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Philips 40PFL9704 40in LED Backlit LCD TV review

John Archer




  • Recommended by TR

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Philips 40PFL9704 40in LED Backlit LCD TV
  • Philips 40PFL9704 40in LED Backlit LCD TV
  • Philips 40PFL9704 40in LED Backlit LCD TV
  • Philips 40PFL9704 40in LED Backlit LCD TV
  • Philips 40PFL9704 40in LED Backlit LCD TV
  • Philips 40PFL9704 40in LED Backlit LCD TV
  • Philips 40PFL9704 40in LED Backlit LCD TV
  • Philips 40PFL9704 40in LED Backlit LCD TV


Our Score:


It’s all too fashionable these days to be ultra-cynical all the time. To dish out clever scathing comments at the drop of a hat, and only give praise through gritted teeth. The problem is, as anyone who has had the misfortune to see the contents of my wardrobe will attest, I’ve never been a dedicated follower of fashion.

And so I have absolutely no qualms whatsoever about kicking off this review of Philips’ 40PFL9704 LCD TV by saying first that I openly admit to having really looked forward to it arriving, and second that it hasn’t let me down in the slightest. So there.

The reason I’d had the 40PFL9704 so high on my ‘want’ list is simply this: that it marks the second generation of Philips’ LED backlighting technology, apparently improving in all manner of ways on the already impressive efforts of Philips’ 42PFL9803 LED debut.

Perhaps the single most significant of these improvements is that the 40PFL9704 ups the number of separately controllable LED clusters illuminating the picture by a massive 75 per cent, to 224. This matters because the 40PFL9704’s direct LED approach – where the LED lights are positioned behind the screen rather than around its edge – permits the screen to deliver local dimming, where individual LED clusters can have their light level adjusted to deliver a localised level of brightness not possible with regular single-CCFL LCD lighting.

Therefore, the more separately controllable LED clusters a local dimming screen has, the more accurately you can control the localised lighting. This should reduce the opportunity for the phenomenon of ‘haloing’ witnessed with some local dimming LED-lit TVs, where the paucity of LED lights relative to the number of pixels in the picture can cause misty haloes to appear around exceptionally bright picture elements. Having more controlled LED clusters should also generally make the picture look crisper and more dynamic.

The extra LED light clusters have also been joined on the 40PFL9704 by a revamped core panel design, with the two working together to produce a stratospheric manufacturer’s contrast ratio of 5,000,000:1. That’s well over double the figure promised with the 42PFL9803, and off the top of my head the highest such figure I’ve seen quoted on a TV. Obviously such figures always have to be taken with a pinch of salt, but you’d have to be made of stone not to feel at least a little intrigued by what the 40PFL9704 is claiming.

Yet another advance the 40PFL9704 makes is the addition of 200Hz processing – or, to be more accurate, 100Hz processing plus a scanning backlight. This comes on top of the Perfect Natural Motion processing that forms a key part of Philips’ hugely powerful Perfect Pixel HD processing engine – an engine which also does some pretty startling things to image sharpness, noise reduction, colour saturations and contrast.


February 17, 2010, 2:55 pm

Thanks for the review John, I'd been looking forward to this one as I'm interested in the 46in version of this set. I've seen the 9664s in the flesh and thought their pictures were the most detailed and fluid I have seen on an LCD, and had an almost 3-D quality to them. If the 9704s have this as well as plasma-like contrast, then they must be pretty spectacular.


February 17, 2010, 3:25 pm

LED matrix backlighting is definitely the gold standard for LCD contrast and worth the money. Unfortunately there are too many LED-edge-lit LCD TVs and not enough LED-matrix-lit TVs on the market.


February 17, 2010, 3:35 pm

Looks fantastic. Can we assume this has a freeview hd tuner? Surely a pre-requisite in these times.


February 17, 2010, 4:08 pm

James, I don't think it has a Freeview HD tuner, even though the European versions have Mpeg4 tuners.


February 17, 2010, 6:31 pm

This looks really nice, I'm loving the design direction that Philips have gone down with their TV's recently, especially the use of aluminium.

The only shame is that it's quite so expensive - for this money, I'd prefer to stump up the extra £300 and go for the 55" Toshiba. Saying that, if the size limit is about 40" and the budget is wide open, this looks really nice. If Philips can put this kind of design on their lesser TV's, they will get a lot of interest.


February 17, 2010, 7:01 pm

I have the 46" version of this TV and I can confirm it doesn't have an inbuilt Freeview HD tuner. It is a bit of a shame but understandable given this TV was released last year (I got mine end of October in the UK)and no DVB-T2 tuners were available then.

Fanstastic telly though!


February 18, 2010, 1:57 am

How bad and frequent are the artifacts introduced by the local dimming? How bad is the lag in games if you have the local dimming activated?



