While Sharp and Panasonic and the rest of the TV industry duke it out to have the best OLED TV in the business, Vizio's launching a fancy new display in an untapped category. Now that 4:3 TVs are all but gone from the market, super wide 21:9 screens have a chance to snatch the meaning of "widescreen" away from our standard 16:9 sets. Vizio's CinemaWide LED TVs are built for 2.35:1 and 2.39:1 widescreen films, which are tweaked slightly for Blu-ray's 2.4:1 aspect ratio; the 35mm anamorphic aspect ratio still reigns supreme in Hollywood.
Naturally, the 120Hz Vizio CinemaWide TVs support 3D and are loaded with apps. Putting those bells and whistles aside, there's really only one important thing about the CinemaWide: it looks fantastic playing 2D content. With Vizio's history of success in the budget HDTV category, the company's 58-inch CinemaWide might be the first 21:9 TV to have a shot at affordability. But your existing Blu-Rays may not be optimized for it. Here's why.
Ever since Cinemascope introduced the anamorphic format in the 1950s, the movie industry has distinguished itself from 4:3 television shows by filming in much wider aspect ratios. Now that 16:9 is the standard for television, screens like Vizio's CinemaWide aren't as practical for watching a variety of TV content. Then again, when you're paying for a 58-inch or 71-inch TV (the size of Vizio's bigger CinemaWide), maybe practicality doesn't matter so much.
Blu-ray discs of anamorphic movies are only about 800 pixels tall once you strip out the matting, meaning everything will be upscaled to fill out the 2560x1080 resolution.
Few TV companies bother with cinema displays in the age of 16:9, but Vizio's decided to take the challenge and compete with the likes of Philips' £3,500 58-inch display. They haven't announced pricing yet, but the specs are solid: the TV runs at a resolution of 2560x1080 with a display supporting one billion colors, 5.5ms responses and 400 nits of brightness. It's packed with everything expected out of a smart TV, as mentioned above: that means 802.11n wireless, passive 3D, Bluetooth and LED local dimming in addition to a selection of apps.
The CinemaWide seems like the ultimate TV for movie buffs, but there is one issue with the display's native resolution. Blu-ray discs of anamorphic movies are only about 800 pixels tall once you strip out the matting, meaning everything will be upscaled to fill out the 2560x1080 resolution. That said, the Blu-ray copy of Rango playing on Vizio's TV looked awesome form-fitted to the frame.
Living room PC gaming might be a better selling point for the CinemaWide thanks to customizable resolution and field of view. With a release expected in the first half of 2012--and likely within the first quarter--pricing should be along sooner rather than later. When Philips released their cinema display, we didn't see any reason to pick it up over a nice HD projector. Vizio's pricing could help the CinemaWide displays carve out a small niche of movie fans that live for the 2.39:1 viewing experience.