Philips Cinema 21:9 TV: Hands-on photos

We've been looking forward to the Philips Cinema 21:9 LCD TV for what seems like aeons, so when it finally arrived, we fired off some photos -- it's exciting stuff...

Ian Morris
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For what seems like aeons now, we've been desperate to get our hands on this TV. Casually called the Cinema 21:9, its formal title is the Philips 56PFL9954H, which gives a clue to the size of the TV. Now this 56-inch beast has arrived and we're truly excited by it. Nothing we've seen for a long time has created as much of a stir as this incredible-looking TV.

The 21:9 screen ratio means you can lose those pesky black bars on 2.35:1-ratio movies for good. But there's no such thing as a free lunch, and in this case the price is that 16:9 or 4:3-ratio video will either have black bars at the side, or be geometrically stretched -- or in the case of 4:3, potentially both.

Philips isn't suggesting this TV is for everyone. At more than £4,000, it's a product for home-cinema enthusiasts who want something really special to enjoy their films on, in the way the director intended. We're well aware of all the potential problems with stretching material, but we're pleased to see that Philips leaves the choices about how to adjust the TV up to you, with a bevy of options we explore over the next few pages.

A full review will appear in our TV review channel soon. Until then, feast your eyes on these shots and plonk any questions you've got in the comments section below.

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Philips calls this the Cinema 21:9. It has a resolution of 2,560x1,080 pixels, which is achieved by scaling every three pixels up to four. Because the maths is simpler, the picture quality should remain intact, whereas a different ratio would be hard to scale.
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As always, Philips has its excellent dual-location speakers. The grille at the front conceals the tweeters...
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...while at the rear of the set, a pair of woofers handle the low-end sound, and create a more realistic bass.
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There are five HDMI inputs on this TV -- four here, at the back, and another on the side of the TV. Philips has included so many because home-cinema enthusiasts typically have a plethora of equipment to connect.
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Component, Scart and VGA inputs finish the rear panel's connectivity.
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Despite its 56-inch screen size, the Cinema 21:9 is a reasonably thin set. It's not one of these new generation of toast-thin TVs, but it's more than thin enough for most people.
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Side inputs include composite, HDMI and a USB socket.
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When you watch 4:3 content, you can choose to have it appear in its original ratio, in the middle of the screen. This is emphatically not what the TV is designed for.
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Or you can stretch it to 16:9. The TV won't allow you to scale 4:3 material to the full 21:9. Because that would be absurd.
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16:9 material, in its native resolution will, of course, have black bars on the left and right of the TV.
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But you can stretch the image out to fill the whole screen. The TV does this by pulling the outer edges of the image more than the middle. This means people appearing in the middle should be relatively undistorted.
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1080p, 2.35:1 material, at its native size, will produce black bars all around the picture. The TV can zoom in and pull the image out to fill the screen without stretching it, but you're expanding the image past the ideal 1:1 pixel ratio of a normal 1080p TV.
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As you can see though, when you get some full-on widescreen material, this TV really shines.
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On the right-hand side of the TV, there are some subtle, touch-sensitive controls.
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The remote control is a delight. It's weighty and comfy to hold.
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It also has a backlight around certain key buttons.
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And, as the remote suggests, this TV has a three-sided Ambilight. This is designed to further involve you in the action by throwing light complimentary to the on-screen action on the wall behind.
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The Cinema 21:9 has an all-new menu system too, which should make configuration a breeze.
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There's even an electronic version of the manual included on the TV.
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There you have it: one of the most interesting TVs we've had in the building for some time. We'll be giving it a proper review in the next week, so keep an eye on the reviews channel for our thoughts.

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