Another feature first on the 42PF9831D is the Ambilight Surround system we mentioned earlier. Regular readers may have come across Ambilight before, where fluorescent tubes on the TV's sides emit coloured light that can be sympathetic in tone to the colour content of the picture. But where previous incarnations of Ambilight have only affected the left and right sides of the TV, Ambilight Surround fires its colours from all four of the TV's edges. And you know what? Gimmicky though it sounds, we actually love Ambilight Surround. It really does do as billed: namely, make your viewing experience more immersive and relaxing. The fact that it also looks cool is just a bonus.
Yet another feature first for the 42PF9831D is its use of Philips' new Pixel Plus 3 HD system, which improves on previous iterations with an extra level of colour processing, and more sophisticated digital noise reduction. We could go on for pages about the countless other intriguing features, but the pick of the bunch is Active Control, which continually assesses an incoming picture and automatically adjusts various picture settings according to what it sees.
From struggling to keep the 42PF9831D's Features section under control, we could actually wrap this Performance section up in one word: wow.
With high definition in particular there really is no over-stating just how sublime the 42PF9831D's pictures are. For starters, we can't remember ever seeing any other HD picture look so phenomenally sharp and detailed. Thanks to Pixel Plus 3 HD, our HD sources look like they've actually been made in some new, even higher resolution format than 720p or 1080i.
What's more, this jaw-dropping achievement is delivered seemingly effortlessly, in that the Pixel Plus 3 HD processing used to produce it generates practically zero nasty side effects, leaving the HD pictures to look as clean as they are detailed. ClearLCD, meanwhile, presumably plays a part in motion on the 42PF9831D that's arguably the clearest we've seen on an LCD TV to date, plus black levels that are both exceptionally deep for LCD and absolutely stuffed with the sort of lovely subtle colour shifts that bring dark picture areas to life. This in turn makes the picture as a whole seem more cinematic and solid.
Tearing ourselves away from high definition for a moment, we were slightly surprised to find that the 42PF9831D is also a mighty fine standard-definition performer. Why surprised? Because Pixel Plus 3 HD's extra noise reduction routines seem to do away with almost all of the video noise that's apparent on standard definition pictures with Pixel Plus 2 HD processing.
Really the only negative thing to say about the 42PF9831D's pictures is that its Digital Natural Motion processing system for making movement look smoother can cause some rippling and shimmering artefacts. But then Philips does at least provide the facility to simply turn the feature off.
With so much picture finery on show, we could have forgiven Philips if it hadn't put much effort into the 42PF9831D's sound. But actually its speakers churn out remarkable amounts of sheer power, accompanied by a frequency range that sounds as expansive as many a hi-fi we've heard.
We simply can't sing the praises of the 42PF9831D loudly enough. It's ahead of the LCD game in pretty much every department we can think of, making it high definition's new best friend and, amazingly, arguably a bargain even at nearly £3,000.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Nick Hide