I just got my hands on a 42-inch Ambilight LCD TV from Philips. Ambilight, if you didn't know, is a system that shines light out of the sides of a TV set. The resulting halo reduces eyestrain, and makes the set feel like it's bigger than it really is. In a dark room, the effect is dramatic. This is a new model, with a border around the edges to reflect the light show without the need for a white wall. There are modes like Movie, Ambiance, Color, and Action: Action provides the quickest response, and Color mode locks the light down to one hue. The brightness is adjustable manually, or automatically by a light sensor.

Here's a video of my friend Alyssa trying to introduce the set to you all without giggling. Mission? Unsuccessful. The video is little more than a blooper roll, but on a slowish news day, I thought you'd enjoy. We would have shot more, but we figured it was time better spent just watching the TV. Jump for a photo, and more impressions of this beautiful TV.

Without running any benchmarks, I'll say I'm impressed by it. In a nutshell, the TV has a 1366x768 pixel display, is CableCard ready, and the picture has pretty decent black-levels for an LCD—so much that I actually did a double take; I initially thought I was using a plasma. (I'm sure that comparison wouldn't stand up to a hardcore test comparison with a high-end Pioneer Plasma, but take my initial mistake as a good thing.)

I could be wrong, but I believe the 4500:1 dynamic contrast ratio is due to the set's ability to selectively turn off or dim sections of the backlighting.

One thing I've yet to test: according to the spec sheet, the LCD only supports 1024x768 pixels when connected to a computer. That's somewhat disappointing, given that it's less than what the set should be capable of. And while there are dual HDMI inputs, there aren't any dedicated VGA or DVI inputs. Oh, one more nice perk is the built-in card reader, which can read images and MP3s and play them back on the set. No video support, however, from memory cards.

Philips 42PF9831D/37 TV [Philips]