14/12/2012 13:45 | By John Archer, contributor, MSN Tech

Philips 46PFL9707 review

High end LED TV that costs a lot but delivers on all fronts

What is it?
The Philips 46PFL9707 is a flagship LED TV boasting powerful image processing, 3D playback, online and multimedia playback, and a unique ‘moth-eye’ filter.

What’s great?
2D picture quality is as good as we’ve seen, the design is lovely, and some multimedia features are excellent.

What’s not?
3D pictures suffer badly with crosstalk, there could be more online video features, and it’s slightly complicated to use.

The bottom line:
The Philips 46PFL9707 is intimidatingly expensive for a 46-inch TV - especially one with flawed 3D playback and limited online functionality. But thanks to the moth-eye filter and Philips’ picture processing, connoisseurs of 2D picture quality will nonetheless consider the 46PFL9707 money well spent.

Philips 46PFL9707 (© Philips)

Philips 46PFL9707: Review

In case you didn’t know already, moths have very clever eyes. Thanks to countless tiny nodules on their surface they’re able to subdue light reflections so that the moth is harder for predators to spot.

So effective are moth’s eyes at this self-preservation trick, in fact, that Philips has decided to ape their nodular surface on a special filter for its flagship 46PFL9707 TV, so that it can reduce ambient light reflections and, as a result, massively boost its contrast performance.

If this all sounds like hocus-pocus, then consider this: Philips quotes a contrast ratio for its new ‘moth-eye’ TV of 150,000,000:1. This mind-bogglingly huge figure instantly raises hopes that the 46PFL9707 might produce the best contrast performance yet seen from a flat TV.

The moth-eye filter isn’t the only contributing factor to the 46PFL9707’s extraordinary contrast claims, though. Also critical is its use of direct LED lighting, where the lights sit directly behind the screen, rather than around its edges like they do on most current TVs. What’s more, Philips can individually control the light from 240 separate clusters of these rear LED lights, so that you could potentially have a perfectly white object sitting brightly right alongside a completely black area in a way just not feasible with other LCD technologies.

Philips 46PFL9707: Major features

Philips has further introduced a clever new contrast-boosting component to the latest version of its powerful Perfect Pixel HD processing engine - an engine which also features class-leading motion clarity and noise handling facilities.

This processing does need to be used with care, though, as it can make the picture look artificial if pushed too hard. Because of this the 46PFL9707 is more demanding of its users than your average TV. As we’ll see, though, the rewards for your perseverance are colossal.

More confirmation of the 46PFL9707’s flagship status is its active 3D playback (with two pairs of glasses included); its Ambilight technology, which spills out immersive pools of colour light from the TV’s edges; and a solid range of multimedia features including playback of a wide range of AV files from USB sticks or a networked PC, and access to Philips’ new online service.

This online service is supported on the 46PFL9707 by a full QWERTY keyboard on the remote control’s reverse side which proves invaluable when using the TV’s social media and web browsing apps.

Philips Smart TV (© Philips)

Philips 46PFL9707: Video App Support

Much more likely to get used on online TV services, though, are video apps like the BBC iPlayer. So it’s a shame to find the 46PFL9707 rather short of these video apps versus most of the main rival online TV platforms. The only interesting ones are the iPlayer, YouTube, BlinkBox, iConcerts and Viewster, leaving LoveFilm and Netflix as particularly glaring absentees.

The 46PFL9707’s online and operational foibles are swiftly forgotten, though, when you clap eyes on its picture quality. With HD 2D sources, in fact, it produces what could be the best pictures yet seen from an LCD TV.

Dark scenes, in particular, look nothing short of amazing, thanks to the way the local dimming and moth-eye filter help produce both incredibly deep black colours and exceptionally bright, bold colours and whites - all within the same single frame. It’s hard to see how an edge LED TV could ever match this barnstorming contrast effort.

The 46PFL9707’s pictures also excel with their sharpness. The screen’s detail resolution is out of this world, even looking a step above normal HD thanks to Philips’ processing. It doesn’t do any harm to this sharpness, either, that the set’s motion handling is outstanding. In fact, even if you just use its HD Natural Motion mode on its lowest power level (we wouldn’t actually recommend using anything higher) moving objects looks so crisp they could be coming out of a plasma rather than LCD TV.

Elsewhere colours look exceptionally vibrant, yet within all the ultra-aggressive saturations there’s an almost infinite amount of subtlety too.

Philips 46PFL9707: Performance

Direct LED technology can cause grey halos to materialise around bright objects if they appear against very dark backgrounds. But the 46PFL9707 hardly exhibits this problem at all, unless you watch from an angle of more than 35-40 degrees.

The 46PFL9707’s picture processing also does a great job with standard definition, adding plenty of sharpness while simultaneously suppressing source noise.

Joining the 46PFL9707’s 2D picture glories is one of the best audio performances you’ll hear from an LCD TV, courtesy of powerful speakers built into the stand rather than the main TV frame.

Unfortunately, though, the 46PFL9707’s picture glories don’t extend to 3D, for one simple reason: crosstalk noise. Sadly 3D pictures exhibit this ghosting problem both more often and more aggressively than many of 2012’s 3D TVs. And whenever it appears, it can really distract you from what you’re watching.

Everything else about the 46PFL9707’s 3D images is excellent so long as you’re careful with the motion processing settings. But ultimately the crosstalk is problematic enough that we can’t recommend this Philips flagship set to you if you’re a serious 3D fan.

The reality is, though, that many people reading this review will have little if any interest in 3D. So if that sounds like you and you’re feeling flush, it’s high time you got a bit of moth eye in your life.

Philips 46PFL9707 Ambilight (© Philips)

Philips 46PFL9707: Verdict

When Philips does a flagship TV, it really does a flagship TV. Heading up the high-end features sported by the 46PFL9707 is unique, contrast-boosting moth eye technology, with potent support coming from a state of the art direct LED lighting system, and quite possibly the most powerful video processing system in the TV firmament.

The set looks a million dollars too, especially if you employ its surprisingly engaging Ambilight technology.

There are some problems with the 46PFL9707 though. The huge amount of processing options it puts at your disposal make it relatively complicated to use, its online features are rather limited, it’s expensive for a 46-inch TV, and worst of all, its 3D picture is seriously flawed.

Unless you’re a die-hard 3D fan, though, Philips’ uncompromising approach to pictures reaps such vast rewards with 2D sources that it pretty much instantly negates all the problems.

5 star review

Philips 46PFL9707: Available soon, from £2,300 - check the latest prices with Bing. 

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