Turning next to Philips’ latest Smart TV system, it’s got a few nice tricks up its sleeve, but is ultimately badly let down by not having enough content. Perhaps the single best ‘smart’ trick of the TV is the provision of a full QWERTY keyboard on the rear side of the pleasantly hefty remote control. This makes typing into, say, Web browser fields much easier than usual, and Philips has even thoughtfully made it so that the remote knows which way up you’re holding it, so you can’t accidentally press buttons on the opposite side.
Philips’ integration of Twitter is exceptionally good too, in that it can automatically search for #Subjects connected to what you’re watching. It’s an X-Factor fan’s dream come true, in other words.
The presentation of the Smart TV hub is attractive too. However, it doesn’t take long to realise that its simple twin rows of app icons along the bottom will quickly become cumbersome should Philips up its content levels at some point.
Which is something it needs to do sooner rather than later. For at the moment its highlights of the BBC iPlayer, YouTube, Viewster, Napster, Picasa, CNBC Real Time, Absolute Radio, Twitter, Facebook, iConcerts, Funspot and the recently added Blinkbox don’t stack up well against the vastly larger Smart offerings available from LG, Samsung, Panasonic and Sony.
While it’s unfortunate that a TV as cutting edge as the Philips 46PFL9707 is so lacking in online services, though, the big hope is that the unit will kick all other issues into touch with its picture quality. And thankfully, with 2D at least, that’s exactly what it does.
Predictably, given all that stuff about contrast we went through earlier, the most fundamental key to what makes the Philips 46PFL9707’s 2D pictures so special is its black level response. So long as you use one of the TV’s dynamic contrast modes parts of pictures that should look black actually look black. Not a nearly black, or a slightly greyish or bluish black, but a rich, profound, totally believable, genuine black.
So deep are the black levels of the Philips 46PFL9707, in fact, that they leave even the much-praised efforts of Sony’s HX8 series and the Panasonic TX-P42GT50 trailing - at least if you’re attempting to run the Panasonic models in an environment containing any sort of ambient light.
Talking of ambient light, what’s doubly amazing about the Philips 46PFL9707’s black level genius is that thanks to the Moth-Eye filter, black levels remain pretty much completely unaffected by even quite substantial amounts of light in your room. We can’t think of any other TV that’s been as successful in this actually crucial respect.
Of course, all the black profundity in the world wouldn’t mean much if it was just created by ripping out all the light from the picture. However, thanks to the Philips 46PFL9707’s local dimming tech and advanced contrast processing the set manages to retain outstanding levels of detail in dark parts of the picture. Even better, it does this while generating scarcely a trace of the sort of ‘haloing’ that usually afflicts direct LED TVs.
Making the black level performance of the Philips 46PFL9707 even more extraordinary is the intensity of the colours and brightness it’s able to position right alongside its mind-blowing black tones. There’s not even the slightest hint of the image’s overall brightness levels being compromised by the Philips 46PFL9707’s quest for a true black colour, reminding us in spectacular fashion of just why direct LED lighting is such a great technology.
Given that we’ve long maintained that you can’t have a truly rich and natural colour performance without great black levels, it follows that the Philips 46PFL9707 produces some of the best colours we’ve ever seen on a TV. Saturation levels are immense, the range of colours on show is vast, yet also the subtlety with which the TV delivers colour blends and skin tones is outstanding. Again, the extra punch made possible by the local dimming and local contrast features works to sublime effect here.
It’s a testament to the quality of the Philips 46PFL9707’s contrast and colour performance that we haven’t yet mentioned another of the set’s stand-out abilities: its sharpness and detail reproduction. Even without using any of Philips’ picture processing tricks HD images look phenomenally crisp and dense, especially as the screen’s innate response time seems impressively high, keeping motion blur at a minimum.
You can make things look even cleaner if you apply the Perfect Natural Motion system at its lowest level - a level at which it delivers mostly just advantages with no unwanted side effects.