Philips has been known for producing some of the most dramatic and awe-inspiring screens in the HD business, in large due to the impact of its patented ambilight technology.
Last year we reviewed the impressive 42PF, which sports full Ambilight surround using a wide white bezel around the outside of the screen to reflect the projected light.
It's been refined since though, and although the on-test 47PFL96 only utilises a two channel effect it's just as dramatic.
This is mainly down to the refinement of the design, which now uses LED lighting to not only make colour selection more adaptable, but save on power as well.
The results are quite fantastic; this is still one of the best technologies we've ever seen for enhancing the already impressive audio and video quality available with HD.
As exciting as all this is we don't want to get too bogged down on the impact of the Ambilight so we switched the effect off (it can also be dimmed or mode-adjusted for more subtle effect) to focus on what else Philips has to offer. First up the 47" screen is very nicely designed, and is far more compact than some of the previous efforts due to the lack of an exterior frame.
A subtle silver line around the main panel means it’s in keeping with the "contemporary retro" feel from much of Philips' recent A/V hardware, culminating in one of the nicest looking screens we've seen this year. It's 1080p capable, with an integrated digital tuner, 8-day EPG and three HDMI 1.3 ports.
You'll find two scart and component here as well, along with composite ports on the side, but sadly no optical connection for audio and no composite audio for the component connection. Instead you'll have to utilise a 3.5mm jack for stereo, or a digital audio cinch cable for separate surround audio.
This isn't a major problem provided your home cinema equipment includes the appropriate connections, but we're a little disappointed not to see an optical port here at least. Elsewhere you'll find USB on the side that allows you to connect and enjoy digital media, although only MP3 music and JPEG photos are supported.
When it comes to image quality we have to admit to being astonished by the clarity and sharpness from the screen, and this is just with standard definition resolutions.
Philips' Pixel Perfect engine makes detailed pictures smoother and colours more natural, and an array of additional processing technology including Clear LCD, HD Natural Motion and the dynamic contrast enhancement means that when you ramp things up to high definition, results are truly outstanding. These are some of the deepest blacks and most natural tones we've ever seen on an LCD.
If there are any drawbacks in this area it's that it is a little difficult to improve the vibrancy of the colour without affecting the rest of the image, although we're nit-picking a tad here and were generally more than happy with the results from most sources.
When turning to the built-in audio we're pleased to report that we weren't let down. Too often screens excel in one area and let themselves down in another, but Philips has complemented the excellent image quality well with a rounded sound environment with distinct bass and effective virtual surround.
However one minor foible we have in this area, which also applies to picture control, is that there are no preset environments to choose from for quick adjustments. You will find options for fine-tuning, but we’d liked to have seen some sort of movie/sports/music ensemble that is now quite typical on these screens.
This amalgamation of excellence usually comes at high cost, particularly in the case of the manufacturer, who isn't exactly known for a bargain basement pricing strategy. Philips' suggested retail price for the screen is £2199, which is about what you’d expect, but at the time of writing the 47PFL96 could be found online for under £1400.
If you're lucky enough to make these sorts of savings you'll find you've got what will surely be one of the most desirable screens of 2007 on your hands at an unbelievable price.
Philips has produced an astounding LCD display in the 47PFL96. Aside from some minor issues with connectivity and control we were bowled over by the impact of the ambilight, excellent image quality and some impressive sound. Surely this will be one of the top few LCD-based HD TVs of the year.
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