Philips Ultrawide LCD

If CES 2009 was any indication, it looked like Philips was getting out of the consumer-electronics business, seeing as how the company had no booth or press conference this year. But the Dutch megacorp recently announced a stunning innovation in LCD TVs—the world's first with an aspect ratio of 21:9 (2.33:1). This nearly matches the cinematic aspect ratio of 2.35:1, allowing it to display such movies without the hated black bars above and below the image.

Dubbed the Cinema 21:9, this TV's screen measures 56 inches diagonally with a native resolution of 2560x1080. An auto-formatting function can resize 16:9 material to fill the screen, or—thankfully—this function can be disabled to display everything in its native aspect ratio, sort of like an anamorphic lens being moved into and out of position on a front projector.

The Cinema 21:9 also sports Philips' three-sided Ambilight technology that projects light on the wall behind the TV. Normally, the light changes color and intensity according to the onscreen content, which is intended to "extend the picture beyond the confines of the screen." I was unable to find out if, like other Philips Ambilight TVs, this one can be set to a constant color and intensity, which would let it act like a bias light.

Currently in limited distribution in select European countries for 4000 Euros (over $5000 as of this writing), the Cinema 21:9 is not scheduled to be introduced into the North American market, though that could change if demand and availability are sufficient. In any event, it's an important statement product that could point the way toward a future with ultrawide TVs made for movies.