Review Price free/subscription
Although there are definitely a few minor niggles, it's really hard to find anything truly bad to say about the 42PFL9803H's LED-inspired pictures. In fact, the only serious problems with the pictures are those you might introduce yourself.
In other words, all sorts of weird and not so wonderful things can go wrong with the picture if you get any of the TV's massive list of settings wrong. For instance: there are motion glitches if you use the wrong level of HD Natural Motion with the wrong sort of source. The Advanced Sharpness tool can make pictures look noisy unless they're of a very high standard in the first place. The wrong level of noise reduction can make pictures look unduly soft. Setting the Advanced Sharpness setting on with the HD Natural Motion off can cause fine details to flicker quite distractingly. Not using the Dynamic Backlight can leave a tiny trace of greyness in dark scenes, while using it can cause the occasional brightness ‘jump'. And so on.
The key thing about all this, though, is that practically everything that can go wrong with the 42PFL9803H's pictures can also be put right by adjusting one or two elements of the processing.
This undeniably makes the TV unusually complex and labour-intensive to use, and there's definitely scope for Philips to try and make things a little less hard work in the future. But looking at the situation from another perspective, the huge amount of picture options at your disposal actually make the 42PFL9803H uniquely qualified to sort out the type of problems many TVs just leave you with no way of fixing.
Although it's of relatively minor significance versus the 42PFL9803H's sublime pictures, I'm happy to report that the set's sound performance is also very good indeed. Two integrated subwoofers on the TV's rear together with a dome tweeter speaker design help produce a really potent combination of a wide dynamic range, widespread soundstage, lots of treble detailing, unusually open and clear vocals, and good, old-fashioned raw power. Excellent.
The 42PFL9803H is very expensive for a 42in TV. It's also at times fussy as hell to use - so much so that it could well take you hours of experimentation before you fully understand what does what to different types of source material.
But frankly, none of this negative stuff really bothers me much. Why? For the simple reason that the 42PFL9803H's LED lighting helps it produce pictures that not only make it the finest performing LCD TV I've seen, but also raise it to a level where it deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Pioneer's KURO plasmas. And as regular readers will know, you really can't bestow any greater praise on a TV than that!
Trusted Reviews is part of the Time Inc. (UK) Ltd Technology Network