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There are some more unusual connectors present too. First up there’s an Ethernet port that allows you to connect the 37PF9731D to your home network. Once hooked up, you can load the Philips media manager software onto any PC on the network and stream pictures, music and video direct to the TV. This worked very well in practice, although you really want to make sure that the PC you’re streaming from isn’t connected via Wi-Fi, as even with 802.11g you’re going to get stuttering and freezing occasionally. When streaming from a PC that’s hard wired, the video is smooth as silk. Once all hooked up I found myself watching the first few episodes of Lost season three, although I’ll no doubt watch them all again when Sky starts to broadcast the show in HD later in the month.
The 37PF9731D has a decent array of codecs built into it and I found that I could playback an array of XviD video files. Even more impressive is that you don’t have to stream your files over a network, you can plug them straight in. You see the 37PF9731D also has a pair of USB ports so you can dump your video on a USB key and play it directly. As if that wasn’t enough, there’s also a multi-format memory card reader, so you can whip your card straight out of your digital camera and show the pictures on a big screen.
Of course having loads of extra features like these is all well and good, but when you buy a high-end TV like this, the most important aspect is image quality. Thankfully Philips has got the basics well and truly covered with this set, as it produces some of the best pictures I’ve ever seen on a television. Despite the fact that the high resolution of this set is very welcome, in my experience, the best image quality tends to be a result of good image processing rather than the number of lines displayed, and in the area of image processing Philips really does excel.
First up we have Pixel Plus 3 HD – that latest version of Philips’ highly acclaimed image processing engine. This brings with it a host of improvements like better colour accuracy and reduced noise. In practice I found Pixel Plus 3 HD to be absolutely superb. Despite the fact that Philips is clearly concentrating on making HD sources look as good as they can be, Pixel Plus 3 HD made a huge difference to standard definition sources.
The other major part of Philips’ image processing arsenal is Clear LCD. With Clear LCD Philips is trying to move away from LCD’s PC monitor roots and create a technology that’s more in tune with video viewing. The two main areas that Clear LCD addresses are the two main shortcomings of LCD technology – contrast and motion smearing. Clear LCD incorporates a scanning backlight system which mimics the way a CRT works, thus improving the panel response and eliminating the motion smearing issue. Clear LCD also includes a feature called Deep Dynamic Dimming. This means that the intensity of the backlights is constantly changing depending on the subject matter – the result being that blacks look black rather than dark grey.