In the absence of such a ‘holy grail’ film transfer, though, I’m very relieved indeed to be able to report that the Cinema 21:9’s various processing systems do a remarkably good job of handling the challenges that ‘going 21:9’ creates.
Actually, that rather cold statement doesn’t even start to do justice to what watching a selection of 2.35:1-ratio Blu-rays on the Cinema 21:9 really feels like. Much more emotive words like ‘mesmerising’, ‘entrancing’ and ‘jaw-dropping’ would be closer to the mark.
Seeing, for instance, the 2.35:1 image from our much-hammered ”Casino Royale” Blu-ray completely filling the Cinema 21:9’s screen without a black bar or wasted pixel in sight has to go down as a genuine Eureka moment. A moment that makes you wonder both why nobody has done a TV like this before, and how you’re going to go back to watching films on your boring old 16:9 TV.
Cynics will perhaps think I’m going rather overboard here, suspecting that things can’t really be all that different from watching a 2.35:1 film on a big, normal widescreen TV with black bars above and below it. But all I can say to you is that somehow, for reasons I’m not sure I can even articulate fully, seeing a 2.35:1 image perfectly contained within a 21:9 frame just feels much more exciting, natural and engrossing than watching such an image with black bars above and below, and a frame that doesn’t fit it properly.
Part of this, I suspect, has to do with the fact that by fitting precisely around the image it’s showing, the Cinema 21:9 does a much better job of making you forget that you’re watching a bit of AV technology, leaving you free to get more directly involved with the film.
The lack of any black bars also delivers an unexpectedly significant benefit with the Ambilight system. For the Ambilight effect seems much more organically connected with the picture when you haven’t got black bars of empty image data lying between the picture and the light coming out of the TV’s edges.
I would say, too, that you shouldn’t underestimate the impact on perceived screen size that the shift to 21:9 brings. For while the Cinema 21:9’s 56in quoted screen size might not sound all that spectacular on paper, in the flesh the extra width makes it look absolutely huge. Obviously I’d still love Philips to come up with a 70in version next (!), but honestly, the 56in size is more than enough for any living room, and actually probably enough for many dedicated home cinema rooms.