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Other features worth a quick mention include a built-in digital tuner with all the CAM slot and electronic programme guide trimmings; two HDMIs; PC connectivity; and USB ports for direct playback of JPEG or video file formats stored on USB devices.
And so to the moment of truth: does the 42PF9631D’s plasma picture hold up against its same-sized LCD counterpart? And the answer is... just barely.
Kicking off with the good stuff, colours immediately strike us as unusually radiant by plasma standards. The effervescent tones of an animated film like Monsters Inc. look simply dazzling, as do many HD games on our Xbox 360. But even fairly mundane TV and movie footage gains lustre from the 42PF9631D’s apparent mission to be noticed on a shop floor among all the bright young LCD things.
Of course, such colour vibrancy wouldn’t be much use if the tones underlying it weren’t natural. But for the most part they are, as the set even passes with flying colours – pun intentional – such a trickily toned sequence as the Mines of Moria segment of The Fellowship of the Ring.
Pixel Plus 2 HD, meanwhile, works its customary wonders on the picture’s apparent sharpness. The 42PF9631D therefore does full justice to the extra fine detail in a high definition picture as well as making standard definition sources look much crisper than they would normally.
The 42PF9631D also does well at avoiding motion noise, be it either smearing caused by the demands motion places on the Pixel Plus 2 HD engine, or fizzing noise caused by the core reaction speed of the plasma panel.
So why did we say pictures barely hold up versus Philips’ same-sized LCD model? First, black levels aren’t great by today’s plasma standards, with dark scenes flattening out into grey earlier than they should. Also, where there should be smooth colour blends we sometimes found the Philips unable to resolve the colour shifts subtly enough, resulting in a quite distracting striping effect. And finally, without Pixel Plus 3 HD’s new noise reduction elements, Pixel Plus 2 HD can make standard definition pictures look a tad noisy.
The 42PF9631D’s sound is more consistent. Sure, more mid-range openness wouldn’t have gone amiss, but the soundstage is still large and powerful enough to engage, even during a fairly raucous action scene.
Comparing this Philips plasma set with the brand’s similarly sized LCD TVs, we’d probably be inclined to go for the LCDs. However, that’s certainly not meant to imply that you should always choose LCD over plasma, for there are a number of plasma alternatives out there able to give LCD a much, much better run for its money than this Philips effort can.
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