Key Features: 1,060 mm screen. 400,000 pixels. 16:9 aspect ratio. Dolby Pro Logic decoder. Surround speakers. A/V connections: RGB, Y/C, CVBS, S-VHS + Audio AV. PAL/NTSC/SECAM. 1,060 mm screen. 400,000 pixels. 16:9 aspect ratio. Dolby Pro Logic decoder. Surround speakers. A/V connections: RGB, Y/C, CVBS, S-VHS + Audio AV. PAL/NTSC/SECAM. Welcome to It'll be Alright On DIY Night. And here's your host. Denis Norden! The bespectacled one steps into the spotlight, clipboard in hand. "Now, if you're the kind of person," he says, "who has trouble putting shelves up, spare a thought for the poor chap (hur, hur), who has to hang a dirty great TV on the wall and. fails." It could happen. A spot of manic drilling, a couple of rawlplugs and a great big bang later, and that £12,500 bank loan is lying in pieces on the living room carpet. It's just as well then, that the Philips 42-inch plasma telly comes with the option of a specially-designed stand, a vision of IKEA loveliness in angular bleached wood and smoky green glass. Think about it some more - new TV on the wall, new TV on the floor. Or new TV on lovely stand looking high tech, gorgeous, and - more importantly - unbroken. You'd spend the extra £500, wouldn't you? It's a versatile old stand too. Not only can it take the enormous weight (all 46kg) of the plasma display itself, but there's enough room inside for all your other home entertainment gubbins, like a DVD player and VCR, and the Flat TV's own receiver box which comes with TV tuner and Pro Logic amplifier built-in. Now this matching green receiver box is rather important. Philips is the first company to really address the plasma-TV-as-domestic-telly concept. Other models we've looked at have just been big monitors - the original 42-inch Fujitsu, the NEC PlasmaSync 4200W, all aimed at fat cats in business suits rather than ordinary (if well-heeled) punters. Thomson's W
ysius has come closest by offering a VCR with a built-in tuner, but the Philips is the first to offer truly dedicated TV tuning. It even does Teletext. Philips being Philips, it hasn't left it at that either. It's also taken much of the technology from its spectacularly good TVs - stuff like Crystal Clear and Natural Motion - and incorporated it into the Flat TV, making it the best plasma monitor we've seen so far. And by some margin. Certainly the Flat TV is very TV-like to use. The system's remote is instantly familiar to anyone who owns a Philips set already and enables you to auto-tune, tweak and generally toy with the system settings until you get the picture and sound you want - there are six different zoom modes for watching 4:3 or widescreen broadcasts and you can tweak the contrast, brightness and all the other usual malarkey through the screen's user-friendly on-screen menus. And boy, are the results worth it. Watch TV or stick on a DVD and you're instantly greeted with a bright, detailed picture that finally offers the kind of colour fidelity we've been so used to on conventional CRTs. Blowing the screen up this big doesn't seem to have affected the TV signal too much either. Sure there's picture noise, but in the cosy confines of Philips' demo room, it's as minimal as anyone has any right to expect in this low-definition analogue TV world. And there's always the option of Digital Noise Reduction to make it even better. When it comes to the sound, though, the Flat TV's more of a mixed bag. The front speakers - left, centre and right - are all built into the display panel itself, while a pair of plasticky surround speakers bring up the rear. Like the Thomson Wysius before it, the Flat TV sound system simply can't match the huge expectations you have of such an enormous screen. Neither does it have the added advantage of a Dolby Digital receiver like the Thomson does. Given the limitati
ons imposed by the speakers though, the Philips turns in a decent performance. Dialogue is a little tinny, but clear enough, the soundstage is reasonably expansive and the rear speakers do a creditable job of giving ambient effects and other surround sound whizz-bangery a genuinely atmospheric feel. But it's the subwoofer that really lets the side down. It simply isn't meaty or pacy enough to do justice to those blockbuster action sequences. A decent sub should have you running for your pant drawer every 30 seconds - the Philips sub's leisurely delivery means you'll never need to change your Y-fronts again. Essentially, the Flat TV's very TV-ness is its strength and also its weakness. It's incredibly user-friendly and certainly delivers visually, but, frankly, it's just a bog-standard Pro Logic telly, albeit with an enormous screen. There's a lot to like about the Flat TV, but to love it, you'll just have to wait for the Dolby Digital version. Only the speakers let it down.