It was always going to take a special TV to beat the brilliant Philips 42PFL9664. Yet the set you see before you manages to do just that. And the manufacturer of this terrific newcomer? Er… Philips.
So, what makes the new 40PFL9704 so special? Well, it’s the first Philips we’ve tested to use a full-array LED backlighting system: there are 14 rows of LED backlights across the rear of the display, with multiple LEDs in each of the 224 segments, resulting in more than 1,000 LEDs overall.
That has a downside – compared to Samsung’s svelte edge-lit TVs, the ’9704 is relatively chunky, at 9cm deep.
Dim and dimmer
But Philips reckons its LED Pro technology compensates by delivering the best possible picture, because it allows for independent local dimming of segments of the LED panel as the image dictates, leading to significantly better contrast.
It also means you’ll get superior backlight uniformity: LCD TVs can suffer from ‘hot spotting’, where light is brighter towards the centre of the screen and dimmer on the edges, but a full-array LED panel has uniform light output throughout.
The result, Philips says, is a formidable 5,000,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio. Whatever the numbers, this is a great TV, capable of generating a stunning picture with digital TV signals and Blu-ray.
As you’d expect from a Philips, it’s laden with picture-processing technology, too: thanks to the powerful Perfect Pixel HD engine, upscaling is excellent with Freeview broadcasts, the ’9704 working hard to cut down digital block noise and other off-air undesirables.
Motion causes splash
Motion-handling with Blu-ray is exceptional too (unless you turn the Perfect Natural Motion system up to maximum, which can introduce a slightly unrealistic feel) and the fast 1ms panel response time, enabled by 200Hz Clear LCD technology, ensures minimal smearing and motion blur.
As for the biggest selling point of all – contrast performance – it’s just as fabulous as you’d hope it would be, the Philips generating pictures that get close to the dramatic depth and punch of Pioneer’s remarkable (and now unavailable) Kuro plasmas.
Full web browsing
You can stream from YouTube – quality is surprisingly good, so long as you avoid user-generated videos – and while the set won’t currently handle BBC’s iPlayer, Philips says this feature will be available later this year.
Add in terrific sound – Philips seems able to endow its sets with dynamics and weight to shame any rival – plus sumptuous build and finish, a class-leading remote handset, built-in Wi-Fi with a proper net browser, plenty of sockets and Philips’ remarkable Ambilight Spectra 3 system (which projects lights from both the sides and the top of the TV to enhance your viewing) and you’ve a complete TV. The Philips 40PFL9704 isn’t cheap – but it will make you really, really cheerful.