Philips Cinema 21:9 Gold review: first look

First look: First impressions of Philips widescreen TV with passive 3D

Image 1 of 6 Philips Cinema 21 9 Gold green ambilight
Philips Cinema 21:9 Gold green ambilight
Image 2 of 6 Philips Cinema 21 9 Gold 2D 3D conversion after
Philips Cinema 21:9 Gold 2D/3D conversion after
Image 3 of 6 Philips Cinema 21 9 Gold
Philips Cinema 21:9 Gold
Image 4 of 6 Philips Cinema 21 9 Gold 2D 3D conversion 2D
Philips Cinema 21:9 Gold 2D/3D conversion 2D
Image 5 of 6 Philips Cinema 21 9 Gold passive glasses
Philips Cinema 21:9 Gold passive glasses
Image 6 of 6 Philips Cinema 21 9 Gold depth
Philips Cinema 21:9 Gold depth

Movie-friendly set with Smart TV and passive 3D technology

Last year we saw the Philips Cinema 21:9 series, a stunning set with an aspect ratio designed for cinema viewing, enabling viewers to watch movies without black bars at the top and bottom of the picture. Now the Dutch company is releasing its latest version the Cinema 21:9 Gold series, which T3 looked at today. We'll bring you a full review as soon as possible, but here are our first impressions.

Check out our Philips Cinema 21:9 Gold pictures

At 50-inches the screen is smaller than the flagship (and still current) Philips Cinema 21:9 Platinum, which certainly makes it more manageable for most households. Constructed from aluminium it's very chic, with touch-sensitive buttons along the bottom panel.

Along with a 100Hz mode, it has Ambilight Spectra 2, where lights on both sides of the screen adjust depending on the picture.

However the main talking point of the Gold Series is that it uses Passive technology - what Philips is calling ‘Easy 3D,’ in contrast the Cinema 21:9 uses Active-Shutter technology. Philips is the only TV manufacturer to offer sets with Passive and Active technology.

One of the main advantages of this is the cheap cost of glasses, instead of costing up to £100 like active shutter glasses, they cost pounds to produce, so multiple people - whether friends or family - can watch 3D at minimal cost and they don't need batteries. Other advantages include a reduction in crosstalk and flicker-free 3D.

Philips Cinema 21:9 Gold: Picture quality

Philips played us a clip showing downhill skiers on the Cinema 21:9 Gold and Cinema 21:9 Platinum. Even without 3D the difference in picture quality was obvious. The Full LED Cinema 21:9 Platinum displayed much deeper blacks and crisper whites than the Cinema 21:9 Gold, which uses Edge-Lit technology. Additionally skin tones seemed to overly saturated, although we should stress - and Philips was keen to point out - that the 21:9 Gold we saw is a pre-production sample. Motion was smoother on the Cinema 21:9 Platinum too.

The difference in 3D is however much more subjective. The 3D effect on the passive 21:9 Gold was immersive, if not quite as intense as the active 21:9 Platinum. The passive glasses used on the 21:9 Gold are lighter and much more comfortable; we could imagine ourselves using them for much longer periods than the heavier active-shutter glasses used on the 21:9 Platinum. We found there was a split-second delay when we put the active-shutter glasses, with the passive glasses the effect was more instant. Elsewhere the viewing angle on the 21:9 isn’t as good vertically, although for home viewing this shouldn’t really be a problem.

Philips Cinema 21:9 Gold: Smart TV

The Cinema 21:9 Gold includes built-in WiFi for accessing the new Smart TV portal. Content is split over four areas: Control lets you control the set using a smartphone or tablet; SimplyShare is for sharing photos, music and video between the TV and other devices; Program lets you pause, play, schedule and record programs and NetTV lets you access Facebook, Twitter and You Tube.

All Philips newly launched sets provides 2D to 3D conversion. Philips says part of the reason for this is the limited 3D content, but while we certainly don’t want to watch Eastenders in 3D, it brings a whole new element to gaming. In fact the set supports a dual-screen 2D view, so two players can play at simultaneously, but cleverly when you turn on Easy 3D, each player sees a full-screen 3D view.

First impressions of the Philips 21:9 Gold are impressive. Build is excellent, the 3D effect is pleasing and the glasses amongst the comfiest we've used, granted the content we watched was in conditions controlled by Philips. The main issue will be one of price, this isn't going to be a cheap set, but for movie lovers, the advantages are obvious.

Philips Cinema 21:9 Gold launch date: Summer 2011, link Philips
Philips Cinema 21:9 Gold price: TBC