For starters, the full HD 42in LCD panel is driven by Philips’ new Pixel Perfect HD processing engine. This uses as its foundation Pixel Plus 3 HD, with its advanced noise reduction, detail enhancement and colour improvements. But it ups the processing power, and slips in a host of new ingredients.
The first of these is HD Natural Motion, which claims a big improvement on Philips’ previous (definitely flawed) Digital Natural Motion system for removing stutter and judder from motion across the screen. The new HD Natural motion system also has an element which converts 24fps signals to 48Hz for a simple, clean 2:2 pulldown process.
Perfect Pixel HD also incorporates a new colour booster circuit that ups saturation levels and, courtesy of 14-bit processing, generates a claimed palette of four trillion colours.
Last but not least is a new 100Hz processing element which doubles the TV’s standard scanning rate to reduce LCD’s problems with retaining clarity with moving objects.
As if all this wasn’t enough, the 42PFL9900D sports Philips’ innovative Clear LCD technology, which uses a CRT-like scanning backlight system (as opposed to LCD’s usual single, static backlight) to boost response times and black levels.
There are some interesting bits and bobs in the 42PFL9900D’s connections, too. The three HDMIs, for instance, are all built to the latest v1.3 specification, and can take 1080p/24fps signals from suitably featured HD disc players. Plus you get a USB port able to directly play JPEG, MP3, and .alb slideshows, and a digital audio output for passing on digital bitstreams received via the HDMIs.
But that’s quite enough of that. Let’s finally get into finding out if Ambilight Spectra and Light Frame are just genius marketing ploys or things that genuinely enhance your viewing experience.
The first thing that has to be said is that the sophistication of the Aurea’s Ambilight technology is genuinely quite amazing. The lighting effects around the bezel really do marry up with specific, local bits of the picture content with remarkably accuracy, and provided you don’t select the rather jarring ‘dynamic’ Ambilight option, the various hues on show in the Light Frame also blend into each other quite beautifully, creating a much more mellow effect than we’d imagined would be possible from such an innately ‘in your face’ technology.
The colour palette available to the Aurea Ambilight system, meanwhile, is surprisingly subtle and varied, presumably thanks to Philips moving to LED rather than fluorescent tube light sources for its latest Ambilight generation.
In fact, it suddenly occurred to us that we’d got so lost in admiring Ambilight Spectra and the Light Frame for their sheer in your face cleverness that we’d kind of forgotten to actually watch the film (Bladerunner on Blu-ray, as it happens) that the Ambilight processing was working with. And herein lies a possible problem: the Light Frame might just be too distracting for some people to ever feel completely comfortable with, especially if the limitations of their viewing room means they have to sit rather close to the screen.
However, before deciding after a 10 minute test drive that Ambilight is probably just going to give you a headache, we urge you to do two things.
First, make sure that the Ambilight brightness setting is reduced to certainly no higher than four out of 10, and possibly as low as two. For only at this sort of gentle intensity does the effect seem to organically enhance rather than distract from the screen’s images. (It also has to be said that at lower brightness levels you’re less likely to be disturbed by the slightly ugly Philips logo that stands out so boldly from its back-lit bezel.)
The second thing we urge you to do if you’re not taking to the Aurea TV during a trial run is to give it more time. For it’s a simple fact that the longer we lived with the Aurea, the less we stared obsessively at the lit bezel and the more we just started to soak up the overall visual experience – screen and bezel. In fact, after a couple of days our suspicions had more or less completely evaporated, leaving us actively embracing the Aurea effect as something that genuinely adds to the sensory experience of watching a film.
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