LG Electronics RU52SZ61D 52-inch DLP HDTV 
Home Theater Rear-Projection HDTVs DLP Rear-Projection HDTVs
Written by Bryan Southard   
Wednesday, 01 September 2004

The mere mention of flat screen television brings out passion in even non-AV enthusiasts. In fact, there are few households that wouldn’t purchase such display devices if they didn’t command what is considered by most to be a king’s ransom. I mean, what’s not to love? They are slim, can be hung on walls and free up much desired and highly valuable floor space. Research from our readers show the majority of homes have one of two styles of TVs – some have smaller direct-view CRT televisions while others have ridiculously large rear-projected CRT big screens. The latter became very popular in the last decade-and-a-half as an inexpensive way to enjoy very large video. These “big screen TV” displays reach up to and beyond 70 inches, and weigh in at a price that most can afford, yet they also have serious downsides, as they are enormous and frankly in most cases have poor video quality, becoming washed out even in minimal ambient light.

The last several years have ushered in better quality, high-definition rear-projected displays, yet this has done little to remedy their biggest anomaly. As the men in the house find the rear-projection units to be the best thing since pizza delivery, many women consider them an eyesore and excessive in size. Over the last couple years rear-projected DLP displays have come to market, providing a huge improvement over the CRT projection displays of the past. The new DLP displays are considerably brighter, more colorful and are a fraction of the depth of their aging predecessors.

The LG Electronics RU52SZ61D is a 52-inch rear-projected DLP HDTV display that sports the Texas Instruments HD2 DLP chip set and has a native resolution of 1280 x 720, all for a not-so-out-of-reach price of $3,499.95. The RU52SZ61D’s sleek exterior measures 48-5/8 inches in width, 35-1/8 inches in height and a Paris Hilton-like 15-3/8 inches in depth, a fraction of the depth of completive width displays. This is an enormous improvement that begs the question of whether a plasma display is necessary at better than twice the price for comparable resolution specs.

For connectivity, the LG Electronics RU52SZ61D has a DVI input, HDCP input, two component video inputs, a 15-pin PC input and an S-Video input at the rear and S-Video output at the front of the display. The RU52SZ61D specs are a 1000:1 contrast ratio, a brightness spec of 600 cd/m2, an internal two-way speaker system with SRS simulated surround and an internal progressive scan doubler, which doubles the scan frequency for better and smoother pictures. Most of the superior DVD players today come outfitted with Progressive Scan units, which is beneficial, as you aren’t limited to DVD movies but can take advantage of this improved look for TV, games and any other input source.

Due to logistics and difficulties of getting a large display unit into my home for evaluation, I called LaserLand HomeTheater, my favorite local home theater retailer, located in Cupertino, California. LaserLand is a beautiful facility, with a large selection of today’s cooler displays and a hugely knowledgeable staff to assist you with everything from home theater components to today’s best custom installation set-ups. After we shared in the basic calibration of the set, I was left alone for some detailed evaluation.

HDTV and Movies
First on the platter is “Gladiator” (DreamWorks Home Entertainment), a very common video reference of mine due to its stellar anamorphic pressing and outstanding black levels. One of the knocks to any rear-projected display is uneven light distribution, which often renders a bright spot at the focal center of the display. This has been much improved upon over the years and is only slightly visible to viewers with a pretty direct viewing angle. When viewing the LG Electronics RU52SZ61D from a five-foot distance with no viewing angle, the light distribution looks nearly perfect. As I step back to an eight-foot distance, dark spots, or rather concentrated areas of light, begin to appear. When I step to a 45-degree angle at the same eight-foot distance, the darker spots increase but still provide a pleasurable viewing experience. This condition is considerably improved over displays of even a year ago in this price class. I find that 45-degree-angle viewing is quite good and causes little degradation. For those who are looking for 120 degrees of viewing, you will want to audition the RU52SZ61D to assure that you are satisfied. Unless you have an enormous viewing room, 90 degrees of viewing should suffice and this display has plenty of adequate light for a satisfying picture.

In Chapter Eight, the grasses are quite detailed. I paid close attention to the edges of the blades for stair-stepping and negative artifacts. Although the edges are not perfect when compared to how they look on high-resolution plasma and LCD direct view displays, it is very good compared to all the modern CRT rear-projection systems in its price class. I also noted a lack of common video noise, something found in poor quality video. The black level detail is good, not perfect yet nevertheless enjoyable. Contrast is perhaps the biggest problem with projection sets and the LG Electronics RU52SZ61D is no exception, yet the colors are rich enough that any contrast issues are sidelined in favor of “Gladiator’s” action. The red blood in this scene looks good and has considerable depth and definition.

One of my favorite references in this movie is at the end battle. As Russell Crowe lies dying on the coliseum floor, the contrast from the whites caused by light reflection in his black hair show very well. There is good edge detail proving the internal doubler is performing well. Contrast isn’t perfect, but a very satisfying picture is provided nevertheless. I found myself focusing on the rose petals on the ground and saw little edge noise. Overall, this was a very good demonstration.

In Chapter One of the 2002 animated classic “Ice Age” (20th Century Fox), details in the glistening snow are very apparent and have good depth. The fur of the squirrel looks quite good and has little edge artifacts as it moves quickly. In fact, as the snow shards chase the squirrel down the hill, I found myself enjoying the movie more than picking at flaws. This is always a sign of a display that provides a very tantalizing picture.

The Downside
Any time you shine video information onto mirrors and then onto the rear of a textured screen, there is loss. There is no denying the difference between direct view and projected TV. However, there is also no denying the price difference of nearly half or even more in many cases. If you have a large room with extreme viewing angles, you will want to visit your retailer first to see if this is tolerable to your viewers. (This assumes that you will be in the sweet spot and therefore unbothered.)

The reported 1000:1 contrast ratio is on the low side and will cause the extreme black levels to look gray. This is something that the brain will compensate for; soon after some people start watching, they will forget about it.

After years of viewing and evaluating video devices, I have become increasingly critical of bad displays. I have friends with large CRT rear-projection sets that are huge and look downright poor. Technology updates such as that of the LG Electronics RU52SZ61D make rear-projected television not only affordable but very satisfying. And let’s not forget the awesomely minimal footprint of the RU52SZ61D. It draws an interesting question: do you need to hang your set or can you live with the slim 15-inch footprint? Myself, I am not quite ready to slap down $7,000 or more for a good HD plasma, a technology that’s not without its own significant flaws.

I am still enamored of the benefits of a thin hanging display, but like many AV enthusiasts, I am waiting for the technology to mature and the prices to drop. When you factor in the level of performance that you can achieve from this small footprint, you might find your own reason to wait. In the meantime, products like the LG Electronics RU52SZ61D provide high performance and dramatic size at a cost within reach of the masses. I recommend this set for everyone looking to minimize his or her TV’s footprint and still achieve a larger than life picture. In my view, the old and enormous CRT projection sets are intolerably large and lack performance. For a small financial step up, you could remedy this and start enjoying your movies like never before.
Manufacturer LG Electronics
Model RU52SZ61D 52-inch DLP HDTV
Reviewer Bryan Southard
Diagonal Screen Size 43 to 56-inches

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