Review Price free/subscription
Apparently, when the good Lord said ‘Let there be light', he was talking directly to Philips. For with its new 42PFL9900D TV the brand has finally got tired of being ‘subtle' with its still exclusive ‘Ambilight' TV technology, and has instead gone what can only be described as gonzo with it. The results, as we're about to find, are little short of extraordinary.
The best place to start is with a little backgrounder on Ambilight. At its core it's a system whereby TVs emit lights from their edges which can be coloured to match the content of the image being shown.
Obviously this helps Ambilight TVs achieve a very distinctive style, but this wasn't the main inspiration behind Philips developing the technology. Rather it was independent scientific research showing that people found long-term viewing of TVs more enjoyable and relaxing if the images on the screen were accompanied by some sort of light ‘context' existing beyond the screen's boundaries.
Initially Ambilight delivered just one colour simultaneously from the left and right edges of the TV. Then Philips developed a ‘stereo' version that could do different colours from either side of the TV depending on the demands of the image content. And ultimately it launched a few TVs that delivered an Ambilight ‘Surround' effect, where soothing light pooled from all four of the TV's edges.
The key thing about all these Ambilight developments, though, was that the light was always produced from the rear of the TV, so that it pooled across the wall. With the Ambilight Spectra system on Philips' so-called ‘Aurea' 42PFL9900D TV, however, the light actually radiates forward from the entire TV bezel in what Philips likes to call a ‘Light Frame Effect'.
What's more, Philips has now refined the processing behind the system to the extent that it can deliver different colours at multiple points around the bezel - all beautifully blended in so as not to look jarring - to increase the immersive accuracy of the Ambilight effect.
As you might expect from all this, the first Aurea TV is a remarkably striking unit to look at. In standby its bezel is a neutral white colour, but as soon as you switch it on it erupts into a blaze of coloured glory the like of which has simply never been seen round a TV before.
It's utterly unique from a design perspective, and a guaranteed talking point at any dinner party. It came as no surprise, either, to find ITV's This Morning adopting one as its main studio screen as soon as it could get its hands on one.
We should definitely add here, though, that just because it's striking doesn't mean that you'll necessarily fall for it. During its time in our test facilities, while most people reacted to its looks very positively, it has to be said that those who disliked it did so intensely. You have been warned.
Before finding out how Ambilight Spectra/Light Frame affects your viewing experience, you might be surprised to find that the 42PFL9900D has plenty of other intriguing features up its sleeve.