The 40PFL9704 additionally offers a number of key improvements over its LED-lit predecessor that aren’t directly related to picture quality. For instance, the extremely versatile USB port found on the 42PFL9803 is here, joined by both Wi-Fi and Ethernet connections for accessing Philips’ online portal – complete, uniquely, with full Internet access.
Well, maybe ‘full’ is stretching things a bit given that the built-in browser isn’t compatible with Java or most other third-party web apps. And it also has to be said that surfing the general Web using a TV remote rather than a keyboard and mouse isn’t always intuitive. But personally I still love the freedom the open Philips’ system brings versus the ‘fenced in’ experience provided by other brands’ online systems.
The 40PFL9704 improves on its LED predecessor, too, by adding a fifth HDMI – enough surely to keep even the most ambitious AV-a-holic satisfied.
As if all the features we’ve discussed so far weren’t alluring enough, the 40PFL9704 also boasts one of the TV world’s most startling designs – a brushed aluminium, shiny metal bezel, offset by a black outer trim that grows larger along the bottom edge. The desktop stand, if you use it, also looks resplendent in matching aluminium.
This unique design is already enough to make the 40PFL9704 eye-catching, but to guarantee that its TV becomes a talking point at parties, Philips has equipped it with the latest Ambilight system, which finds the trademark coloured lights spilling from no less than three of its sides – top, left and right.
As I’ve noted in other recent Philips TV reviews, the subtlety and local accuracy of the colours Ambilight emits now is pretty remarkable, helping it deliver a mesmerisingly immersive experience. Well, that’s the way it affects me, though I have no doubt that some people will hate it with a passion. But don’t worry – if that’s you, you can always turn the system off!
The 40PFL9704’s onscreen menus are so vast that it would take a huge and frankly dispiriting amount of time to run through all the tweaks available. All I will say is that Philips has, as usual, put just about every element of its picture reproduction and processing at your disposal, to tweak as you will.
And tweak you certainly should, for while the 40PFL9704’s pictures are slightly more forgiving of setting ‘errors’ than those of the brand’s non-LED TVs, you still have to regularly perform the Philips ritual of revisiting the picture set-up menus to tweak some of the settings – especially HD Natural Motion, sharpness and noise reduction – so that the heavy-duty processing engine doesn’t generate too many processing artefacts.
Provided you’re willing to commit to this familiar bit of effort, though, the 40PFL9704 delivers an even more spectacular reward than Philips’ standard LCD 9000 Series sets.
As I would have anticipated given its LED lighting and local dimming, the 40PFL9704’s strongest picture suit is its contrast. Particularly since the set can produce black levels of quite exceptional depth and richness. You really have to pinch yourself to remember that this is still an LCD TV you’re watching, not one of Pioneer’s legendary KURO plasma models.