Reviewer: Thomas Bartlett
Philips panel TVs are best known for their Ambilight feature, which backlights the space behind the TV in colours designed to enhance the viewing experience. But if that seems gimmicky, let me assure you that this 80 cm LCD TV does all the important stuff right as well.
The TV’s panel has a resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels, and to make use of these it has a high definition digital TV tuner (plus an analog one), and two HDMI inputs. The latter do not support 1080 progressive scan, so you will be stuck with second-best 1080i for Blu-ray and HD DVD.
And it also has a USB socket on the side for multimedia work. From a plugged-in thumb drive or other ‘standard’ USB device, it can read MP3 music files, JPEG photos and even MPEG2 video files.
This feature is amazingly cool. The picture scaling on JPEG photos was excellent and they were gorgeously presented at the full panel resolution, and you can have a previously selected MP3 track playing even while a slideshow is running. To test the MPEG2 video feature, I dumped a 30 second snippet of full DVD quality video onto a thumb drive, popped it into the USB socket, and was able to play the video with excellent quality.
One thing frequently gets me down with Philips home entertainment products: the extraordinary slowness of their remote controls. I hate sitting there, waiting, wondering if the key I pressed even registered. Well, forget about all that with this TV. The remote performance was as snappy as any I’ve ever seen, and to go with it were beautifully designed menus, both in operation and in aesthetics.
On first startup, the TV tunes all your stations at once, both analog and digital, and then takes you through an eight-page set of split screens, from which you choose the picture look and sound that you prefer, allowing it to create a presentation of the image that you will like.
Nothing else is as easy to set up as this TV.
As for TV performance, the HDTV tuner worked perfectly, with good clarity and resolution. The panel performance was strong, with excellent natural colours. Thanks to the dynamic contrast ratio enhancements, for the most part black levels were at the top of the class for LCD TVs.
The PixelPlus HD processing did an excellent job of providing a sharp, artefact-free picture. However it would be wise to switch off the Digital Natural Motion circuit. While it smooths the flow of video, as intended, it frequently produces a subtle haloing effect around some onscreen objects. These seemed far more noticeable with this LCD TV than they do with plasma or CRT televisions.
I do not like Philips’ Ambilight in its default configuration. The colours it gleams onto the rear walls are designed to complement, and thereby enhance, the onscreen colours. For me, it is just plain off-putting. But you can switch it off or, better, switch it to a white setting. Then it has the effect of slightly enhancing the subjective impression of black levels.
But forget about the Ambilight, this Philips Cineos LCD TV is a fine unit on all other levels.