Philips 40pfl9704 lcd tv

Philips' provision of five HDMI inputs is very welcome, though perhaps slightly overcooked for anyone but those who solely watch TV in high definition.

They'll be useful to those with a couple of games consoles, a HDMI laptop, Sky +HD box - and anyone with designs on a Freeview HD set-top box.

Elsewhere, connectivity is just as comprehensive.

A set of component video inputs (which are capable of carrying a HD signal, bringing the 40PFL9704's possible HD feed to a maximum of six!) are provided next to a couple of Scarts, a composite video input and even an S-video port - something that's rapidly being deemed as unfashionable as almost all other TV brands remove them from new sets.

The USB port works well, while there is also a connection for a PC, some analogue stereo ins and outs, and a headphones jack.

No digital audio-out

Our only grumble about connectivity on the 40PFL9704 is the absence of an optical digital audio output.

A coaxial digital audio is provided, but the lack of optical could trouble some amplifiers.

Relegated from headline act to bit-part player on the 40PFL9704 is Ambilight, though it remains every bit the high-end feature.

Unique to Philips TVs, Ambilight Spectra 3 is a cinch to use - and as impressive as ever. Yet more LED lights are used, this time on the outside of the TV, hidden on the back of the frame.

The idea behind Ambilight is that it projects dynamically changing light that matches whatever is showing on the screen. So, for instance, images from a football match will usually mean green light from all sides, but when the camera goes to a close-up of the players, the colour of the shirts then get represented instead. It's designed largely to reduce eye strain, though it puts on an impressive light show in itself.

Philips 40pfl9704 lcd tv

A dedicated button on the remote toggles Ambilight on or off, while the on-screen menus contain settings to adjust its brightness, the separation of colours, and dominant colour - from warm white, blue, cool white or a colour of your own choice.

Ambilight can even be set to shine a white light when the TV is switched off, effectively acting as a lamp in your living room - as it uses LED lights, that's a relatively eco-friendly idea.

Incidentally, having a lamp behind or alongside a big TV is a good idea; it's easier on your eyes, and helps improve the perceived contrast you see on the screen - though a £10 lamp will do the job, making Ambilight seem an expensive luxury.

While the 40PFL9704 is hardly a media mogul, it does support most major file formats stored on a USB stick.

For such an expensive TV, media playback is rather restricted; in our tests we got MP4, MPEG, WMV and some AVI video files (though not most DivX movies) to play without any issues, alongside the usual MP3, WMA music and JPEG photos.

The absence of DivX HD support is a shame, if hardly a catastrophe, but it's worth noting that bargain basement TVs from the likes of LG and Samsung can usually handle any file format you throw at them.

Stream over Wi-Fi

In contrast the 40PFL9704's built-in Wi-Fi module is a real boon. Though hardly essential for a TV, we consider it a must-have on any product purporting to be a 'connected TV'; having to either put a TV next to a broadband router or sliding an Ethernet cable around a living room will only delay the 'net TV' revolution.

That said, Wi-Fi streaming is very slow with video files, although it works much better with Net TV. It's not the best platform of its type; browsing Ebay is a slow process, and much easier to do on a PC or laptop.

Most of the other widgets are fillers, though Screen Dreams gives you free access to a photo gallery of hi-res pictures that can be displayed full-screen.