Problems with the picture do certainly exist. My biggest issue is with the HD Natural Motion system. For while this does a strikingly potent job of making motion look more fluid and sharp, it also creates noticeable flickering artefacts, and some signs of distortion around the edges of moving objects.
In fact, I actually felt that these artefacts were more obvious than on other recent Philips sets I’ve seen, either because of the screen’s sheer size, or because of the extra processing burden raised by the challenge of adjusting sources to the Cinema 21:9 screen. And as I noted earlier, anything obviously distracting becomes all the more intolerable when the rest of the Cinema 21:9 experience is so immersive.
I’ve already noted the TV’s slight aspect ratio flaws with standard definition sources, and I found a minor issue with Blu-rays too, where by if I called up the Blu-ray player’s own built-in system graphics while watching a 2.35:1 film, the Cinema 21:9’s generally clever Auto Format mode would mistake the image content for subtitles, and so adjust the picture so that small black bars suddenly appeared that stayed there for a considerable time unless I manually changed the aspect ratio. Finally, the image can lose a little contrast if watched from a wide angle. These issues really are extremely minor, though, in the context of the great viewing experience of the Cinema 21:9.
Moving reluctantly on to the Cinema 21:9’s audio, I suspect there’s a very good chance that most people buying such an expensive TV will have a separate surround sound audio system. But that doesn’t mean that Philips has skimped on its flagship TV’s audio performance. Its speaker system comprises two integrated subwoofers and two dome tweeters, and these allow for levels of bass reproduction and dynamic range separation that’s miles better than anything you’ll hear on a typical flat TV.
I have to say I was pretty sceptical about the Cinema 21:9. My distaste for resizing HD sources, my dislike of distracting video processing artefacts, the current lack of any ‘true’ 21:9 sources and my suspicion that standard def programmes would look awful when stretched to fill the 21:9 frame all left me expecting the TV to be nothing more than an expensive gimmick.
But you can consider me converted. Philips’ video processing powers have turned out to be beyond reproach if you’re careful with a couple of basic settings, leaving you to enjoy a TV experience that’s so cinematic it has to be seen to be believed.
Sure, to some extent this is a TV that’s ahead of its time, waiting for the Blu-ray industry in particular to (hopefully) catch up with it. But crucially it works supremely well even without native 21:9 transfers, and the concept feels more like something inherently natural that somebody should have made years ago rather than something that’s pushing back TV frontiers just for the sake of it.
However. perhaps the biggest obstacle to the Cinema 21:9 achieving world domination is its £4,500 price. A price which could get you a very nice projection system. But all I can say is that if £4,500 is simply beyond the pale for you, for heaven’s sake don’t try and track down a Cinema 21:9 to try out. Because it really is one of those things that once tried is hard to live without.