Philips 42PFL9803 review: Philips 42PFL9803

CNET Editors' Rating

4 stars Excellent
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good Styling; sound quality.

The Bad Picture isn't as good as it could be; needs quite a bit of tweaking to get good results.

The Bottom Line We like the 42PFL903 a great deal. The styling alone makes us want to own one, and with the LED backlight, Ambilight and excellent picture processing modes it should be a real winner. For us, the price is too high for a TV that doesn't match the performance of the similarly priced Pioneer Kuro plasma. This is far from a bad TV, it just doesn't stack up well against the competition at this price range

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The Achilles' heel of LCD TVs has, for a long time, been the backlight. In an LCD TV the image is created by a panel that is illuminated from behind. For most uses this is fine, but when you are trying to reproduce black, or something dark, it has an impact on the depth and reality. Mostly, truly deep and rich blacks will come off looking washed-out.

The answer to this, according to Philips, is to use an array of more than 1,000 LEDs behind the LCD panel to illuminate the picture. We've seen this done before on a Samsung and even a gargantuan 72-inch Sony TV, and the results have always impressed us. So will the Philips 42PFL9803 manage to win our approval? With a retail price over £2,000, we should hope so.

Design
The first thing you'll spot when you look at the 42PFL9803 is the remarkable styling. Rather than a boring black case, Philips has chosen a brushed aluminium one. We applaud this because it's different to every other piano-black TV on the market. The result is a wonderful-looking TV.

As you would expect with a stylish TV like this, the front is unspoilt by any hideous buttons -- there's a large Philips logo and a thin LED strip beneath the screen that reminds you the TV is on.

The remote control matches the basic colour of the TV, but it's a slightly disappointing silver-coloured plastic. Pioneer makes its remotes with real metal and we think Philips should too. As with other Philips models, the remote has a rotating wheel that can be used to select menu items. We aren't a huge fan of these devices usually, but we will say Philips has done a decent job with it.


The remote matches the TV and has a rotating wheel that is used to navigate menu items

Connectivity is well thought-out. There are four HDMI inputs  -- three on the back, one on the side. You also get component video in, a VGA connection for your media centre PC or Xbox 360, and there are a pair of Scart sockets to hook up that older, standard-definition equipment.

On the side panel you'll find an S-video input and composite video in, both of which are handy for hooking up a camcorder or digital camera.

Features
As you would expect with a premium Philips TV, the screen features Ambilight. We weren't that impressed to see the more basic two-sided Ambilight Spectra 2, rather than the three-sided Spectra 3 system included on the 9703 range. It might not sound like it makes a difference, but the top strip on Spectra 3 really adds to the involvement you feel when you watch a movie.

Philips does include its Perfect Pixel HD engine, which is designed to process the massive amount of picture information in video signals and present it on-screen in the best possible way. We've always been very impressed by this system -- it works very well and Philips TVs always seem to do a very good job with Freeview pictures.

You can view your images in this TV via the USB or Ethernet connections. It's also possible to listen to music  -- in the MP3 format -- and even watch MPEG-2 video using either format. The PFL9803 is also DLNA certified, which assures a certain level of support for third-party devices that also carry the logo.

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Where to Buy

Philips 42PFL9803

Part Number: CNETPhilips 42PFL9803

Typical Price: £2,200.00

See manufacturer website for availability.