Returning to the Media receiver, it occurs to me that I haven't actually gone into its connections yet. So here goes: it includes three HDMIs, a USB port, a DLNA-certified Ethernet port for PC networking, component and VGA PC inputs, and a digital audio output - as well as the usual SCARTs and so on.
In an ideal world a fourth HDMI might have been nice, but then it's hard to be churlish about this when the box manages to provide such an unusual degree of multimedia flexibility. Its USB and Ethernet ports can, after all, handle MP3, .alb (slideshow), MPEG1 and MPEG2 files as well as the usual JPEGs, while the Ethernet port supports a huge list of media server applications, including Windows Media Player 11, PacketVideo Twonky Media 4.4.2, and Nero 8.
The Essence's media receiver has some pretty important stuff going on ‘under the hood', too. For tucked away in there is the chipset of Philips' latest Perfect Pixel HD Engine video processor. We won't go into this in great detail here, as we've already covered it extensively in other recent Philips reviews. But essentially it's designed to improve colour, contrast, detail levels, motion reproduction and video noise levels. The same can be said, of course, of countless other video processing engines from rival manufacturers. But we've consistently found the Philips engine to be considerably more aggressive and powerful than any of its rivals.
Finally dragging myself away from merely admiring the Essence's outstandingly practical but also beautiful design, really the only thing I need to say about the pictures produced by its screen is that they're not negatively affected by the screen's super-slim status in the slightest. Which means that the Essence's pictures are among the very finest anywhere in the flat TV world.
I refer you to recent reviews of the Philips Aurea II and, especially, the 42PFL9703 for a full description of just how the Essence's pictures break down. But in summary, if you love extraordinarily dynamic but authentic colours, incredibly acute fine detailing and sharpness, and some of the best black levels in the LCD world (outside of the LED-backlit fraternity, at any rate), the Essence will do nicely.