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Philips Cinema 21:9 58PFL9955H/12 review

John Archer



  • Recommended by TR
Philips Cinema 21:9 58PFL9955H/12


Our Score


User Score


  • Vibrant and well saturated colours
  • Excellent sound quality
  • Amazing picture quality


  • No Freeview HD tuner
  • Crosstalk with 3D
  • Slight haloing during off-axis viewing

Review Price free/subscription

Key Features: 4 HDMI slots ; HD and 3D ready; Built-in Wi-Fi; Two SCARTs (both RGB); 21:9 movie aspect ratio

Manufacturer: Philips

The problem with widescreen TVs is simply that they’re not wide enough. Or at least, they’re not wide enough to truly satisfy your average movie addict.

The reason for this will be abundantly apparent to anyone who’s ever been annoyed to see black bars above and below pictures on a DVD or Blu-ray. The simple fact is that the majority of films made for a cinema release are shot using a wider aspect ratio than the 16:9 ratio of your widescreen TV. Instead they favour a ratio around 2.35:1 that requires the dreaded black ‘letterbox’ bars when they’re shown on even a widescreen TV.

Cue the Philips 58PFL9955H. For this is Philips’ new 'Cinema 21:9' telly, built to deliver an aspect ratio that works out at around 2.39:1 in movie width terms. So it can show all those lovely super-wide films without the need for black bars - check it out in action in our IFA 2010 First Look report, complete with video.

There is a catch with this that we should clear up right away, though. Namely that unfortunately, although the Blu-ray spec supports the encoding of full 2.35:1 film transfers that could map perfectly to every single one of the 2560x1080 pixels built into the 58PFL9955H’s 58in screen, no Blu-ray disc has yet used the option. Instead, black bars are placed above and below pictures at the mastering stage for 16:9 TVs, making them part of the picture that gets sent to your TV.

The 58PFL9955H thus has to use processing to ‘blow up’ the incoming 2.35:1-ratio sources so that the built-in black bars are pushed off the edges of the screen. This means interpolating pixels into the picture to fill the space that would have been occupied by the black bars. But it also means manipulating the image’s geometry at its left and right edges, for otherwise the process of magnifying the picture would also push the left and right sides of the original picture off the screen.

Normally we’d be highly suspicious of such tinkering with pictures — and we’d definitely be much happier if there were some ‘real’ 21:9 Blu-ray transfers for the 58PFL9955H to work with. But the quality of Philips’ aspect ratio processing and the sheer pleasure in seeing ultra-wide films appearing without black bars instantly allays our ‘purist’ concerns.

Before we go into more detail on the unparalleled experience of watching the 58PFL9955H, though, we’ve lots of other interesting things to talk about. Kicking off with the set’s truly lovely design. It catches the eye right away, obviously, thanks to its extreme width. But also very lovely is the brushed aluminium black bezel - a big improvement over the black plastic sported by Philips’ original, 56in Cinema 21:9 set launched last year.

This being a Philips TV, the 58PFL9955H’s design additionally benefits from Ambilight, where coloured light capable of matching — to a startlingly local degree — the image content is emitted from the TV’s edges. Happily this light comes from the TV’s top edge as well as its left and right edges, so the Ambilight effect doesn’t lose cohesion despite the TV’s extreme width.

More mundane but still mighty useful are the 58PFL9955H’s connections. These include four HDMIs (one built to the v1.4 spec for 3D), a USB port, an SD card slot, and an Ethernet port. Plus the set sports built in Wi-Fi - a cool trick we wish more TVs offered.

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November 25, 2010, 3:40 pm

This really is an amazing TV! I saw it the other day, playing Monsters Versus Aliens. I'm not such a fan of the film itself, but the colours were rich enough to make me want to lick the screen! (Sort of).

@TR: any comment on how it performs with normal, non HD, broadcasts? How does the picture look blown up or using the various framing options? Wouldn't a 16:9 TV programme get 'lost' in all the black bars?

Also, another shop was running the disaster film 2012. Again, incredible pictures. But in one scene with the foreign heads of state, the Philips didn't display the subtitles, whereas the 16:9 sets did. Does the 21:9 format get rid of subtitles altogether? (Not much fun for fans of foreign cinema) Can it be set to display them whilst keeping the 21:9 format or is a special (i.e. Philips DVD or Blu-ray player) needed?


