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Philips Unveils 21:9 Cinema TV In UK

Gordon Kelly


Preview: Philips 21:9 Cinema TV

We've already seen Philip's potentially industry changing Cinema 21:9 aspect ratio TV, but yesterday afternoon the company kindly unveiled it to a small group of the UK's top tech press (yep, I was there too).

In short: wow.

In long: caveats.

But let's go for in medium. Now officially dubbed the 'Cinema 21:9', its remarkable aspect ratio treated us to a truly wonderful cinematic-like experience. For the purists, the name is a mathematical approximation for marketing purposes but it will enable films shot in 2.39:1 to completely fill the screen - though Philips was a touch sketchy on whether there may be the smallest amount of pixel mapping.

At 56 inches this form factor is incredibly striking (the shot below is alongside a 42in Philips 16:9). Its native resolution was to be revealed but we managed to discover it will be 2,560 x 1,080 pixels and 16:9 content (typical widescreen) will display without any pillar-boxing. 4:3 on the other hand will feature these horizontal black bars (less invasive than horizontal 'enveloping' in my opinion). Home cinema fans will also be chuffed to know that according to Philips more than 60 per cent of DVDs and Blu-rays already on sale allegedly support 21:9.

Interestingly, Philips is also skipping LED backlighting in this first iteration, so straight CCFL backlighting will be used instead. But from what we saw, the Perfect Pixel HD Engine was still jaw dropping and home cinema fans will be treated to no less than five HDMI ports plus DLNA, WiFi and Ethernet.

Controversies? The new version of Ambilight Spectra employed is sadly only three sided (the bottom edge misses out), no further specs were released and physically - at about 20cm deep - it isn't one for those hunting out an ultra slim model. Pricing was also a thorny topic with Philips not even prepared to indicate to the nearest thousand GBP - some speculate the aspect ratio will actually help reduce costs but if the Cinema 21:9 is less than £3,000 I'd be amazed (£4k-5k seems more likely to me).

Arrival timeframe? Loosely given as Q2 and we were told the version we were seeing wasn't final (the 16:9 and 4:3 scaling tech was absent). Why show us the Cinema 21:9 so early, then? Simple, there was a constant reference to how Philips was first with this product and the company even admitted it expects others to announce 21:9 screens soon - even though word is, it has exclusivity on panel production until August/September. It wants to be known as the leader here and that seems fair to me.

So, Philips may well have had the first word on the 21:9 form factor but don't expect it to be the last.

Official press shots on the next page...


Philips UK


January 31, 2009, 12:23 am

"and 16:9 content (typical widescreen) will display without any pillar-boxing".

This really bothers me, since the only way this could happen is by stretching the image, leaving us the viewers with short, fat, squashed people on the screen.

Either that, or you lose heads and feet.

Not good. What's so wrong with black boarders at the sides?


January 31, 2009, 1:28 am

DROOOOOLLLLLL.... I've now realised that I don't think I can buy a TV until I can get a 65" 21:9 OLED TV. It's going to be a long wait though.


January 31, 2009, 7:04 am

Am I the only one wondering why the 16:9 aspect ratio was ever agreed to in the first place when clearly 21:9 is what's required for proper movie watching? I imagine video games could make good use of the extra width as well.


January 31, 2009, 10:13 am

@MSIC - sorry no, it sounds odd but moving from 16:9 to 21:9 requires no stretching. It's done via the processing of extra pixels essentially.


January 31, 2009, 12:47 pm

Call me elderly, but the sight of horizontal black bars on films transmitted by Sky (for instance)comforts me that the film is in the directors' intended format and framing.

(lightbulb icon, here.) Get larger screen and put lights off when viewing films.

Mathew White

January 31, 2009, 2:51 pm

Nice, but feels like a 'novalty' tv to me. Surely anyone loving home cinema just goes out and buys a ruddy great projector like I did. And let's face it, lovely for movies, but who wants Eastenders or Corrie (not that I watch them) in Cinemascope? Mind you, you could get both sides of Pat Butchers head in the frame at once I suppose. Always a treat.


