In case you hadn’t noticed, HD DVD vs Blu-ray is not the only vicious format war currently raging within the AV industry. For also currently tearing chunks out of each other are LCD and plasma flat TV technologies. In fact, this screen war has just been kicked up a gear by Hitachi, Pioneer and Panasonic, who’ve actually joined forces to remind the public of the supposed strengths of plasma over LCD technology via a barrage of in-store materials and an in-depth, pull-no-punches website: www.plasma-lcd-facts.eu.
While a good format war always gives us hacks plenty to write about, it’s always a relief to find a few brands that prefer to stay neutral by supporting both camps. And one of the most high profile of these neutral players is Philips. In fact, Philips’ refusal to choose one flat TV option over the other even extends to the most heavily contested size of the flat TV market: 42in. So while we’ve already tested a Philips 42in LCD TV, the 42PF5421, we now also find ourselves faced with a 42in Philips plasma TV in the form of the 42PF9631D.
The $64,000 question, of course, is whether Philips’ egalitarian gesture of allowing Joe Public to decide which format of 42in TV he wants is really worthwhile, or whether the brand does one technology so much better than the other that it really might as well stick with what it does best…
The 42PF9631D is certainly no half-hearted effort aesthetically. The deep, glossy black screen frame is really eye-catching, and provides the perfect counterpoint to the set’s most in-your-face feature: Ambilight.
If you’re not familiar with this, it comprises fluorescent tubes down each side of the TV that can emit pools of light that automatically change colour in sympathy with the main colour components of the picture at any given time. This sounds horrendously gimmicky, we’ll grant you; but honestly, as well as looking cooler than you might think, it also genuinely makes long-term viewing more relaxing by broadening the area of brightness that your eyes are focussed on.