If you believe all the hype and figures being banded about by Philips (opens in new tab), you'd think the 9706 is its best TV ever. And you know what? You might be right.
Among the facts and figures quoted, Philips claims that its new Moth Eye filter allows for an impressive 150,000,000:1 contrast ratio – that's an improvement of over ten times on last year's equivalent model.
It's an impressive figure for number-crunchers and advertising boards, but we're more interested in how this pans out when you've got a picture on-screen.
And we have to say it's mighty impressive – dare we even say Kuro-rivalling – in this regard. It's even more impressive that while watching this set with plenty of ambient light in the room, blacks retain their lustre and richness, and there are no distracting reflections on the panel, either.
Superb levels of detail
Spin Sherlock Holmes on Blu-ray and the TV picks out an unbelievable level of detail in the dark, dank and murky shadows.
The Philips manages to contrast dark and light with minimal fuss, and it's testament to the dexterity of the set's full array, local dimming backlight. Details and textures on skin and clothes are superbly rendered, too.
For optimum motion handling, Philips equips the set with Perfect Natural Motion tech, which is accessible through the menus. But even on its lowest setting, in our opinion, it makes motion appear really rather unnatural and over-processed.
With the technology turned off, there's a touch more flicker with horizontal and vertical pans, but it's not hugely off-putting.
Excellent high-definition picture
High-definition Freeview channels see the Philips deliver a superb performance; it feeds off a 1080i signal with relish.
Poor quality, noisy, standard-definition channels will be shown up, however, as the Philips rigorous attention to detail highlights these faults even more.
This TV wouldn't be a Philips without extensive on-screen menus, of course, and the 9706 doesn't let us down.
You'll need to put aside a good hour or so to extract the best picture possible. There's such a vast amount of picture settings and processing modes to choose from that it gets perilously close from turning from a labour of love into a laborious chore – but as the TV is ISF-certified (it's Philips' first ever such TV) you could always pay someone else to come in and go through the set-up process for you.
Active-shutter 3D glasses
As you'd expect, the 9706 is 3D-enabled, and uses Philips' 3D Max processing in conjunction with new active-shutter 3D glasses.
Two pairs are thrown in with the set as standard. They're lightweight and more comfortable than last year's rims, and each pair comes with a cable for USB charging.
On the side of each you'll see a button, which enables you to take advantage of the dual-view gaming mode. If you're into games, you and a friend can each see a full-screen image instead of a split screen. It works well, although you can still see a faint outline of what the other player is doing.
3D video content looks as good as we've seen on a Philips set. Sharpness and detail levels can't be faulted. Playing Avatar, colours are expertly handled with a fine mixture of vivid hues and more natural tones.
On the downside, the 3D looks more like layered 2D than properly three-dimensional, as it does on some rivals.
Elsewhere, the 9706 is equipped with a healthy assortment of sockets and features. Four HDMIs, twin USB sockets, USB recording and wi-fi connectivity are all present.
Smart TV offerings include BBC iPlayer as well as TuneIn internet radio and Box Office 365 movie rentals. Facebook and Twitter will placate the social networkers in your house.
It even sounds decent
To allow for a slimmer profile, the speakers have been taken out of the chassis and slipped into the stand (which also doubles as a wallmount). They connect to each other via a short umbilical cord.
The results are pretty good by flatscreen standards, with the TV producing a solid and coherent sound when kept to decent volumes.
What we have here is a television that's capable of setting new benchmarks in certain areas, yet it still doesn't have the user-friendliness or all-round ability of the class-leaders at this screen size.
When you bring price into the equation too – this telly is by no means cheap – then there's no other option but to hand the Philips a (very complimentary) four-star rating.
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