|Mitsubishi Diamond Series WD-57833 DLP HDTV|
|Home Theater Rear-Projection HDTVs DLP Rear-Projection HDTVs|
|Written by Adrienne Maxwell|
|Saturday, 01 March 2008|
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Reports of RPTV's death have been greatly exaggerated. Okay, maybe not greatly. How about mildly exaggerated? Toshiba, Hitachi, and (most surprising) Sony have all announced that they are abandoning RPTV production. Last September, IDC predicted that RPTV sales would drop from 2.5 million units in 2006 to as few as 30,000 units in 2011, and that was before Sony's announcement. This expected decline is due to the fact that the price of large-screen flat-panel TVs continues to drop, chipping away at the RPTV's biggest selling point: You get more screen size for less money. Indeed, the future may be grim for rear-pro HDTVs, but 2011 is still several years away. Let's talk about the here and now.
Right here, right now, Samsung, and Mitsubishi are still committed to their respective rear-pro technologies. As much as flat-panel pricing has fallen, plasma and LCD still can't compete with rear pros in the 55-inch-and-above region. You can get fantastic deals on big-screen rear-projection HDTVs, which are slimmer, lighter, and more attractive than they've ever been. Case in point is Mitsubishi's WD-57833. This 57-inch, 1080p DLP rear pro hails from the company's highest-end line, the Diamond Series, and is loaded with connections and features. Its original MSRP was $3,499, but you can now find it through reputable online retailers like Crutchfield for $2,499 or less. Cabinet depth comes in at a respectable 13.9 inches, the TV weighs just 62.4 pounds, and its slim-bezel design minimizes the amount of frame surrounding that 57-inch screen, so there's little to detract from the high-definition picture. Aesthetics and value are important, but just how good does that high-def picture look?
I must admit that, when I first turned on the WD-57833, I was underwhelmed by its image quality. It didn’t help Mitsubishi’s cause that I had just reviewed two of the best-looking flat panels I’ve ever seen, which would put any TV at a disadvantage. Of course, both of those flat panels are high-end and high-priced: $3,999 for a 46-inch LED-based LCD and $5,000 for a 50-inch plasma. As I already mentioned, the WS-57833 also hails from a high-end line but costs less than half the price of the flat panels, with a bigger screen to boot.
Contributing further to my lukewarm first impression was the fact that the WD-57833’s default settings do this TV no justice. Most TVs are set up to look inaccurate and exaggerated out of the box, but the WD-57833 takes it further than normal. I immediately popped Digital Video Essentials (DVD International) into my Sony DVD player and began to make adjustments to the component video inputs. First, I switched from the highly exaggerated Brilliant picture mode to the more pleasing Natural mode and changed the color temperature from the overly cool High mode to the Low mode, which was a bit too warm but still the better choice. The basic color and tint controls required some tweaking, and my color filter showed the WD-57833’s red and green color decoders to be far off the mark. Mitsubishi includes two options for fine-tuning the color points: PerfectColor and PerfectTint let you precisely adjust the saturation and hue of red, green, blue, yellow, magenta and cyan. Using these adjustments, I was able to dial in a more accurate color palette, although it still wasn’t perfect.
The next issue that needed addressing was the excessive amount of edge enhancement. I tried turning the sharpness control all the way down, but that made the component video image very soft and didn’t entirely remove the edge enhancement. Through further menu exploration, I found that the SharpEdge control, which (as the name implies) adds artificial sharpness to make the picture seem more detailed, is turned on by default. Some people aren’t bothered by edge enhancement and may even prefer it, but I find it very distracting, as it adds unwanted noise and information to the picture. Turning off SharpEdge eliminated most of the edge enhancement, and lowering the sharpness control about one-quarter further improved the situation.
Like most rear-pro HDTVs, the WD-57833 is very bright. You can choose between two levels of light output, Bright (the default) and Standard, via the Energy Mode control, located in the general Set-up menu. The Standard mode doesn’t decrease light output that much, still providing ample brightness to produce a saturated image in a well-lit environment. The tradeoff for all of that brightness is an average black level, on par with most rear-pro HDTVs but not as good as other technologies. Other important video controls include a film mode (auto/off) to handle the deinterlacing of 480i/1080i content and a Smooth 120Hz mode that increases the frame rate from 60 to 120 Hz to reduce judder and motion blur. There’s also a general noise-reduction control, with settings for high, medium, low and off. You can adjust all of the video parameters independently for each input, so once I finished setting up the component video inputs, I turned my attention to HDMI and went through the entire process again. It’s worth noting that you can name each input based on the type of component you’ve connected; however, any time you rename an input, it resets all of the video parameters to their defaults. I learned this the hard way.
While we’re on the subject of inputs, the WD-57833’s connection panel is very well endowed: four HDMI 1.3, three component video, two S-video, two composite video, and two RF inputs to access to internal NTSC, ATSC and Clear-QAM tuners. One set of inputs, including both HDMI and component video, is located on the WS-57833’s front panel, behind a flip-down door; here, you will also find general TV controls like power, volume and input, as well as a USB port for viewing JPEG photos and slideshows. If you use the RF inputs to tune in digital cable, the TV automatically deletes tuned digital channels during the scanning process that don’t actually contain content, which is a nice time-saver. Both TV Guide on Screen and ChannelView program guides are available, as are split-screen viewing options. Other back-panel connections include a coaxial digital audio output, two IEEE 1394 FireWire connections, RS-232 and IR emitter ports for advanced control, and a record output with composite video and stereo analog audio. This TV features Mitsubishi’s NetCommand and NetCommand for HDMI (HDMI-CEC) functions, for more intuitive recording and control of connected components. One final back-panel connection is especially interesting: the 3D Glasses Emitter port. That’s right, the WD-57833 is 3D-ready; when combined with a compatible 3D source, a set of 3D glasses and a sync emitter, the TV can display 3D graphics in games and movie content. There’s not much content out there right now, but this is a growing field.
In terms of ergonomic features, the supplied remote has an intuitive button layout, with amber backlighting. The remote lacks dedicated source buttons, but the TV automatically senses which inputs are in use. There are a number of aspect ratio options for displaying 4:3 and 16:9 content but, sadly, no automatic aspect ratio detection. Also, the TV lacks some important choices, particularly a pixel-for-pixel mode for displaying 1080i and 1080p sources without overscan. Additionally, for those of us who don’t believe in stretching 4:3 sources, the TV lacks the ability to correctly resize 4:3-shaped HD signals that broadcasters have stretched across the screen. Finally, the TV sports two lights on its underbelly that glow blue; if you find this effect distracting, you can disable the function, but the control is oddly located in the AV menu and not the Set-up menu.