Philips Ambilight LCDs are the pretty young things of the flat-screen world. As well as boasting excellent picture quality and an abundance of features, they also feature swanky backlight panels that adapt to whatever's happening onscreen. This not only looks cool (and you can take advantage of Ambilight even when there's nothing on-screen), but it also boosts the perceived contrast of the picture as well. The result is a premium television that panders to both high-level home cinema fans and those more concerned with style.
While the 32PF9830 is one of the most expensive TVs in its size, Philips has included plenty of premium features to justify the price. Aside from Abilight, the set features a motorised table stand and Pixel Plus 2 HD, which is the best picture-processing technology around. The high-definition picture can't be beaten, but there are still some areas for improvement. The TV really needs a digital tuner and there are some connectivity issues, both of which we know for certain will be solved by the next model.
Discounting efforts from trendsetters Bang & Olufsen and Loewe, the Philips 32PF9830 is the coolest looking LCD TV around. It's up for debate of course -- other members of the CNET.co.uk team have said that the frame is too large and the Ambilight panels are distracting, but the understated style should appeal to fans of modern design. The motorised stand only adds to the allure.
Connectivity on the Philips is excellent, with three high-definition-compatible inputs, two of which are HDCP-compatible (for Sky HD). There's an HDMI input for digital video and audio, while the DVI input has accompanying stereo audio connectors. The component video inputs sit next to two coaxial audio inputs and one output, so you shouldn't have any trouble connecting a DVD player, as most of them feature coaxial outs. However, the Xbox 360 doesn't, so you can't actually play your 360 with audio unless you buy an adaptor. Philips' Web site suggests you buy a component-to-DVI convertor, but we think it will be easier to buy an optical audio to coaxial audio adaptor, which will be around £15. True, many buyers will run the 32PF9830's audio through home-cinema speakers, but it's an annoying connectivity issue for those that don't.
Standard-definition connectivity is also well catered-for, with three Scarts (two of which are RGB-compatible). Since the TV doesn't have an integrated digital tuner, you'll want to use one of these RGB inputs for your Freeview or Sky tuner, and possibly the other one for a games console. Lower-quality composite and S-Video inputs are located on the left side panel for easy access, along with the headphone socket.
The remote control and interface design are as good as they get, with a brand new sub-menu layout that hides plenty more advanced options. In addition to the usual picture and sound options, there are a number of tweaks that you can make to the Ambilight setup. The remote control is pleasingly heavy and the button layout is nigh-on perfect. We particularly liked the way you can turn Ambilight off at the touch of a button as well as being able to control a whole host of other devices such as DVD players and amps.
Where do we start on such a fully featured television? Philips' Pixel Plus 2 HD tech has been employed to great effect, taking high-definition material and making it look crisper than we've ever seen on an LCD. Philips provided us with a high-definition showreel from a PC, and the picture quality from Windows Media Video made us anticipate the arrival of Blu-ray even more. Picture quality is best described as the cleanest on the market -- with pure, deep blacks, no motion artefacting and a razor-sharp level of detail.