Philips TVs usually leave us in something of a quandary. They're generally very capable sets with an enormous number of useful features. The problem is that these extras come at a pretty high cost, so, while the 40-inch, 1080p 40PFL9704H/12 LED-backlit LCD TV has every extra you could hope for, it also has a price tag that most of us simply won't be able to stretch to -- £1,800.
The 40PFL9704H/12 is expensive, but does it earn its keep? Is it the next-- would we sacrifice everything we own for another 5 minutes looking at 1080p footage on its award-winning screen? Let's find out.
What you get for £1,800
Out of the box, we defy you not to be blown away by the look and feel of this TV. Its build quality is second to none. The brushed metal case looks fantastic, and the TV feels like it's been built out of materials that could last forever. The remote matches the glorious style of the TV, and feels like a premium product.
As with most Philips TVs, you'll also find the Ambilight lighting system included here. It's the newer, three-sided system, and we really like it. If you've never owned an Ambilight TV, then you won't know what you're missing, but trust us -- when you have used an Ambilight TV, you'll miss this feature when you watch a TV without it.
On first impressions, then, the TV isn't merely a rip-off -- it's actually a brilliantly designed and constructed set that screams quality. It also has enough features to make us think that perhaps it's worth the price tag.
LED backlights cost a packet
Sadly, it's a fact of TV design and manufacture that LED-backlit sets, particularly fully dimmable models with an array of LEDs behind the screen, cost more to make than normal tellies. The electronics are sophisticated, because the TV not only has to produce an image for the LCD panel, but also calculate which LEDs need to be turned on and which need to be left off at any given time.
Are we defending the price? No, but you can at least see where your money's going. If you see a cheaper TV that has an 'LED backlight', then it's likely that it will use the cheaper edge-light system. In this simpler design, the LEDs are placed at the sides of the TV, and their light is diffused across the rear of the panel using reflectors. This has a cost and size advantage, but it's not possible to finely control the backlight, as it is in locally dimmable screens.
Network connectivity and YouTube
Like many modern TVs, the 40PFL9704H/12 can display video from online services like YouTube, or even over your home network using the DLNA standard. Sadly, we weren't impressed. YouTube worked okay, but video didn't play smoothly --we have a very high-speed network-- and the interface was pretty slow and sluggish.
As for DLNA, we couldn't make it do much at all. It saw our server, and allowed us to browse folders, but, apart from that, we couldn't make it play video. This isn't enough to make us say the TV isn't worth buying, but, if you're interested mainly because of DLNA, think again.
Sound that astounds
Unlike with most LCD TVs, especially thin, LED-edge-lit sets, Philips has taken the time and care to fit proper speakers into the 40PFL9704H/12. With most tellies, you get a flimsy set of speakers that produce a correspondingly thin noise. Philips approaches built-in audio differently, though.
By fitting woofers to the back of the set, and tweeters to the front, Philips has ensured the TV produces an even and high-quality sound. The tweeters aren't left alone to produce noise in one narrow band of frequencies. This also means the tweeters aren't expected to convince us that there are explosions taking place in a movie -- the woofers do that job, and do it well.
We like the sound, but that's only half the story. To get the full, erm, picture, we need to look at what the TV can show our eyes. Like most Philips TVs, the 40PFL9704H/12 has a battalion of picture modes and processing systems. The good news is this particular TV seems to have got everything almost totally right.