Review Price free/subscription
If there's one thing I get asked about more than anything else in my capacity as a bloke who gets to spend an obscene amount of time with untold numbers of TVs, it's black bars. You know, the ones that sit above most films you watch at home these days.
People invariably hate them, especially when they appear on a widescreen TV, largely because they assume that's the whole reason companies started building widescreen TVs in the first place; so that films could be watched without black bars around them. They just don't realise that not all films are made the same.
For while some are shot using an aspect ratio (image width:image height) very close to that presented by a 16:9 TV, and so can appear without black bars, most are filmed using a much wider aspect ratio, such as 2.35:1 or 2.40:1. And so if you want to watch these films at home as the director intended, with no missing picture information, you have to put up with black bars to top and bottom, even on a widescreen TV.
Or at least, you did have to until today. For sprawling across the wall in front of me is Philips' Cinema 21:9 TV - a set that quite literally changes the shape of the UK TV market.
The clue, of course, is in the title. The big trick of this revolutionary TV is that it carries a 21:9 (2.39:1) aspect ratio rather than the usual 16:9, which means it's tailor made to show 2.35:1/2.4:1 films without having to put black bars above or below them. For the first time ever, such films can fill the entire screen area without having to look out of proportion or having parts of the image pushed out of frame.
As you might expect, the aesthetic impact of a 21:9 aspect ratio makes the Cinema 21:9 look completely unlike any TV you've seen before. Its extra width - stretched to a 56in diagonal size - seems much better suited to our horizontally-biased view of the world than a normal 16:9 TV. And so the Cinema 21:9's pictures seem to fill your field of vision much more completely and, crucially, immersively than those of a normal widescreen TV.
This sense of immersion is further enhanced by the TV's carriage of Philips' latest Ambilight Spectra 3 system, whereby light coloured to match the colour content of the source image spills appealingly - and uncannily accurately - out of the TV's sides and top edge.
Let's not forget, either, that the Cinema 21:9 is delivering what really does feel like acres of extra screen size without adding substantially to the typical height of a much smaller normal widescreen TV, meaning that it dominates your field of vision without overwhelming your room quite as much as you might expect.