So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
Another Full HD LCD
- Good picture quality, four HDMI inputs
- High price, 100Hz mode flickers, not many legacy inputs
It has all the right specifications, but an imperfect 100Hz mode and a lack of inputs for older devices stop the 42PFL903D being an easy choice.
Price$ 3,299.00 (AUD)
Philips' latest 42-inch LCD offers good picture quality and plenty of digital inputs in a design suited to modern decor. It's not perfect, however, with a 100Hz mode that doesn't work quite as well as expected and not enough support for analog connections. The 42PFL9703D is a model that's targeted directly at other class-leading LCD ranges, like Sony's latest Bravias.
The screen is styled to suit modern living spaces, rather than the traditional, conservative looks we've seen on panels like Sony's Bravia KDL52W4000. The main accoutrement is thin, clear plastic that runs around the edge of the panel. The rest of the television is gloss black; the combined result is a striking and attention-drawing device.
Connectivity is a mixed bag. The television's ports are all rear-facing, rather than angled downwards. While this has the disadvantage of making the prospective footprint of the television larger (you can't shove it up against a wall), it allows for cables to be connected with far more ease and less crawling on the floor. Four HDMI ports allow plenty of digital devices to be connected, but the combined VGA/component input means that if you have multiple analog devices you'll be stuck switching them around constantly. The inclusion of two SCART ports is somewhat confusing — SCART is common in European home-entertainment technology but somewhat rarer here — although the ports can be used for composite or component input with an appropriate adapter cable. Dedicated S-Video and composite ports are also built in to the side of the unit.
The 42PFL9703D also has a DNLA-certified Ethernet port, which can be connected to your home network to allow for media streaming directly to the television. The next frontier is including Wi-Fi to further cut down on cables, but that's still a pipedream for now. We weren't able to successfully connect the 42PFL9703D to our network, but home users with a simpler system may have more luck. The television lacks adjustability for more advanced network settings, so power users will be left wanting.
When it comes to the job of actually displaying content, the 42PFL9703D does well. When watching an HD-DVD copy of Transformers we found images to be well-balanced, with a more natural colour gamut than the vibrancy we found in the Sony Bravia KDL52W4000. Contrast levels were consistently high and stayed equal from side-to-side, including at extreme viewing angles. However, we did find that there was a dramatic loss in contrast outside of the optimal vertical viewing angle — this might present issues if you're not a sedentary couch potato.
The panel also handled standard-definition content well and didn't blur DVD-quality video excessively. There was a noticeable amount of interpolation, but this is the price you pay for buying a new TV and viewing older content on it.
Philips offers 'Perfect Natural Motion' 100Hz technology that it claims uses twice the processing power of other panels to provide a smoother, jump-free experience. You'll most likely want to leave it disabled when you're watching films due to the flicker it introduces in static scenes, but it definitely helped during fast-motion video games. First-person shooters and racing games alike have a lot of scenes with noticeable motion; with 'Perfect Natural Motion' enabled this content did seem noticeably more fluid. It was also a boon for television sports and racing, where panning and zooming shots are commonplace.
As a high-definition model, the 42PFL9703D sits equally with its competitors such as the LG 42LG60FD. It's not the best in its class, but it's a solid performer with a few extra perks, like network connectivity, which might make it slightly more attractive for consumers.
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