Philips' Aurea TV may be grabbing the headlines and plaudits, but in its own way, this 52-inch Philips Cineos 52PFL9632D model is every bit as impressive.
Like the Aurea, it's a full 1,920x1,080-pixel screen with the full power of Philips' Perfect Pixel HD Engine image processing system behind it -- but with a bigger screen, and for about £500 less. Of course, you only get regular two-lamp Ambilight rather than Aurea's 42-lamp kaleidoscope effect.
Connectivity is right up there with the best big screens, with three HDMIs (all the latest v1.3 spec) and a component video socket allowing you to hook up as many as four hi-def sources simultaneously. You even get a USB socket on the side for viewing photos and listening to MP3 music. The only disappointment is the lack of a PC input. Philips expects you to use one of the HDMIs for this purpose.
Picture quality is more impressive. The 'Full HD' resolution means that every pixel of HD DVD and Blu-ray movies is on display and the wealth of image processing modes present in the Perfect Pixel HD Engine means that hi-def material looks glorious.
Take an episode of The Tudors on BBC HD, for example: as Henry VIII experiences a gloomy nightmare, the dark rooms of his castle demonstrate the screen's aptitude for strong, deep blacks, while the king's frightened face remains bright, detailed and free from noise.
Faster-paced horse-riding scenes show off the Philips' excellent motion handling and response time, with moving object edges looking unusually sharp for an LCD and backgrounds flying by with almost no sign of judder. There is the odd noticeable side-effect to this 100Hz processing -- a slight shimmering around the edges of some objects -- but on the whole it's the most effective we've seen.
Standard definition material from the built-in Freeview tuner doesn't impress to the same degree, with noise on show -- although it certainly isn't bad considering the huge screen size.
One slightly irritating aspect of this -- and all Philips' new range -- is that you cannot squeeze a picture to a 4:3 aspect ratio when watching a hi-def feed. For instance, older episodes of The Sopranos via our Sky HD box had to be viewed in 16:9 Stretch-o-vision, making Tony's head even fatter than usual. It's the same if you're watching a 4:3 DVD from an upscaling DVD player. The only way to get around it is to change the source resolution to standard defintion, which is time consuming and fiddly.
Sound quality is a little tinny compared to the better flat panels, but not to the degree that it distracts from your viewing pleasure. As usual, we'd advise anyone looking to get the best AV experience to invest in a decent external amplifier and speakers.
While it's not as much as a statement product as Aurea, the 52PFL9632D is just as fantastic when it comes to performance. Feed this television a diet of hi-def movies, TV and games and you'll be rewarded with some of the cleanest, liveliest pictures currently available on a flat screen TV. And you get a lot of screen for the money, too.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Shannon Doubleday