It was always going to take something special to beat our TV Product of the Year, the fabulous Philips 42PFL9664. Yet the set you see before you manages to do just that. And the manufacturer of this terrific newcomer? Philips.
So what makes the new 40PFL9704 so special? Well, it's the first Philips we've tested to use a full-array LED backlighting system: there are 14 rows of LED backlights across the rear of the display, with multiple LEDs in each of the 224 segments, resulting in more than 1000 LEDs overall.
That has a downside – compared to Samsung's svelte edge-lit TVs, the '9704 is relatively chunky, at 9cm deep.
Local LED dimming
But Philips asserts its so-called LED Pro technology compensates by delivering the best possible picture, because it allows for independent local dimming of segments of the LED panel as the image dictates, leading to significantly better contrast.
It also ensures superior backlight uniformity: LCD TVs can suffer from ‘hot spotting', where light is brighter towards the centre of the screen and dimmer on the edges, but a full-array LED panel has uniform light output throughout.
The result, claims Philips, is a formidable 5,000,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio. Whatever the numbers, this is a simply fabulous TV, capable of generating a stunning picture with both digital TV signals and Blu-ray.
As you'd expect from a Philips, it's laden with picture processing technology too: thanks to the powerful Perfect Pixel HD engine, upscaling is excellent with Freeview broadcasts, the '9704 working hard to cut down digital block noise and other off-air undesirables.
Simply sensational images
Motion-handling with Blu-ray is exceptional too (unless you turn the Perfect Natural Motion system up to maximum, which can introduce a slightly unrealistic feel) and the fast 1ms panel response time, enabled by 200Hz Clear LCD technology, ensures minimal smearing and motion blur during the breakneck action of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.
As for the biggest selling point of all – contrast performance – it's just as fabulous as you'd hope it would be, the Philips generating pictures that get close to the dramatic depth and punch of Pioneer's remarkable (and now unavailable) Kuro plasmas.
Full web browsing
Like its Philips sibling the 42PFL9664, the 40PFL9704 includes full web access, accessible either via a conventional ethernet connection, or via built-in wi-fi.
You can stream from YouTube – quality is surprisingly good, so long as you avoid user-generated videos – and while the set won't currently handle BBC's iPlayer, Philips says this feature will be available later this year.
Add in terrific sound – Philips seems able to endow its sets with dynamics and weight to shame any rival – plus sumptuous build and finish, a class-leading remote handset, built-in wi-fi with a proper net browser, plenty of sockets and Philips' remarkable Ambilight Spectra 3 system (which projects lights from both the sides and the top of the TV to enhance your viewing) and you've a complete TV. The Philips 40PFL9704 isn't cheap – but it is wonderful.