While some companies are dropping their TV prices to levels more befitting our ‘age of austerity’, Philips is going in the opposite direction and pursuing pricey picture perfection. The 42PFL9803 is based around the company’s LED backlighting system, designed to overcome the poor contrast that can affect some LCD sets.
Instead of a large, single backlight to illuminate its display panel, the ‘9803 – also called the ‘Lux’ by Philips – features 1152 individual LEDs, divided up into 128 segments that can be locally controlled to give more accurate light variation.
It’s a crazily complex solution, but it helps deliver a claimed 2,000,000:1 contrast ratio, plus deeper black levels and reduced power consumption compared to a standard LCD TV.
The rest of the set is more conventional, but only by Philips’ lofty standards. There’s a tremendously powerful image processor, the Perfect Pixel HD engine, plus a fast-response 100Hz Clear LCD panel with a 2ms response time (for less motion smearing).
The company’s oft-used Ambilight system is fitted too, but in a less sophisticated form than the full-house version sported by the similarly expensive Philips Aurea II: here, only two sides of the TV are backlit. Finally, the extensive socket fit includes a DLNA-ready Ethernet socket, plus all the HDMI-ins most users will ever need.
In action, this is one of the finest TVs we’ve seen, full stop. Image quality is superb with all sources: contrast levels comfortably outgun the best efforts of most LCDs and come close to rivalling the few plasma TVs still out there on the market.
Upscaling performance is excellent with standard-definition TV and DVD signals, and Blu-ray is particularly dramatic, being blessed with formidable clarity and punch.
Occasionally motion can appear a little unnatural for some tastes – a factor of the powerful picture processing at work – but it’s not too unsettling, and it can be dialled out if you so wish using the set-up menus.
Sound quality is terrific too. Philips has put a lot of work into ensuring good sound from its TVs, and this set’s invisible speakers (they’re mounted on the rear, and are bolstered by a bass-reinforcing subwoofer) are very capable indeed.