Vizio to ship ultra-wide-screen, 21:9 TVs by February

Vizio's ultra-wide-screen TVs take a new, wider shape, with a 21:9 aspect ratio compared to the 16:9 ratio of typical wide-screen TVs.

In addition to being friendly to CinemaScope movies, the extra-wide screen accommodates apps nicely. Vizio

LAS VEGAS--Do you think your wide-screen TV isn't wide enough? Vizio's 21:9 TVs have you covered.

The company's CinemaWide models, dubbed the XVT3D0CM series, offer three screen sizes (50, 58, and 71 inches) that have an aspect ratio of 21:9, which in person is noticeably wider than the normal 16:9 rectangle shape used by typical HDTVs.

The advantage of the shape, according to Vizio, is that it allows the sets to display 2.35:1 (CinemaScope) movies without any black bars. As the company points out, many big-budget Hollywood flicks are shown in CinemaScope, which means that standard 16:9 wide-screen HDTVs have to either zoom the image, cropping or distorting it, or show black bars above and below (more info). The new Vizios will have a 2,560x1,080 native resolution, compared to the 1,920x1,080 of standard TVs.

The wider aspect ratio also allows the TVs to display a full 16:9 wide-screen image while simultaneously showing a screen-worth of Vizio's Internet Apps.

If the above two paragraphs elicit a sense of deja vu, it's not a glitch in the Matrix. It's because Vizio's 21:9 TVs were announced at CES last year but, along with the company's full-array local dimming passive 3D XVT3D5 series and Google TV equipped VIA Plus XVT3D6SV series, never shipped in 2011.

The company assures us that the CinemaWide 50- and 58-inchers will be available to buy in February, with a new 71-inch size to follow later in the year. The main differences? The smaller models will be edge-lit with local dimming and a 120Hz refresh rate, while the 71-inch gets a full-array LED backlight with local dimming and 240Hz (more info).

Here's my quick take from last year, which still applies:

It's a cool idea, and I'm always intrigued by something different, but when I asked Vizio's reps how the TVs handled CinemaScope Blu-rays I was disappointed by the answer. Since such movies are formatted to a 1,920x1,080 resolution, some of the 1080 lines actually consist of black bars. That means that the 21:9 TVs have to zoom the image to eliminate those bars, scaling the image and preventing the 1:1 pixel matching achieved by actual 1,920x1,080 HDTVs. Still, I'm curious to see the sets in action, and I doubt most viewers will notice the scaling. On the other hand, they might notice the need to zoom/stretch/crop (or deal with black bars to either side) when watching normal 16:9 movies, TV shows, and sporting events.
When I mentioned these issues again to Vizio VP John Schindler during a CES 2012 prebrief, he told us that the company intended to face the chicken-and-egg problem of sparse ultra-wide-screen content by delivering the hardware first, and encouraging software and content developers to follow the lead.

Vizio XVT3D0CM series features:

  • Ultra-wide-screen 21:9 aspect ratio
  • 2,560 x 1,080 native resolution
  • Edge-lit LED backlight on 50- and 58-inch sizes
  • Full-array LED backlight on 71-inch size
  • local dimming on all three sizes
  • Passive 3D compatible with 4 pair of 3D glasses
  • 120Hz refresh rate (50, 58-inch) or 240Hz (71-inch)
  • QWERTY keyboard remote
  • Built-in Wi-Fi
  • Vizio Internet Apps

Vizio XVT3D0CM models:

  • Vizio XVT3D500CM 50-inch, available February, $TBD
  • Vizio XVT3D580CM 58-inch, available February, $TBD
  • Vizio XVT3D710CM 71-inch, price and availability TBD

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