The 50mm-thick 47PFL9664H/12 isn't the first ultra-slim TV that Philips has made. That honour belongs to the rather excellent Philips Essence 42PES0001D, launched at the start of 2009. But the £1,800, 47-inch, 1080p 47PFL9664H/12 LCD TV is the first ultra-slim set that Philips has managed to squeeze its Ambilight system into, along with easily its finest picture-processing technology yet.
Thin is in
Even though most normal people spend their time looking at the front of their TV, rather than its profile, ultra-skinny tellies are currently capturing the buying public's imagination like nothing else. The 47PFL9664H/12 manages to produce 47-inch pictures while measuring a mere 50mm thick.
That's about 20mm thicker than the latest ultra-slim TVs from Samsung and LG. But Philips has a very good excuse for the extra millimetres' presence: its Ambilight technology. Whereas Philips couldn't squeeze its unique system of coloured LED lights into the rear of the 38mm-thick Essence, it's done it with the 47PFL9664H/12, leading to the familiar pools of colour spilling from the TV's left and right rear sides.
As well as being strikingly stylish, the way the Ambilight colours adapt to match the colour content of the image you're watching -- down to a startlingly local level -- means the system makes the viewing experience both immersive and soothing on the eyes. The 47PFL9664H/12's bezel design is cute too, combining impressive slimness (it's barely an inch wide) with an unusual combination of a deep grey and black colour scheme.
The 47PFL9664H/12's slenderness hasn't compromised the TV's connectivity. In fact, with five HDMI inputs, a USB socket (with exceptionally comprehensive file-format support) and an Ethernet port among its connections, it's one of the best-connected TVs around, especially since the Ethernet port can actually connect the TV to the Internet, as well as allow you to access files from a DLNA-certified PC.
Full Web access
Whereas TVs with online features from every other brand direct you to a very limited content portal, Philips really does let you access the full Web -- warts and all. This can lead to some fiddly navigation issues, since most Web sites are designed for navigation with a mouse and keyboard, rather than a TV remote control, but we really appreciate having the freedom to go where we want. Note, though, that the TV's Opera browser doesn't support Flash, QuickTime, Media Player and so on. As a result, although the TV's streamlined Web-access system (for those who don't want full Net access) supports YouTube, you can't currently access iPlayer. If you're struggling to figure out how you're going to get the TV hooked up to your router or PC, fear not. The 47PFL9664H/12 also features built-in Wi-Fi. Excellent.
The 47PFL9664H/12's premium appeal shifts up yet another gear when you start to appreciate just how much video-processing muscle it offers. Thanks to the latest version of Philips' hugely powerful Perfect Pixel HD system and a 200Hz engine, there's really no element of the picture -- contrast, colour and, especially, motion and sharpness -- that doesn't have a heavy-duty, dedicated slice of video-processing capability focused on it.
Most of the picture-processing tools can be fine-tuned to a considerable degree by anyone confident enough to explore the TV's enormous on-screen menus. We'd recommend taking the plunge into the picture menus, because it's only via some semi-regular tinkering with some of the settings -- especially those pertaining to noise reduction, motion compensation and sharpness -- that you'll consistently get the very best pictures from the TV.
Indeed, the 47PFL9664H/12's very best pictures are downright spectacular. This TV really delivers the goods. Its colours are jaw-dropping. They're intense, dynamic, bright and yet startlingly natural in tone and extremely subtle when it comes to shading shifts and blends.