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Other significant features of the 42PFL9803H are the multimedia playback options opened up by its provision of USB and DLNA-certified Ethernet ports; and a little something called the Perfect Pixel HD processing engine. This fearsomely powerful new system incorporates elements designed to improve contrast, colour, motion response, fine detail levels, and noise reduction, among other sundry items.
Other recent Philips sets to use the Perfect Pixel HD engine have delivered excellent picture quality so long as you're willing to commit to repeated and regular tinkering within the TV's onscreen menus, so hopefully the system won't run into any unexpected hitches with the 42PFL9803H's LED rather than LCD picture system.
While the Perfect Pixel Engine proves very important when you're watching the TV, though, the most important part of what is a truly outstanding performance is actually the set's LED backlighting.
For starters, it ensures that the 42PFL9803H's black levels are absolutely unbelievable. Watching the scenes in the bat-filled catacombs of Batman Begins on Blu-ray is a revelation, as the TV seemingly effortlessly achieves levels of almost complete blackness that not only thrash anything seen from any normal LCD TV, but also outgun every plasma we've seen with the possible - and it is only possible, not definite - exception of Pioneer's latest KURO plasmas.
What's particularly awe-inspiring about the 42PFL9803H's black levels is the fact that as well as suffering with seemingly no visible greyness or clouding provided you use the set's Dynamic Backlight option, they also manage to retain lots of subtle shadow detailing in dark areas. If I'm honest I'd slightly feared that the LED approach of ‘turning off' areas of the picture to achieve extreme black levels might leave a few depth-creating shadow details and greyscale subtleties lost in the dark. But instead dark scenes on the 42PFL9803H look almost spookily three dimensional and natural.
As a self-confessed black level obsessive, the 42PFL9803H's contrast talents alone are enough to make it immediately the most straight-up cinematic LCD TV I've seen. But it's got plenty of other goodies up its sleeve too.
Starting with its colours. LED lighting has long been associated with richer, more expressive colours, and since the LED tech is here also joined by a Philips wide colour gamut system, it doesn't even seem all that shocking to find colours during a run-through of Disney's Sleeping Beauty looking so rich, bright, clean and fully saturated that you'd swear the film had only been made yesterday.
Not that the 42PFL9803H only does animation colours well, mind you. It also shows a deft and natural touch with most ‘real world' film and video sources, with only a marginal tinge of green in one or two skin tones stopping the TV from hitting colour perfection.
More kudos needs to go to the 42PFL9803H for its motion handling. The ability to adjust lighting locally in different parts of the screen has the potential to reduce normal LCD's ‘step and hold' motion flaw, and this seems borne out in the greatly reduced levels of blur on show when watching sports or action scenes.