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For my money, nobody crams more features into their TVs than Philips - at least so far as the brand's premium models are concerned. So every year I half expect to find the Philips think-tank running out of 'juice'; finally being unable to come up with anything other than an incremental improvement on features already introduced on a previous TV generation.
But with the 32PFL9604, Philips has yet again managed to push its frontier that bit further. In fact, its new talking point is actually something we've not seen before on any 'mainstream' TV: full Internet access. What's more, this access can be achieved via a 'hard' Ethernet connection, or wirelessly via a built-in 802.11g Wi-Fi application. Excellent.
Numerous other big brands now offer online functions, of course. Sony has its Applicast system, Samsung has its Yahoo Widgets-driven engine, and Panasonic has its new VieraCast offering. But all these only let you into carefully managed, ring-fenced sections of the Web, rather than giving you unfettered access to everything the Internet has to offer.
The Philips approach actually offers both experiences. For after agreeing to a hilariously lengthy terms and conditions document, and telling the TV if you want to apply a lock-out to Adult content (wow, this really IS the Internet!), the first online page you're presented with shows a selection of six preferred content providers offering services designed to work well with a TV rather than PC interface.
These preferred providers comprise YouTube, the tunim.fm online radio seach/playback engine, the Funspot online games service, MyAlbum.com for sharing and viewing photos, the Netlog service (a sort of stripped down Facebook), and MeteoConsult offering the inevitable interactive weather forecasts.
Having played around with these at length, I have to say that they represent a pretty diverse and genuinely worthwhile series of ring-fenced services overall. In fact, I'd even say I was drawn to the 32PFL9604's preferred content - especially the tunin.fm digital radio tuner - more than I was by anything currently offered by the previous best online platform, Samsung's internet@tv service.
I should also stress that the ring-fenced content all works well via the TV's sleek, well-organised remote. I was very impressed, too, by the AV quality with which the screen presents downloaded AV, with picture and especially sound generally being way better than you'll be used to from a typical PC setup.
Stuff downloads with decent speed too, and even typing in words to search engines isn't as tedious as you might expect given that you have to use repeated presses of the remote's numeric keys to input different letters.
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