Philips Launches New AV Range
0Overall Score

Philips today launched its range of new LCDs, plasmas, audio systems and hard disk video recorders.

At the forefront of its product range presentation were its latest LCD TVs, which sport up to four Ambilight surrounds and its impressive ClearLCD and Pixel Plus 3HD image processing technology.

Comparisons with the latest similar-sized LCD models from competitors were performed and the Philips sets displayed noticeably reduced juddering in panning scenes than the competitor products. Also noticeably better rendered were skin tones.

Ambilight is claimed to reduce eyestrain (by reducing sudden changes from darkness to intense light) and provide a more immersive viewing experience. The backlighting around the display frame automatically adjusts in real time to generally match the colours being displayed on the screen. There’s no doubt the demonstration of the LCD Ambilight sets was ‘immersive’ (probably also thanks to some seriously beefy sound reproduction) and picture quality was excellent, but a lot more time would be needed to decide conclusively whether it lives up to Philips’ claims about it. Certainly, it’s by no means distracting but likewise this writer barely noticed when it had been briefly turned off to demonstrate life without it.

More convincing was the demonstration of the ClearLCD and Pixel Plus 3HD image processing technology, which provides a realistic, smooth and, yes, clear image when employed – especially in standard definition. Philips says the technologies were specifically designed to overcome LCD’s traditional weaknesses: motion artifacts and low contrast.

Matt Moran, Marketing and Sales Manager, said “We see LCD as the dominant technology over plasma. Its strengths are light output, resolution and power efficiency. Its weakness, though, is light leakage through the panel due to it being back-lit, which doesn’t give you blacks that are quite as black as you could want – such as provided by plasma. Motion is also an issue. The liquid crystals in LCDs are getting faster, but they’re still not quick enough to be beat the human eye. With ClearLCD we basically eliminated those weaknesses and take LCD up to the same quality levels as CRT and plasma in these areas, which maximising its present strengths.

“Clear LCD works on three different technologies. The first is dimming backlight, which detects light and dark areas on the screen and communicates accordingly with the backlight.

The second addresses motion blur. LCDs move when there’s a voltage put through them. Our Overdrive technology basically puts extra voltage into each crystal to give it a good kick and make it move faster, resulting in smoother reproduction and less blur.

The other technology is scanning backlight, which is probably the most fundamental Clear LCD technology. The scanning backlight provides a backlight that is flickering at 75 times per second. Anything over 60 hertz is too fast for the human eye to see. The flickering provides 75 frames per second with nice, crisp breaks in between, instead of one frame that is gradually changing. You have one frame, the voltage to the crystals goes off, the crystals move, then the backlight comes on. This greatly reduces the blurring effect. Also, we use hot carbon fluorocarbons, which provide 300 percent more light output than the traditionally used cold carbon fluorocarbons.”

Philips claimed its competitors sets were, along with its sets, set to factory defaults for the comparison. In the comparison, skin tones were overblown in the competitors’ sets, and detail was in some instances lacking. When the image processing was employed in high-definition, the non-Philips sets definitely caught up.

Most drastic of all was the stabilising effect of ClearLCD and Pixel Plus 3HD during video panning sequences. The Philips sets were obviously more realistic and stable than the competitor sets displaying the same video images.

Whether a completely level playing field was employed, only Philips will really know but we expect the comparison was mostly fair. We were impressed enough to recommend considering in purchasing decisions but, as always, suggest you judge with your eyes.

The features are limited to the 37 inch 37PF9731 ($TBC) and 42 inch 42PF9831 ($6900), which features full Ambilight surround and is available from July 2006.

In his address, Philips CEO, Harry van Dyk, said “We think our new range for 2006 will make a qualitative impact which will separate us from other brands. Last year, prices in the LCD market dropped about 40 percent. In such a market, Philips had two choices: either to murder its cost base and operate on a very lean business model, or differentiate.

Our conclusion was that Philips is a differentiated product/brand company and that is reflected in our latest innovations. If you can find a better television in the world than our ClearLCD products, you better tell me what it is.”

“Differentiation is defiantly the way Philips wants to go,” added Matt Moran. “Prices are getting crazy but what we want to do is add value to the offer by giving consumers a real reason to spend money on our electronic products beyond the same old picture and sound stuff announced when someone launches a TV. As well as providing the best picture and sound, Philips is taking the whole package to market by enhancing the entire viewing experience and improving the viewer’s atmosphere.”

See www.philips.com.au


Click to enlarge
The 42 inch 42PF9831 ($6900), features ClearLCD and Pixel Plus 3HD processing, full Ambilight surround and is available from July 2006.