Taking the HQV Benchmark DVD for a spin revealed that picture detail was good overall but that there were jaggies in test patterns and images with lowangle diagonals (sharp, moving edges at nearhorizontal angles). In terms of digital noise reduction, there was little difference with the DNR control turned off or set to Max, but noise wasn’t really a problem in any case. The TV picked up 3:2 pulldown (the process of converting movies stored at 24fps on a disc to a video signal at 30fps) very quickly—except when source material was 1080i, which was puzzling.
Turning to DVDs, I started with Star Wars VI: Return of the Jedi. Surprisingly, as the scrolling back story at the very beginning of the movie disappeared in the distance, the letters looked twittery at 480p, 720p, and 1080i (all via HDMI from the superb Denon DVD-5910 DVD player). The image looked decidedly better at 480i with a component-video connection, so that’s what I used to watch DVDs. The first thing that struck me was the black of space—it was fairly deep, though the black letterbox bars didn’t completely “disappear.” Detail was excellent, however, as illustrated by Jabba the Hut’s wrinkled skin, the Ewoks’ hair, and the fine detail on the spaceship’s hull. Color was pretty good, though a bit muted overall, and skin tones were a little ruddy, probably due to the Warm preset I used.
Shadow detail was very good in the dimly lit below-deck walk that opens Master and Commander. Details in the swinging hammocks and floor boards that are often lost in black blobs were plainly visible. I noticed some contouring (solid bands of color where smooth gradations should be) in the blue backlight at the beginning of The Mask of Zorro, but the crowd scenes were nicely detailed.
When I popped an HD DVD into my player, which was connected to the TV via HDMI, things got much better. The color in Batman Begins was excellent—especially the gleaming blue of the Tibetan glacier. And in the scene where young Bruce Wayne finds himself in a old well shaft at the beginning of the movie, I could make out the subtle shades of dark grays and browns. Razorsharp reflections in the glass-faced buildings and other fine details of the cityscape were also plainly revealed in the scene where Bruce and his parents ride the elevated train to the opera.
The lack of 3:2 pulldown compensation at 1080i was evident in the twittery grille of Mattingly’s Corvette as he watches the launch in Apollo 13 but, otherwise, detail was fine and plainly revealed in gravel on the road leading to the launchpad as well as in the eyelashes of the astronauts’ wives as they watch the launch.
I appreciate that the engineers at Philips did not forget videophiles when they designed Ambilight. So unless you really dig light shows, disable all that dynamic folderol in favor of the fixed mode described earlier and you’ll enjoy more relaxed viewing. As for performance, the 50PF9731D really shines with high-def content but falls a little short with standard-def programs. Still, if your eyes are yearning for some respite while watching TV in a dark room, this plasma deserves a look. TPV