Last year, Philips announced a very unique television. Its aspect ratio is 21:9. To say that is wide is an understatement. It is much wider than a typical HDTV (as shown in the image below), which has an aspect ratio of 16:9. Not only is it wide – it’s huge. There is only one model and it pans 56″. Unless you sit twenty feet away from your TV, that’s quite an immersive experience.
So, what are the benefits of this unit over a 16×9 56″ TV? As you can see in the image above, when you watch a film that is shot in a wide film format like 2.39:1, the image fills the screen of the Philips unit. Regular HDTVs would show black bars at the top and bottom of the screen.
Which films were shot in 2.39 (or 2.4 & 2.35 confusingly), you might ask? Looking at my Blu-ray collection – Across the Universe, Batman Begins, Braveheart, The Dark Knight (non-IMAX scenes), The Departed, Fight Club, Friday Night Lights, Kill Bill Vol. 1, Magnolia, Memento, No Country for Old Men, Wall-E – 12 of the 28 discs I own. In short – a tonne of movies.
There is no question that these films will look ridiculously great on this TV. The problem is that the majority of content is not filmed in 21:9. Nearly all television shows are now shot in 16×9 – the exact ratio of HDTVs, the standard. Most films, and nearly all film shot or created digitally, are now 16×9. On the Philips unit, these films would show with black bars on the sides.
The image itself would then be the same size as it would be on a regular HDTV. Looking at it one way, you get the same picture size you normally would, and when you watch 2.4:1 films you get an incredible viewing experience.
On the other hand, the thing costs £2,779 right now, refurbished and on sale from £4,500. It is only available in the UK, but it Canadian funds that’s $4,500, down from $7,288. These prices are about two to three times what it would cost to buy a high quality plasma or LCD 16×9 HDTV of the same size.
So, is it worth it? Without seeing it in person, I can’t really say for sure. For most people, it would be a resounding “no.” The cost is very hard to justify, and I think this model has a very limited buying audience. I’m sure it’s an incredibly immersive and amazing experience, but for the same price you could get a bigger, top of the line 16×9 TV, and for the most part your screen would be filled to the brim with HD goodness. You’d just have to suck it up when watching 2.4:1 content…
Interactive Demo of Ambilight Feature