Home > Product Reviews > TV Reviews > Philips 34PW9818 Review

Philips 34PW9818 Review

Highs

  • More features and luxuries than a Lexus

Rating

Our Score 9
User Score 9

Lows

  • Somewhat over designed
This is an excellent set. It will be the cornerstone of any serious home theater.

This is an excellent set. It will be the cornerstone of any serious home theater. The only drawback is it is somewhat over designed. The automatic video controls have to be used with a lot of trepidation and restraint. They are best used to improve the picture quality of older, less perfect video sources. For high end video just use the television in its native mode. For around $3,000 Philips comes through once more as the leader in technology. The pixel plus mode gives near high definition quality to almost any video source. For those with a lot of old VCR tapes that you can’t bear to watch – this set will bring them into the 21st century. So, if you are looking for a television that can play almost anything this set will be a welcomed addition to your home.

Introduction

Television technology has come a long way in my lifetime. From the black and white console sets many of us grew up with to the high tech beauties available today. Among the latest entries to these super TVs is the Phillips 34PW9818. This set is a wonder of technology making almost every aspect of television viewing as easy as possible. First of all the set is widescreen; rather than the usual 4:3 aspect ratio we are all familiar with the set has a 16:9 aspect closer to the screens in a theater. There is also a Phillips feature Pixel Plus where the number of pixels is increased from a typical 380,000 for a set this size to over 2.1 million. This translates to a brighter, sharper picture from not only high definition video sources but just about any television program. With a 34 inch screen and a built in 60 watt sound system this set will be the corner stone of any home theater set up. A lot of thought went into the user interface and remote control which adds ease to beauty.

Connections

There are more available input/output jacks than most home theaters will require. The AV1 and AV2 input jacks are the typical composite video type. AV2 also offers S-Video to replace the yellow composite jack for improved picture quality. The AV3 jacks provide both component and RGB video for 1080i accessories. This permits the set to be used as a monitor for projectors, computers and high definition sources. The AV4 set provides component video (Pb, Pr, Py) signals for the best possible video reproduction. There are also side inputs with component video and S-Video jacks as well as a headset jack. This makes connection to a video camera easy without ruining the appearance of the front panel. With every video jack mentioned there are the typical red and white stereo audio jacks. This allows you to connect DVD players, TiVo, and VCRs to the set. The manual not only shows clear pictures of all the jacks but also pictures of how to use the remote control for the setup menus.

Main Features

This set has a plethora of features to make set up and viewing as easy as possible. As mentioned there is Pixel Plus which increases resolution. It is part of the Digital Processing Control set that also permits the use of progressive scan to eliminate screen flicker. Pixel Plus did increase the brightness and resolution for most video sources but there was a price to pay. For one thing many DVDs I tested exhibited additional artifacts in this mode. The manual warns of this and suggests using the Soft mode but this just added one layer of computer estimation on another.

Dynamic Contrast Control automatically adjusts the contrast during viewing. It is not available with the AV3 and AV4 sources. Dynamic Noise Reduction helps with poor cable signals and worked fairly well within reasonable limits. Color Enhancement has four different sub-controls. Together they readjust the color on the fly. With some digital sources like DVD the blues were pushed a bit too much and in films where the director purposely pushes the color palette the best results was shutting the color enhancements off. Auto Picture Control permits you to set some personal preferences such as softening the picture, or setting the TV to reflect your choices. I used the Personal mode of this set to apply the changes made by a calibration DVD. Unfortunately, many of the settings are preset at the factory and cannot be altered. The good news is the factory choices were not much different than what the calibration DVD suggested.

There are six choices for the picture size, 4:3, 4:3 Zoom, 14:9, widescreen, Expanded 16:9 and subtitle 16:9. Several settings did clip the picture somewhat. Most people will typically use the 4:3, Zoom and 16:9 formats. The zoom setting distorted the picture somewhat. Personally, I found the black bars better than filling the screen with a degraded picture.

There are also several automatic sound control modes. Included are provisions to adjust the sound when switching between very loud and soft sources. There is also a sound leveling option but I found it tried to override my own preferences. Most people that get this set will not use the built in sound system. You most likely will have a full six channel home theater receiver. It you don’t, the build in sound system is very nice. It provided a crisp, clear audio field although the simulated surround was somewhere between Prologic and Prologic 2 in creating an effect of rear speakers.

