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Philips 42PF9831D Picture Quality

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Out of the box, the Philips 42PF9831DBuy this for £0.00 at Dixons
Use code '5TV' for £0.00 discount
is a showroom beater. In fact that was how I first noticed it at the local electronics store. The image was very bright and colors were vivid with no hint of red oversaturation (red push - a flaw that is present in Sharp XD1E). Furthermore, the Clear LCD technology appears to help in reducing motion blur that plagued LCD TVs; the overall result is an enjoyable Saturday evening experience with football or rugby games.

This showroom performance is not obtained without some sacrifices, however.  Picture quality contains many elements that can be improved, namely colour, contrast ratio, black levels, detail, sharpness and so on. However individual perception of PQ is another important factor as well because our eyes are easily attracted to certain images, even if they are inaccurately produced by manufacturer’s settings. The Philips factory settings are set to very high contrast and low blacks (maximizing the contrast ratio), while the color temperature is a little bluish (imagine white with a bluish tint). To me, the clearest effect was that  whites were being clipped (with resultant loss of detail) on some scenes and movies with computer graphics looked artificial, almost cartoonish. The flesh tones were not balanced. In the first instance, users who don’t want to calibrate the TV should use the Subtle preset for a better picture. (the picture will look duller, but stick with it especially when watching movies).

side-by-side

The quoted viewing angle of this display was 176 degrees, which was not clearly the case in the real world. It is a generous 90 degrees instead, tolerating a mild drop in contrast. Beyond that, I would not contemplate watching a 2 hour movie at that angle; I would kill for the middle sweet spot. At the Subtle preset, the black level of the Philips was not as good as the Sharp LC42XD1E. It was grayish black and was worse in low light, though the Ambilight technology did make it slightly better.

pluge
DVE PLUGE pattern at maximum brightness: BTB not seen

I began calibrating the display’s brightness, contrast and grayscale with my HTPC and a variety of test patterns via HDMI input. However, blacker than black (BTB) and whiter than white (WTW) signals were not generated on screen because the set was clipping them.This was not an issue with the Sharp 42XD1E or the Panasonic 42PH9 I had around. This meant that at black and white levels, scene detail could be lost. For example, shadow details in a dark screen will be flat, and uniformly black. Testing the BTB information from the Xbox 360 via component also created the same problem. I also tried this on a Philips DVD player thru a SCART connection and failed. What does this mean?

In the above example, DVE(Digital Video Essentials) PLUGE pattern normally shows 3 visible black bars on each side with high brightness setting. You can see that the third bar has `disappeared' here. Simply put, the signal is being altered in the three testing scenarios and this may cause issues like detail loss, color banding and color inaccuracies. A real world example would be in Fifth Element where Leeloo makes her escape thru the tunnel; the detail in the police’s armor (just before the tunnel scene) was completely lost no matter how high we cranked the brightness up. We can't be sure where the fault is at this moment so we fired off a email to Philips.

After setting the brightness and contrast controls given the above situation, we proceeded to grayscale adjustment. The RGB intensity controls are located under the custom tint controls, which is not standard practice. We calibrated the Philips as close as possible to to D6500 but noted that at above contrast 70 setting, we were getting clipped colours. That means that in very bright scenes, there will be a colour tint on white and loss of fine detail. There is also a colour setting in the user menu that you can use to adjust overall saturation of the picture.

More recently, there have been LCD TV consumers complaining of poor picture quality caused by backlighting issues. The three most common problems were backlight bleeding, clouding and backlight unevenness. I checked the TV for these issues and noted a mild horizontal `banding’ ( I use this term reservedly as it was originally applied to color posterization) in uniform colour screens, but this did not impact on viewing quality at all. It appears that these backlight issues are quite prevalent in LCD TVs, but most of the time picture quality is only affected in the worst cases. This topic will be dealt with in a later article at our website.

Standard Definition (SD)

SD quality over Freeview using the onboard digital tuner was acceptable only when Pixel Plus and Clear LCD was turned on. I watched the Ireland vs Wales rugby game recently on SD and HD and it was apparent that SD suffered from many arfifacts eg. blurring and blocking from poor upscaling, mosquito noise from MPEG-2 encoding and twitter, combing and jaggies from poor video deinterlacing. These are partially helped by turning on the above features, together with noise reduction (the set has good digital noise reduction compared to others). Higher bit rate shows like Ugly Betty and Desperate Housewives suffer from much less artifacts and are more enjoyable to watch. My DVD experience was essentially the same with higher bit rate SD material.

High Definition (HD)

If you buy a large display, you really ought to invest in HD material. Supporters of upconverting DVD players may say that their PQ is close to HD material, but I don’t buy it. The detail and sharpness of HD is to my eyes, vastly superior.    

The Philips 42PF9831DBuy this for £0.00 at Dixons
Use code '5TV' for £0.00 discount
is limited to 1080i input, which is fine as the majority of HD source  is 1080i anyway. However, the native resolution of 1366x768 requires downscaling of the 1080i material, resulting in a very minor loss of detail (blurring effect) when compared at the same time with other 1080 capable sets. (in this case the Sharp XD1E). The picture is still fairly sharp in comparison  and so the average consumer will still be very impressed by its capabilities.

With fast paced action scenes in video recorded sports, I looked for video deinterlacing artifacts and found the occasional jaggies and combing especially on the white paint lines .There was also slight loss of detail in players on movement but no motion blurring. There is no surprise here; we didn’t really expect Philips to have the deinterlacing capabilities of an external video processor. A good external scaler probably costs as much as the Philips and so you wont see anyone breaking the bank for this. All in all, an admirable HD performance from the Philips with HD broadcasting.

I watched several HD DVDs on the Xbox 360 (Batman Begins, King Kong) and bearing in mind the previous weaknesses in black level and shadow detail production, the PQ was very good. There was some judder in the movies and I attributed this to the PAL 60 Hz from the Xbox 360. This is clearly seen on the scrolling credits in the end. (I use this a lot to discover fine problems with my picture quality.)

HTPC fans may not like the fact that Philips 42PF9831DBuy this for £0.00 at Dixons
Use code '5TV' for £0.00 discount
can only accept up to 1024x768 PC resolution. We found that increasing the resolution, as it was possible via HDMI, created significant overscanning. HTPC enthusiasts should look elsewhere for their needs, expecially when there are 1080p sets with 1:1 pixel mapping out in the market right now.


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