Philips 42PF9966 £4500

1st Jan 2005 | 00:00

Affordable television bliss

TechRadar rating:

4 stars

A good all-round performer, with bags of features - but there are some performance let-downs

At £4,500, Philips' 42PF9966 is relatively affordable by the standards of luxury plasma screens. And it certainly has what it takes in terms of looks and features. The highlight on the looks side is its use of fluorescent strip lights down each rear side, to generate a coloured 'aura' around the screen.

Part of Philips' new AmbiLight technology, these can be set to any colour you choose, or to change in response to the tone of the picture you're watching! As well as creating a visually striking effect, this actually enhances your viewing experience, as watching a picture against a sympathetic light proves far less tiring on your eyes.

AmbiLight isn't the 42PF9966's only claim to feature fame, since it's also the first plasma we've seen bearing Philips' Pixel Plus 2 processing system. As well as adding detail (like the original Pixel Plus), PP2 is now an umbrella term for a plethora of picture improvements.

These include Luminance Transient Improvement for more subtle colour nuances in the extra pixels, a 3D comb filter for removing moiring and crawl, and Colour Transient Improvement for reducing the 'ringing' effect around strongly contrasting edges.

We saw Pixel Plus 2 in action on Philips' stunning 32PF9986 LCD. And, set to work with Kill Bill 2, it looked darned impressive on the 42PF9966 too. The amount of extra detail apparent in the picture really is remarkable. For instance, we saw textures in the jacket and craggy face of Bill's 'surrogate father' Esteban Vihaio that just don't appear with any other screen.

And, unlike Pixel Plus 1, there are practically no shimmering artefacts around movement or glimmering around edges. The intensity of the 42PF9966's colours is also spectacular. The opening shots of the Face to Face chapter, with their sunrise, jungle, blue sky and light-blue car shots, have never looked more vivid than they did on the Philips.

Slim Surprise

Things aren't completely perfect however. First of all, the screen's contrast performance is nothing special - which left a distinctly greyed over look to what should be the inky darkness of The Bride's coffin. Second, we were troubled by the amount of noise in the picture. This wasn't an issue with our pristine Kill Bill 2 DVD, but with ordinary broadcasts, or even some Sky Digital feeds, Pixel Plus 2 slightly exaggerated any noise inherent to the source signal, along with common plasma noise issues such as grey dot crawl.

The 42PF9966's skinny speaker strip delivers better audio than we'd expected. We cranked the soulful music that plays as The Bride works to escape from the coffin good and loud without any sign of nasty distortions, while explosive moments like Budd's shotgun blast as the bride bursts into his trailer had plenty of punch. The soundstage is a bit narrow, and trebly moments can appear harsh - but this is nothing serious.

Philips doesn't seem to have mastered plasma technology quite as successfully as LCD. The 42PF9966, while far from being a stinker, continues that trend. We await Philips' imminent 42in LCD with considerable interest...

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