Philips has invested a huge amount of time and cash into perfecting its Ambilight technology, which uses clever backlighting positioned around the TV screen to intensify the viewing experience.

The 42PFL9903D, or Aurea II, is the ultimate expression of all that effort: it’s the company’s premium 42in TV, and packs in almost every performance-enhancing technology in the corporate arsenal save for LED backlighting.

Lightening responses

So, you’ve got a 42in LCD TV with Full HD 1920x1080p resolution, based on Philips’ best-performing 100Hz Clear LCD panel that offers just 2ms response time, claimed to be the fastest available. That should help to eliminate the visible smearing that can afflict fast motion with some LCD sets.

It’s backed by Perfect Pixel HD picture processing, which handles upscaling of standard-definition content, noise reduction and much more, and of course, there’s a horde of audio and video inputs on board, including an Ethernet socket with DLNA compatibility, making it easy for you to stream content from your PC to your TV.

Light show

But what really makes the Aurea II stand out from the crowd is its dramatic ‘Active Frame’ design. Philips uses this complex screen surround, which features 150 embedded LEDs, to deliver its best-ever level of Ambilight performance.

It’s remarkable to behold. If you’ve never seen an Ambilight set in full flow, you’ll be taken aback at first, because it looks like nothing else in TV.

Thanks to the carefully tuned, constantly fluctuating pulses of colour being radiated into your room from all around the screen (with each colour changing in response to what’s being displayed at that precise moment) you get the impression that the picture is at once bigger and richer.

It really works – and as Philips is at pains to point out, it also makes the image more relaxing and enjoyable to watch over a sustained period.

Stunning performance

The crisp Freeview tuner and powerful upscaling means digital TV pictures are handled very well, with only a smidge of block noise to spoil the party (a legacy of the poor content, rather than a fault with the TV).

Switch to HD and, best of all, Blu-ray and you’ll find even less to mutter about – in particular, motion-handling seems natural and convincing, which is some achievement for a set with this much picture processing.

Sound quality is almost as impressive. The Aurea II’s unique design means a lot of work had to be put into making its speakers disappear visually, which they do well – but sonically, there’s no disputing the clarity and grunt on offer.


Stuff says... 

Philips 42PFL9903D Aurea II review

Deeply impressive in so many ways, but too expensive to get full marks