Turning to the built-in browser, things are obviously a lot more complicated. A warning pops up when you first head for the full Internet that some pages aren’t designed to work with TV interfaces, and this proved to be the case with a number of pages I tried to access.
Inputting text for the web browser is done via a pop-up onscreen keyboard, like you get for sending messages from a PS3 or Xbox 360. A few key phrases – www., .co.uk, .com, .net etc – are provided as single key-press selections, but moving round the keys feels rather sluggish. Plus, of course, cycling through all the links on a web page not designed with TV users in mind can be a very time-consuming business. And trying to read Internet text on a 32in TV screen – even a Full HD one – isn’t always very easy on the eye, either. In short, the 32PFL9604’s full Internet access while appreciated will probably ultimately only be used on a very casual basis; it certainly won’t replace a PC for major net users.
Philips has declared that it has no intention of releasing a keyboard/mouse to use with its new Net TVs, as it wants its online experience to be seen as an extension of normal TV functionality rather than turning its TV into a PC. But I really don’t see the harm in offering one as an option for anyone who wants it, and it would make the TV’s open Internet feature a much more satisfying selling point.
Right, that’s Philips big innovation for the 32PFL9604 out of the way. So let’s now go in search of other more minor differences/improvements over Philips TVs of the past.
Aesthetically, the 32PFL9604 is strikingly different from last year’s Philips models. Out goes the glossy black bezel with bold outer transparent ‘shroud’ effect, in comes a new real aluminium and charcoal grey frame, with the TV’s speakers tucked neatly below. While still very striking, though, and arguably in tune with ideas of the sort of build quality we should demand of a premium TV, I have to say that I personally didn’t find the new look nearly as elegant as the old one. But you’re completely at liberty to disagree with me, of course!
The 32PFL9604 is extremely well connected. Five HDMIs are there for digital HD sources – four on the back and an EasyLink (HDMI-CEC) one on the side – but where the TV really comes into its own is with its multimedia support. For the Ethernet port used for Internet access can also be used for DLNA-based connection with a PC, while a USB port permits playback of a remarkably wide variety of file formats. For the geeks among you, the file formats supported by the 32PFL9604 are: AAC LC, MP3, AC3, LPCM, WMA v2 up to v9.2, .alb slideshow files, JPEGs, GIFs, PNGs, MPEG1, MPEG2, MPEG4, AVI H.264/MPEG-4 AVC, and WMV9/VC1.