Philips 42pfl9664h

It will come as no shock to anyone by this stage to discover that the picture performance of the 42PFL9664H is really rather good.

Detail, for a start, is jaw dropping. A combination of a maximum-resolution screen, some intelligent scaling and some of the best picture processing brains on the planet make for a thrilling video experience.

Pop in something with plenty of background, such as the dizzying swoops over the Hogwarts and the Highlands in The Prisoner of Azkaban and prepare to be amazed by the sheer depth and scale on display.

Perhaps even more pleasingly, the 42PFL9664 doesn't over-egg the whiz-bang technical spectacle.

Philips sets have, on occasion, divided people into those in thrall to the sheer amount of visual information on display and those who mourn the lack of cinematic 'warmth' this overt digital polish can occasionally cause.

Deep colours

Images in this case are almost astonishingly textured and nuanced, but you don't at any point find yourself stepping out of the action in order to marvel at the level of resolution on display and the picture has that richness found with film, as opposed to the rather clinical, un-enchanting 'digital' aspect that over-processing can occasionally produce.

Colours are also first class.

A bit of tweaking here and there yields shades and tones that encompass everything from the lurid fluoro headaches zooming about in Fast and Furious to the delicate Highland hues of the aforementioned Harry Potter movie with even-handed fidelity.

As with the detail handling, the palette, while spectacular when required, is ever mindful not to get carried away when restraint is required.

Familiar, real-world shades, like skies or grass, that absolutely have to be right in order to convince, are rendered impeccably.

The convincingly verdant hills rolling into the distance in The Prisoner of Azkaban meet a shade of sky to which anyone who has spent any time in the British isles will be able to relate, while flesh tones are captured and blended accurately, with none of the isolated splurges of tone that can occur with less gifted television sets.

Black levels

Black levels are also surprisingly good for LCD. Differing shades are picked out carefully, while night-time scenes are layered in shades, rather than swamped in a single, uniform inkiness in one of the best liquid crystal black-level performances you'll see this side of LED.

There are a couple of faults, however. The first is that black levels do deteriorate markedly when viewed off-axis.

The viewing angle is just about wide enough to cover most sensible seating arrangements, but anyone decidedly left or right-ish is going to get somewhat short-changed, with otherwise distinct shades merging into one another and anything dark taking on a greyish sheen.

This is shame, given the profundity of which this set is capable.

The other glitch is that the HD-optimised picture processing brains seem, unsurprisingly, much more sure of themselves with top-spec source material.

Freeview problems

While DVDs and hi-def video polish up to startling effect, standard-definition TV broadcasts appear to ask too much of the algorithms and they visibly struggle to keep up with the demands placed upon them by the likes of Freeview.

It's fine with static images, but movement seems to cause the engine to repeatedly reassess what it's looking at, causing a slight lag while it tries to marshal as much as it can back into focus.

The result is a load of digital noise that follows whatever is moving around like a heat-haze. Still, these foibles are so comprehensively outweighed by its strengths as to be negligible and the overall experience is deeply satisfying.