If you're finding it hard enough to keep up with TV technology as it is, we're afraid we have bad news for you today. For as well as LCD and plasma TVs, you've now got LCD LED TVs to consider. Before you get too disheartened though, there is also some good news. Namely that the TV manufacturers haven't just come up with a new TV technology for the sake of it. Rather the new LED dimension to LCD TVs has been created in a bid to make LCD TVs better.
The idea behind LED is that it tackles arguably the single biggest problem with 'traditional' LCD TVs: the single, always-on backlight. It's thanks to this single light that LCD struggles to show a convincing black level response, since it is, of course, difficult to achieve a proper black colour when you've always got to have a light shining through the LCD panels to show the other colours in an image.
What LED LCD TVs do, therefore, is replace this single LCD backlight with a number of separate, individually controllable clusters of LED light sources. Doing this means that when a part of a picture is meant to be black, the lights in that section can be switched off completely if necessary, enabling the TV to produce much deeper black levels than any standard LCD can do. What's more, these ultra-deep blacks can sit pretty much side by side with really bright colours and whites, making the 'evened out' dark scenes found with ordinary LCD technology look slightly flat by comparison.
LED backlighting is also credited with potentially delivering a more expressive colour palette, and reducing LCD's traditional issues with showing motion.
And there endeth the theory lesson. Let's now put all this fine talk to the test by checking out three of the first LED TVs to hit our shores.
Price: £2,300 More info: Philips Size (off stand): 108(d) x 627(h) x 1027(w)mm Weight: 27.6kg Resolution: 1920x1080 Native aspect ratio: 16:9 Claimed max contrast ratio: 2000,000:1 Claimed max brightness: 500cd/m2 Connections: Four v1.3 HDMI inputs; Two Scarts (both RGB); component video input; composite video input; S-Video input; D-Sub PC input; Stereo audio output; headphone jack; stereo audio inputs; CAM slot; RF input; coaxial digital audio output; USB; DNLA network port
As you might expect, the sophistication of LED technology relative to LCD means that it's currently a premium system. But even so, it has to be said that the £2,100 Philips is asking for its first LED TV, the 42in 42PFL9803H, looks pretty steep. After all, you can get decent 42in TVs for as little as £600 these days.
However, right from the start the 42PFL9803H seems hell bent on justifying its price. It looks really lovely, for instance, thanks to a seriously slender silver bezel and distinctive transparent outer 'shroud'. Plus it's fearsomely well connected, with highlights including four HDMIs, a USB port, and even a DLNA-ready Ethernet port allowing you to access files on a connected PC.
Then there's the truly huge amount of picture processing the 42PFL9803H carries. It comes fully loaded with the latest and fullest version of Philips' Perfect Pixel HD system, designed to improve pretty much every facet of the picture, from motion and colour through to contrast, noise reduction and fine detailing/sharpness - and we know from experience that the extent of the improvements the Perfect Pixel HD engine brings goes well beyond that of any similar system we can think of.
The impact of Perfect Pixel HD can be seen writ large all over the 42PFL9803H's generally superb pictures, but before we get into that side of things, there's the small matter of the 'LED effect' to consider. And this effect really is profound, enabling the 42PFL9803H to reproduce black levels much deeper than any standard Philips LCD TV. In fact, they're more profound than those of any standard LCD TV we've seen and even most plasmas, with the possible exception of Pioneer's KURO models. Even better, the superb black levels coexist with extremely bright peak whites and rich colours, delivering every last drop of LED's potential.
These LED-inspired talents join forces to gorgeous effect with the astounding sharpness of both HD and standard definition pictures courtesy of the Perfect Pixel HD engine. Colours are dazzlingly rich and vivid yet totally natural too, and motion is reasonably clean and, if you use the HD Natural Motion processing option, uniquely fluid.
With the 42PFL9803H's slender frame also producing some very credible sonics, the only issue we have with it, really, in keeping with other top-line Philips sets, is that you have to take great care with its extensive video settings if you want to keep the TV looking its best with different types of source. But provided you're willing to commit to this level of participation in your TV's daily life, the 42PFL9803H really is the business, and immediate proof of just how important LED could end up being.
Outstanding picture quality, gorgeous design, excellent connectivity and massive feature count Minus points
Complicated to use if you want to keep pictures are their best, expensive for a 42in TV