Philips 42PFL9703D review

Philips pulls out all the stops with for its awesome 42" 1080p LCD TV

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Our Verdict

One of the very best LCD sets ever made has startlingly good pictures and an endless array of features


  • Fantastic pictures
  • Superior sound
  • Generous features


  • Light artefacting around motion

Philips will undoubtedly produce a super-thin LCD TV, just like everyone else, when it feels like it. In the meantime, it'll probably be content to continue making the best, most comprehensively featured and ineffably elegant LCD televisions on the market.

Such as is exemplified with the Philips 42PFL9703D, sporting a 1080p panel, Pixel Perfect engine, rear firing subwoofers and the great Ambilight Spectra 3.

Read more: Philips OLED+ 903

Future-proofed TV

The panel's 1080p resolution sets the TV up for compatibility with the highest quality video and future-proofs it for a few years to come.

The maximum pixel count is marshalled by Philips' own mind-bendingly powerful Perfect Pixel engine, which represents the very latest stage in the evolution of the company's own image engine, while being the acme of current processing know-how.

This, in turn, is fed by no fewer than four HDMIs and these are joined by a myriad of other sockets, such as an ethernet port and an electrical digital audio output for sending the TV signal through an external amplifier. Not that there's any real need to: this LCD boasts a pair of backward-firing subwoofers to give the sort of muscular bass normally lacking on flatscreens.

And then there's Ambilight Spectra 3, which provides a shifting coloured halo around the frame in concert with the onscreen action, giving the set an ethereal aspect.

Awkward remote

The 42PFL9703 is extraordinarily easy to set up and tune for a top-end set, with helpful hints popping up at every stage to guide you through the superbly logical system architecture.

Those who want to delve a little deeper to see what it can do will find a wealth of videophile sub-menus and sliders to wring optimum performance out of this awesomely powerful set.

While the remote looks lovely and sits snugly in the hand, the jog-wheel at its centre lends a slightly imprecise feel to operation, although it may well come into its own if you choose to use the remote's 'universal' credentials at the centre of an all-Philips system.

The zapper with our sample TV was also a little bit sluggish, as our neighbours will attest, after we switched on for the first time to find the volume most of the way up. Still, it's no mean feat to keep potential technophobes as happy as hardcore tweakers and this set manages to so that with aplomb.

Extraordinary detail

Philips' LCDs may have been almost uniformly technically impressive, but some have arguably over-egged the pudding in some regards, with pictures that have dazzled the eye with detail and colour saturation, but hardly stirred the soul with richness and depth.

The 42PFL9703, however, is an absolute revelation. The detail, for a start, is extraordinary, with every frame boggling the eye with an absolutely astonishing amount of image data presented in reality-sharp clarity.

As odd as it may sound, the detail is so fine as to be almost distracting: we found ourselves repeatedly marvelling at the sheer amount of stuff going on in each scene rather than at the movies as a whole. The shots of the Hogwarts staircase, in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, for example, are an absolute riot, with the contents of each haunted picture picked out carefully to incredible overall effect.

Superior black levels

Colours are also superbly rendered, with the set capable of retina-aching saturation, wonderful restraint and just about every single degree in between.

Black levels are also very good: if not quite up to the standard of plasma or CRT, they are nonetheless superior to just about every other LCD we've seen and can handle even the gloomiest scenes with admirable profundity and with a nice line in shadow detail.

The only minor problem is the occasional shimmer of processing noise around moving picture elements. Still, the overall performance is amazing and establishes a new benchmark for mainstream LCDs.

Punchy speakers

Those subwoofers earn their keep by providing a rich, deep soundfield that has plenty of oomph and more bass than a set this slender has any right to produce.

Movie soundtracks are punchy and exciting, broadcasts are crisp and there is plenty of volume at your disposal.


We hesitated before awarding top marks because £1,700 is a lot to pay for a TV, no matter how well specified it may be. However, the Philips 42PFL9703D gets its fifth star by virtue of being substantially better than just about anything else out there.

The only 42in LCD that comes close is the Planar PD420 and doesn't have anything like the range of features, flexibility or all-round friendliness offered by the Philips.

We're confident that anyone spending this sort of cash will be absolutely delighted.