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.