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Philips 37PFL9632D Operation
On-Screen User Menu
The Philips 37PFL9632D employs a cascading on-screen user menu that can go several (maybe one too many) layers deep, though fortunately there isn't too much lag in navigation unlike some recent LCD televisions from Sharp and Samsung. Perhaps more of an issue is how the user menu occupies the whole screen for the most parts (though some parameters obscure only half the screen), making it somewhat difficult to tweak certain elements that require eyeballing the underlying picture.
The very first time you switch on your brand new Philips 37PFL9632D, you will eventually be guided through the [Settings Assistant] where you are shown a series of images split down the middle, and asked to choose the side you prefer (each side reflects a different setting). By taking advantage of this innovation, you could in theory arrive at an attractive (although almost certainly inaccurate) picture without ever needing to visit the [Picture] submenu. Because I have access to light-measuring instruments and calibration material, I found the [Settings Assistant] too crude for my liking, but it should be of some help to viewers who are averse to technical adjustments.
In addition to the picture, the [Settings Assistant] will also help you select your audio and Ambilight preferences. It can be summoned from the [TV Settings] submenu at any time.
Picture Presets & Adjustments
The Philips 37PFL9632D offers 4 picture presets lumped under the [Reset To Standard] submenu, namely [Current], [Natural], [Vivid] and [Movie]. [Current] denotes the settings being applied to whichever input you're viewing at the moment. Some parameters can be saved independently per input; others like [Tint], [Perfect Pixel HD], [Dynamic Contrast], [Colour Enhancement], [Active Control] and [Light Sensor] cannot.
[Natural], [Vivid] and [Movie] are predefined non-adjustable presets. Be careful... "storing" any one of these presets would replace the settings on ALL inputs with the predefined ones.
Greyscale calibration is possible through the [Custom Tint] submenu which allows you to adjust the white balance, although the option to set blue bias/ cut is curiously absent.
The following is a rundown of what some of the less clear-cut picture controls actually do according to my observations:
- [Perfect Pixel HD]: Amplifies the [Sharpness] setting.
- [HD Natural Motion]: Interpolates frames to reduce film-based judder, making movies look like video.
- [100Hz Clear LCD]: Reduces motion blurring through scanning backlight and possibly frame interpolation. Although this option is greyed out when [HD Natural Motion] is disabled, its value is preserved independently of [HD Natural Motion]. For example, if you set [100Hz Clear LCD] to "On", it will remain engaged even if you set [HD Natural Motion] to "Off".
- [Colour Enhancement]: Mainly affects the saturation of blue and its derivative.
- [Active Control]: Automatically adjusts several parameters depending on the image on screen, the details of which can be gleaned from its demo in the [Features] menu:
Sound & Ambilight Adjustments
Hampered by lowly 2 x 8-watt speakers, none of the options found in the [Sound] submenu could not do much to lift the flimsy sonic performance of the Philips 37PFL9632D to beyond mediocrity.
I found the [Ambilight] submenu to be of more use. You can choose to let the Ambilight adapt to screen content, or keep it at a constant colour. For the former, three modes – [Relaxed], [Moderate] and [Dynamic] – with different levels of saturation and speed of colour change (and distraction) are available.
However, if you wish to conform to SMPTE's recommendations on ambient lighting, you'd be better off maintaining the Ambilight at a constant level. With the [Colour] option you can set the ambient light close to 6500K. [Brightness] allows you to adjust the level to within 10% of the on-screen peak-white for optimal viewing.
Under the [Installation] menu you will find the [Connections] submenu where you can define the type of device connected to each input. I feel this submenu merits highlighting because in addition to providing labelling for convenience, this serves as a way to disable some picture processing that otherwise cannot be accessed through the regular menu. I will elaborate on this in the "Video Processing" section on the next page.
Electronic Programme Guide (EPG)
The EPG on Philips 37PFL9632D sports a clean layout and relatively responsive navigation, but for the life of me I couldn't find a way to display more than two columns of programmes on a single page, which seriously limits the amount of information that could be gleaned from the main page. On occasion I had to click forward a couple of pages just to find out what's showing in 2 hours' time, simply because there were four 30-minute programmes in between. This could have been prevented had Philips included an alternative version with time-based columns (e.g. 4 columns of hourly slots).
The infrared remote control for Philips 37PFL9632D is angled near the top and dons a silver face, giving it a futuristic look. Its slender body fits well in the hand, and the navigation ring is strategically placed where the thumb naturally rests. The individual buttons (also finished in silver) are adequately sized, well-mapped, and can be easily depressed into the down position while still returning decent tactile feedback.
My Philips 37PFL9632D review unit exhibited a high-pitched whine from the back of the panel during standby, which became louder two days after I first switched it on from new. This may be specific to my sample, but I could hear the standby whine from 8 feet away when the room is silent, prompting me to unplug the LCD television from the mains when not in use.
During normal viewing the whine never posed any problems, as its loudness decreased significantly whenever the Philips 37PFL9632D was turned on.
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