February 18, 2010, 5:06 am

I bought this model 4 weeks ago. Linked up to a Sky HD+ box and Philips Blue Ray player, the picture quality is exceptional. Astoundingly, watching terrestrial TV (such as BBC1)via the freeview tuner gives a better picture than watching via Sky, with some programs having an almost HD quality about them (such as Dr Who). How could I have ever watched television without Ambilight? This was a revelation for me! It makes watching TV enter a whole new dimension, engulfing you into the action!I was concerned about sound quality, but found I needn't have worried, it is awesome and that's without a sound system connected up! Setting up the TV was straight forward and took just minutes to complete. Connecting up my router, PS2 and Wii was very easy and I had the whole set-up completed and networked in about thirty minutes!! The menu is laid out well, with sub menus being intuitive (Thankfully. Don't you just hate reading instruction manuals?)

This TV has touch sensitive controls on the frame! The remote is one of the best I have ever used, but cannot understand why Philips omitted to have it back lit. Sure there are some confirmation lights on some buttons, but in lowered lighting, it is so difficult to ensure you are pressing the correct buttons! Image and sound quality 9/10?....come on! The picture is outstanding, for all the stated reasons. The sound is impressive as well. I defy anyone to crank up the volume and not be impressed with it! 8/10 for value? Well true, it is an expensive piece of kit, but worth every penny! Anybody looking to buy a TV now and not giving this TV serious consideration may as well not bother.I'm sure that the nice sales person at Comet, Currys or heaven forbid PC World will be more than happy to sell you a second rate TV and get you to cough up for their extended warranty (You never know when anything will go wrong!). The one serious downfall for me, is the lack of a keyboard to navigate around the internet and NetTV. What a bad omission!


February 18, 2010, 3:26 pm

Ordered a 46in version! Can't wait.


February 18, 2010, 11:23 pm



February 19, 2010, 1:04 am

9cm's deep

Too chunky


February 19, 2010, 8:28 pm

Apologies for the last nonsensical comment, accidentally posted before I had formed a post.

I was wondering what comparisons can be made between this TV and its 42PFL9664 sibling? That's another Philips TV with a similar price, size and specs, and with a similarly glowing review.


February 21, 2010, 3:48 pm

Most of the reviews doing the rounds about the 42PFL9664 agree that it an excellent set, but that the 9704s, beat it in terms of of contrast, blacks and viewing angle. All share the same capacity for detail, sharpness and fluid movement, although one reviewer said the 9704s greater contrast gave them better edge definition.


February 22, 2010, 4:55 pm



February 23, 2010, 4:55 am

I have had the 46" model since October. I wholy and completely confirm Barry's opinions. I decided to get this Philips after I had it compared in a specialist shop side by side with the famous Pioneer Kuro. The Philips, in my opinion, is superior or equal (including the all important black screens). And life will never be the same after the Ambilight. How the rest of the world can go with out it ?

peter sturgeon

February 26, 2010, 7:58 pm

wait for the new sets come june july , but then of course you will have to wait again given these sets are never in stock.


February 28, 2010, 3:29 pm

Just an extra word. Yesterday we had visitors who are associated with a chain of Hi-Fi shops where the Kuros were, of course, rightly recommended. They were surprised and nearly perplexed by the 9704 picture quality (and the "blackness" in particular). After experimenting for several weeks, I have now learnt how to tune the set and am still experimenting. My 9704 runs with a Denon 2310. The 9704 have been easily available in Poland for the last two months but the mail order shops do not discount them too much. Obviously, the demand is high despite the premium price.


March 7, 2010, 2:56 pm

Re Peter's comment of "wait for the new sets come June/July". Is there some significant change on the way? Should I wait a while? I am thinking of taking the plunge and buying a new set. I was thinking of a Plasma (I watch a lot of sport and was worried about smearing with LCD). I am also concerned about the viewing angle. Is this set (any LCD?) ok at 45 degrees?


January 1, 2011, 10:13 pm

Have had this tv for just over a month now - purchased it as a discontinued model through cheapestelectrical.co.uk (1000). Spent some weeks researching different makes and models - felt that this set was the most complete package - stunning picture, good sound, good tuner, internet connectivity, loads of USB and HDMI connections and it looks truly gorgeous in the corner of the room with the ambilight on. It gives a truly astonishing picture.The on-board tuner is good, but I use it with a Humax Freeview box most of the time, standard definition. I can't believe that some of the things I'm viewing are not HD. When linked up with my LG blu-ray player, again, the picture quality is outstanding even when standard definition DVDs are being played.

So I have any quibbles? Yes, one small one. The sound is better than any other flat screen I've heard - not on a par with my old Philips CRT (6 speakers on the set) but only when watching a block-buster movie do I feel the need to put the surround sound system on. However, I'd have liked to have a graphic equalizer on board rather than the crude bass/treble control.

Otherwise, I'd recommend this set to anyone not worried about having 3D and able to track down the remaining unsold models.


February 21, 2011, 6:46 pm

Just bought this model yesterday - £800 (New and boxed!)from Best Buy. Love ambilight and the quality of the finish. The pictures on blu-ray seem almost too sharp - i'm sure that my eyes don't let me see all the details in real life that this set pulls out. I'm coming from a plasma background and still trying to get to grips with the motion processing and how it can make the picture look - it's like I am actually on set watching the actors rather than being in front of a screen. Just a bit peeved that some of the low bit rate channels don't scrub up quite as well as I expected - probably the size of the screen doesn't help

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