Photos by Tony Cordoza
When it comes to making an impact with a high-definition TV image, there's just no substitute for size. Unfortunately, not everyone can afford a dedicated room for a front-projection theater, and not everyone can afford next-generation plasma and other tubeless TVs. That's why cathode-ray-tube (CRT)-based rear-projection TVs, like the , will remain popular for most home theater setups.
The 60-inch widescreen 60PW9383 won't hide in the corner of any room, no matter how large. And this big-screen set can't claim an ultra-thin cabinet - it measures 27 inches deep - but its handsome exterior looks better than most of its peers. A row of five buttons below the screen and to the right controls most functions, including menu access and automatic convergence of the three CRTs.
I can always count on Philips to come up with unique design touches, and the 60PW9383 didn't disappoint me. The animated menus look gimmicky with their dancing cursor, but they get the job done. I enjoyed the feel of the curvaceous remote, but after a while its somewhat unresponsive rubber-ring cursor control became tedious to use. Switching between inputs is a matter of calling up the menu and selecting one from the list. The number, volume, and channel keys comprise the remote's red-light district - they're the only ones that benefit from its crimson backlight.
Pressing either right or left on the rubber ring switches among the 60PW9383's aspect ratio settings - and in another cool design touch, the picture expands or contracts progressively between sizes instead of abruptly switching from one to another. No matter how hard you press, however, you won't be able to change aspect ratios with 1080i (interlaced) HDTV programs or with standard-definition 480p (progressive) material from a progressive-scan DVD player. With standard 480i programs you can choose among five aspect ratios. Wide is for 16:9 images. Three others manipulate the image to eliminate the vertical bars flanking 4:3 pictures. In the last mode, called simply 4:3, black bars appear on either side of the image.
A feature Philips calls Automatic Phosphor Aging Compensation (APAC) helps the tubes wear evenly by shifting the image slightly when it detects a static source. I noticed it working while I looked at test patterns - suddenly the image would jump a pixel-width or two in a random direction.
A few other important features help distinguish this set. The automatic convergence feature - used to align the tubes and prevent red and blue fringing around white lines - is convenient, but I got more accurate results using the 32-point manual convergence controls. The picture-in-picture (PIP) function can't be used to display 1080i or 480p sources, but you can watch any 480i source in the small window as well as resize and relocate the window. You can also call up a split-screen view that displays two same-sized images side by side on the wide screen.
The 60PW9383 offers a good selection of videophile necessities, including the ability to remember different picture settings for each input. This lets you customize the picture for each source. There are also three color-temperature presets, a dynamic contrast setting, and an automatic video noise-reduction mode.
Since this is a Philips, I wasn't surprised to find an unusual collection of jacks on the back panel. A DVI (Digital Visual Interface) port with HDCP copy protection, which enables hookup with next-generation set-top HDTV receivers and DVD players, was a welcome sight. But only one of the two component-video inputs can accept 1080i signals - the other takes only 480i. That means you can't connect a progressive-scan DVD player and an HDTV tuner via component video at the same time unless you're using a receiver or preamp/processor with component-video switching.
After calibrating the color temperature and tweaking geometry (see "in the lab" at the bottom of this page), I hooked up a progressive-scan DVD player to see how the 60PW9383 handled DVDs. The Bourne Identity, a thriller with Matt Damon playing the amnesiac assassin Jason Bourne, really brought out the strengths of this big-screen HDTV. In one early scene Bourne rifles through a safe-deposit box searching for his identity and finds a number of passports with his picture and different names. I was able to study the subtle differences in the faint passport watermarks from the U.S., U.S.S.R., France, and Canada, and the textured green fabric of the Brazilian passport came through in full detail. In a later sequence, a series of closeups of computer screens looked particularly realistic. I noticed the well-defined edges of the square pixels that formed the words onscreen and was able to read the tiny alphanumeric labels superimposed on different scenes of European cities as the CIA called on its cadre of killers.
A bit later as Marie, Bourne's German girlfriend, lays in bed in the morning light, the fine texture of her skin and tiny freckles were clearly visible. I thought the rose in her cheeks looked a little too flush - a result of the TV's tendency to accentuate red - but the other colors were well saturated.
Other scenes revealed the 60PW9383's lack of 2:3 pulldown processing, which compensates for the frame-rate differences between film and video. A group of CIA brass meets in Langley, VA, to discuss the botched assassination attempt. A quick pan around the room looked fine with the player in progressive-scan mode, but in interlaced mode a column of metal buttons crawled unnaturally, like a string of moving Christmas lights. This is one TV that should be matched up with a good progressive-scan DVD player.
Next I checked out a rerun of Seinfeld on Time Warner digital cable, and the results were typical of low-resolution material blown up to 60 inches. Flaws in the cable-delivered image were obvious, showing up as blotches of noise on the walls of Jerry's apartment, and the TV's digital noise reduction did little to clean things up. But overall, regular TV looked no worse than I expected.
HDTV, on the other hand, looked very impressive on this big screen. Time Warner in New York City carries PBS's 1080i programming, and when I happened upon an episode of Chefs A'Field: Culinary Adventures, I suddenly got a lot hungrier. Closeups of a steak looked good enough to taste - I could make out the cubical shapes of salt granules and flecks of pepper on the meat. The finished dish, steak with potatoes and onions garnished with salsa verde, sent me downstairs for lunch in a hurry.
Some HDTV buyers are disappointed when they get their new sets home and see that regular TV, blown up to massive proportions, suddenly doesn't look very good. The tradeoff, however, is that high-quality sources like DVD and HDTV look wonderful, and they only get better on bigger screens. If you plan to watch a lot of widescreen movies or take advantage of the increasing amount of high-definition programming, this midprice set will make a worthy choice matched with the right DVD player.
In the Lab
Color temperature (Movie setting, Warm color temperature before/after calibration)
Low window (+20 IRE): NA/6,127 K
High window (+80 IRE): 7,094/6,527 K
Brightness (Movie setting, Warm color temperature before/after calibration, +80 IRE): 69.5/26.4 ftL
With the Movie picture preset selected, the Philips 60PW9383 measured somewhat close to the NTSC standard of 6,500 K. The upper end of the grayscale was slightly more accurate than the lower end, which was not measurable at 20 IRE. After calibration, color temperature was much closer to the standard, but the 20-IRE window was still too red, and grayscale steps varied by around 500 K. (Calibration needs to be performed by a qualified technician with specialized equipment, so discuss it with your dealer before purchase, or call the Imaging Science Foundation at 561-997-9073.)
After calibration, light output was ideal for a rear-projection TV. The set's NTSC color decoder showed significant error in the red channel, so overall color level needed to be reduced to produce an accurate picture. DC restoration was good; the level of black varied only slightly with the average level of the entire image. Before calibration, geometry was slightly off, and overscan patterns indicated a shift to the left and bottom. After calibration, geometry was nearly perfect and overscan negligible.
Edge enhancement was faintly visible with sharpness set one step above 0, but 0 introduced softening. Corner-to-corner focus was very good. Brightness uniformity was slightly below average, with a bright band visible across the middle of the screen.