Watching any flat-panel TV—especially those that have not had their out-of-the-box brightness tamed—in total darkness can lead to eye strain. The best way to combat this is to put a so-called “bias light” behind the set, which shifts your eyes’ dynamic range to match that of the TV. Many Philips flat-panel TVs, such as the 47PFL9732D, include a unique feature called Ambilight, which places lights behind the edges of the screen. In its default mode, Ambilight changes color and brightness according to the picture, which provides a real light show that I find very distracting. However, it can be set to a fixed color and brightness, which serves the purpose of a bias light very well.
(Seven Years in Tibet)
|Excellent; sweat on prisoners’ faces sharp and clear.||Generally beautiful; red monks’ robes, blue sky, skin tones all natural; greens a bit exaggerated.||Letterbox bars unobtrusive.||Reasonably good in night and dim interior scenes.||No problems noted; noise reduction very effective on test discs.|
|Very good for DVD; audience clearly rendered, brocade costumes sharp.||Gorgeous multicolored costumes, green wallpaper; skin tones natural.||No opportunity to test.||Reasonably good in carriage interior at night.||Smooth motion; no problems noted.|
Note: Swapping HDMI cables while set was on caused some sort of problem with Dish Network receiver, and set would not lock onto signal; as a result, I was unable to test with HDTV and SDTV signals via HDMI.
The 47PFL9732D is a study in extremes. I really hate Ambilight when it’s set to change color and brightness along with the picture, though I suppose there are many who will enjoy the light show. However, I love it when it’s set to perform as a bias light—that is, a constant neutral white at 10 percent of the TV’s peak light output. Overall, the 47PFL9732D’s picture quality is excellent, and the Settings Assistant gets the picture controls in the right ballpark, but the menu system needs a serious overhaul, and the audio performance is poor. If you can live with the downsides, you’ll be rewarded with a great picture and less eye strain than most sets tend to cause.