November 25, 2010, 4:17 pm

It may seem like an odd conclusion to derive from looking at this product but I could really see myself wanting something like this as a PC monitor if they scaled it down and increased the resolution. Given that I use my desktop mostly for either browsing, writing or watching films it would be fantastic to be have room for 3 simultaneous windows so I can browse, write notes and use Word/Tweetdeck/Kindle at the same time, and then be able to use the whole screen estate for films later. Granted it's not a large market and I'd be one of a few to want it but if someone made an affordable ~27" 21:9 monitor I'd struggle to stop myself buying it.


November 25, 2010, 4:22 pm

@Ripsmorter: But in one scene with the foreign heads of state, the Philips didn't display the subtitles

Did it have black bars down the left and right, if not then they most likely set the displaymode to zoom or something similar, this then would crop the top and bottom. With 16/9 material there is no way of displaying fullscreen without either having the black bars, or cropping, or worst of all stretching (IOW: make people look fat) :)


November 25, 2010, 4:51 pm

I'm surprised you don't anywhere in the review address what this TV is like with regular 16:9 programming.

Not many people would consider having both a 16:9 and 21:9 58" TV in their living rooms; and though this TV obviously targets the movie fanatic, they are still likely to watch a fair measure of regular 16:9 news, sports, drama, etc. Perhaps also to connect a games console.

Philips says, "For 16:9 we use highly advanced auto-formatting technology to stretch the 16:9 content progressively out to fill the 21:9 screen. This technology achieves this result with minimal distortion to the image."

Trusted Reviews says nothing.

So how offensive is their "highly advanced auto-formatting" when stretching 16:9 programming to fill a 21:9 display? Is it best turned off, and then is this TV really not suitable except as a dedicated movie TV?

Also, your statement about "manipulating the image's geometry at its left and right edges" when viewing 2.35:1 Blu-rays encoded as letterboxed 16:9 is surely confused. These sources will be upscaled without geometry manipulation; anything else would defeat the purpose of having a TV with a native cinema aspect ratio.


November 25, 2010, 5:34 pm

Apologies if this has been mentioned elsewhere but is that creepy camp looking robot on the TV a slim Eric Roberts in disguise?

Matt Ross

November 25, 2010, 7:15 pm

Although it won't be helpful for TV broadcasted films with subtitles, some Blu-Ray/DVD players can shift the subtitles up on screen to get around the issue of them dropping off the bottom. I have an Oppo BDP-83 and it has this feature in newer firmware revisions.


November 25, 2010, 7:32 pm

No so alone a88. I would also love a (say?) 30" version as a PC monitor. It would beat using two monitors as I do now.

But, it would have to be ips, or at least va quality screen. TN sucks. Ergo not that cheap. Incidentally I have to say I'm surprised and dissappointed there's no IPS or VA screen with 3d capability.

I think in future we'll see curved oleds in this size. It makes sense to me.


November 25, 2010, 7:57 pm

Credit to Ripsnorter because the very worrying subtitles issue affects even those who can live without them.

Many film distributors cut down on home video costs by using prints before any text - translations, on screen place names, etc. - are part of the final image, and just have it all handled by player generated captions, rejigged appropriately for each region. That's important because unlike the original text, player-generated captions aren't just hideous to look at but are much more frequently placed in the black bar area. And obviously, the implications for anamorphic foreign films are especially bad.


November 25, 2010, 8:27 pm


Yeah, I'm curious of that too. The predecessor claimed the same thing. And I'm thinking: it's either gonna be distorted like hell or you're gonna lose a lot of picture information to the left and right. Maybe they do a little of both and reviews of the former model stated that 16:9 looked okay.

Still, I actually like contemporary TV shows better than movies and they're all shot in 16:9, so I'd rather have a 65" 16:9 TV than this one. And that 65" 16:9 TV will probably be just as wide as a 58" 21:9 model, so I'd have the best of both worlds...


November 25, 2010, 8:55 pm


The Philips displayed 2012 with no black bars whatsover. The 16:9 ones had them top and bottom as usual. I can't say what ratio the film had on the lu-ray that was playing.


Thanks. I watch a great deal of foreign cinema and will always go for subtitles because I want to hear the original language. Unlike most people (read, Americans) I've no problem watching and reading at the same time. But if the Philips cannot display subtitles in a meaningful way, either from disc or TV, then it's a complete no-deal for me. I can't believe this hasn't occurred to Philips.


