my review of Philips 37PFL9604H/12

someuser08

Active Member
Since there is no much reviews out there (well in fact not many owners as well) I thought I would share my opinion of the new 37" Philips TV.

General
===============

This TV grows on me. Once set up properly it produces stunning picture. I really appreciate how good it looks these days when going to TV shops and looking at what previously I thought was really impressive picture. It is rather pricey for a 37" (I got for 1250 quid with 5 year warranty) and even though I find it worth it I must admit that it doesn't present the best value for money out there (although if I had to buy TV again I would go for it with no hesitation).

The look and feel is great - doesn't feel cheap as all. Plenty of connectivity - 5 HDMI ports, 2 scarts, component, video, s-video, VGA, Ethernet, Wi-Fi, USB. Ambilight is very nice addition (more about it later). Remote is good (very solid) but could have been backlit. Back button is very useful when switching between not only channels but two different sources without having to go the menu.

The biggest general annoyance is its slow start-up. It takes 5 seconds for the Philips logo to appear, then 15 for a TV picture to be shown and then another 5 for the remote to become responsive. So 25 seconds in total! Not sure if that
is caused by some setting or by wireless connection to the internet for automatic update purposes.

As far as panel quality goes - its very uniform with no backlight bleed whatsoever. Black levels are very good for my eyes, but I'm not able to compare it to the reference level, so I can't really comment how close they are to the best
level (I do recommend to set Dynamic Contrast to minimum as opposed to off to achieve better blacks). Viewing angles are superb, although pure black start to shift to grey a bit especially if viewing from top angle.


TV viewing (SD)
==============

I haven't used to watch a lot of TV, but it totally changed my habits. SD picture is so fantastic that from a distance of 2.5-3m it almost looks like HD (depending on the channel/programm of course). Internal decoder is very impressive
when comparing to external box I had before. While picture itself might not be sharper (when looking close pixilation is too much for a fair comparison), but colours as well as motion handling (even with Natural Motion off) is better
than 1080i input from a freeview box. The motion advantage could be seen when looking at the news channel with scrolling news. This reminded me of a demo running on Samsungs in Currys for 100Hz technology. To me internal decoder of the
Philips produces exactly the kind of smooth picture 100Hz technology is advertising (even though I didn't have it enabled) while external box gives what demo video considered "normal" video. I just wish it had freesat decoder as well.

Another advantage of using internal tuner is very good audio decoder (comparing to external box). Btw, on the subject of audio - speakers are quite adequate, however they obviously can't compare with even with good 2.0 systems out there
(I have Logitech Z10 attached to it). The problem for me is that level of external audio signal can't be adjusted from it and since I have no remote for my speakers it could be annoying at times, however using external freeview box solves the problem (as I describe later).

My biggest gripe with the TV mode is EPG screen. I don't have experience of EPG on other TVs, but I don't find it impressive at all. First, when I start EPG screen current program stops (Even the sound, although it appears if you press "info" to see the details of the program). Second, there is no short description of the program unless you press "info" to go into another screen. Third, there is a bug it seems in the current firmware that won't allow going past channel 45 on freeview even though by pressing the channel number or channel up it goes there with no problem (as well as when using grid mode). In general I'm used to the list of channels accompanied by current description and a small preview window. So what we ended up is watching TV through external box while we browse the channels and once we settled for watching something for longer period of time we switch back to internal decoder. This also solves audio problem I have since I can adjust it via the external box.

HD viewing
==========

I don't have Sky (and awaiting my freesat HD box to test HD channels), so all HD material comes from my PC. Here is my set up: I have hooked HDMI cable (5m) from my graphics card ATI 4870 via DVI-to-HDMI adapter that allows audio pass-through. I then extended my desktop to use TV as second monitor, so I'm able to play anything on it while working on the main monitor.

The picture is fantastic, but then I certainly expected it would be. I can only compare it to the 24" full HD monitor I have hooked in to the PC. TV produces far superior contrast levels and motion resolution. I tried playing Blurays/MKVs and everything is producing superb results. I should probably mention that even SD AVI files played from the computer look stunning (but that is due to very good decoder/player on the PC side since scaling is done there).


Natural Motion
==============

I tried using it on many sources and I have to say that it only useful for handful of them. The only sources that generally benefit from it would be News, Sport and Documentaries. Only a few movies that are made look a bit like "video" source would benefit as well (like may be "I Robot" which I found to be OK with that setting). Otherwise Natural Motion looks very unnatural to me - a bit sped up. I tried forcing myself to watch the whole movie with it just to find out if I get used to it - and I gave up half way through. Now that I know how it behaves I'm glad I didn't go for the 9664 version since 200Hz (which only can be enabled if Natural Motion is enabled as well) would not be useful for me. Sports do look very good with that setting though. I watched F1 and it looked extremely smooth!

Ambilight
=========

Well, it might be a gimmick, however it does provide some advantages beyond just looking cool. We rarely watch TV in total darkness and according to calibration guides the best place to have lighting in the room for watching TV is actually behind the TV. So Ambilight perfectly lights up our living room without us having to have any lights on. Changing colours according to the picture is supposed to have a widening effect, however personally I just like changing colours :)
We even put the Ambilight on when not watching TV as it looks so cool. So to sum up - totally not needed feature in theory that I find myself using all the time and it will be difficult to live without.


