If you're going to ask about £3,000 for a 42-inch TV these days, you'd better have a pretty compelling argument for why parting with such a vast sum of money makes sense. Just as well, then, that Philips' £2,800 42PF9831D justifies its cost by being pretty much a showcase for all of Philips' very latest TV innovations.
In fact, since there seem to be few if any other companies out there currently innovating as much as Philips, the 42PF9831D could even go so far as to argue that it's actually the most cutting-edge LCD TV currently available. Which suddenly makes that £2,800 price ticket seem a whole lot easier to swallow, doesn't it?
The 42PF9831D sets about making its price seem like good value as soon as you get it out of its box. For as well as being exceptionally well constructed, the 42PF9831D is almost deliriously easy on the eye.
Three elements combine to create the 42PF9831D's beauty: the gorgeous gloss-black screen surround, an utterly unique white 'canvas' back panel that stands many inches proud from each of the screen's sides, and the fact that its edges glow in the dark.
Clearly the last two points warrant further explanation. The canvas and the glowing bits are related, of course, and have to do with the TV's use of Ambilight Surround technology. We'll cover this more fully in the Features section of the review, but essentially the canvas wings have been incorporated so that the coloured light from the Ambilight's fluorescent bulbs has something to bounce off, even if you don't position the TV next to or on a light-coloured wall.
Moving around to the TV's back, we find a rear panel that's exceptionally well stocked with connections. The star of the show, undoubtedly, is a pair of HDMIs, providing twice the digital connectivity of most of today's TVs, meaning you can plug in a Sky HD box and an Xbox 360, for example. But outstanding support comes from a set of component video inputs, a PC jack, two RGB-capable Scarts, and a bunch of really unexpected multimedia jacks.
These include, for instance, an Ethernet port so you can hook up and play files from your PC. Then there's a multimedia card slot for playing back JPEGs and MP3s directly from any of seven different types of storage card. And finally there are two USB ports for hooking up such things as a USB storage key for direct playback of MP3, JPEG, MP3 Pro, LPCM, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, DivX and XviD files.
We could probably write more on the 42PF9831D's features alone than we'd normally write in an entire review. But we'll try and keep things as brief as possible, we promise.
The single most important feature of the 42PF9831D is its use of new ClearLCD technology. This effectively comprises two main components: Overdrive Control and a Dimmable Scanning Backlight. ODC's job is to ramp up the voltage applied to the LCD panel to speed up the liquid crystals' reaction time -- resulting, it's claimed, in a lightning-fast LCD response time of just 6ms.
The new backlight system, meanwhile, attempts to mimic the scanning effect of CRT TVs via new hot cathode fluorescent lamps that enable the TV to vary the amount of light in each pixel and the duration of time each pixel is lit -- two things not possible with standard LCD backlight systems, but which should make moving objects look cleaner and sharper. Also, since the new backlights in the 42PF9831D can have their output reduced by 30 per cent more than standard backlights, we should hopefully see noticeably deeper, more natural black levels (see Performance for more on this).