Originality is a rare commodity in the crowded TV market, but the Philips Cinema 21:9 has it in spades. This is the first set we’ve tested to abandon the 16:9 widescreen format used by almost every modern television: instead, it’s designed to suit the 21:9 aspect ratio used by many big-budget Hollywood movies.
And there’s no denying the visual drama of the TV that results. The Philips is no taller than a typical mainstream 42in TV, but its ultra-wide shape means it can boast an overall screen size of 56in – which helps to explain its massive 142cm width.
Black bar killer
So why design a TV this way? It’s tempting to say ‘because it turns heads’, but in fact, there’s a surprising purism at work here. The Philips has been developed to combat the black bars that appear on a widescreen TV’s screen when you’re watching a cinemascope (2.39:1) movie.
These are a necessary evil with a conventional widescreen sets, but some find them irritating, preferring to use one of the zoom modes on their TV to eliminate them from view.
With the Philips, there’s no need – it can show cinemascope movies with no black bars, and there’s no denying that the end result is spectacular, both in terms of size and sheer quality.
This is an expensive TV, so it’s no surprise that Philips has equipped it with every picture-enhancing feature it has to offer, including 200Hz Clear LCD, Ambilight Spectra 3 backlighting and the Perfect Pixel HD image processor, and the resultant image is bright, colourful and crisp.
Exceptional picture and sound
The good news continues with the sound – this is a lusty-sounding set, its carefully concealed speakers delivering plenty of detail and considerable weight, if not necessarily deep bass.
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And the spec is first-rate too: there are five HDMI inputs, and the set features integrated Wi-Fi plus wired Ethernet provision and DLNA compatibility. That makes it as media-friendly as modern TVs get, its integrated Net TV facility giving it widget-driven access to services like YouTube, internet radio and more.
Not so good with Freeview
So far so impressive, but watching day-to-day TV is more of a problem. The Philips has a fine Freeview tuner, so images are sharp enough, but either you watch with very thick black bars to either side of your screen – an odd experience, but not too disturbing – or you zoom your picture to fill the screen, which results in some very oddly shaped images, with notable amounts of cropping at the top and bottom of the image. Neither is a particularly satisfying way to watch TV, which is something of an issue in a set costing this much.
This dilemma extends to gaming and DVDs or Blu-rays engineered in 1.85:1 (as opposed to 2.39:1) screen shapes – and you’ll also find that even when you’re watching a cinemascope movie, subtitles can cause some problems.