Media playback
==============

During my research on which TV to buy I generally came across lots of problems with media playback on any TV, so at some point I just stopped caring about this one since I can always hook up my PC to it. Having said that I was obviously
curious how well it fairs with regards of media playback. It is rather disappointing I have to say. About 75% of AVI(XviD) files that I had at hand failed to play properly, i.e. they were very juddery at a frame rate about 15fps). Those that played well looked quite good, but I'm not sure one can properly set it up though as there almost no picture adjustments available in media playback mode. Also you have no control of aspect ratio, so it always stretches very wide screen material to fit the screen (didn't have 4:3 material available for testing). I've tried playback from both USB and PC (via wireless connection) and results are the same. MKV files aren't supported (even when renamed to AVI). So even though this TV clearly is not as good as say Samsung in this respect I would not hold it as its disadvantage as you'll never be 100% happy with medial playback on any TV unless you hook it up to the PC which I strongly recommend if you wish to play media files (if that is not an option and its your main criteria then obviously Philips is not for you).


Network connectivity
====================

Setting up wireless connection on this TV is a piece of cake (I didn’t try Ethernet, but expect that to be even simpler). I have my wireless network WPA2 protected with hidden SSID and it didn't have any problems connecting to it. Very impressed! It managed to connect to both Window Media Player sharing as well as Twonky Media Server and browse for files. Great stuff but as I described in the previous section not really useful (may be future firmware updates improve that though). To my surprise once when turning on the TV I was asked if I wanted the firmware to be updated as a new one is available. Very cool feature, but I wonder if that has anything to do with slow start-up times that I described in the beginning. May be wireless connection takes a bit of time to set up... Its worth mentioning that firmware updates appear earlier that they advertised on the website.

I have not extensively played with Net TV though. The interface is a bit slow and I don't find it that useful since I have PC connected to it anyway. Browsing internet is possible, but again slow and not at all convenient comparing to the PC (especially since I have wireless keyboard).

Settings and Calibration:
=========================

This is what I came up with so far. I have used DVE calibration Bluray disc via the PC's HDMI input.

I'll start with Perfect Pixel HD settings as they would influence how other settings behave:


  • Perfect Natural Motion - off (as described earlier could be switched on for News/Sports)
  • Advanced Sharpness - off for HDMI, on for TV
  • Dynamic Contrast - minimum (setting it to off would require different brightness/contrast settings)
  • Dynamic Backlight - off
  • MPEG Artefact Reduction - off for HDMI, on for TV
  • Colour Enhancement - off

The rest:


  • Light Sensor - Off
  • Contrast - 85
  • Brightness - 48

These would have to be changed if Dynamic Contrast is switched off to 80/53 which frankly looks inferior to 85/48 in terms of general brightness and black levels.



  • Colour - 62

Using colour filters provided with DVE disk calibrating different colour would result in different colour settings: 67 for Blue, 60 for Red, 58 for Green. So I took the mean value of 62 which looks good. Additionally I was able to perfectly calibrate both Blue and Red via Tint/Hue setting of my ATI 4870 graphics card (not everyone obviously be able to do that).



  • Sharpness - 3 for HDMI, 5 for TV
  • Tint - Normal
  • Noise Reduction - off for HDMI, Medium for TV (not really see the effect though)

Of course calibration was done for dimmed/medium light environment. In very sunny conditions one would have to up the contrast to 100 or simply use "Vivid" preset which would allow watching even with direct sunlight. Boy, I'm glad I didn't get plasma :)

Hope people find this useful.
 

FromTexel

Active Member
The biggest general annoyance is its slow start-up. It takes 5 seconds for the Philips logo to appear, then 15 for a TV picture to be shown and then another 5 for the remote to become responsive. So 25 seconds in total! Not sure if that
is caused by some setting or by wireless connection to the internet for automatic update purposes.

The start-up of the 9664 seems to me to be a little faster, but my TV picture comes in through the HDMI-connection. Probably the total number of connected devices also affects the start-up time, since the Philips is checking them all...
 

someuser08

Active Member
The start-up of the 9664 seems to me to be a little faster, but my TV picture comes in through the HDMI-connection. Probably the total number of connected devices also affects the start-up time, since the Philips is checking them all...

If I leave it switched to HDMI then a few last seconds may be gone upon start up (which probably used to get EPG in the TV mode), but still 20+ seconds. Do you have WiFi connection set up on it?

Can you please time exactly how long the startup takes for you? Thanks.
 

FromTexel

Active Member
If I leave it switched to HDMI then a few last seconds may be gone upon start up (which probably used to get EPG in the TV mode), but still 20+ seconds. Do you have WiFi connection set up on it?

Can you please time exactly how long the startup takes for you? Thanks.

22 seconds exactly from startup to remote-responsiveness. No Wifi, only 15 m wire to the internet router. My Topfield and Arcam also require likewise startup time; I guess they all have computerprocessors on board, that go through some kind of setup.
 

someuser08

Active Member
So its basically the same. My freeview box takes just 5 sec to startup though...


Btw, I finally hooked in a freesat box and now can enjoy a couple of HD channels which look very impressive! But the whole freesat experience is somewhat dissapointing - freeview in general has much higher SD quality...
 

The latest video from AVForums

Sony Bravia XR A80J OLED TV Review
Subscribe to our YouTube channel
Support AVForums with Patreon

Top Bottom