Outside of beaming pictures from a projector, Philips’ monster Cinema 21:9 TV has been the closest you’ll get to experiencing true widescreen cinematic splendour in the living room. Now its second generation 58 incher cranks it up another notch with support for 3D.
On the 2D picture front, its higher-than-full HD resolution means it even upscales Blu-ray, but thankfully there are no ill effects. The picture is sharp, with rich, deep blacks and natural colours, thanks in part to its full-array LED backlighting. Motion isn’t the best, but the built-in 30W speakers sound solid and weighty.
You get two pairs of Philips’ active-shutter 3D glasses thrown in when you buy the TV and the 3D experience is almost as good as the 2D. You might need to bump up the brightness to compensate for the switch, but detail levels are still excellent and crosstalk (the double-vision effect) isn’t as obvious as it is on some rival sets.
Aspect ratio concerns (which we’ll come to later) are a side issue with 3D as you find yourself immersed in the action. The big screen brings it closer to the all-engulfing 3D cinema experience, especially with CGI footage that’s been created especially to show off effects.
However, with a proper 21:9 movie on Blu-ray, the experience comes into its own. Vistas seem even wider thanks to the Ambilight, and big-screen epics look incredible. Subtitles are often cropped, but this can be fixed if you pair the set with a Philips Blu-ray deck.
Having got used to Philips’ Ambilight, we wouldn’t want to watch a movie without it. The 21:9 has ‘Spectra 3’ Ambilight, which emits coloured light (based on the colours on screen) from the top and sides of the set on to the wall behind. It certainly enhances the HD movie viewing experience and we found it works best with sport and stylised cinematography.
Standard-def TV was never meant to be blown up this big, and it shows. Add a hi-def source, though, and the picture is fantastic. But you’ll still have to decide whether to stretch the image to fit, have black bars on either side, or crop the top and bottom.
When it comes to gaming, Xbox 360 and PS3 graphics are formatted for 16:9 displays, but while a picture stretched to fill the whole display looks awesome, it also looks wrong. If you fill the width and keep the correct aspect ratio you can lose important status info (maps, ammo count and the like) off the bottom of the screen.
The 21:9 is all tooled up for connections and also has built-in Wi-Fi for use with its YouTube and Picasa apps. On-demand content through Philips’ Net TV is limited, though, and it’s disappointing to see BBC iPlayer absent. You can use the 21:9’s browser to surf the web, but pages look a bit odd and the remote is no substitute for a mouse and keyboard.
With its Ambilight and cinematic aspect ratio, the unique Philips Cinema 21:9 is absolutely awesome for watching movies in both 2D and 3D. But as an all round daily viewer, its closest 3D rival, the 60-inch Sony KDL-60LX903 is a better option. It may be £500 more but its superior web-connected on-demand experience and built-in Freeview HD tuner give it the edge.