Up till now, we've never been fans of moths. In fact, we've tended to find their general night-time flutteriness rather annoying. Today, though, the little critters have gone way up in our estimation. For it turns out that for all the millennia they've been around, the cheeky little chaps have been sitting on a secret that has the potential to revolutionise TV technology.
You see, to help them avoid detection in the dark, moths have developed eyes featuring tiny filtering nodules that help them become ultra-efficient absorbers of light. And it’s occurred to some clever bod at Philips that if you could replicate this moth-eye design on a TV, the impact on its contrast performance could be extreme.
The currently unique result of this innovative thinking is the Philips 46PFL9706: a 46in TV that's been causing shockwaves with its picture quality at every technology show it's appeared at for the past few months.
Hard experience has shown on more than one occasion, though, that what can look giddily brilliant on a crowded, bright show floor doesn't always translate to a domestic/test environment. So today, now that we've finally (months later than expected) got a 46PFL9706 in our sweaty palms, the simple question is: is it really as good as we hope it is?
Before answering that question, though, we should point out that sweaty palms really aren't a good idea when handling the 46PFL9706. For the moth-eye filter hates being touched, to the point where any finger or palm contact makes so much mess that it will have to be dealt with by the application of some special cleaning fluid that Philips supplies with the TV.
Fear of damaging the apparently delicate filter made the fiddly business of attaching the 46PFL9706 to its stand pretty terrifying. On the upside, the TV looks very handsome indeed once you’ve got it built, thanks especially to the glinting, touchable (or not) quality of its metallic finish. The stand, in particular, is gorgeous, apparently hewn from a single block of solid, brushed aluminium.
The stand is more than just a pretty face too. For unusually it also holds the TV's speakers, with audio information shipped in via a short cable connected to the TV's rear. This obviously raises the question of what you do if you want to wall hang your 46PFL9706. And the answer is that the stand fixes flat on the wall and becomes the mount for the TV, with its audio reproduction being adjusted via an onscreen menu. Neat. Except that the beautifully built stand is no longer visible, of course.
The rear sides and top of the TV are equipped with rows of LED lights, there to deliver Philips' Ambilight technology from three of the TV's edges. This works by throwing coloured light from the TV that can be set to correlate - to a surprisingly local and tonally accurate degree - with the colour content of the image being shown. The result is more immersion in what you're watching, and less eye fatigue.
The 46PFL9706's only design issue is that it's not the slimmest TV in town. But there's a good reason for this, namely that it employs direct LED lighting, where clusters of LEDs sit directly behind the screen. The key advantage of this approach is that it allows you to control the brightness level of pretty localised sections of the picture, with potentially huge contrast advantages. Especially when, as in the 46PFL9706's case, the local brightness control is applied to a mammoth 224 separate LED 'sections'.
The 46PFL9706’s flagship status is further underlined by its comprehensive 'smart TV' functionality, its full HD active 3D support, and its carriage of Philips' most powerful video processing system ever.