Philips Cineos 42PFL7603D review: Philips Cineos 42PFL7603D

The Good Design; sound; HD picture quality; connectivity; affordable.

The Bad Freeview picture quality isn't brilliant; Ambilight is sluggish.

The Bottom Line This is a lovely looking TV with superb HD performance and great sound at a sensible price -- the only real downside is the slightly ropey Freeview performance. Also, Ambilight isn't anywhere near as involving as it is on the 9703

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8.3 Overall

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One of the key criticisms we have with some Philips TVs is their relatively high price. As much as we loved the 9703 range, it is more expensive by far than most of the competition. The good news is that the 7603 range is much better value for money, but has some very similar features.

We tuned in the Freeview, fired up the Blu-ray player and dimmed the lights to find out if it performs as well as its big brother. Sadly we didn't have any popcorn to hand, but there was a copy of the 80s classic Risky Business to help us evaluate this TV.

Philips has recently emerged as one of the shining stars of TV design, its newer models both original and aesthetically pleasing. There are also some distinct technical advantages to the way it has chosen to configure its televisions, especially when it comes to sound performance.

We liked the Philips 9703 range so we had high hopes for the 7603. The main differences between them is that the 7603 is substantially cheaper, and it doesn't offer the more advanced three-sided Ambilight system.

We're pleased to see that the 7603 features a significantly less annoying remote control. If you aren't familiar with the 9703, you won't know that it has a rotating dial which you can use to scroll around menus. Although we liked that idea, it was inaccurate and frustrating in practice. On the 7603 the dial has been replaced with a simple multi-directional button which is much simpler and much less frustrating. On the negative side, however, this new remote feels much cheaper.

The 7603, like quite a few modern televisions, has a USB interface which allows you to connect memory sticks containing music and photos for playback on the screen. Sadly, there is no video support on this particular model, which is a crying shame as it would add that little bit of extra zing to the TV.

The Ambilight is the two-sided version, which we like, but it's not quite as involving as the three-sided version. You do have the same choices with this system, including choosing a single colour to throw on the wall and the ability to adjust the response speed and brightness of the illumination.

It's probably worth pointing out that to make the most out of Ambilight, you really need to have the TV positioned close to a white or light coloured wall. If you get it just right, it can be a lovely experience, though not something that you would use all the time.

The 7603 does a passable job with Freeview. Sometimes the macro blocking that comes as part-and-parcel with low-bitrate digital TV was pretty noticeable. This is something that picture processing should minimise, but the Philips didn't seem to cope especially well. Generally though, with a good incoming signal, the 7603 managed to produce a decent picture.

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