Philips 46PFL9706H review

Is this the greatest LCD TV ever built? This moth eye filter says it is

Philips 46PFL9706
Dazzling 2D performance is let down by mixed results with 3D

Why you can trust TechRadar We spend hours testing every product or service we review, so you can be sure you’re buying the best. Find out more about how we test.

Philips 46pfl9706h

The Philips 46PFL9706's design is more of a 'feature' than it is with most TVs.

Catching the eye right away is its lovely brushed aluminium bezel, and the extremely high quality of the similarly metallic desktop stand. The exceptional quality of its finish isn't the only attraction of the stand either, because in an intriguing move it also contains the TV's speakers, with a short plug-in cable connecting it to the main TV.

Obviously this means that anyone wanting to wall hang the TV will also need to hang the stand (flat) right under the screen. The stand has been designed to support such mounting, of course, but while it might look very pretty, it's possible that some people really won't want to have a rectangular slab of metal hanging on the wall under their television.

Given how preposterously slim many TVs have been this year, it has to be said that the Philips 46PFL9706 feels chunkier than most flagship TVs. The reason for this, most likely, is the set's use of direct rather than LED lighting, because the direct approach means the illumination has to be sited directly behind the screen, and so needs some sort of 'throw' distance.

Direct LED

Using direct LED lighting rather than the more common edge-based system is potentially key to the Philips 46PFL9706's performance, though, because it enables Philips to deliver much more local control over the illumination of the picture.

In fact, the TV has the processing power to individually handle, in real time, 224 separate LED clusters, meaning that the picture can deliver 224 different luminance 'zones'. This number is clearly well short of the number of pixels (1920 x 1080) contained in the screen, so there's potential for light haloing around very bright objects if they appear against very dark backdrops.

But the potential for this flaw should be vastly reduced compared with the situation on LG's 55LW980T, with its mere 96 local illumination zones.

Philips has long been at the forefront of multimedia support in the TV world, and this trend continues with the 46PFL9706.

For instance, a pair of USBs can be used for playing back video, photo and music files across all these formats: AVI, MKV, H264/MPEG-4 AVC, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, WMV9/VC1, AAC, MP3, WMA (v2 up to v9.2), and JPEG.

The TV also carries built-in DLNA 1.5 certification, and can access your network via LAN or built-in Wi-Fi.

These network options also, of course, enable you to get online, via Philips' NetTV platform. This is an enhanced beast from last year's offering, following the common delivery model of providing direct access to a selection of high-profile apps, and a further app gallery where people can find and download smaller, more minority-interest apps.


The highlighted apps comprise (at the time of writing): YouTube, BBC iPlayer (the first time this has appeared on NetTV); MeteoConsult; Facebook; Aupeo Personal Radio; HiT Entertainment; CNBC Real Time; TuneIn Radio; iConcerts; Twitter; Viewster; Euronews; Vimeo; Picasa; Meteonews; Box Office 365; Cartoon Network; France 24 On Demand; TV5 Monde; the Funspot gaming network; DailyMotion; ScreenDreams; and CineTrailer.

There's also an internet browser which, unlike those found on many TVs, is decently usable thanks to an impressive text input interface and more legible text than you usually get on a TV browser.

Extra apps you can download comprise TomTom HD Traffic; the Foreca weather forecaster; ebay; TED Talks; the Films and Stars, network delivering movie reports, 1-on-1 interviews with actors and directors, plus award show and festival reports; the MyAlbum photo storage site; a Volkswagen promotional site; and last but not least, the cloud-based AceTrax movie purchase/rental service.

It seems odd, actually, that AceTrax isn't given more prominence in the list of highlighted services, but there you go.

Video processing

Anyone who's followed the progress of Philips' TVs over the past few years will know that any new high-end set will feature an extremely powerful video processing engine. These have been sources of controversy at times, with some people feeling that they do more harm than good, making pictures look too processed.

But while there were certainly issues in the early days of Philips' focus on processing, and while you invariably have to be careful with many of the processing setting options, the simple fact is that the more powerful Philips' processing systems have become, the more capable they've become of delivering all the positives of video processing with fewer of the negatives.

The latest Perfect Pixel HD Engine employed in the Philips 46PFL9706 astonishingly doubles the power of the previous version, and as such it's claimed that it can process on the fly an extraordinary two billion pixels a second. This is extremely significant, because as well as speeding up the processing, it enables the processing to work more intelligently on pictures to give more accurate and artefact-free improvements.

To give some idea of how many picture elements the processing now covers, tucked away under the Perfect Pixel HD header in the on-screen menus are tweaks that affect motion, sharpness/resolution, contrast, backlight control, MPEG noise reduction, colour and gamma.

As you would expect, it's motion handling that potentially benefits the most from all the extra power in the Philips 46PFL9706. The set claims a 1200Hz Perfect Motion Rate - the highest such figure in the business - achieved via a combination of frame interpolation processing, a 200Hz panel, and a 200Hz scanning backlight.

Crucially, moreover, the new processing power allows Philips to apply its Perfect Natural Motion system to full HD 3D for the first time.

The new processing engine in the Philips 46PFL9706 additionally enables you to adjust the depth of native Full HD 3D sources as well as 2D to 3D converted images - something Philips believes is a first for the TV market, although similar functionality is available on Panasonic's AT5000 projector.

Panel improvements

Staying with 3D-related features, Philips has introduced new measures aimed at tackling active 3D's problems with crosstalk noise. First, the panel is driven faster. Also, the scanning backlight inside the Philips 46PFL09706 should prove more effective than the cheaper blinking backlight alternative.

Finally, and perhaps most intriguingly, Philips has officially recognised the commonly seen situation whereby crosstalk is worse when TVs are 'cold', developing a system where the TV can deliver both a more unified heat level across the whole screen and a higher uniform temperature, thanks to the direct LED illumination system.

Enthusiasts still troubled by the amount of options and processing delivered by the Philips 46PFL9706 could well have their concerns greatly allayed by the discovery that for the first time ever Philips has sought and obtained the endorsement of the Imaging Science Foundation (ISF).

This indicates that this is a TV with sufficient picture flexibility - especially where colour is concerned, via a new Colour Control centre - to be professionally calibrated by a trained ISF engineer. This really should enhance the 46PFL9706's appeal in the eyes of the enthusiast market, and is perhaps an endorsement Philips should have sought years ago.

Wrapping up this section of the review in relatively prosaic fashion are the Philips 46PFL9706's connections, which add four HDMIs, a D-Sub PC port and an SD card slot to the aforementioned USBs, LAN, and Wi-Fi connection options.

Please note that the USBs can also be used for attaching a USB HDD, to enable recording from the integrated Freeview HD tuner. Because yes, it's a huge relief to find that Philips has put right its major 2010 mistake by building Freeview HD tuners into all of its TVs this year.

John Archer
AV Technology Contributor

John has been writing about home entertainment technology for more than two decades - an especially impressive feat considering he still claims to only be 35 years old (yeah, right). In that time he’s reviewed hundreds if not thousands of TVs, projectors and speakers, and spent frankly far too long sitting by himself in a dark room.