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Philips 42PFL7403D review: Philips 42PFL7403D

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The Good Great styling. 100Hz actually works. Deep black levels. Four HDMI ports. Great HD images.

The Bad Picture presets are awful. Noise reduction ineffective. Poor off-axis viewing.

The Bottom Line The Philips 42PFL7403D is a solid 1080p television, which shows particular strengths with HD content, but you'll need to tweak it to get the best results.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

7.3 Overall

Review Sections

It's with tinges of sadness that we publish this review after this week's news that Philips will shut up its TV shop at the end of this year. This means that the 42PFL7403 will be one of the last models you'll see from the Dutch manufacturer. After years of impressive televisions, we only wish that they'd gone out with a bang…

Design
If you've ever wanted a giant iPod in your living room, then the Flare design of the 42PFL7403D may appeal to you. Philips has used this styling before with the 9000 series, or 42PFL9703D, and we're quite taken with it — though the abundance of plastic may turn some people off.

The remote isn't anything special, though it has got a rubberised direction pad which is a little unusual and paradoxically a little slippery.

Features
We can envision a time when every TV on the market will be 1080p, but at the moment it's still only the mid-to-high level models. As the Philips fits into this category it naturally features a 1920x1080 resolution.

As a mid-range television, the 42PFL7403D is missing the Ethernet connectivity of Philips' premium units, but still includes features such as 100Hz and USB playback. Picture processing is provided by Philips' Pixel Plus 3 HD and HD Natural Motion technologies which provide both noise reduction and 100Hz capability.

The panel is rated at 3ms response time, which is quite quick and should help reduce motion blur, and the company quote a dynamic contrast of 30,000:1, though we anticipate the actual figure would be a tenth of this.

To complement the TV's high-def capabilities comes a HD digital tuner with (admittedly limited) EPG support. In addition, you'll get a healthy four HDMI ports for plugging in your compatible dooverlackies. Of course, there's also two SCART ports, but we've heard our colleagues in the UK — where SCART gained its biggest foothold — complain that these are no longer necessary, so in Australia it's infinitely less so.

Philips likes to hand ultimate control of the TV's settings to its users, but in many cases we've found this can be more of a hindrance than anything else. For example, while trying to adjust the display's contrast we found that the slider bar took up almost a third of the screen — actually obscuring the image we were trying to calibrate. Unfortunately, most of the preset modes are horrible, with too much over-sharpening making images look like cardboard cut-outs — though the Movie mode is OK after a boost to the backlight levels.

Performance
This television is quite a likeable animal, with futuristic styling, a friendly menu system, and a well-grounded set of next-gen features, but unfortunately its performance was a little uneven. When run through our suites of synthetic tests, the Philips showed some truly mixed results. Using the HQV Blu-ray disc most tasks, bar the video resolution test, passed with flying colours. Even the jaggies test went well. Switch to standard def and the DVD version and the results were poor, with the jaggies test failing terribly.

Granted, the synthetic test are meant to be gruelling and exaggerated, and we found the TV was happiest when playing Blu-ray discs. The brand new Batman Begins pressing looked fantastic, with plenty of shadow detail and keen, razor-sharp edges.

Free-to-air TV and DVD alike were a little less successful, with some judicious tweaking of the set's many noise-reduction options needed to get the best picture. Even Ten's HD documentaries looked overly blocky, but this was due more to the source than the TV itself. Broadcast HD can vary in quality much more readily than Blu-ray can. Meanwhile, King Kong on DVD exhibited some troubles with some ghosting and undue mosquito noise — so-called because it looks like a buzzing insect swarm — spoiling the "Kong's Last Stand" scene.

The 100Hz mode is less hyperactive than on the other Philips TV we saw recently, and at the minimum setting it was working almost imperceptibly. Images and movement were much more natural than competing modes we've seen, and is almost a poster child for how this technology should work — almost, but not quite.

The off-axis performance of this television isn't as strong as with the '9703D, and though there's no backlight clouding, the screen did show a tendency for discolouration in the corners viewed straight-on, and off-axis exhibited the LCD trait for reduced punch and black levels.

Using the TV to display a PC desktop worked successfully, and the Philips was able to display at 1920x1080 perfectly, without any overscan, and text looked sharp.

This TV will appeal to incessant tweakers, with its myriad of options, but people looking for a set-and-forget unit would be better placed to investigate Panasonic televisions, for example. While they don't let you fiddle around in the guts as much, they look good on the default settings.

Conclusion
Given that the two TVs look alike it's natural to compare the 7000 and the 9000 series directly to each other. Both are very capable TVs, but given the relatively small price difference, we think that 9000 is actually better value with its media streaming and better off-axis performance — even if the 100Hz mode didn't thrill us. Philips LCDs, we'll miss you.

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