friendly features, like the simple setup procedures, there were too many odd or frustrating issues than we would have liked. If you're willing to overlook them, then this TV might well be the one for you.
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