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Philips Cinema 21:9 58PFL9955H/12 - Features and Picture Quality
As you’d expect from such a connections array, the set’s multimedia talents are extensive, including playback of a multitude of video, photo and music file formats from USB stick or networked PC, and access to Philips’ online Net TV service.
We’ve covered Net TV in depth in previous Philips reviews and our recent feature focusing on the different TV online services, so all we’ll say here is that its highlight is a built-in Opera browser that lets you surf the Web at large rather than restricting you to Philips’ ring-fenced content.
We also won’t trouble you by going into detail about the set’s extremely powerful Perfect Pixel HD video processing engine, as again, we’ve covered this extensively before. Suffice it to say that it’s arguably the only picture processing engine in the mainstream TV world that might be expected to comfortably handle the challenges associated with optimising non-21:9 sources for a 21:9-shaped screen.
What we certainly do want to talk about, though, is the 58PFL9955H’s 3D readiness. In fact, unlike other 3D Philips sets, this one actually has the transmitter built into the TV’s body. Plus you get two pairs of active shutter glasses thrown in for free, compared with just one with some other manufacturers. Note that there’s no 2D to 3D conversion, though.
Also important to mention in the features section is the lighting technology driving the screen. For not only does it use a direct LED illumination array with contrast-boosting local dimming, but it also adds around a third more individually controllable LED clusters than the 224 found in the brand’s outstanding PFL9705 models.
With so much going on in the features department with the 58PFL9955H, it’s rather surprising that it doesn’t have a built-in Freeview HD tuner. But there you go. You’ll just have to stick with the Sky HD or Virgin box you’ve probably got anyway if you’re considering spending £4k on a TV.
Fed a trusty 2.35:1-ratio favourite, Casino Royale on Blu-ray, the 58PFL9955H immediately generates an almost visceral response from all who behold it. And by visceral, we actually mean jaw-dropping and eye-popping!
For a start, there’s just something wonderfully right about the 21:9 shape when applied to a TV. Its extra width chimes more naturally with the way our eyes perceive the world, and so it feels both more relaxing than a normal 16:9 picture and, more importantly, more immersive.
It’s also superb not to have black bars above and below the Casino Royale picture. We’ve watched this Blu-ray dozens times, but we’ve never felt so completely engaged by it as we were on the 58PFL9955H - a fact we’re convinced not having the black bars is at least partly responsible for.
Once you’ve got past the sheer wonderment of seeing films bar-free and stretched so wide in your living room, it also hits you that the quality of the images on show is pretty extraordinary. As with the PFL9705H range, for instance, the 58PFL9955H’s black level response is ridiculously good, comfortably outgunning all other LCD TVs we can think of, and even pushing the best plasma TVs hard.
What’s even more amazing about the58PFL9955H’s truly profound black levels is that they can co-exist in the same frame as emphatically bright and intense peak whites and rich colours. The local dimming aspect of the LED lighting array means the set doesn’t have to reduce overall brightness levels when showing dark material, and there really is no over-stressing just how strong an effect this has on the image’s general dynamism - and the believability and watchability of dark scenes in particular.