Review Date: November 15, 2005
 Last Updated: June 25, 2013

42PF9630A HD Philips Plasma TV

with Pixel Plus 2 HD and Ambilight


The 42" 42PF9630A Philips plasma TV unique style is surely cooler than most of the competition. It also supports a full range of connectivity options and incorporates an extensive feature set. However...

All this come at a somewhat higher price than that of comparable models from Samsung and Panasonic.

In this plasma TV review article, we take a detailed look to see if this set performance justifies its price tag.


Samsung 60-inch F5500 plasma TV  Samsung 60-inch PN60F5500 3D Plasma HDTV with Samsung Smart TV

The F5500 series shares a very similar feature set to that of the flagship for a much cheaper price tag. The reason is that it lacks the Real Black Pro panel of the F8500, and hence all of its picture performance benefits. But overall picture quality of the F5500 is very good - delivering the best value plasma TV option from Samsung for the inexpensive price.

Introducing the Philips 42PF9630A

Interesting feature set and a unique lightning system makes this Philips plasma television appealing, but...

Product Overview

Released in July 2005, this stylish full-featured 42-inch plasma TV includes 2:3 pull-down detection, dual HDMI, and Ambilight - Philips proprietary backlighting system.

The Ambilight feature looks cool. If you're the kind of person who goes for neon light effects under your car or on your PC, then this Philips Ambilight feature will surely fit into your world. Yet there is more than just a cool backlight...

Its full range of connectivity options also includes PC input and a pair of USB ports; surely, these would come handy on HD plasmas like the Philips 42PF9630A.

Philips has also introduced the 2:3 pull-down to its video circuitry. This improves the 42PF9630A's performance over that of previous models. Unfortunately, the unique style and extensive connectivity support found on this Philips plasma TV are not backed up by the desired image quality one would normally expect from plasmas within this set price tag. In fact, black-level performance is a bit on sub-par with respect to comparable models from Panasonic and Samsung.

42PF9630A Basic Specs:

Inputs: Include 3 composite, 3 S-Video, 2 component, 2 HDMI, 1 RF, 1 USB

Audio: 2 x 15W-stereo speakers

Product type: 42-inch 16:9 plasma HDTV with CableCard slot for digital cable

Display panel: 1024 x 768-pixels, 1500 cd/m2 brightness, and 10000:1 contrast ratio

Others: 3D comb filter, Pixel Plus 2 HD video processor, and Ambilight

Dimensions (WxDxH): 48.8" x 4.1" x 26.8"

Weight: 92.6 lbs

Price wise, the 42PF9630A Philips Plasma TV with Pixel Plus 2HD and Ambilight is presently selling online at around $2,700;  this makes this Philips plasma television somewhat more expensive than most of the competition.

This product is also part of a series which includes a 50" version, the Philips 50PF9630A 50" Widescreen Plasma HDTVPhilips 50pf9630a. The 50-inch model has an identical feature set to the 42PF9630A except that it comes with a screen native resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels. This 50" Philips plasma TV is presently selling online at under $3,400.

Design

Philips 42PF9630A/37 42-inch Plasma HDTVThe 42PF9630A 42-inch Philips Plasma TV is quite attractive; its stylish high-tech look will surely appeal to the aesthetically conscious, and the overall design will blend in with most modern decors.

Peculiar with this set design is the large black bezel that surrounds the plasma screen; this helps to enhance the overall picture perceived contrast ratio.

The speakers are situated on the left and right sides of the screen; these are finished in silver and contribute to the set's ultra-wide feel.

This Philips plasma TV comes complete with a 32-inch wide silver tabletop stand, though you can still opt to hang the 42PF9630A from the wall using an optional bracket (more details on how to mount your plasma TV can be found in our article here).

The 42PF9630A Philips plasma display panel is a bit deeper and wider than most, measuring about 49 by 27 by 4 inches without the stand.

Feature Set

Display: Like most other high-definition plasmas within the 42-inch screen size, the 42PF9630A Philips plasma TV has a screen native resolution of 1024 x 768 pixels. This means that it will practically display 720p HDTV with minimal re-scaling. In practice, this plasma will scale all incoming content - irrespective of the video format, to fit the available display pixel resolution.

The display panel supports a viewing-angle of 160-degree, has a brightness rating of 1500 cd/m2 (candela per square meter), and a 'quoted' contrast ratio of 10000:1 contrast ratio.

Beware! Quoting excessively high contrast ratios does not add anything to the end image quality.

It seems that some manufactures are struggling to be the ones quoting the highest contrast ratio figures possible - without ever specifying the standard adopted in the measurement. This is unfortunate as after all, there are various ways to measure contrast - all of which give different results for the same display.

At the same time, it is also important to remember that the perceived contrast ratio depends also on the ambient light present. The presence of just one Lux (equivalent to the light emitted by one candle), is enough to make it impossible for the eye to perceive any difference in contrast ratio between 500:1 and 10,000:1.

The simple truth is that for cinema purposes, the eye can see an average of only 300:1 contrast ratio; anything higher may turn out unnoticeable!

 

Video: This set uses Philips' exclusive Pixel Plus 2 HD video processor, which provides improved sharpness and picture detail, vivid colors and smooth and natural motion irrespective of the video source.

The process works by enhancing each pixel of the incoming picture to better match the surrounding pixels, for a more natural picture. This also helps to reduce artifacts in compressed video content - including video noise.

This set uses 3D-comb filtering to separate brightness and color signals. This type of comb filter helps to better eliminate cross-color, cross-luminance and dot-crawl distortion. It performs field-by-field comparisons of the television image to better separate the color from the black-and-white information and remove both horizontally and vertically hanging dots, as well as dot crawl.

The Philips 42PF9630A's set of picture adjustments include a number of preset color-temperature settings, with Normal approaching closest to the NTSC broadcast standard.

This Philips plasma TV also features an Active Control function that is supposed to intelligently optimizes picture quality by measuring and analyzing the incoming signal to automatically adjust picture quality settings. Active Control with Light Sensor uses a sensor to adjust the picture brightness depending on the room light conditions. Picture Active control can be de-activated if desired.

Unfortunately, when it comes to picture control, this plasma lacks the independent memory presets per input normally found on most other HD plasmas. This handy feature automatically associates a separate picture memory slot - which usually includes contrast, brightness, sharpness, color, tint, and color temperature - with each input. This greatly simplifies optimization of picture parameters specifically for different devices.

Philips Ambilight Backlighting System: If there is something unique about the PF9630A Series of Philips plasma TV sets, it is surely the Ambilight backlighting system.

This is a Philips proprietary feature that projects soft light onto the wall behind the TV. You can choose from six preset colors and white tones, or the tones can be personalized using the custom settings. It is also possible to allow Ambilight to adjust the backlight color automatically based on the image content on the screen. In standby mode, the lights can be operated to any color for a unique ambiance in the room.

The logic behind the Ambilight feature is that the use of a soft light glow on the walls surrounding the TV would help create a more relaxed viewing experience.

The use of Ambilight is all a question of personal preference. Contrary to all expectations, we have found that Ambilight can adversely affect picture quality in that the backlight color may interfere with your perception of the picture color. 

Connectivity: A stronghold of this Philips plasma TV is its generous connectivity bay; for a full list of supported inputs/outputs, refer to the table below:

Composite AV (RCA) In:

3 (1 side)

S-Video Input

3 (1 side)

Component Video In (Y PB PR)

2 (480i/480p/720p/1080i)

PC (RGB) input

1 (D-Sub 15 Pin)

PC Audio input

1

PC Audio Out

1

HDMI Input

2

CableCard Slot

1

RF Input

2 (1-NTSC, 1-ATSC)

Monitor Output

1

Headphone Output

1

Multi-media Support 2 x USB ports

Digital Media Reader - 2 slots

This is one of the few plasmas that come with two HDMI inputs. You can also connect DVI sources to either HDMI jack via an appropriate adaptor cable.

