Picture performance

While this set is clearly destined for greater things, Freeview survives being blown up to 56in surprisingly well. It still looks fairly hideous, with blocking, digital mess and an ugly, garish set of hues on display, but it's nowhere near as vile as we've seen on many a smaller set.

Digital terrestrial, masked at both sides and stretched to its very limit, looks about as suitable on this chic, 21:9 set as dungarees at a black-tie dinner, and the sooner you switch to more refined DVD viewing matter, the better. Handling of DVD bears comparison with many sets' hi-def performance, with an almost uncanny crispness and fluidity of movement.

Blacks are solid and reach acceptable depths with adequate distinction between shades, although they fall just short of plasma-type depth. That's about all that's wrong with the picture, though, and switching to genuine hi-def is little short of breathtaking.

Philips 56pfl9954h 21:9 tv

SEE EVERYTHING: With HD pictures, the 21:9 screen shows more detail than you could ever imagine

There is just so much picture to look at, for a start, however far back you sit and you'll find yourself gawping at different sections of the picture as your brain tries to take in the sheer breadth of it. It's fabulously detailed, superbly realistic and the overall experience is quite unlike anything we've seen outside an actual cinema.

Super-slim panels have been almost uniformly detrimental to flatscreen audio, and the Cinema 21:9's built-in subwoofers enable it to soar above the competition with a well rounded, faithful and genuinely muscular performance. It's still no match for a proper surround system, of course, with Virtual Dolby adding little worth having to the overall experience, but it is able to acquit itself nobly with movie soundtracks.

Philips 56pfl9954h 21:9 tv

SOUND IT OUT: Hidden just around the back are subwoofers that trounce the usual measly flatscreen TV audio

Four and a half grand is a lot of money, but then this is, in every sense, a lot of telly. It can be taken as read that this is not the sort of set you might buy on a whim from Currys on a Saturday morning, but if you are serious about video quality and have a substantial budget, then this set should be at the very top of your list.

Whether the 21:9 concept ultimately catches on or never develops into anything beyond a diverting curio remains to be seen, but for the time being this remarkable screen can consider its trail well and truly blazed.

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