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Turning at last to the 32PFL9604's picture quality, I've got great news: it's a genuinely huge improvement over anything I've seen from any 32in Philips TV before. No mean feat considering that Philips has already been responsible for some of the best 32in LCD TVs in the business.
There are two main reasons for my enthusiasm: contrast and motion handling.
Regarding the former, the set's black level response is vastly better than anything I've seen before from Philips at this size point. In fact, the extent to which the TV avoids the blue or grey misting effect over even a really dark scene like any of those out on the street during 30 Days of Night is arguably the best I've seen from anyone. Certainly only top-line models from Sony and Samsung can really claim to get close.
I should also stress that these impressive black levels aren't achieved at the expense of shadow detailing, either. In other words, dark parts of the picture look three-dimensional and textured, just like bright parts, rather than looking hollow and flat.
Also striking is how little the 32PFL9604 has to reduce the overall brightness of its pictures in order to make its deep black levels possible. This helps dark scenes retain a level of dynamism that I really believe is unique at this size point of the market.
When it comes to the TV's motion handling, what's happened is that Philips has managed to deliver a marked reduction in the amount of artefacts that accompany the HD Natural Motion element of the Perfect Pixel HD engine. So now you can enjoy the mesmerising fluidity the system introduces - which really is in a different league to anything offered along similar lines by any rival brand - without having to tolerate nearly as many of the distracting side effects that have made the feature such a staple talking point in techie forums across the globe.
The system certainly isn't flawless; there can still be a noticeable flicker around really fast moving elements, such as the arms and legs of a sprinter, and occasionally a swift burst of horizontal motion - especially if it's taking place within a camera pan - can produce a little shimmering halo effect around the moving object. Also you'd be crazy to use the Natural Motion option on anything other than its Minimum setting, and I personally wouldn't use the 100Hz option if you're watching an action film or sporting event. But provided you take these relatively simple precautions, the benefits of the latest Natural Motion circuitry far outweigh the negatives.
Still not convinced? Well, then you can turn off the Natural Motion function entirely. And rather excellently, if you do this, you'll still find that motion looks impressively crisp anyway - just not as judder-free.
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