November 25, 2010, 9:49 pm

@Jones - Ever tried tineye.com reverse image lookup? It's interesting technology. And it does resolve the burning Eric Roberts question! (It's a short called "The Gift" commissioned by Philips to promote the 21:9 aspect ratio... there is some talk it might get picked up by a studio and made into a feature.)

@Tim - Yup, that's my concern.

I bought my last large TV on the basis my viewing would be almost all movies. But the idea that I'd watch a few good films a week fizzled out when I'd run through the classics and acquainted myself with the waste-of-space quality of much of what's being released now.

And at the same time there is some quite well-crafted TV out there, so the balance of my viewing didn't end up as I expected.

And if the Philips 21:9 is really only suitable for movies, I'd be tempted to get a ceiling-mounted projector instead and stick with a regular 16:9 TV.

Hamish Campbell

November 25, 2010, 10:49 pm

@Ripsnorter : bit harsh there mate. One should note that the germans and the spanish dub all their foreign tv and movies, whereas the portuguese and scandinavians do not. And they all watch stacks of foreign language (in this case english) films. I don't know about the yanks, but as a kid to now I've noticed things have moved away from dubbing in the english speaking world, I could be wrong, but I doubt the americans are dubbing any foreign movies now.....anyone actually know this?


November 26, 2010, 12:05 am


Not really. If a film is made in German or Spanish or whatever, I want to have the original soundtrack and read subtitles. Dubbing can be done well (the German 'Bruce Willis' is excellent, for example), but someone has translated the script, adapted it because some things don't work in the new language (such as wordplay) and then it's revoiced in a studio. Often, due to pressure of release dates, the voiceover artists, many of whom are jobbing actors, don't even get to see the film as they dub. Also, to save money in the dubbing territories it is conveyor belt work, often done in one take with the dubbing studios competing on the basis of lowest price wins because the distributors don't want to pay a penny more than they have to.

Dubbing is a cultural thing. It was introduced in Germany after the last war by the Americans who wanted to get their films out, and also to counter the Russian films in the eastern zone.

Foreign films get very little play in the US. In the major cities, in some arthouse cinemas, perhaps they have a chance. But mainstream? Not a chance! Let The Right One In, the Scandinavian vampire film, for example, managed to get a lot of publicity and did very well, but actual viewing figures were low. The Americans much prefer to remake a successful (in its own territory) foreign film and then sell it back to us.


November 26, 2010, 2:43 pm

Well last year these sets were £4k at launch. A month / two ago they were £1600 in Richer sounds. So if you really like the idea, but aren't too sure then wait a while and pickup a bargain later.

Besides it's CES soon and then we get to find out about all the new toys for next year.


November 26, 2010, 4:57 pm

Hi all. Just a couple of questions before I start looking for the best deals.

1. Can you feed in native resolution (2560 x 1080) through HDMI from a PC?

2. What is the input lag like? With and without PC Mode enabled.



November 26, 2010, 7:19 pm

@John Archer / TR

Given there are some very relevant questions being asked in this thread (and not just and issues raised, would it be possible for you or someone else to revist this set or comment as best you can?

Jan Andersen

December 20, 2010, 4:29 am

@John Archer

Well thanks for taking your time to review the 58PFL995. Perhaps it would have been better to not, if you realy make a review, I think it should be done trustworthy and usefull, else dont.

The review dosnt mention a word on key issues - its a long jolly good story.

1) How does it perform detecting the film formats ?

2) How long time to detech a 21:9 movie ?

3) What happens if a 16:9 commercial cuts in ?

4) Can it detect a 21:9 movie even there is a channel logo etc overlapping ?

5) How does it perform on DVD / DVB-T 21:9 movies ????

Those questions are key.

Jan Andersen

December 26, 2010, 4:47 pm


Aparantly the new 58PFL9955 has a menu for moving the subtitles. Check theese 29 pictures on a Vorwegian test, among one ( column 1, row 3 ) with the menu for moving the subtitles. "Flytting av undertext" = "Move subtitles". I suppose there should be a picture of this in the manual.



February 7, 2011, 3:54 pm

How Philips communicates about the Philips Cinema 21:9 58PFL9955H


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