Philips Aurea TV

Philips Aurea TVWe know what you’re thinking: “Does the combination of the words ‘credit’ and ‘crunch’ not mean anything to Absolute Gadget?” Well, the economy’s not going to get any better until we all start spending again. So, if you do still have a job (and a spare few thousand quid knocking about) why not treat yourself to the best TV money can buy right now. Check out the final page of this grouptest for what we believe that is…

Hitachi UT42MX70

You might not realise it on first read but Hitachi has hidden a clue to the allure of this TV in its name, as the UT stands for Ultra Thin. With a depth of only 35mm, compared to the 93mm of our group test winner, it’s truly deserving of the overused description ‘svelte’. Has it lost anything on the way to achieving this crash diet? Well, there’s no built-in TV tuner or speakers, so those without separate components will be left watching silent snow. Sadly, the slim form factor also only leaves room for one HDMI input, which might have been OK a few years ago but is unsatisfactory in a world of SkyHD, high-def gaming, Blu-ray players and upscaling DVD machines. At least those who are set up to enjoy the UT42MX70 will enjoy 100Hz picture processing and Hitachi’s 16bit Picture Master HD processing.

VERDICT: 6/10

Specifications
Price: Around £2,000
Screen type: LCD
Screen size: 42-inch
Contrast Ratio: 10,000:1 
Display Resolution: 1,920 x 1,080
Connectivity: 1 x HDMI, 1 x S-Video, 1 x PC Input,
Speakers: N/A

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Philips Aurea 42PFL9903H

Philips approaches its Aurea range of televisions a little differently to its competitors. At the front, technology in the TV frame extends the picture using colours that match the screen image. At the back, further matching light is splashed onto the wall behind. This being a second generation Aurea, the techies have worked their magic to improve that colour matching. The result sees a system too easily dismissed as a gimmick working to give the viewer a sense of immersion rarely seen in other screens. And there’ll be plenty of different viewing experiences to savour that glow with, thanks to a generous four HDMI connections, a USB port and even an Ethernet port to access media files on your PC. Meanwhile, Philips’ Perfect Pixel HD video processing makes sure the image onscreen is as immersive as the colours outside it. Only the occasional problem with the depth of black images lets it down.
 
VERDICT: 8/10

Specifications
Price: Around £2,500
Screen type: LCD
Screen size: 42-inch
Contrast Ratio: 30,000:1 
Display Resolution: 1,920 x 1,080 
Connectivity: 4 x HDMI, 2 x Scart, 1 x component, 1 x PC Input, 1 x USB, 1 x Ethernet Port
Speakers: 2 x 15W

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Samsung LE46A786

It may seem like the contrast ratio quoted in the Tech Specs box below is a typo, but that’s not the case – even if the Samsung LE46A786 never even gets close to the 2,000,000:1 figure. Amazingly, its real score of over 200,000:1 is nothing to be sniffed at. That depth is down to the LED backlighting, which uses 640 individual bulbs to brighten or darken zones on the screen.
Plasma TVs may rule the roost when it comes to black levels, but this is our LCD of choice for that function. The picture quality also benefited from the settings available in Samsung’s 100Hz Motion Plus processing. Switching between low, medium and high settings allowed images from different sources – such as HD TV or a games console – to be processed differently and trial and error with each type produced better viewing results. If you can’t afford the Pioneer Kuro, then this is your new TV.

VERDICT: 9/10

Specifications
Price: Around £1,600
Screen type: LCD
Screen size: 46-inch
Contrast Ratio: 2,000,000:1
Display Resolution: 1,920 x 1,080 
Connectivity: 4 x HDMI, 1 x Component Video, 2 x Scart, 1 x PC Input, 1 x USB port
Speakers: 2 x 10W

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Sharp LC-52XS1E

Imagine the effect paying off £9,000 of your mortgage would have. Envision the brand new small car you could buy for £9K. Remember that you may have to put your kids through university some day. Then look at the Sharp LC-52XS1E and dream, just for a moment, that such a TV could grace your living room. At just a little over 2cm thick it’s truly a thing of beauty, with a silver finish to enliven any modern home. It’s not all style over substance, though. Pin-sharp images use full-bodied colours and very impressive black levels to paint a dazzling world of HD across its ample 52-inch screen. Now fall back down to Earth and remember that for half the price you could get the 60-inch Kuro. It’s a tough break, but we just can’t sign off on a purchase that’s twice that figure.

