All this talk of how natural and immersive the Cinema 21:9 experience is would not hold true, of course, if there were significant failings with the processing that makes it all possible. In fact, the stunning naturalness of the 21:9 aspect ratio would make any nasty processing side effects all the more glaring and therefore intolerable.
But provided you take a few simple precautions, the bottom line is that the Cinema 21:9 rescales pictures to take advantage of its unique resolution more cleanly than I’d frankly thought possible.
Rescaled HD sources, for instance (even native 16:9 ratio ones!), still look outstandingly sharp and detailed, with little if any of the softening and edge blurring that often accompanies significant rescaling processes. Colours, meanwhile, lose not a trace of authenticity or accuracy in the rescaling process, overcoming another common rescaling issue. In fact, for my money the Cinema 21:9’s colours are among the most natural, subtle yet also superbly vibrant that I’ve ever seen on a non-LED LCD TV.
Perhaps most remarkable of all is the way the TV manages to add in all the necessary pixels of image data it needs to without making the image look grainy or alive with dot crawl – especially if you keep the contrast setting no higher than 80 and leave on the unusually intelligent noise reduction system (the normal one, not the MPEG one), set to its Low level.
Normally, it must be said, I wouldn’t dream of using noise reduction on an HD source, for fear of softening the picture. But the NR system here works beautifully in reducing any slight coarseness that might occur, without substantially reducing the amount of texture and detail in the image.
Add to all the fabulous stuff mentioned so far the fact that the Cinema 21:9 produces some of the deepest black levels I’ve seen on a Philips LCD screen (not counting its LED model) and suffers remarkably little with motion blur, even without the HD Natural Motion system turned on, and you’re talking about the single most cinematic viewing experience I’ve ever experienced on a telly. Seriously.
While this sort of spectacular HD performance is clearly the Cinema 21:9’s bread and butter, it’s also a much more able handler of standard definition, 16:9 sources than expected. All but the very lowest quality digital 16:9 broadcasts can be stretched to fill the 21:9 screen with startling aplomb, suffering much less with softness and emphasis of source noise than anticipated. And no, the stretching process doesn’t leave everyone on screen looking unfeasibly short and fat!
It’s a bit annoying, I guess, that the TV doesn’t seem to provide an option that expands 16:9 sources to 21:9 without pushing a bit of the image’s top and bottom edges off the screen. And I’d say you’re better off leaving poor-quality sources set to their native 16:9 ratio (the option is provided for this) so that they appear with black bars down their left and right sides than trying to push them to the screen’s maximum width. But for the most part you really can get ordinary TV shows using all of the TV’s pixels without them looking in the least bit nasty.