Starting with the most basic specifications, highlights include a rather marvellous four v1.3 HDMI inputs; a USB port for playing JPEG, MP3 and .alb slideshow files; the increasingly inevitable full HD resolution; and a very high claimed contrast ratio of 30,000:1.
Obviously such contrast figures always need to be taken with a pinch of salt, and can only be achieved via a dynamic contrast system that dims the backlight when dark scenes are detected to boost black level response. But at the very least the 30,000:1 figure suggests that the 42PFL7603D will be able to reach the dark parts most other LCD TVs simply cannot reach.
Perhaps the most ‘controversial’ feature of the 42PFL7603D is its image processing system. For while Philips introduced the outstanding Perfect Pixel Engine HD system on last year’s top-end TVs, this new mid-range set ‘only’ carries the slightly older and less powerful Pixel Plus 3 HD system. This means it lacks a few of the subtle refinements of the Perfect Pixel Engine – and this is reflected just a touch in
But let’s be fair about this; the 42PFL7603D is reasonably priced for a 42in LCD TV, and by comparing it with other TVs in the same sort of price ball-park, Pixel Plus 3 HD – with its focus in particular on noise reduction, adding detail and colour management – looks like a more than powerful enough tool to give the 42PFL7603D a potentially decisive edge.
Especially as it’s accompanied by Philips’ HD Natural Motion. This is effectively a massively souped up version of the Digital Natural Motion circuitry Philips developed a few years back to remove judder from moving images. And if it works as well as it did on last year’s PFL9632D range, we should find it working wonders here, too.
There are reams of other, smaller adjustments we could mention within the 42PFL7603D’s onscreen menus, but for the sake of brevity – and possibly sanity – we’ll restrict ourselves to quick nods to MPEG and standard noise reduction systems; Active Control (which automatically adjusts multiple elements of the picture based on assessment of the image content); the fact that you can adjust the potency of the HD Natural Motion circuitry; and a decent colour management system.
Before getting onto the actual testing part of this review, it would be remiss of me not to point out that the reams of picture options here do make it one of the more complex TVs to set up well. Especially since so many of the options can have a really profound impact on picture quality.
So I urge you to devote a considerable amount of time adjusting the picture to perfection for each separate AV input, since if you don’t you could end up with a performance level that sells the TV – and yourself – seriously short.