The Ambilight TVs are now pretty well known and although the concept of lighting the wall behind the TV isn't to everyone's taste, they're very well liked by many of the people who actually own one. Philips clearly believes in the technology too, and has continued to develop it with products such as Aurea taking Ambilight to a whole new level.
The Cineos 9703 doesn't have the forward-facing Ambilight, but it does now have the third, top-mounted strip that promises to improve the level of immersion you feel when watching a film or TV programme. But there's more to this TV than some flashing lights, so let's take a look at it in more detail. We tested the 42-inch version, the Philips Cineos 42PFL9703, which is available now for around £1,700.
The 9703 is one of the most gorgeous Philips TVs we've ever seen. The company tended towards rather dull-looking screens in the past, but happily those days seem to be behind them. The rounded edges and glossy black finish on this TV are very appealing indeed.
The front is largely undisturbed by any controls, with the only visible break in the bezel a lip that runs around the whole outer edge of the TV. We'll talk about this a little more later, but it's not just here for aesthetic reasons: it's designed to help with the TV's sound.
At the rear of the set there are three HDMI sockets and a pair of Scart inputs, as well as component and VGA for connecting analogue HD sources. On the side there's a fourth HDMI socket, as well as a USB connection, which as far as we can tell isn't especially functional.
The remote control is light, and has one especially interesting feature: a scroll wheel to navigate around the menu systems. In practice it can be a pain, sometimes skipping too far down a list or going a bit mad. We do like the one-button option to switch off the Ambilight, which you will want to do during the day, or when you're watching certain TV shows.
The 9703's stand-out feature is the Ambilight, which for the uninitiated projects a gentle glow of light behind the TV in a colour that complements what's happening on screen. There are several modes and many settings for you to play about with. For a start, you can either have the lights on or off. Then there are various brightness settings, which will probably be useful if you watch in a dark room, where there's no need to have it up full whack.
Interestingly, there's also an option to manually set the colour of the Ambilight. This won't be much use for watching films, but if you're just watching TV and want a little ambient light to reduce eye-strain, or if you don't want a constantly changing backlight, this feature might appeal.
Philips has told us it has adjusted the way the picture processing works in this range. In the past, it was possible to turn everything off, and have the raw, unprocessed picture on screen. Now the company has altered its strategy slightly, and maintains some processing at all times. If we hadn't seen the TV in the flesh, we might be annoyed by that, but we really didn't see any problems.
From the outset, we were impressed by the picture quality of the 42PFL9703. Our Blu-ray test material looked excellent in full 1080p: we thoroughly enjoyed both Spider-Man and our current favourite disc, Batman Begins. Some fiddling with the picture settings was required, but once backlight, colour and contrast were tweaked we found ourselves with a lovely picture.