26" LCD TVs: Are They Ready for Prime Time?

Video Quality

In viewing tests, the Philips 26PF9946/12 left us with mixed impressions. The picture was precise, but not as much as that of the appropriately named Sharp. The Philips also has a sharpness adjustment, but it won't really be any help, since any improvement in the sharpness also means an increase in video noise, in a manner reminiscent of digital cameras. The black level was too high and movies like Star Wars suffered as a result. Video noise, unfortunately, was quite perceptible, and too much sparkling was visible in the image. That's less bothersome when watching TV, since the original signal isn't all that clean to begin with. But for DVDs, even via an RGB or S-Video connection, it's just not a viable solution. Finally, we found the viewing angles were really too narrow. The vertical angle was okay, but the horizontal viewing angle claimed by the maker is just plain optimistic.

Interpolation And PC Mode

The Philips 26PF9946/12 did do better than the Sharp set with interpolation. But the tradeoff is in the sharpness of the picture. It was acceptable for games on a console, but clearly worse than what a CRT in the same price range can do. Using it in PC mode is problematic too, because the odd 1366x768 resolution won't work well with all video cards. We ran into problems with resolution in VGA mode, and had a keying problem in DVI mode. However, the set's OSD lets you move the display window to cover the total area of the panel in DVI.

Sound Quality

The sound produced by the Philips 26PF9946/12 was a little short on definition to be really effective, so you'd need a home theater sound system. That's a shame, since the volume of the set's shell is big enough to have included better-quality speakers. Too bad.


The Philips 26PF9946/12 has fascinating design but unconvincing performance. Its video quality was a little short of the mark, and its sound quality was barely good enough for TV watching. It all adds up to a TV that's a tad expensive for the performance it offers. Note that for about $100 more, you can get the improved version of the 26PF9946/12 - the 26PF9956, with Pixel Plus technology - which does improve the image quality.

Philips is very active in the TV field, however, and we're betting that more innovations are foreseeable on their upcoming models.