Philips has always tried to pull something special out of the bag when it comes to its flagship 9000 Smart LED TV series. This time around on the 46-inch 46PFL9706T there's a new technology called Moth Eye on offer, which is claimed improves contrast and black levels, while also reducing screen reflections.
However, with an asking price of around £2,200, this technology is certainly going to put a dent in your wallet, so is it worth the asking price?
User interface and EPG
Philips TVs have used the same interface for a couple of years now and its age is beginning to show. The system is built around a home screen that you call up by pressing a dedicated button on the remote. From here you can access all of the TV's key features via large icons. However, the system can feel needlessly complicated at times, and to make matters worse, some of the menus are quite sluggish to navigate.
Certain functions, such as calling up the programme info while watching TV, are two button presses away, when on the majority of other TVs they're accessible via a single button press.
The electronic programme guide (EPG) isn't fantastic either. It has a horizontal grid layout that shows eight channels' worth of data at a time. However, it only displays two programmes per channel, which means you have to do a lot of sideways scrolling to check out what's coming up over an evening.
Digital media and Internet features
As with the vast majority of today's TVs, this model allows you to play digital media files, either via one of the set's two USB ports or by streaming content across a network from a PC or NAS drive. The format support is good. Along with DivX, Xvid and WMV movie files, it plays HD MKV videos. However, rather annoyingly, the fast-forward and rewind controls don't work when you're streaming videos across a network -- they're only enabled for USB playback.
The set also has Philips' Net TV system on board. Thankfully, this now supports the BBC's iPlayer, along with the Acetrax movie rental service, YouTube, Vimeo and Box Office 365. There are also apps for Facebook, Twitter and Picasa, and Philips has added a full Internet browser. The latter is quite tricky to navigate using the remote and it doesn't support Flash, so you can't use it to view video on some websites. Unfortunately, despite the addition of the new services, the Net TV offering still falls quite a long way short of what you get on the latest Samsung and LG Smart TVs.
Design and connections
The 46PFL9706T is certainly a handsome TV in terms of design. The brushed metal finish used on the bezel and stand gives it a real air of sophistication and the beautifully rounded corners add extra charm. We also like the control panel that seems to hang from the bottom of the bezel. It houses a number of touch buttons for changing the channel or setting the volume level when you've misplaced the remote down the back of the sofa.
However, measuring around 40mm deep, the set is not all that slim by modern LED TV standards. This is in part because it uses direct LED backlighting. The bezel is also a little thick at 30mm. Nevertheless, these are relatively minor points on what is a great-looking TV overall.
Down the left-hand side of the set you'll find two USB ports. You can connect a hard drive up to one of these and record shows from the onboard Freeview HD tuner to disc, while you use the other port for playing back digital media files.
There's also an Ethernet port on the rear and Philips has built Wi-Fi into the set, so you don't have to purchase an add-on dongle. However, the Wi-Fi set-up wasn't the easiest we've come across -- it took us a while to get it working with our router, mainly because it doesn't allow you to enter alphanumerical passwords, but instead insists on unfriendly hexadecimal passwords. If your router has Wi-Fi protected setup (WPS) you can just use that instead.
The side panel is home to an HDMI port as well as an SD card slot. Around the back on a downward-facing panel are another three HDMI ports, as well as a set of component inputs, Scart socket (via a small break-out cable) and VGA port. Pretty much all the connectivity bases are covered.
At present, there only seem to be two TV manufacturers that take the audio quality of their flatscreen TVs seriously -- Panasonic and Philips. Of the two, Philips arguably does the better job, and that's certainly true here.
Whereas most flatscreen tellies, and especially super-thin LED ones, seem incapable of producing full-bodied sound, this one has no such problems. In fact, there's plenty of low-end punch that easily adds weight to the far-away rumbles of battle in the Beeb's Birdsong, for example. Dialogue has impressive presence too, thanks to the set's strong mid-range performance and even hi-hats and cymbals on dance tracks from the likes of 4Music cut through crisply.
So what's the secret? Rather than build the speakers into the TV's chassis, Philips has instead integrated them into the set's stand. This has allowed for larger, beefier speakers. The speakers are connected to the set via a small cable that comes out the back of the stand.
You might be wondering what happens if you want to wall-mount the TV. Well, Philips has cleverly covered that, because as with some of its previous TVs, the pedestal stand can be reconfigured by moving the central bracket so that it acts as a wall mount instead. That's an ingenious idea, saving you a few bob and sensibly reusing materials that would otherwise have gone in the bin.