Widescreen is dead; long live Cinema 21:9. The Philips 56PFL9954H is a daring experiment in screen dimensions, designed to maximise the cinematic potential of hi-def discs while rewriting the rules on home entertainment.
There's a gunwale-bursting array of features at your disposal, the most obvious of which is that extra-wide screen. It is 21:9 (or 2.39:1, if you prefer), enabling it to display movies in the true-cinema aspect ratio in which most will have been shot, as opposed to the 16:9 compromise that has been the norm on standard widescreen televisions.
And, being wider than widescreen, the 56PFL9945H has an unprecedented horizontal resolution of 2,560 dots, which combines with a full HD vertical count of 1,080. All those dots are marshalled into line by the Dutch firm's Perfect Pixel HD processing Engine (with 200Hz scanning) and fed by no fewer than five HDMI inputs.
Ambilight Spectra 3
It also possesses the widgets that are now mandatory for any set with flagship aspirations that enable you to browse a limited selection of websites. The slender, but not ultra-thin, chassis also houses the Ambilight Spectra 3 sympathetic illumination system that has survived the gimmick-stage of its evolution to become a genuinely useful, and aesthetically pleasant, feature.
BAR NONE: Philips' Cinema 21:9 TV lets you see films in their intended aspect ratio without black bars taking up part of your screen
The back panel also carries a pair of rear-firing subwoofers to add an extra dose of low-end rumble to movie soundtracks.
Philips has re-imagined its traditionally tidy interface along similar lines to Samsung's tablet type graphics. Shaded, cool-blue pictograms are given a faintly ghostly, and really rather stylish, white halo. Many of the options are subtly animated with scrolling text and navigation, mostly by way of the directional keys on the impeccable remote's main disc, and so are effortlessly intuitive.
Installation is quick and straightforward and, while videophiles will want to avail themselves of the reams of picture tweaks on offer, the technically timid will find quick and painless gratification in an efficient settings assistant.
This presents a series of still images divided into areas of more or less detail, higher or lower contrast and so on, and invites you to state your overall picture preferences. It's neat, foolproof and surprisingly effective. The attractive and satisfyingly weighty remote is also a pleasure to use, with a set of large, unambiguously labelled buttons and impeccable ergonomics.
TOTAL CONTROL: The Philips' easy-to-use remote offers plenty of options to tame the giant screen
We're glad to report that the Cinema 21:9 is one of the best LCD TVs we've ever seen. We've marvelled at the detail, black levels and naturalistic colour palettes of countless displays over the years, but to have the best aspects of the finest sets all together on the first super-wide panel is truly exciting.