Philips 46PFL9706 review
Is your living room ready for an insect invasion? Hugely expensive and boasting some unique tech, the headline act on this 46-inch 3D LED backlit LCD TV from Philips’ 9000 Series is undoubtedly its Moth Eye filter. The whatnow?
The Moth Eye - a reflection-dampening filter across the screen so-called because it mimics the insect’s optics - is tremendously effective, and helps create extra contrast in bright conditions, but there is so much more to like about this one-of-a-kind telly.
A mere 39mm deep and seemingly hewn from one piece of stainless steel, the 46PFL9706 features Ambilight, that signature Philips addition that sees coloured light spewing from the sides of the TV. On this high-end TV it’s the no-corners-cut Ambilight Spectra XL that does the job, with twice as many LED - compared to previous versions - strung across both the sides and the top of the TV, cunningly sending light relating to the changing hues on-screen across the wall behind.
Though the 46PFL9706 isn’t just about light. As well as being one of relatively few Phillips TVs to feature active shutter ‘3D Max’ tech - most of its stable boosts ‘Easy 3D’ a.k.a. Passive 3D - this flagship TV is one of very few screens available that uses Direct LED backlighting.Tthat means 224 clusters of LED lights used right across the back of the LCD panel. This allows for local dimming, which means segments of the lights can be switched off, to improve black levels.
Compared to the much more common - and, yes, often slightly slimmer - edge LED system employed by the likes of LG, Samsung, Sony and Sharp, where light is provided only from the sides of the screen. Direct LED backlighting usually results in much more convincing contrast, with mixed brightness scenes – such as a movie sequence where a character sits in a gloomy room while bright light is visible outside through windows – so much more convincing.
The first Philips TV to be endorsed by the Imaging Science Foundation (ISF), the 46PFL9706 boasts a full suite of picture processing tweaks, including Philips’ Perfect Pixel HD.
Elsewhere on this range-topper is a Freeview HD tuner, basic PVR functions if you attach a HDD via USB, four HDMI inputs, streaming from a connected PC or Mac, and playback of files from a USB stick.
One disappointment is Smart TV. Sure, this Wi-Fi (or Ethernet) powered online hub brings the BBC iPlayer into, err, play, but there’s little else here to get excited about. Slightly hamstrung by a lack of speed and also by a somewhat drab grid-style design. There’s also a web browser that’s helped, though not by much, and certainly not enough, by Philips’ MyRemote app for iPhone and Android.
The 2D appeal of the 46PFL9706 is a black and white affair. Seriously, we've not seen blacks this deep, or whites as pure and brilliant as on this hugely advanced LED panel. Add that to some enviable detail and natural colours and the pictures are something akin to groundbreaking.
This is a Philips TV, so there is the brand's usual concentration on advanced processing, something that can introduce an unnatural look. The solution is to simply switch off tech like HD Natural Motion and Perfect Natural Motion (PNM), though they're both worth experimenting with if you've not already passed judgement on the especially fluid and free pictures they create from Blu-ray discs. In our opinion, these modes can sometimes add distracting fizzing and a somewhat forced, false look and feel. Freeview, however, is worth looking at with PNM enabled.
Noticeably brighter than most active shutter 3D TVs, this and other features that make the 46PFL9706’s 2D performance so exhilarating play a different role when watching 3D Blu-ray. Here, that intense brightness and high level of detail leave no hiding place for imperfections, and in sequences with significant depth effects we did notice some ghosting. Still, it's not an endemic problem and occasional 3D viewers (are there any other kind?) shouldn't have a major problem. There's also a rather hit and miss 2D to 3D conversion mode.
In all this excitement about the 46PFL9706’s reference grade pictures and an enviable hit list of features, it's worth noting that the main body of the TV doesn't have any speakers. Shock, horror, etc. For a long time, Philips TVs have been alone in offering a relatively powerful, bass-heavy soundstage complete with rear woofer and front tweeter, but at last the company’s design engineers have succumbed to our never-ending thirst for slimmer and slimmer TVs, and banished audio altogether from the main body of the TV.
However, those designers have done a fine job in fitting the 46PFL9706’s desktop stand with said speakers. Yup – just strap-on the stand on the undercarriage, and we're almost back to where we started; loads of low-frequency sound and plenty of detail.
Of course, this odd array does pose a question for wall mounters, and although the desktop stand can actually be used as a bracket – thereby supplying sound from behind the TV – that 39mm depth will be ruined. We’d suggest a separate home cinema if you want to go down the on-wall route.
Whether Philips’ range-topper will end up in your hands is doubtful unless you have over two grand to spare, but the sheer innovation on board the 46PFL9706 - and its general rarity value - makes it a stand-out performer. It’ll be too expensive for most of us, but if it’s a sign of trickle-down tech to come, we’re all in for a treat.
Philips 9000 series has been at the top of the telly tree for some years, but with this Moth Eye marvel it leaps up any few more branches.
Remarkably adept with contrast and brightness in all ambient light conditions, and producing bright active shutter 3D pictures that are, on the whole, impressive, Phillips has produced a high-end choice that will suit both discerning living rooms and those after a centrepiece for a home cinema.