Philips 42PFL9803 review

This high-end Philips LCD screen with LED backlighting is a technical tour de force, but its performance doesn't fully justify its high price Tested at £2000.00

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

Undeniably high standard across the board, coupled with some advanced technology and a fine finish – but you have to pay for it


  • +

    Unique style

  • +

    Ambilight and DNLA functionality

  • +

    solid, detailed black levels

  • +

    broad colour palette

  • +

    impressive Freeview tuner


  • -

    Comparatively expensive

  • -

    not the three-dimensional feel to HD images you get with the very best TVs

Why you can trust What Hi-Fi? Our expert team reviews products in dedicated test rooms, to help you make the best choice for your budget. Find out more about how we test.

Philips' desire to push things forward in the world of televisions is admirable, and this set continues the trend. The 42PFL9803 showcases Philips' LED Lux backlight technology, as well as incorporating two-channel Ambilight and a striking new silver finish.

This is an LCD screen, but with an LED Lux backlight that boasts a grand total of 1152 LEDs. These are divided in to 128 segments, and these segments are then divided again in Russian-doll style so that they can be individually controlled to give more accurate control of the light released.

Philips claims deeper black levels, more dynamic contrast levels – a 2,000,000:1 contrast ratio, in fact – and reduced power consumption as the key benefits.

Elsewhere there's Ambilight 2 Spectra – down both sides of the set – plus 1080p/24fps support via four HDMI inputs, 100Hz Clear LCD, the Perfect Pixel HD engine and of course a digital Freeview tuner.

DLNA network capability
Adding to this set's caché as a futureproofed product you'll find an Ethernet connection and DLNA networking capability.

As ever, all this technology is all as useful as a turkey in February if the set doesn't have the picture quality to back it up.

Watching the off-air picture, images are clean, sharp and detailed, while motion is handled super-smoothly.

Switch to DVD and watching Batman Begins it's clear the claims about black levels have substance, with deep, dark blacks that boast detail, too.

Texture to skin tones is excellent, with impressive subtlety and an expansive colour palette.

High price counts against it
Change to a Blu-ray and we're only further enamoured with this set's performance, although that extra sense of three-dimensionality that you get with the best HDTVs is missing.

So, what's the catch? Well, the price. Much as we'd like to hand this TV a five-star rating, there just isn't a big enough jump in quality compared to current class-leaders that are up to £800 cheaper.

If you like the style and features then you won't be disappointed, but on our strict performance-per-pound criteria this £2000 set has to lose a star.

What Hi-Fi?

What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London, Reading and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.

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