Four HDMIs wrap up the set’s key connections – though surprisingly, only one of these is v1.4 in nature. And that’s only because it offers an audio return channel. Unlike the other sets in the PFL9705 range, this 32in model doesn’t support 3D playback.
The Philips line on this is that it didn’t believe the effect of 3D pictures was strong enough at the 32in size to justify including it. Though at this price, we wouldn’t have minded having the option to decide for ourselves!
The lack of 3D pales compared with the 32PFL9705’s other surprising feature absentee though. For it doesn’t carry a Freeview HD tuner – something we’re already expecting as standard even on sets costing relative peanuts.
With the lack of 3D and built-in HD tuner suddenly knocking its feature appeal, it’s just as well that we still haven’t covered the two real aces up the 32PFL9705’s sleeve: direct LED lighting and Perfect Pixel HD processing.
Of these, the direct LED lighting is the most intriguing – especially as the system comes complete with local dimming, so the TV can illuminate clusters of LEDs individually of each other. This potential for having deep blacks and bright whites appearing simultaneously within a single frame in a way not possible with other types of LCD illumination predictably results in a huge claimed a contrast ratio of 5,000,000:1. This is comfortably the highest contrast ratio we’ve seen on a 32in TV, and actually matches the number put out by Panasonic in relation to its latest plasma TVs.
Perfect Pixel HD, as regular readers will know, is the name Philips gives to its own ridiculously powerful picture processing engine. This engine has proved controversial in the past, with some people feeling that it overcomplicates Philips TVs while also causing pictures to look over-processed. But while we would agree that you have to work harder to get the best out of Philips TVs because of Perfect Pixel HD, we would also say that provided you put the effort in, the processing has historically proved capable of turning out some outstanding results.
In fact, it’s blindingly obvious right away that Perfect Pixel HD processing in conjunction with the direct LED lighting system really does work wonders. Actually, the 32PFL9705’s picture is so aggressively commanding that - unusually for a TV of any size, never mind a ‘mere’ 32in one - no less than three different strengths immediately vie for our attention.
First up, there’s the screen’s truly immense contrast performance. This finds extremely bright, pure whites able to share the screen with the best black colours we’ve ever seen on a 32in flat TV.
Obviously, that’s a pretty big statement to make. But we stick by it. We just have not seen a 32in LCD or plasma TV before that gets rid of the usual LCD grey clouding issue with dark colours as successfully as the 32PFL9705.
What’s more, the 32PFL9705 achieves this without sacrificing as much shadow detail as local dimming LED TVs generally do. Nor (unless you watch from an angle of 40 degrees or more) is there any significant trouble from local dimming LED’s haloing issue, where you can see greyish haloes around very bright objects when they appear against dark backgrounds.
The 32PFL9705’s colours, meanwhile, are so bright and richly saturated that they initially take some getting used to. But this isn’t a fault of the 32PFL9705 – just a result of the tones of most rival 32in TVs looking drab by comparison.
The colours don’t become so aggressive that they make video footage look unnaturally cartoonish, mind, and nor do the aggressive saturations come at the expense of subtlety when it comes to portraying the sort of fine colour shifts that help give pictures solidity and depth.