VERDICT: 8/10

Specifications
Price: Around £9,000
Screen type: LCD
Screen size: 52-inch
Contrast Ratio: 100,000:1 
Display Resolution: 1,920 x 1,080 
Connectivity: 3 x HDMI, 1 x Component Video, 1 x Composite, 2 x Scart, 1 x S-video, 1 x PC Input, 1 x USB port
Speakers: 2 x 7.5W

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Sony KDL-46Z4500 

The list of connections available on the Sony KDL-46Z4500 is enough to get cinefiles’ mouths watering, but it’s the picture processing possibilities that really inspire hope. Most high-def TVs use 100Hz processing to translate onscreen movements and make them look smoother and this screen takes things a step further with 200Hz processing. While that sounds like twice the bang for your buck, in reality it only generates an extra three frames of image data for each frame that exists in the original image. When you consider the images are also put through the new Image Blur Reduction feature to enhance their sharpness on the way to that processor, we expected good things. And the KDL-46Z4500 delivered – to a point. Images are some of the best LCD has to offer, even if the 200Hz leap falls a little short of our high expectations.

VERDICT: 8/10
  
Specifications
Price: Around £2,000
Screen type: LCD
Screen size: 46-inch
Contrast Ratio: 80,000:1 
Display Resolution: 1,920 x 1,080
Connectivity: 3 x HDMI, 1 x Component Video, 3 x Composite, 2 x Scart, 1 x S-Video, 1 x PC Input, 1 x USB port, 1 x Ethernet Port
Speakers: 2 x 9W, 1 x 12W subwoofer
 
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Sony KDL-52W4500

In this grouptest, the Sony KDL-52W4500 is more defined by what it isn’t than what it is. It’s not the largest screen, coming in joint-second to the (albeit twice-the-price) Pioneer Kuro. It also won’t win any prizes for its waistline, being considerably thicker than the Hitachi UT42MX70. And it only has half the 200Hz processing power of the other Sony model tested here. For all that, it performs extremely well when it comes to image clarity and colour and offers six extra inches of viewing space compared with those 46-inch sets. What stops it being a truly good all-rounder are some annoying contradictions. For example, a media player connected to the Digital Media Port can playback audio and video files, but only JPEG images and MP3 audio files can be played through the USB port or the Ethernet connection.

VERDICT: 6/10

Specifications
Price: Around £2,199
Screen type: LCD
Screen size: 52-inch
Contrast Ratio: 50,000:1 
Display Resolution: 1,920 x 1,080 
Connectivity: 3 x HDMI, 1 x Component Video, 1 x Composite, 2 x Scart, 1 x PC Input, 1 x USB port, 1 x Ethernet port
Speakers: Optional 2 x 10W

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Pioneer Kuro PDP-LX6090

If you were an MP looking to stick the UK taxpayers with the bill for the best TV money can buy, this would be on your expenses form. For starters, the 60-inch screen is large enough to make those leaning towards the option of a HD projector have some major second thoughts. Plant this baby on your wall and you won’t spend sleepless nights second-guessing your decision and wondering if you should have gone down the projection route. But while size is – on this occasion – all important, it’s the technology powering this beast that really delivers.
Kuro is the Japanese word for black and that’s no coincidence, as the televisions in the series pride themselves on delivering a truly impressive contrast ratio. This being the ninth generation of Kuro TVs, things have taken a further step up. Every pixel on screen can be controlled to become the deepest black or the brightest white, giving the PDP-LX6090 a phenomenal contrast ratio. This is backed up by a terrific colour range that paints a picture worth a billion words. Images are also displayed as they were intended by filmmakers – at 24 frames per second.
Where’s the downside, you’re probably thinking? Will it only take a couple of HDMI connections and skimp on the other inputs? Thankfully, not, with three HDMI v1.3 inputs and three Scart connections, although S-video is oddly lacking. Freeview is, as you’d expect these days, built in to the system and it can even be output to other devices using those Scart connections.
However, one minor omission comes in the form of the USB 2.0 connection. While the port on the side of the television allows for easy access to JPEG images on a USB memory device, there’s no support for video formats such as DivX or XviD. The only other missing elements are the added extras you’d normally take for granted. You might think shelling out more than four large would buy everything you’ll need, but in reality it only includes a stand and those looking to add matching speakers or a wallmount will find themselves dipping into their deep pockets again.
None of which can take the shine of what is a truly magnificent television. If you’ve got that kind of cash, this is where it should go.

VERDICT: 9/10

Specifications
Price: Around £4,100
Screen type: Plasma
Screen size: 60-inch
Contrast Ratio: 33,000:1 
Display Resolution: 1,920 x 1,080 
Connectivity: 3 x HDMI, 1 x Component Video, 3 x Scart, 1 x PC Input, 1 x USB port
Speakers: Optional 2 x 18W

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