So far our pre-World Cup HDTV reviewing exploits have focussed on pretty large screens. Which makes sense given that high definition pictures really come into their dazzling own the bigger the screen you watch them on. But we think it’s time we made it clear that HD can also look gobsmackingly good on a smaller ‘second room’ TV, like this 20in HD Ready model from Philips. After all, what could be cooler than having HD not just in your living room, but also in your bedroom, study and/or kitchen?
The inherent ‘coolness’ we’re talking about is reflected perfectly in Philips’ design for the 20PF5320D. The way the jet-black screen surround is offset by the more metallic, silvery speakers to either side looks both stylish and futuristic, taking its design cues from full-sized LCD TVs rather than the often plasticky, bland efforts found at the smaller end of the market.
Connectivity is both impressive for a 20in TV and slightly annoying all at the same time. Impressive is a DVI socket, for receiving high definition digital images from a Sky HD receiver or HD DVD player. Annoying is the absence of a dedicated set of the component video inputs demanded by the industry’s HD Ready specifications. Instead you can only get component video HD into the 20PF5320D via the DVI jack and a (provided) component-to-DVI adaptor system. This adaptor system is fiddly, and means you can’t easily simultaneously connect separate digital and analogue HD components.
This connection stinginess is then compounded by the fact that the DVI socket is also the only way of connecting a PC to the screen, meaning that you could potentially have three bits of source kit competing for just one input. Looks like you’ll be making regular trips round the TV’s rear to switch connectors over, then…
A SCART socket on the rear and set of standard definition (S-Video, composite video) jacks down the TV’s side for easy access complete the connectivity in decent enough fashion.
Merely having HD capable connections, of course, is not enough in itself to win a TV its HD Ready wings. And so we find the Philips set ticking all the other necessary boxes by adopting a widescreen shape, employing a native resolution of 1,366 x 768 (high for such a small TV), and being able to handle the two 720p and 1080i HD formats.
In terms of other features beyond its HD readiness, we’ve already hinted in the connections section at the fact that this TV can double up as a PC monitor if you want it to.
Also, very unusually for a TV, this set sports a built-in FM radio tuner. At first this sounds like an odd idea but actually, when you think that it will likely be doing second-room duties in a home, making it into a radio as well as a TV makes all kinds of convenient sense.
The only other bits and bobs worth even a passing mention here are a contrast range expander and Dolby Virtual pseudo surround sound processing. Worth way more than a passing mention, however, are the 20PF5320D’s really outstanding pictures.
Kicking a whole heap of good news off are the TV’s colours, which shun the slightly muted look common at the sub-26in LCD level in favour of retina-burningly bright, vivid hues. What’s more, this attention-grabbing lustre is achieved without being accompanied by dotty noise, shimmering edges and the sort of unnatural tones that many small LCDs can suffer with.
The 20PF5320D also knows how to deliver a fine detail or two, managing to produce, for instance, every last, lovely pixel of image data from our resident Xbox 360 and digital video high definition sources. We feel bound to point out that the sheer visceral impact of the 20PF5320D’s high definition pictures isn’t as profound as it can be on larger screens. But the ‘HD difference’ is definitely still visible enough in our opinion to justify this TV’s expense relative to non HD Ready 20in LCD models.
It’s worth adding here that although the 20PF5320D shines with HD sources, it’s also far from being a slouch with standard definition stuff, be it from its own analogue tuner or especially an RGB-connected Sky/Freeview box. Such material looks clean and, for the most part, crisp, suggesting that the 20PF5320D’s scaling system is better than you might expect in this segment of the market.
Philips has managed to largely conquer the response time issues that besmirch many small LCDs too, meaning that its screen’s pixels can switch fast enough to reproduce horizontal motion without making it look overly smeared or blurred.
Everything we’ve described so far is enough to place the 20PF5320D in the premier league of small-screen LCDs. But the set does have one small Achilles Heel: its black levels. To be fair, most LCDs under 26in have trouble making dark picture areas look black rather than grey, and in fact compared with most small TVs the Philips’ black levels are actually pretty decent. They’re certainly good enough to make normal daytime TV fare look punchy enough. But there’s no denying that the darkest corners of a contrast-rich movie like Scream lack a little depth and detail, as traces of the familiar greyness rear their ugly head.
Sonically the 20PF5320D is about par for the small LCD course – which means it’s pretty average, really. The biggest problem as ever is a severe lack of bass, which can leave trebles sounding, high, dry and harsh during loud action scenes. Under less demanding conditions, however, the soundstage is punchy and clear enough to get the job done – even with a bit of pop music via the built-in radio tuner.
If you thought that having HD capability on a 20in TV didn’t matter, think again. Thanks to this Philips model’s specification and sheer picture performance grunt, the joys of HD no longer have to be restricted to the main TV in your living room.
How we test televisions
We test every TV we review thoroughly over an extended period of time. We use industry standard tests to compare features properly. We’ll always tell you what we find. We never, ever, accept money to review a product.
Used as the main TV for the review period
Tested for more than a week
Tested using industry calibrated tools, discs and with real world use
Tested with broadcast content (HD/SD), video streams and demo discs
Score in detail
- Value 7
- Image Quality 9
- Sound Quality 6