The USB connectors allow access to multimedia JPEG, MP3, MP3-PRO, and ALB (photo slideshow) files of most USB memory drives and most digital cameras (USB 1.1 memory-class device). The digital media reader slots can take most of the memory cards and Microdrives presently available except xD Picture.

Sound: This Philips plasma TV has two built-in stereo speakers that produce 15 watts per channel (for 30 watts of total power). Sound enhancements include Auto Volume Leveler, Dynamic Bass Enhancement, and a Graphic Equalizer.

Included, there is also a Dolby Digital virtual surround sound feature to simulate the 3-D sound field emulating from a five-speaker setup in a 5.1-channel sound system, from just the two built-in stereo speakers.

Other features: This Philips plasma TV offers a solid selection of conveniences.

These include a built-in 181-channel NTSC tuner for standard television broadcasts, an onboard ATSC tuner for receiving over-the-air HDTV broadcasts, and a CableCard slot.

There is a Dual-tuner PIP (picture-in-picture support via component and HDMI connections), though it would not work with two high-definition sources.

The set provides a selection of six aspect-ratio choices when up-converting standard-definition sources. Unfortunately, aspect ratio control is not possible with a high-definition video signal. This may be a handicap in that some digital broadcast stations put black bars around 4:3 sources and broadcast them at 1080i or 720p. In these circumstances, you will have no option but to watch DTV content with black bars on the vertical edges.

The 42PF9630A also comes with an anti-ageing circuit to help prevent screen burn-in and an anti-reflective coating on the screen.

Note: The use of anti-burn technologies does not mean that you can abuse of your plasma display as if it is not susceptible to burn-in; the usual precautions highlighted in our 'Protecting Your Plasma TV unit' article still applies if you want to ensure continued best performance over time.

Other features include sleep timer, V-Chip parental controls, and a universal learnable remote control that can "learn" functionality from other components' remotes.

Performance

Unfortunately, the 42PF9630A's Philips plasma TV overall image quality leaves something to be desired. In comparison to Panasonic TH-42PX50U  reviewed on our site, this Philips plasma TV black-level performance and gray-scaling ability represent the panel biggest shortcomings, with deep blacks appearing more as dark grays than blacks.

Directly related with picture quality is the presence of video noise. The presence of floating noise in areas of saturated color is particularly distracting.

When it comes to displaying bright image content, the situation is somewhat different in that this Philips plasma TV is capable of doing a fairly clean good job.

The presence of a 2:3 pull-down detection also represents a big improvement over previous Philips plasma TV sets, as it helps combat motion artifacts and jagged lines from film-based material, such as most prime-time television.

Connectivity support is probably the biggest stronghold of this Philips plasma TV - topping up the list being two HDMI ports.

Finally, the Ambilight feature turned out to be a disappointment though as already stated earlier on in this plasma TV review article, this all boils down to personal preference.

Concluding Remarks

If what you are after is a stylish plasma with a unique design, then the 42PF9630A Philips  plasma TV with its peculiar Ambilight backlighting system is surely a possible option. This set comes accompanied by an interesting feature set and strong connectivity bay. This is also one of those few plasmas that come with 2 HDMI ports and good PC support.

Price-wise, this Philips plasma TV comes at a somewhat expensive price tag, which may be difficult to justify considering the set's picture quality.

And the much advertised Philips Ambilight backlighting system did not turn out to be as expected. Ok, this is something that relates to personal taste - either you love it or you hate it. We have preferred it switched off. If this Ambilight feature is not for you, then a cheaper option from Philips is the Philips 42PF7320A 42" Widescreen Plasma HDTVPhilips 42PF7320A/37. This comes with a similar feature set except for the Ambilight, as the 42PF9630A reviewed in this article.

Alternatively, sets like the Panasonic TH-42PX50U or the Samsung HP-R4252 reviewed recently on our site also represent excellent cheaper options.


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