The 46PFL9706's outrageous contrast performance also helps it deliver wonderfully potent, vibrant colours. Yet the screen's innate quality is such that even the most aggressive of tones still contains immaculate subtlety when it comes to blends and tonal shifts. The full range of colours the screen can produce is also jaw-dropping.
Philips' high-end TVs have long delivered A-List levels of sharpness, and the 46PFL9706 continues that theme. In fact, thanks to the intensity of the set's contrast range, sharpness and detailing if anything seems even more pronounced with HD sources than it has been on previous Philips generations. What’s more, this gorgeous clarity is achieved without the 'assistance' of the set's sharpness processing.
Similarly, the sharpness holds up impressively well when the screen has lots of motion to cope with without needing the Perfect Natural Motion processing. This does remove judder remarkably well, we guess, and so you might find it useful with some TV broadcasts. But crucially if you don’t like it, you don’t need it.
With 2D, the 46PFL9706 sails scarily close to that elusive beast named perfection. Yes, as usual you have to be careful with the TV's processing tools. But actually, many of these tools deliver their goods without causing anything like the unwanted side effects noted on previous Philips sets.
Probably the only genuine complaint that can be raised against the 46PFL9706's 2D pictures is that even though there are 224 separate dimming 'zones', you can still occasionally see a little brightness 'haloing' around bright image elements, especially if they appear against dark backgrounds and you’re watching the set from an angle. From a 'straight on' position, though, even at its worst this haloing problem is really very subtle and pretty controllable via the set's backlight and brightness controls.
In some ways the 46PFL9706's 2D strengths serve it well in 3D mode too. Certainly the screen's colour intensity and high level of contrast and brightness help counter the dimming effect of the shuttering 3D glasses. You can also clearly see all the HD resolution that's part of the active 3D experience, and the option to apply Perfect Natural Motion in 3D mode is an impressive if not always natural-looking sight.
There's also plenty of depth to 3D images using the default 'normal' depth setting (though you can actually adjust the depth to 'lower' or 'higher' using a special setting in the onscreen menus).
There is, however, a catch. For you don't have to look hard to see that the 46PFL9706 suffers with crosstalk. This double ghosting noise crops up both more regularly and more obviously than we'd like, especially during dark scenes. This is unexpected considering that Philips claims to have really worked on reducing the problem. But running the 46PFL9706 alongside a Panasonic P46GT30, there's simply no denying that crosstalk is far more prevalent on the Philips model.
Thankfully, there is a built-in solution of sorts. Namely that if you reduce the 3D image's depth, the crosstalk vanishes - almost completely. Ace. Or it would be if the 'lower' 3D depth setting didn’t look more like 2D for some of the time...
Serious gamers, meanwhile, will be pleased to learn that we managed to get the TV's input lag down to just 30ms - a very respectable result for such a processing-heavy TV. This figure was only obtained on a second test sample, after the first returned a figure of nearly 80ms. But Philips assures us that this lower figure is what we should be seeing, and it makes sense with what we know of the panel's heritage. Just note that it's critical that you both choose the Game mode and then turn off ALL further processing (noise reduction, Perfect Contrast, Perfect Colour etc) in order to get the lag levels down to the 30ms level.
Quite why Philips should choose to leave any processing elements on even after you've chosen game mode, requiring you to manually turn them off, is anyone's guess.
The last thing to cover with Philips' mostly amazing new box of tricks is sound quality. And contrary to expectations, the speakers in the stand are actually quite good, delivering high levels of bass as well as a fairly open mid-range and plenty of volume before things start to sound muddy. Philips' previous 9000 series sounded better, from what we remember, but the 46PFL9706's audio is still well above average.
For a good deal of the time, the 46PFL9706 is nothing short of stunning. In fact, when calibrated sensibly the 46PFL9706's 2D pictures are as close to perfect as we've seen this year, even outperforming the images of Panasonic's plasmas in some key ways.
The set isn't as easy to recommend to 3D fans, alas. But if 2D is what you’re most interested in, the 46PFL9706 really is the current state of the art. Moths, we salute you.