The controversy over 3D's future gained another dimension this week when Philips announced at a press launch in Barcelona that its new TV range wasn't just going to contain active 3D TVs. Instead, it was going to contain a series of passive 3D models as well.
At first, this seems a strange decision from a brand associated with the premium end of TV technology, and which told us only last year that it felt active 3D (or 3D Max as Philips now calls it) was the way ahead. But it has its reasons. And those reasons are basically that, as Philips' own marketing materials put it: "Consumers enjoy 3D in different ways. Which is why Philips offers different 3D for different people."
The main 'differences' Philips is talking about appear to break down into a belief that passive 3D (dubbed Easy 3D by the Philips marketeers) is more relaxing for long-term viewing; works better with sport; and offers a more affordable way into 3D.
This latter point wasn't the case in 2010, when making passive screens was actually an expensive business. But this year, with panel supplier LG having managed to push passive 3D screen production costs right down, Philips felt the time was right to introduce passive 3D technology to its relatively affordable 7000 Series, while keeping the active 3D flag flying with its higher-end 8000 and 9000 Series (which we'll be looking at in a separate Hands On feature in the next day or so).
By far the most surprising and headline-grabbing model among Philips new passive 3D range is the new Cinema 21:9 Gold (aka the 50PFL7956K). This is a 50in TV using passive 3D tech built to the ultra-wide 21:9 aspect ratio, so that movie buffs can watch Cinemascope-ratio films without the usual black bars above and below the picture.
Philips delivered an active 3D 21:9 TV last year, which continues for the foreseeable future as the Cinema 21:9 Platinum. But the new passive set is both smaller and more affordable than its premium sibling, and so has the potential to make the wider screen format accessible to a larger demographic.
Needless to say, TrustedReviews was very keen to spend some quality time with this startling new TV. And while we must stress here that the samples we looked at were very early ones - the TV isn't due to launch until the summer - here are our first impressions of what the Cinema 21:9 Gold might have to offer.
The first thing that strikes you is how attractive the set is. Philips has applied a trademark metallic silver finish to its 7000 series this year, and this looks particularly nice when stretched across a 21:9 shape. You certainly don't normally find this grade of finish on a barely mid-range TV.
It's also pleasingly slim by Philips standards, and sports Philips' eye-catching Ambilight Spectra 2 technology, which uses LED lights down the TV's rear to throw coloured light pools sympathetic to the image content onto the wall around the TV.