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

John Archer

By John Archer



  • Recommended by TR
Philips 40PFL9704 40in LED Backlit LCD TV


Our Score:


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.


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 (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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