January 31, 2009, 3:14 pm

@Gordon - Hmm, "extra pixels" must be a stretching of some sort, surely?

I definitely agree with the cost-cutting point. A 50" screen at 21:9 will have a much smaller area than a 50" at 4:3.

Colin 2

January 31, 2009, 6:00 pm

Someone needs to tell Disney to stop releasing its 'Platinum' movies ( Pinochio for instance) in the wonderful 4:3 format and on blu-ray too - shame on you! And what idiot thought it was a good idea to put subtitles on a movie UNDER the picture area. How would this tele cope with that one I wonder.


January 31, 2009, 6:26 pm

Philips could do some sort of adaptive stretching - no stretching at all in the centre, very little towards the edges and maximum at the edges - so not linear. You'd get full screen use with the least amount of visual artefacts and no obvious changes where your eye tends to be looking directly at (the centre). Given how utterly fantastic Philips TVs have been recently, I've got high hopes that this one will be stunning too, and I'm willing to have your review sample when you get it and once you've finished with it.

(Geek fact: Philips TVs run Linux, so Philips provides a little sheet of paper stating what open source libraries they've used - including vnsprintf)


January 31, 2009, 6:37 pm

@ Gdub - I would also like to see more games make use of this new format, it would be great to have a much wider FOV, especially in racing/FPS games. But that probably won't happen when/if this becomes a new standard for consumer level TVs (I sure hope it does).

On lighter news, I hear this TV won't be made available in North America ;)

Matthew Bunton

January 31, 2009, 7:06 pm

Great for movies, but what about normal tv viewing, games consoles, and PC connectivity I would find vetical black borders just as annoying.

As M.White said surely any movie enthusiast would rather buy a projector.

The other worrying thing is that it is a Philips and whilst I know TR really likes their tvs' for the rest of us that would need some serious fiddling with the settings to get a good picture. I really don't understand Philips over reliance on the consumer to set up their televisions when companies such as Pioneer and Panasonic etc offer avery good factory standard setup out of the box.

Doesn't the screen res also mean that Blu Ray's res isn't sufficient.


January 31, 2009, 11:13 pm

@Matthew Bunton - "normal TV viewing" is 16:9...


January 31, 2009, 11:31 pm

"@MSIC - sorry no, it sounds odd but moving from 16:9 to 21:9 requires no stretching. It's done via the processing of extra pixels essentially."

Yeah, the processing of extra black pixels in vertical bar form :o)

Maybe some 16:9 content that is already shot on 35mm (like American TV shows) contains all necessary 21:9 information and is just marked/flagged/tagged in a way that 16:9 decoders know how to crop it, but 21:9 decoders don't crop it.

But if I record something with an HDV camcorder (which often records 1920x1080 only as 1440x1080 in the first place) I highly doubt that any magic could make it 21:9 without stretching or overscanning. If it could, then why can't they do the same thing with 4:3 material on a 16:9 screen?

John 21

February 1, 2009, 5:55 pm

@Tim - agreed, and the fact that they crop during production for broadcast/dvd/blu digital transfers of the 35mm film means that we at home will be pretty stuck!

Also, I watch a lot of TV & TV-dvds and as such prefer the 16:9, especially as I have to make allowances for 4:3 content.

Perhaps most importantly though, being half-aussie I'm down under periodically, and TVs with this aspect ratio (perhaps the Philips, perhaps not) were being shown all over the place in all mainstream AV publications as a finished model like in the press shots on page 2. The twist? This was nearly TWO YEARS AGO!

Why is Philips marketing pushing this as such a recent innovation?


February 1, 2009, 9:30 pm

it looks like a giant Sony vaio p sans keyboard :-)

BTW it works by trimming off the bottom of the films with the black bars and then upscaling it ala HDTV.


February 1, 2009, 10:59 pm

oh the possibilities... split screen 4:3 content in all it's glory


February 2, 2009, 4:44 am

Out of interest what film is that in the second shot? The one with the guy being electrocuted? :)

Lovely Screen but wouldn't fit where I have my current 32 simply because of the immense width!


February 2, 2009, 12:51 pm

@Keldon, looks like the trailer to The Watchmen; but I could be wrong :)

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