Philips 32PFL7404 television

High-end sets from the Philips stable have impressed of late, but this 7000 Series 32-incher sees a few shortcuts made to bring it in at under £700. Shortcuts, yes, but a lot of the tech that makes other Philips TVs such a success remains on the 32PFL7404.

A Full HD set with 100Hz and a super-quick 3 milliseconds response panel, fluid pictures with no blur is the promise; for a mid-priced set, that’s pretty awesome. So too is this set’s four HDMI inputs – one on its left-hand side for easy access, with a Component video input making it possible to feed the 32PFL7404 five HD feeds simultaneously.

If that wasn’t enough, attach a Blu-ray player and the 32PFL7404’s EasyLink feature lets you control the basic functions from the TV’s remote. Incidentally, the remote is excellent; streamlined, simple and well built.

Away from HD, the 32PFL7404’s built-in Freeview tuner comes with a Common Interface slot in the TV’s side, so subscription TV viewing cards can be added. There’s also a few Scarts, but you’re not going to need those if you plan to get the best out of the 32PFL7404’s 1920 x 1080 pixel panel.

As well as boasting 80,000:1 contrast ratio, a light sensor is included that can be set to automatically boost and lower the brightness of the screen according to the ambient light in the room; that’s a particularly handy feature if you’re feeling too lazy to fiddle with the many picture settings.

The 32PFL7404 is actually well suited to people who really don’t want to tinker with settings too much; a Smart Settings menu pops-up when you first switch on the TV and proceeds to display a variety of photos, with a split screen presenting different brightness, colour or contrast levels. You then simply select which side of the screen you prefer and the TV generates a user setting for you.

Fine, though what about video? The look of a photo doesn’t have much bearing on how a movie will appear. Thankfully, as well as a host of simple preset picture modes (movie, games, etc) the 32PFL7404 uses 100Hz tech and HD Natural Motion for video, two slices of circuitry that have been such a success – most notably with Blu-ray – on other Philips sets lately.

The 100Hz mode works very well, with pictures from DVD and Blu-ray both looking precise and free of blur. Loads of detail is on show, though it’s HD Natural Motion that introduces a cinematic glow to Blu-ray discs.
By removing the judder from a disc, scenes appear more real, with depth and a rare fluency. It does this by predicting what’s coming next, and inserting a frame of video to smooth the transition from one frame to the next.

Some strong black levels and vivid colours undoubtedly help this sense of realism, though there is an issue with flicker; there’s no blur, but fast-moving actors and objects do have a halo of flicker around them when HD Natural Motion is switched on. It can be distracting, though with two settings – high and low – you should be able to experiment with it and make your own mind; if it really doesn’t work for you, just switch it off.

Audio is another slight step-down from Philips’ recent sets, but its less powerful 10W speakers still manage impressive sonics. A surround setting doesn’t really do justice to its name, but a deeper and more expansive soundstage is created that suits movies well; sound effects are improved while dialogue remains at the forefront.

Verdict

If you want the finest 32-incher around, head for Philips’ feature packed 32PFL9604. If you’re happy with second best – and a saving of at least £300 - the 32PFL7404 makes for an excellent all-rounder that’s a more polished performer than most.