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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.
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