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

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Philips 46pfl9706h

The impression of outstanding picture quality exhibited by the Philips 46PFL9706 at various displays and shows over the past 12 months is immediately and spectacularly borne out by the experience of watching the TV in a more intimate testing environment.

In fact, there are many times - a great many times - when the Philips 46PFL9706 produces the best pictures yet seen from a flat TV. Seriously.

Right away images look spectacularly punchy, thanks to a combination of three separate elements.

First, the set's brightness output is remarkable.

Second, the TV's colour saturations are gorgeously fully saturated and aggressive.

Thirdly and most eye-catchingly of all, the black levels able to appear right alongside the brightest of whites and most extreme of colours are profoundly deep and rich.

This result of the set's local dimming technology more than anything else separates the Philips 46PFL9706's performance from the flatter, less dynamic look of pictures produced by edge LED or CCFL LCD TVs - even Samsung's 7000 and 8000 televisions.

Regarding the brightness, what's remarkable is how the extreme brightness levels still always look controlled - there's no sense of peak bright areas or the pictures 'flaring out' and losing detail.

As for colours, their intensity does not in any way preclude them from containing almost infinite subtleties of blend and tone. In fact, you might well see some shades of colour distinction in some of your favourite sources that you've not seen before on previous HD sets.

Where the black level response is concerned, the Philips 46PFL9706 produces the most exquisitely deep and rich black colours ever seen from an LCD TV. Period. In fact, remarkably they're even deeper than those of plasma TVs.

Moth Eye

The Moth Eye filter undoubtedly plays a huge role in this monumental achievement, as even if the test room lights were turned up to maximum it was practically impossible to see even a trace of reflected light on the TV's screen.

The difference this makes to contrast is astonishing - so much so, in fact, that it has to be seen to be believed.

Closer examination of the set's delicious portrayal of dark scenes reveals that a) there's still a highly credible amount of shadow detailing in dark areas and b) the direct LED problem of haloing/clouding around bright objects against dark backdrops appears only rarely. And even when it does appear, it's very subtle in terms of both its brightness and spread distance.

Furthermore, the brightness of the light picture elements is so extreme on the Philips 46PFL9706H that it distracts you from any slight haloing that might appear.

The haloing effect becomes more obvious and distracting if you watch from an angle - anything more than 30 degrees or so. But this isn't necessarily a big deal unless your room layout routinely requires people to watch from down the TV's sides.

Once you've recovered from the impact of the Philips 46PFL9706's brightness, colour and contrast, you'll also realise that it excels in another key area: sharpness. With HD, its pictures look immaculately crisp and full of pure, noise-free texture and detail, yet this exceptional sharpness is delivered without grain, without fizzing noise, and without edges looking over-sharpened - so long, at least, as you don't overcook the TV's sharpness enhancement circuitry.

Standard definition

The quality of Philips' processing is further apparent with the 46PFL9706's handling of standard definition sources and even online content. Both are upscaled to the screen's full HD resolution with exceptional levels of added sharpness, yet unlike early versions of Philips' processing systems, this sharpness is added without exaggerating noise.

On the contrary, the upscaling processing does a superb job of taking noise out of the picture. Certainly video streamed from the internet has never looked better on such a large screen.

The most controversial part of Philips' mostly outstanding processing effort on the 46PFL9706 is, inevitably, Perfect Natural Motion. And it's definitely true to say, as usual, that applying this even on its lowest setting to films - especially Blu-rays - isn't generally a good idea. The silky fluidity of motion it produces just doesn't look 'filmic', for want of a better word.

Also, if the film has a lot of grain in it, the motion processing does some very strange things indeed, making the grain look like it's flowing like some kind of river across the screen!

Making Perfect Natural Motion even more unnecessary with films is the fact that even without any motion processing active, the Philips 46PFL9706 suffers with scarcely any motion blur or resolution loss at all - so long as you're also careful not to set the noise reduction features too high!

There's no harm with trying Perfect Natural Motion for viewing non-film content, though. Especially since, for the first time ever, Philips has managed to deliver the processing's promised freedom from judder without causing the unwelcome side effect of a shimmering halo around moving objects.

What's really crucial to stress in all this talk of how good the Philips 46PFL9706's 2D pictures are is that all the many and varied benefits palpably introduced to the TV's picture quality by the latest Perfect Pixel HD processing do not make the picture look unnatural.

Because not only does the set produce the most natural picture ever seen from a Philips flat TV, it also produces one of the most natural pictures seen from any TV, period. And ironic though it might sound, its kind of 'invisibility' is ultimately the latest processing engine's most impressive achievement.

3D performance

Turning to 3D after the Philips 46PFL9706's 2D heroics is slightly disappointing, thanks to that old active 3D nemesis of crosstalk noise. Despite Philips' claims to have addressed this double ghosting concern, it crops up quite regularly on a variety of 3D sources, especially over backgrounds, sometimes to the extent that they look slightly out of focus.

There is, however, a crosstalk fix - delve into the menus, find the 3D Depth control, and select the 'Lower' setting. This instantly kills off almost all crosstalk. Phew. But... it also reduces the depth of the 3D image considerably, so much so that sometimes the picture scarcely looks 3D any more.

Plus, of course, there's the argument that if you reduce the depth of the picture, you're actually not watching it in the way it was designed to be watched.

In all other ways the Philips 46PFL9706's 3D images are exemplary. The set does a brilliant job of rendering all the detail of full HD 3D sources (except for where the ghosting gets in the way).

Motion looks super-sharp too now that the Perfect Natural Motion circuitry can work in three dimensions (though it did seem that there were a fraction more processing artefacts than were visible with 2D).

And Philips' light and comfortable 3D glasses seem to reduce brightness less than most active shutter models, a fact which joins with the screen's innate brightness and dynamism to ensure that its 3D images are arguably the brightest, most colour-rich examples we've seen from an active 3D TV.

The crosstalk issues still mean, though, that if 3D is very important to you, Panasonic's latest GT30 and VT30 plasmas are a crisper, cleaner option.

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.