Philips 46PFL9705H Ambilight 46in LED 3D TV
Review The latest Philips Ambilight TV features the same neat, curved-edged styling as the 32in 32PFL9705 set Reg Hardware reviewed in September 2010. Although a lot of the features are the same, this one has that new feature du jour, 3D.
It's considerably bigger, too, but like the 32-incher, the slim bezel means it’s nearly all screen – a world away from earlier LCDs with whacking great speakers mounted on the side, for instance.
Fortunately, Philips appears to have recognised that not everyone wants 3D - or at least not yet while content is still rare. So instead of pushing the 46PFL9705H as a 3D set, the company is describing this as a TV with exceptional picture quality, lots of other features and, by the way, if you do fancy 3D, no problem.
There are two kinds of 3D TV tech: active and passive. Passive specs are like the ones you nicked when you saw Avatar. Active ones have polarised shutters which open and close in turn, synchronised with the left- and right-eye images show alternately on screen.
LG is the only TV maker offering a passive technology - cheaper specs make for less expensive mass viewing, but the sets are pricey - unsurprisingly, active glasses are included here.
To enable 3D on the 46PFL9705H, you just need the bundled 3D upgrade kit, which contains two pairs of said specs and a small sync rsignal transmitter which sits at the base of the screen. It’s neat, but as it’s not built in it slightly spoils the design.
3D, if you happen to want it
3D is best viewed in a slightly darkened room, and it’s worth turning the TV setting up from a natural to a vivid picture mode to counteract the darkening effect the glasses have.
To pairs of active 3D specs are included
The 46PFL9705H has locally dimmable LEDs, like the 32in model. As before, this delivers impressively contrasty pictures with deep blacks and bright colours. There’s no doubt that local dimming is the way forward for crisp, dynamic images and is increasingly the feature to look for when buying a gogglebox.
Now then, what about crosstalk? No, that’s not the level of annoyance generated by fighting over custody of the remote with your significant other, it’s the image degradation some TVs suffer with 3D content. It appears as ghosting effects which can damage the 3D spectacle. It’s a problem absent from plasma but common to LCD.
The good news is that the crosstalk here is minimal, noticeably less than some rivals, though, sadly, not completely fixed.
Overall, the 3D picture is strong: crisp, bright and effective, whether you’re watching the Full HD imagery found on a Blu-ray disc or the less high-resolution but still impressive broadcasts from Sky and Virgin. Sport looks sharp and inviting, with the greater sense of distance and depth particularly impressive, while the day-glo colours of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs on Blu-ray leap out of the screen just as far as the 3D effects.
Array LED backlighting makes the picture nice and contrasty
But the paucity of 3D content means that won’t be what you’re watching most of the time and, thankfully, the 2D results here are great. The combination of locally dimmable LED backlights and the outstanding Philips image processing techniques make for highly impressive viewing. It’s subtle and understated rather than in-your-face-exciting but that’s all to the good.
And then there’s Ambilight, the colour-changing lights which amplify the effect of the images on screen for a more immersive experience that is restful to watch and deeply enjoyable. Just as backlighting defines the characters’ features in movies, so Ambilight adds an extra level to TV.
Ambilight: a devilishly good idea for horror flicks?
Of course, the 46PFL9705H a well-connected machine, with the same four HDMI inputs the smaller-screen model boasted, plus Scarts and all the usual suspects. Well, almost. There’s no composite input, for instance. Basic though composite is, this matters if, say, you’re connecting your Wii to the TV only to find you need the Scart adaptor you threw away years ago because composite has been working just fine, thank you so much.
All the trimmings
Internet connectivity is supported too, presented through Philips' NetTV front end. There's the obligatory DLNA connectivity, and a USB port for hooking up local content storage and supports formats like AVI and MKV which aren't part of the DLNA spec.
This TV uses the same oval remote as before. I wasn’t keen before but this time it’s grown on me. A dedicated Channel up and down rocker wouldn’t go amiss but perhaps it’s an acknowledgement that you’re just as likely to be changing channel on a Sky, Freeview or Virgin remote so you’ll only need to change the source on the TV remote, and that’s catered for by the Home button on the Philips oval.
Tuning a Philips TV isn’t complicated but to make the most of the picture it’s capable of, it’s worth the homework. The combination of sophisticated image processing technologies available mean that if you’re not careful, the super-sharp picture can look too rough and edgy to be comfortable.
Considering the power and capabilities of the set, it’s a a real surprise there’s no Freeview HD tuner on board. Given how much Philips is expecting you to pay for the 46PFL9705H, that's a genuine let-down. And, as ever with flatscreens, the sound is never the stand-out part of the experience. Here, though, it’s certainly nothing to complain about.
So what do you want from a TV? Great image quality? Check. Decent sound? Check. Effective 3D, even if you do have to wear those pesky glasses? Check. Philips has managed to deliver on all counts, and that’s before you get to the additional features like online connectivity and Ambilight. What’s more, this TV, though not exactly a bargain, is competitively priced. But if only Philips had included a Freeview HD tuner. ®
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