It has to be said that it’s in the area of motion processing that you can see the biggest difference between the Pixel Plus HD and Perfect Pixel HD engines, as the 50PFL7956T suffers with more unwanted side effects. But the native response time of its panel is sufficiently fast that neither blur nor judder are serious issues even with the set’s motion processing system's turned off.
So far we haven’t really said anything about the 50PFL7956T’s ‘big two’: its 21:9 experience, and its passive 3D performance. So let’s get into those right now.
First of all, watching ‘CinemaScope’ films on a TV that can actually deliver them without the usual borders is strikingly, almost inexplicably brilliant fun. The way the images fill the horizontal field of your vision just looks so much more natural and so much more immersive than watching them squeezed into just a section of a normal screen.
This fact, along with fact that Philips’ scaling processing works so well, is why we’re so comfortable with waiving our usual concerns about our HD source feeds being ‘messed with’ by scaling processing.
What’s more, if the effect of the 21:9 ratio on films is brilliant in 2D, it’s positively spectacular in 3D. After all, the whole point of 3D is to immerse you more in what you’re watching, so coupling it to a field of vision-filling 21:9 screen is a match made in heaven. Especially when the passive nature of the 50PFL7956T means there’s scarcely a trace of crosstalk noise.
We were also intrigued to note while watching 3D on the 50PFL7956T that we weren’t as negatively effected as we have been on large LG passive 3D screens by the slightly jagged look to curved edges and minor ‘striping‘ artefacts caused by the passive filter. Excellent.
The brightness of the 50PFL7956T’s 3D images impressed us greatly too, thanks to the relatively little amount of brightness Philips’ lightweight passive glasses take out of the picture. All in all, aside from HD 3D images looking a touch softer than they do on the best active 3D TVs, watching 3D on the 50PFL7956T was never less than a relaxing pleasure.
With some engagingly potent, well-rounded audio keeping the 50PFL7956T’s mostly excellent pictures company, it’s fair to say that we hugely enjoyed our time with the set. But inevitably, it’s not perfect.
First, having been spoiled before by Philips’ 56-58in 21:9 models, we did sometimes feel that the 50in screen size was a touch small. But that’s the home cinema enthusiast in us talking rather than the living-room based, financially challenged realist!
Next, we were less convinced by Ambilight on the 50PFL7956T than we usually are, because the ‘gap’ between the light being output from each of the screen’s sides was too extreme, making the effect look rather forced and more merely ‘decorative’ than it usually does.
Also, as is common with Philips TVs, you have to treat the long list of processing options and other picture settings the TV carries with care. Even the Dynamic Backlight option is better left off with certain kinds of ‘fast-cutting’ source, as otherwise you can clearly see the occasional dramatic shift in the image’s brightness.
The scaling process for converting some 16:9 sources to the 21:9 ratio can sometimes throw up uncomfortable results, too; for instance, with something like Sky News, where there’s information crammed right into the edges of the screen, it can be almost impossible to get a good balance between how ‘stretched’ the picture looks and how much picture information is pushed off the screen. But then you can always set such tricky sources to appear in their native ratio, with bars to left and right. Just as well that Philips gives you direct access to the aspect ratio settings via a key on the remote.
Films that have subtitles positioned over the black bars on their Blu-ray transfers are a problem for 21:9 viewing too unless you have one of Philips’ Blu-ray players that can move the subtitles up. And finally, there’s a little more noise in upscaled images than you would see on set’s boasting Philips’ top level of processing.
Overall, though, we continue to find the 21:9 proposition irresistible, even when applied as it is with the 50PFL7956T to more affordable core processing and panel technology.
Although the 21:9 TV concept won’t suit everyone, and it’s a shame the movie studios still refuse to make any native 21:9 Blu-ray transfers, the 50PFL7956T is nonetheless a massively exciting proposition for movie buffs. Especially as despite being easily the cheapest 21:9 set yet, it still delivers real 2D and 3D quality to go with its movie-friendly proportions.