The new Philips 42-inch LCD television is the kind of TV that strikes you as amazing even before you've turned it on. Packing enough technologies to write a PhD on, the Philips may be expensive but it has the look and features to justify its price. It resembles a piece of art rather than just another flat screen and is something you'd be proud to have hanging in your TV room.
The first thing you'll notice about this TV is the massive black and white bezels surrounding it, which make this mid-sized 42-inch screen appear much larger than it actually is. The reason for them is the Ambient Surround light system that emits a soft glow from all four sides of the screen, reflecting off the white border. It might sound like a gimmick, but the system provides a more immersive and relaxing viewing experience by projecting a light that blends with any images the TV is displaying.
This is one TV that excels in all facets of design. The remote control has a clear plastic design which looks more like fine crystal than an ordinary television remote. It 's also very easy to use, while menus are intuitive. The keypad has a feel similar to that found on a high-end mobile phone. The supplied stand is frosted glass and should you wish to wall mount the screen, metal brackets are included.
The 42PF9831/69 features a WXGA (1366 x 768) screen with 7000:1 contrast and 550 cd/m2 brightness. There's also a host of connections, including 2x HDMI, 2x SCART and a component input. The placement of these could be better, as they face down on the back of the TV, which makes it hard to add and remove connections without having to move it. For reasons unknown, the Australian model forgoes some features that come standard with overseas models. These include an integrated digital tuner, Wi-Fi capability and an Ethernet port. Strangely, for those planning on connecting the screen to a PC (including Windows Media Center machines), maximum resolution is only 1024x768 and at 60Hz instead of 100Hz. For such a high-end TV the hobbled PC connectivity is a major problem.
This TV is packed full of Philips' own image processing algorithms. These include Pixel Plus 3 HD, the before mentioned Ambilight Full Surround and Clear LCD technology. Pixel Plus 3 HD, the latest iteration of Philips' amazing image processing system, offers enhanced noise reduction and improved colours. One of the most impressive new technologies is ClearLCD, a process that improves motion handling by LCDs. Pixels are lit progressively and for a shorter period of time so that fast-moving objects cause less picture problems. Also, the pixels respond more quickly to rapid changes in the picture content.
At this end of the price scale, it's disappointing to see that there isn't true support for the full 1080i HD resolution -- 1080i feeds are compressed to the panel's native resolution. At only 1366 x 768, the Philips is on par with LCD screens in the $2000 price range. Other features include Active Control processing, Digital Natural Motion processing and an option for Virtual Dolby audio.
It's one thing to be able to list all these features; it's another to show that all these technologies actually work in improving picture quality. In short, the performance of this TV is excellent but only truly shines under full high definition viewing. Image sharpness is outstanding. The Pixel Plus 3 HD improves video sharpness without being affected by noise. Dark images, in particular, had a depth to them that is unmatched by other LCD TVs we've tested.
After running the Digital Video Essentials tests, we had no qualms. Fast moving scenes were fine and we were also very surprised at the audio quality of the standard speakers. The power available from the speakers is amazing, bass was deep and the soundstage was wider compared to other integrated systems.
The TV didn't only display HD well. It also excelled at improving standard definition viewing without any of the short-comings of its competitors. It appears Philips has built a TV that is aimed at improving usability as well as quality. Out test television automatically detected our input source. Though this TV seems expensive, when you consider the attention to detail that has gone into design and innovation the price is justified.