Philips has been talking a bout their new models of television sets using 21:9 aspect ratio instead of the mainstream 16:9 models along with 3D capabilities, and during CES 2011 that has just finished other companies like JVC who were showing a prototype and Vizio that announced models with 21:9 aspect. The idea of this wider aspect ratio seems quite good, considering the fact that a lot of movies distributed on DVD and Blu-ray using 16:9 aspect still do have black lines on the top and at the bottom of the screen. If you play these movies on a 21:9 aspect ratio HDTV these black lines should be gone and the image should cover the whole wide area of the display. So far, so good, but how does adding 3D capabilities fits in this?
The television sets using 21:9 aspect resolution do have a higher and non-standard native resolution of 2560×1080 which may be Ok for 2D content pushed over HDMI 1.4 interface is not OK for 3D content. The reason behind that fact is that HDMI 1.4 specifications for stereo 3D content support up to 1920×1080 resolution with 24Hz in 3D mode, so there is no way to push even higher resolution in stereo 3D mode over that interface. This means that you are pushing 1080p 3D video to the TV set and then it gets processed in some way in order to be displayed to cover the whole wide display, kind of upscaling and cropping of the video. This again should be quite OK for movies as with 3D movies in 16:9 aspect ratio you still get the black lines at the top and bottom, but what about playing games or photos in stereo 3D mode where you still need to push 720p or 1080p? Considering the fact that 24Hz 3D mode is not very responsive for most gamers, you would have to resort to playing games in 720p mode and upscaling that do the native resolution of 2560×1080 might lead to not so good visual quality, especially of the game does not have Anti-Aliasing support. But what will the 21:9 aspect ratio TV set do when you are sending 1080p or 720p 3D content which is 16:9 aspect ratio? The television set will upscale the image just like it does with a movie, but since you are not going to have black lines in the game window you are actually going to loose some of the image at the top and bottom and in games these parts usually are used for the HUD display. And if you are sending 4:3 aspect ratio image (what about 3:2 3D photos pushed over 720p/1080p resolution), although this is not supported in 3D over HDMI 1.4 the TV will again scale the images a bit, but still will leave some black bars on the sides.
At the moment Nvidia’s 3DTV Play software does not mention any of the 21:9 3D HDTVs as compatible as they are still not so common and probably haven’t yet been tested, but in theory they should be compatible. However due to the specifics of the aspect and the resolution they may not be a great choice for all around 3D content, although they may be great choice for movies in 2D or 3D. Gaming on this new breed of 3D-capable television sets brings some questions and can prove problematic with you either loosing some of your game display or having to play with back bars which will ultimately ruin the experience. Playing games through a 3D-capable console also brings these issues as PlayStation 3 for example also relies on the HDMI 1.4 stereo 3D specifications and for games you are stuck at 720p resolution only. So if you are considering to get a 21:9 aspect ratio 3D HDTV and are planning to use it primarily for gaming in stereo 3D mode, then you should reconsider and go for a more traditional 16:9 aspect ratio instead.