21:9 TVs, Stealth Speakers, JVC Projectors

Wider Than Widescreen
I am getting ready to install a home theater in my basement, and I'd like your opinion about HDTVs with an aspect ratio of 21:9. I know that Vizio and Philips have announced such models, but I have not heard anything since CES. I like to be on the leading edge of technology; is this form factor worth waiting for? If so, how long will the wait be?

J. Cole Candler

I think the Philips 21:9 TV is available only in Europe, but Vizio fully intends to bring its Cinemawide HDTV models to the US in three screen sizes—50, 58, and 71 inches (diagonal). When? My Vizio contact would say only "sometime this year." How much will they cost? No word on that yet, though it will certainly carry a premium over the current XVT line.

Vizio's market research has identified three reasons that many viewers will like a 21:9 TV. First, it displays 2.35:1 movies without those annoying letterbox bars above and below the image. To be precise, the pixel array is 2560x1080, which translates to 2.37:1, so 2.35:1 movies will have very slim black bars on the sides of the image, while 2.40:1 movies will have very thin black bars above and below. This also means that 2.35:1 movies from Blu-ray will have to be upscaled from their native 1920x817 resolution, which might or might not result in visible artifacts. And don't forget that 1.85:1 movies will have black bars on the sides of the image.

The research participants also liked the ability to have online content from Vizio Internet Apps on the screen next to 16:9 HDTV images without overlap. This is particularly attractive when watching sports—you can have the game in 16:9 on one side of the screen and stats or other info next to it.

Finally, the participants reported that watching 3D on a Cinemawide HDTV is more engaging than on a 16:9 set. This makes sense, since 3D is most effective when the screen encompasses most of your field of view.

If your theater is going to be relatively small, one of these sets—especially the 71-incher—will probably be great. If your theater is fairly large, you can achieve the same effect with a much larger image using a front projector and a 2.35:1 screen. To fill that screen with a 2.35:1 movie, you'll need a projector with an anamorphic-lens setup, which is very expensive, or a projector with lens zoom/focus memory, which is much less expensive though fairly rare. The Panasonic PT-AE4000 is one of the few low-cost projectors with lens memory. Of course, you probably won't get 3D capabilities in this case (unless you're willing to spend big bucks), nor will you get online content next to 16:9 images, so if these are important to you, the Vizio Cinemawide sets might be the best option.

Heard But Not Seen
I'm moving into a new house, and my wife has asked me to wire all the rooms for music. She wants the speakers to be as small and unobtrusive as possible. I was thinking about going with the Orb line of speakers, but I wonder if you know of any other small speakers that would be good without a sub.

Vince Scarlata

Well, no small speakers are going to provide much bass without a sub, so you must adjust your expectations accordingly. The Orb speakers are quite good; see Home Theater's review here. You might also consider the Anthony Gallo A'Diva (reviewed here) or Nucleus Micro speakers, which have a similar form factor.

If your wife wants maximum stealth, you might consider in-wall or in-ceiling speakers. Most of the products in this category that HT has reviewed are in the high price range, but take a look at Aperion, Atlantic Technology, Polk, Sonance, and SpeakerCraft. You can also get in-wall subwoofers from these companies and others that would satisfy your wife's desire for stealth while improving the bass performance of the system.

JVC Lowdown
Have you evaluated the JVC DLA-RS50/X7 3D projector? If so, is the unit's 2D capability as good as or better than the DLA-HD950? Is a special projection screen required?

Walt Rollins

We haven't reviewd the RS50/X7, but we have reviewed the RS40/X3 and RS60/X9, both of which are featured in the May 2011 issue. Nor have we reviewed the RS25/HD950, so I can't say from direct experience. I will say that every JVC projector I've seen provides outstanding picture quality, so I wouldn't hesitate to recommend any of them. I'd guess that the RS50/X7's 2D performance is at least as good as the older RS25/HD950, and you get 3D to boot.

The JVC 3D projectors use active-shutter glasses, which means you don't need a special screen for them. Projectors that use passive-polarized glasses require a special silver screen.

If you have a home-theater question, please send it to scott.wilkinson@sorc.com.

maj0crk's picture

Fat chance studios will upscale their BluRay discs unless every manufacturer puts out their own 21.9 sets due to demand. If & when they do, bet on the price of said discs to be higher than 16.9.

Crunkatlanta's picture

Wanted to get a projector for theater room.. I really want it close to movie theater quality