Now, this feature is mostly for the guys out there. My wife hates it when I channel surf, when I try to watch a ball game, movie, the news and a sitcom all at once. This set makes this a breeze. You can use the usual flip between two stations or the new nine channel surf mode. Here, you select the channels you want from a menu and with the touch of a button flip between them. There is also a freeze frame feature and a photo finish option that lets you stop the action on live TV. It is great for games but again may annoy some members of the household. Just a little word of warning about these features, marriage counseling is not part of the warranty package. Over use may get you a night on the couch. Parental controls with special lock out ID numbers can permit parents to restrict which TV and MPAA ratings are permitted before the pass code is required. Wives, this is your turn, you can restrict those late night shows from your husband if he uses the surf function too often.

The normal Picture in Picture (PIP) is greatly expanded. Up to six PIP displays can surround the main picture or you can split the screen into half. If you choose the six screens you can either have different channels or select freeze frames called Photo Finish mode.

Setup

For TV sets with as many input jacks as this one a little planning has to be done before you start to set up. Each set of jacks was designed specific purpose. The set does have a 75 Ohm antenna input but let’s be real, if you are spending the money this set costs you most likely have cable. AV1 is component video and should be used for lower quality sources like your old VCR. AV2 can be used for a second VCR or interlaced DVD. With AV2 use the S-Video if at all possible. AV3 is best for your cable or satellite box. Since this jack supports RGB video, composite video and coaxial connectors you have something for almost any cable connection. The AV4 jack is the high definition jack and is best for a high end DVD player. All the above video inputs have sets of audio jacks for each source. The side jacks are for equipment you plug in every so often like a digital camera.

The diagrams in the manual are a lot better than most I’ve seen. They are clear and easy to follow. The manual also provides a look at the correct set up screen and the remote buttons you need to get there and to select that input. There are also sections in the manual for specifics for component, S-Video and other connection types.

In order to get the best performance using the DVD calibration disc is strongly recommended. For this set I tried calibration with Ultimate Platinum, Video Essentials and Avia. Out of the three tested Platinum was the best. This set was just about perfect all the calibration tests just as it came out of the box. The only problem was with the geometry test where the roundness of circles is used to gauge how well the aspect ratio is maintained. The test passed with the normal 4:3 and 16:9 modes but intermediate settings like 14:9 showed some distortion. This indicates that the use of these modes wil somewhat degrade the picture. The convergence, sharpness and chroma tests required very little adjustment when all auto controls where shut off.

Use and testing

To run this set through its paces I selected a set of DVDs that should really stress the video. For aspect ratio I used Ben-Hur, with its 2.75:1 aspect ratio it was perfect to see the distortion during the zoom and alternate ratio modes. Basically, there was a lot a pixilation during the zoom, typical of this forced perspective. For general picture clarity and to detect motion defects I used the completely digital Star Wars Episode Two. The action never looked better. The contrast and color palette was exceptional. Features like the nine channel surf mode do not work if your cable stations are selected by the cable box and not the TV. If you have to set the TV to channel 3 or 4 functions on the TV that involve channel selection will not function.

The remote control does a lot. While it is easy to use many will want to transfer the functions to a universal remote. If this is the case, put the basic functions on the TV section of the universal and use an empty selection and program macros to select some of the modes you will use most often. I usually found a better picture with most of the automatic functions shut off. These functions tended to overcompensate and seem to affect each other. If used in the pure mode the TV was excellent. I experimented with a lot of combinations of these auto adjustment functions and found they worked better with less than perfect video sources. With high end sources like DVDs and high definition digital cable the set worked far better with these ancillary functions turned off.

The picture had a fantastic viewing angle. I measured about 150 degrees and was still able to make out all the details. Of course at that point you are sitting on one of the rear speakers. Using the high definition input resulted in no flicker. The pixel plus mode here made the picture so clear it was like looking at something live. The pixel plus mode also helped with viewing my collection of older VCR tapes – tapes over twenty years old found new life. 

Conclusion

This is an excellent set. It will be the cornerstone of any serious home theater. The only drawback is it is somewhat over designed. The automatic video controls have to be used with a lot of trepidation and restraint. They are best used to improve the picture quality of older, less perfect video sources. For high end video just use the television in its native mode. For around $3,000 Philips comes through once more as the leader in technology. The pixel plus mode gives near high definition quality to almost any video source. For those with a lot of old VCR tapes that you can’t bear to watch – this set will bring them into the 21st century. So, if you are looking for a television that can play almost anything this set will be a welcomed addition to your home.

Get our Top Stories delivered to your inbox: