back to article Philips Cineos 42PFL9603D Ambilight LCD TV

Philips' Ambilight feature at first seems bizarre: back-mounted lights that change hue as the dominant screen colour does. However, it's hard to switch off once you’ve used it. So what do we make of Philips' new, uncompromisingly-designed LCD model that has hidden speakers, the latest image processing technology and Ambilight …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    They're awesome... but don't waste your money

    I've had an Ambiilight for quite a while now, they really do enhance the atmosphere and make watching a easier (causing less eye strain).

    But, there is no way its worth the price premium they're charging, you can buy a decent 50" for less money and still have money for a Surround sound system.

  2. Joerg

    Philips Ambilight and micro-sub.. this product is a joke..

    ..really. An expensive joke. Watching movies and tv programmes anyway it's a real pain on this thing.

    Philips R&D engineers are completely out of mind and those actually buying this stuff have no clue of what they are doing.

    A screen that has sound that makes the wall vibrate by direct contact and so the screen itself continously vibrates ? That's a joke.. really, but they actually did it and are selling it.

    And then the Ambilight thing... no one with a grain of salt and a basic knowledge of the human eye, video coding and such would ever design a thing like that.

    Just ask yourself... do theatres in general and then the most expensive and highest quality IMAX ones have Ambilight like lights, perhaps ? NO! That's a no! No way! And why ? Because IMAX engineers and everyone else in the industry would be just too dumb to think about that OR maybe simply because Philips R&D engineers are selling a product designed by marketeers that just goes against the basics of human vision?

    When watching a screen the light must come only from the picture on the screen, no other lights around it, ever. Do that and you are actually losing information that way. Your eyes will try to interpolate both on the time and space axes to include the lights around the screen and they will try to balance the focus between them.. the optical flow axis will get heavily corrupted by that. That's just what Ambilight does, it actually causes the eye to lose information. That's not the way to watch movies at all, and that's for sure.

  3. David Gosnell

    @ Joerg

    Have you ever actually watched an Ambilight set? It's one of those things that by all accounts shouldn't work (for all the reasons you state) but in practice certainly does.

  4. Mike Dyne
    IT Angle


    For what purpose does the ethernet port on the back serve? The mind boggles. Can I plug it in to my router and access my NAS drive from it? Surely not?

  5. Robert Grant

    @ Joerg

    I agree with David Gosnell, for some reason it does work. And it's possibly harder to make it span the entire perimeter of an IMAX screen than it is to put it round a telly.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ambilight -more than a 'joke'

    In my experience, Ambilight opinion can generally be divided into two camps. Those who have lived with the product - at least to the length of watching a full movie in typical ambient lighting levels - and those have either seen it in a showroom or in a review.

    The idea of putting a light source behind the set is not new and in fact the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) has recommended it for years - their recommendation is the ouput of the light shouldn't be more than 10% of the peak white output of the device. This applies to any TV and you can try it for yourself.

    All Philips have attempted to do is to take this idea and more accurately tie it to what's happening on the screen. Ambilight itself has also been subjected to a number of independent tests in Universities in both the US and Europe, in addition to the research conducted by Philips own lighting research team. You can find all this information on the web.

    It's also not strictly accurate to compare the technology of a TV to how a cinema screen is viewed partly because the television screen is actually the direct light source whereas the cinema screen isn't, so the light in the cinema is already 'softer' - one of the things many people actually find attractive. However, the next time you are in the cinema have a look around and you will see that far from being pitch black, there are actually a large number of low level light sources around the room - and not just the escape routes - for the same reason, it gives the eye an easier time over the duration of the movie giving the perception that the contrast level is better - ditto Ambilight.

  7. Simon
    IT Angle


    Yeah, as Mike Dyne said, why has this TV got an ethernet port on the back?

    Mr Phelan, please tell us now, im sooo curious.

  8. amanfromMars Silver badge

    A little something of NEUKlearer NeoConCERN.

    "OR maybe simply because Philips R&D engineers are selling a product designed by marketeers that just goes against the basics of human vision?" ...... Joerg • Tuesday 12th August 2008 13:06 GMT

    And what do you know of the basics of human vision, Joerg? Does the following ring any bells/join up any brain cells ...... "Sight is not something Received, it is something which our Brains Transmit as a Virtual Accompaniment/Value Added Extra to the Perception of Reality and for Senses to Experience?"

    Red Pill or Blue Pill ..... or Orange Tab, Joerg?

    Do not underestimate the Brightness of Orange for IT always overestimates in Darker MetaDataPhysical Matters .... for the Bitter Sweetness of Enlightenment in Adaptively Enriched Paths....... 42 Inspire and Engage in ............ Well, AI Beta EduTainment for QuITe Alien ProgramMIng is just One Ambient Module.

  9. Brandon

    joerg = fanboi

    I don't know what he's promoting, but he wreaks of a fanboi. He's probably my friend that just bought a $3000 samsung but turned out to hate the motion processing that came with it.... bleh... it's like watching the olympics fireworks show... so fake!

  10. Gareth Irwin

    Being an IT site

    you would think the ethernet port would be a high priority in the review, jesus.

    I am guessing for updates.

  11. Kristian Walsh Silver badge

    Ethernet port... for playing media. To quote the manual:

    "You can link up your TV on a PC network in your

    home.Watch your photos and listen to your music

    from any linked PC on the TV.The PC network

    feature of this TV is DLNA certified.

    You can use Microsoft Windows XP or Vista, Intel

    Mac OSX or Linux"

    Wheter it works with video content is not made clear. Only photos and music are mentioned explicitly.

    "Supported media server software

    •Windows Media Player 11 (on Microsoft

    Windows XP* or Vista*)

    •PacketVideo Twonky Media 4.4.2 (on PC* &

    Intel Mac OSX*)

    •Sony Vaio media server (on Microsoft Windows

    XP or Vista)

    •TVersity v. (on Windows XP*)

    •Nero 8 - Nero MediaHome (on Microsoft

    Windows XP)

    •DiXiM (on Windows XP)

    •Macrovision Network Media Server (on

    Windows XP)

    •Fuppes (on Linux)

    •UShare (on Linix)

    •Philips Media Manager (on Microsoft Windows


    •Philips NAS SPD8020"

    Bit disappointed in El Reg, of all places, not checking this out...

  12. Frank Bough


    ...I think it might be instructive for you to type the words "grading suite" into Google and see what appears. You simply couldn't be wroger.

  13. Joerg

    Too many plants here ? Paid review ? Philips monitoring?

    @Brandon; @amanfromMars; @Anonymous Coward; @Robert Grant; @David Gosnell : Well, I wonder.. are you all the same Philips employee or are you a bunch of plants from Philips monitoring this review that in that case it would mean you just paid for, uh ?

    No, really. You couldn't reply with anything else other than personal attacks and insults, and then you call me fanboy ? What a pathetic and silly attempt of yours, indeed.

    SMPTE statements are out of context, they never promoted anything like the silly Ambilight and that's for sure. Ambilight doesn't reduce eye strain, it actually increases it. It's not something to debate, if you knew the basics of human visual system and the way the eyes work and react to light then you would know.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Ethernet port

    You can connect this TV to your home network and access any video, music, and photos that you have stored there.

    It's compatible with several media server apps on Windows, OSX, and Linux.

  15. Martin Huizing
    Thumb Up


    Pls copy your PhD in Ophthalmology and Optometry so at least you look professional. Otherwise I'd have to agree with the others.

    Good reading on eye strain:

    I like this part covering some reasons:

    "the luminance (brightness) difference between what is being looked at and its immediate environment"

    Ambilight would in fact lower the contrast ratio and 'soften' the blow, wouldn't you agree, fanboi?

  16. Big Pete


    Although i can't comment on the 42PFL9603D i have had the 42PF9831/69 model for a few years and find the Ambilight feature quite good and easy on the eyes.

    Unless you've tried the Ambilight feature for a while i can't see how you can comment.

  17. Joerg

    @Martin Huizing: And you would be the one judging others,uh?

    Right? Because you are so cool and smart and with many degrees, uh? You are a realy pro, right? You have full knowledge of everything,right?

    A simple quote like that means nothing, you don't have a clue of what are you are talking about. How old are you, five ?

  18. James Anderson
    Thumb Up

    Whats the point!

    DVDs dont do high def in fact most are distorted to fit into the olde worlde squarer format.

    There is some broadcast high def content but having more pixels doesnt make "Around the World in 80 Gardens" or "Last Choir Standing" any more watchable. Although a bit of Tudor totty in HD might make it worth watching the collection of anachronisms the BBC calls historical drama.

  19. Fuion


    <Red Pill or Blue Pill ..... or Orange Tab>

    ---> One Red Pill + One Orange Tab.

  20. Mark


    There is actually good thinking behind the Ambilight system. It is attempting to replicate both the felling of a cinema and of old school CRT televisions.

    In the cinema the screen is white and reflective - it reflects light from the projector into your eyes. However, since the screen is not a perfect mirror it scatters the light thus there are other paths for light rays to follow to reach the eye. As these light rays are not direct reflections they change drastically with every tiny movement of the projector, your head and even the movements of the building as a whole. Hence you do not see a picture but merely get a wash of the colour components of the picture on the screen. This is actually a reason why cinema's are often painted with dark colours - you don't want too many reflective surfaces making the wash too bright.

    From a visual processing point of view - most of your colour perception is in the fovea, while outside the fovea you see mostly in greyscale with the colour being filled in by the brain. Hence the wash effect affects how you perceive the colours outside the area you are focusing on.

    Try sometime watching a film outside and see how the experience differs, without walls and similar for the light to reflect off the experience is much worse. For example an explosion on screen no longer lights up the room drawing you in and making you feel closer to the action.

    The effect is similar with a CRT, the phosphors on the screen emit in a wide beam (hence why you can see a CRT picture from any angle - unlike a flat screen) and so there are multiple paths for the light to reach your eye and you get the same lighting effect in the room and in your perception of the picture as in a cinema.

    Unfortunately because of the way flat screen LCD panels work, using polarised light from a rear mounted source, the light from an LCD is polarised and the vast majority heads out perpendicular to the plane of the panel (hence why it is difficult to see a panel at an angle). Thus you do not get this nice colour wash effect that you get with both CRT and projection. Hence why there is a need to have a system similar to Ambilight for LCD systems - it brings this colour wash effect back into play and enhances the experience. Try it sometime and you will see how much better a system with Ambilight is than a system without. Note than since Plasma display systems do not have the same problems with polarised light there is no need for such a system.

    Disclaimer: I don't work for Phillips, I don't currently have an Ambilight TV, I have taken a course in visual processing as part of my IT degree.

  21. Player_16


    You're just a caveman aren't you; staring at the flames

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