Philips Cinema 21:9 58PFL9955H review
58in, Freeview, Freesat HD, 2,560x1,080 resolution, 3D: yes, 4x HDMI
Although all TVs are widescreen, their 16:9 aspect ratio is designed for broadcast TV rather than films, leaving you with black bars across the top and bottom of the screen when you watch movies. To address this, Philips has come up with its Cinema 21:9 range.
These, such as the 58in 58PFL9955H we're reviewing here, have an aspect ratio of 21:9 (2.39:1), which is the same as a high proportion of films. For those interested, a lot of modern films are marked as having an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, but this is incorrect and only older movies used this format; however, the term remains as a general industry term, even though 2.39:1 is correct.
Adding to the cinema experience of this TV is 3D with a built in transmitter. It's good to see that you get two pairs of active shutter glasses in the box, although at near-on £4,000 we'd be disappointed if this wasn't the case.
The first thing to note is that the 58PFL9955H is one hell of an imposing TV. It's absolutely humongous and incredibly wide. With the usual slick Philips styling, this is certainly a TV that you'd be proud to have in your living room.
Performance is everything, so we were keen to get some test movies out and see how the 58PFL9955H performs. It's important to note that this TV has a resolution of 2,560x1,080, so to fill the screen the image has to be stretched. Also, if the input is not a 21:9 image, then filling the screen requires some clever algorithms in order not to distort the image.
We have to say that it does a really good job. Pushing a 21:9 film to fill the entire screen is done with no evidence of any scaling artefacts or distortion. It's great to see a film without any black borders, filling the entire screen, as it makes it a more immersive experience.
If the source material isn't 21:9, it has to be stretched to fill the space, throwing out its aspect ratio. However, there are a range of ways that the TV can do this, including just stretching the sides of the image, leaving the centre alone. The result of this is that you don't perceive that the final image is distorted, as you concentrate on the centre of the screen.
Some of the modes perform a vertical stretch, too, which can put Blu-ray menus and on-screen status messages slightly off-screen. You can manually move the image for the latter, but for films with subtitles, there's a mode that re-introduces the black bar at the bottom for undistorted text.
For those that like full control, you can adjust the exact stretch in the menus, or even return the image to native, placing black bars down the side of each frame. There's also an autofill mode, which adjusts the picture on the fly depending on the source material. This is handy for some films, such as The Dark Knight, which switches from 21:9 in most scenes to a full 1080p 16:9 aspect ratio for the scenes shot for IMAX.