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Your poor old cheeks have to suffer another pinching, too, as you try to reconcile the black level depth with the terrific dynamism the 40PFL9704 displays when showing dark scenes. In other words, its local dimming allows it to keep colourful and bright parts of otherwise dark images looking bold and aggressive without compromising the dark bits in the way we’d see with a normal CCFL LCD TV. A further benefit of this is that you can see more detail in dark corners of the picture, so that they avoid the rather hollow look often noted with LCD TVs.
The hefty increase in the number of separate LED clusters delivered by the 40PFL9704 is evident during predominantly dark shots too; for instance, the street lights down Harry’s road at the start of the first Harry Potter film are able to stand out very punchily against the night sky while generating barely noticeable amounts of LED haloing.
The colours produced by Philips’ best CCFL-lit LCD TVs are generally among the most vibrant and natural around. But the LED-lit 40PFL9704 still manages to take things up a gear, as eye-grabbing colour intensity is joined by a greater colour range and marginally enhanced subtlety when it comes to portraying tiny tonal shifts.
The 40PFL9704 is further capable of denying its LCD roots when it comes to motion. For it’s possible with this set to remove all traces of the resolution loss and smearing commonly associated with LCD technology. In fact, it’s possible to make motion look almost disturbingly fluid if you set the TV’s various motion controls too high. But provided you exercise a little common sense and revisit the motion controls regularly (I’d recommend different settings for sport, movies and standard TV fare, for instance), the 40PFL9704’s motion control is unparalleled in the LCD world.
As we’ve long found with Philips TVs, meanwhile, the 40PFL9704 is terrific at bringing out texture and detail in HD sources. But it’s arguably even more impressive relative to the competition when it comes to making standard definition pictures look crisper and cleaner.
Again, I have to add the qualification here that it’s eminently possible to over-egg the 40PFL9704’s sharpness if you’re not careful with some of its settings – so much so that I actually wonder why Philips has even left it possible for tools like its Advanced Sharpness mode to be pushed to such an unpleasantly extreme level. But again, all it takes to avoid images becoming grainy and ‘bitty’ is a sensible eye for what makes a good picture, and a willingness to spend time in the TV’s setup menus.
At their best, the 40PFL9704’s pictures might very well be the best I’ve seen on an LCD TV. So it’s a pleasure to report that they’re also accompanied by one of the best audio systems the flat TV world has to offer. This is because the 40PFL9704 follows the audio template used so effectively on other 9000 Series models, whereby a pair of mid/bass drivers mounted on the TV’s rear work in tandem with two dome-style tweeters on the fascia. Separating the audio components out in this way does wonders when it comes to the amount of bass the TV can produce without compromising audio clarity and detail.
At £1,800, the 40PFL9704 represents a serious outlay in these days when you can pick up 42in Panasonic plasma screens for between £500 and £600. But its design, feature count, multimedia capabilities and above all picture and sound quality make it the very definition of a premium TV.