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Philips 42PFL9803H 42in LED LCD TV review

John Archer




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Philips 42PFL9803H 42in LED LCD TV
  • Philips 42PFL9803H 42in LED LCD TV
  • Philips 42PFL9803H 42in LED LCD TV
  • Philips 42PFL9803H 42in LED LCD TV
  • Philips 42PFL9803H 42in LED LCD TV
  • Philips 42PFL9803H 42in LED LCD TV
  • Philips 42PFL9803H 42in LED LCD TV
  • Philips 42PFL9803H 42in LED LCD TV
  • Philips 42PFL9803H 42in LED LCD TV


Our Score:


There must be something pretty amazing in the Dutch water supply right now. For just days after leaving the collective TrustedReviews jaw gaping open with its latest Aurea Light Frame TV, Philips has gone into innovation overdrive again with the 42PFL9803H: its first LCD TV to use LED backlighting.

If you missed our recent review of the also LED-based Samsung LE55A956, what makes LED technology so intriguing is the way it illuminates pictures using a whole array - 128 in the 42PFL9803H's case - of conjoined but individually controllable LED backlight sectors, rather than the single, always-on fluorescent lamp you get with traditional LCD TVs.

The LED approach thus allows you to turn off the lights completely in some areas of the picture, to deliver a near-perfect reproduction of black, while leaving LEDs in other areas at maximum illumination. In fact, you could in theory have one blacked out section of the picture right next to one fully bright section of the picture, giving rise to a huge possible brightness range within a single image frame. Thanks to this, Philips claims a frankly eye-popping contrast ratio of 2,000,000:1 for the 42PFL9803H - the joint highest such figure we've ever seen, alongside (you guessed it) the aforementioned Samsung LED TV.

Compare all this LED grooviness with the normal LCD situation, where the single light source feeding the whole picture means some contrast-reducing light will always be present even in parts of the picture that should look black, and you can see why LED is causing such a buzz.

As if to mark the shift to a new technology, Philips has furnished the 42PFL9803H with a silvery, metallic bezel finish in place of the usual glossy black - and very nice this new look is, too. Especially when you add into the design equation the unusual slenderness of the bezel and the distinctive transparent shroud around the TV's outer edge that's fast becoming a Philips trademark.

The seriously eye-catching nature of the design merely expands once you turn the TV on, too, as familiar pools of coloured light spilling from the TV's left and right sides reveal the presence of a ‘stereo' version of Philips Ambilight Spectra technology.

If you've somehow missed Ambilight before, it involves strips of LEDs down the TV's rear sides outputting light that can change colour in response to the colour content of the image being shown. So if you have an image with blue in the top left, yellow in the bottom left, red in the top right and green in the bottom right, coloured light will spill out of the TV in a configuration that reflects this situation. The result is a greater sense of immersion in what you're watching, and long-term viewing that's more relaxing for your eyes.


November 17, 2008, 6:49 am

what does the "Danish water supply" have to do with this television? Philips is a DUTCH company.


November 17, 2008, 8:35 am

There might be 'something pretty amazing in the Danish water supply' indeed (especially considering the ladies of Copenhagen), however in conjunction with Philips, the 'special' ingredient would more likely be in the Dutch water...

Matthew Hunt

November 17, 2008, 10:12 am

Danish water supply? Shouldn't that read Dutch water supply? Good looking TV though, nice review.

Jacob 1

November 17, 2008, 1:35 pm

yeah, I did also stumble upon that =) Did you write the review late =D

And I'm Dansih, so you should have heard me last night, talking to my girlfriend, looking like 1 big questionmark, saying, "Philips ISSN'T DANISH, IIIIIIIIIIS IIIIIIIIIIT?" =D

Geoff Richards

November 17, 2008, 1:42 pm

An honest slip of the keyboard I'm sure guys. This has been corrected. The Dutch and TrustedReviews - both orange, so let's stick together :)


November 17, 2008, 1:47 pm

Two things. The aluminium surround - not sure about that - and the price - eek! ٠ grand for a 42" TV. Is is really worth 100% more than say a Panasonic TH42PZ81?

James Egginton

November 17, 2008, 4:54 pm

Hey all. I got this set myself on Friday and I agree with this article completely. The level of details in this screen is amazing and the balcks are fantastic. one thing to note which was picked up on in this review is that it is really important you get your setting right. One example is that if you set you Brightness too hi you are going to see severe cases of Blooming whereas get them just right and you'll be amazed at the picture.

One thing I would like to point out which I don't think was mentioned in the review is how this TV set deals with Game consols. As people may know the previous Philips LCDs have had a terrible time with Lag making some games unplayable. Well I am pleased to report that this is no-longer the case with this LCD tv. They have create a GAME mode that minimises most of the processing the TV is doing whilst not compromising the picture quality. i was able to play Guitar Hero on hard and still achieve my usual high scores so that is another import thing that Philips have got right for this tv.

Jordan McClements

November 17, 2008, 5:25 pm

I think (and I am sure many would agree these days) that you should have 'Power Consumption' in the spec sheet.


November 18, 2008, 6:38 am

I wonder if they will be making a new version of the HTS8140 Ambisound Home Cinema System in the same aluminum/silver as these TVs. If I were to get one of these (I'm in the US so I think I have to wait) I'm glad the sound got good praise as I'd like to get a soundbar from Philips to match.

My guess is Philips will upgrade other products to have the same look and match them all; they're good at that. :)



November 26, 2008, 11:35 pm

So, the ultimate question - this or a 50" KURO?


November 27, 2008, 6:36 pm

One of the best LCD Tv's what i have ever seen. If some one ask me, what i choose. I answer. I choose Philips 42PFL9803H.

It's realy something amazing in LCD TV


February 14, 2010, 5:20 am

does anyone have a recommended list of settings for various/general viewing?

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