Of course, having a swanky design and decent feature count is only part of a ‘flagship TV’ story. A top-end TV should also deliver the best picture quality a particular brand has to offer - which is quite an intriguing prospect given that Finlux regularly delivers picture performances that surpass the budget norm.
In 3D mode the Finlux 42S9100-T lives up to our hopes. The passive 3D strengths of practically zero crosstalk, no flicker, and impressive brightness and colour saturation levels are all strongly to the fore. There’s a really engaging, natural sense of depth to 3D images too, though the biggest surprise has to be how well the Finlux 42S9100-T handles motion in 3D mode. There’s practically no judder or loss of clarity over moving objects, be they shifting across or in and out of the 3D frame.
It’s also important to stress that while the Finlux 42S9100-T isn’t immune to the usual passive 3D flaws of visible horizontal picture artefacts, jagged edges and reduced resolution, they’re not a major problem - partly because of the relatively small size of the screen, and partly because the core image technology at the panel’s heart is pretty good.
Dark backgrounds lack a little depth thanks to a slight lack of contrast and shadow detail when the screen’s running in the relatively high-brightness mode best-suited to 3D playback. But overall 3D pictures are more than good enough to keep us smiling at the Finlux 42S9100-T’s price point.
The same is not true, sadly, of 2D pictures, for one key reason: Finlux’s shift to a very slim bezel design seems to have created some pretty obvious backlight flaws that become clear as soon as you take the 3D glasses off.
First, the deepest black levels we managed to get out of the Finlux 42S9100-T without removing uncomfortable amounts of brightness from pictures weren’t actually that deep. Very dark scenes exhibit a residual grey or sometimes slightly yellowish tone that stops them looking natural and immersive. The same issue also hides shadow detail in the darkest scenes, and can leave some dark colour tones looking a bit off-key.
Next, as we still often see from very thin edge LED TVs, dark scenes reveal that the backlighting isn’t very even. The edges of the picture look brighter than the rest, with a line of extra brightness visible around almost the entire border of the image. Plus there are a few places where the light intensity levels vary over a much bigger area. As ever, this sort of light inconsistency can prove seriously distracting during dark scenes (or when you’re watching a Cinemascope movie with black bars above and below), leaving you feeling like you’re trying to watch your film or TV show through an unwelcome filter.
Yet another layer of distraction comes into play if you attempt to use the Dynamic Backlight’s auto option in the TV’s bland but functional onscreen menus. This auto setting is too primitive with its workings, causing the picture’s brightness levels to jump around too often and too strongly. You can, at least, avoid this issue by leaving the Dynamic Backlight set to a static level. But doing this slightly reduces the image’s black level response.