Mitsubishi Diamond Series WD-57833 DLP HDTV 
Home Theater Rear-Projection HDTVs DLP Rear-Projection HDTVs
Written by Adrienne Maxwell   
Saturday, 01 March 2008

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.

Television And Movies
My review session began with some staple DVD demos. To test the TV’s deinterlacing and upconversion of 480i sources, I fed it the Coliseum flyover in chapter 12 of Gladiator (DreamWorks Home Entertainment). Through the component video input, the WD-57833 did a fine job on the deinterlacing end, creating only minor shimmer. It didn’t do as good a job with my torturous Venetian-blind test in chapter four of The Bourne Identity (Universal Home Video), producing clear artifacts. With both discs, the level of detail was good but not exceptional. So, while it isn’t mandatory, you might want to mate the TV with a good progressive-scan or upconverting DVD player. In other respects, both discs offered generally natural skin tones, rich colors and a nice level of contrast.

Next, I tested the TV’s bit depth, or ability to render all of the steps between black and white, using scenes from chapter 10 of Ladder 49 (Buena Vista Home Entertainment) and chapter five of “The Whole Truth” episode of Lost’s second season (Buena Vista Home Entertainment). In both cases, light-to-dark transitions were mostly smooth, but there was still a lot of digital noise hanging over darker scenes – more so through HDMI than component video. Setting the noise-reduction control to High eliminated a lot of the noise without diminishing detail; however, it also introduced a new problem, a kind of image smearing or tracing during motion pans in dark scenes. I found that the Low noise-reduction setting struck the best balance, eliminating a fair amount of noise without adversely affecting motion. The opening scene of The Bourne Supremacy (Universal Home Video) showed the WD-57833 to have good black detail, and the black level, while a little gray, was deep enough to help the image retain solid saturation in a dark room.

When moving up to high-definition DVD sources, I first used my HD HQV Benchmark Blu-ray test disc (Silicon Optix) to make sure that the WD-57833 correctly deinterlaces 1080i and picks up the 3:2 sequence in film-based sources. The TV passed these tests through both the component video and HDMI inputs, and it created minimal jaggies in the disc’s moving-diagonal test. That means you don’t have to mate the WS-57833 with a 1080p player; you can mate it with a 1080i player and enjoy an image free of artifacts. If you do purchase a 1080p player, the WD-57833 accepts both 1080p/24 and 1080p/60 through its HDMI inputs.

Obviously, the step up to high-def DVD provided a step up in overall picture performance. The Kingdom of Heaven (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment), Black Hawk Down (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment) and The Prestige (Buena Vista Home Entertainment) BD discs all had very good detail and a generally clean presentation, although they too benefited from keeping the noise reduction at the Low setting. Dark, complexly lit scenes from chapter three of Mission Impossible II (Paramount Home Entertainment) and chapters two through four of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (Buena Vista Home Entertainment) had solid black detail, but overall black level was only average, and the WD-57833 didn’t render the subtle shading and finest nuances that truly distinguish a high-end display.

I preferred Mitsubishi’s Smooth 120Hz mode to the 120-Hz implementations I’ve seen thus far in LCD TVs. When engaged, the feature made precise details more apparent in moving test patterns on the FPD Software Group Blu-ray test disc, as well as in basketball and football HD broadcasts. However, it did not dramatically alter the character of film sources, creating movement so smooth that it looks like video – a complaint I have with the 120Hz LCDs I’ve seen.

Brighter HDTV content is definitely the WD-57833’s strong suit. Its good detail, ample light output and vibrant colors breathed life into HD sporting events, nature shows and other bright content, all of which had a nice level of detail. Upconverted SDTV shows looked fairly detailed, as well. Again, though, the TV’s 480i deinterlacing isn’t entirely consistent, so you might want to let your cable or satellite receiver do the conversion. The WD-57833’s screen uniformity is solid; there’s no distracting hot spot in the center of the screen, and the viewing angle holds up well as you move off-axis.

The Downside
Rear-projection TV screens have a distinct visual quality, a reflective sheen or silk-screen effect, as some people call it. As with a high-gain front-projection screen, the image has excellent pop and impact when viewed from a distance, but the sheen is fairly distracting if you sit too close. Add in the digital-noise issues that I mentioned above, and the WD-57833’s picture is more enjoyable when you sit a little farther back, about five times the picture height or more.

Color fidelity is another concern. Neither of the WD-57833’s color-temperature choices tracks right at D6500, and I had to experiment with the PerfectColor and PerfectTint controls to get more accurate colors. Even then, reds often looked magenta. These inaccuracies are more obvious when comparing the TV directly with an accurate display, and the average consumer might be quite content with the WD-57833’s vibrant, engaging color palette. The good news is, these issues can also be remedied to an extent by a professional calibrator, who can dial in each color point more precisely and adjust the overall color temperature to be closer to D6500.

I’m glad that Mitsubishi included an adjustable lamp in this TV, but I wish they would’ve provided at least one more lamp setting that’s better suited to a dark theater environment. Even in the Standard Energy Mode, this TV is very bright, which can cause eye fatigue when watching content in a completely dark room. I preferred to keep my theater-room lights turned up a bit when watching bright HDTV content at night, to counteract all of the light coming from the TV. Also, when a display device is overly bright, it reveals every flaw, both in the source material and TV itself. Some of the noise issues and other artifacts I saw wouldn’t be quite so blatant if Mitsubishi included a setting that reduced light output by another 30 foot-lamberts or so.

Finally, on the ergonomic front, the WD-57833 sounds a bit like a computer; it hums audibly during operation and is somewhat slow to power down. The lack of automatic aspect ratio detection is regrettable, especially since you have to scroll through all four other aspect ratios to get from 4:3 Standard (for anamorphic DVDs) to 4:3 Narrow (regular SDTV with bars).

This past summer, my father’s RPTV died, which thrilled him no end, because he wanted to get a newer, better HDTV. He hit the big-name retailers and came to me with a list of several flat panels, wanting to know which model I recommended. The thing is, my dad owns a huge entertainment console, in which his former RPTV fit perfectly. He had no intention of getting rid of this console, so he didn’t need a super-thin flat panel, especially since the models in his price range were too small to fill the gap left by his old rear pro. I told him that, for less money, he could get a bigger screen that perfectly fit his existing set-up if he went the rear-pro route. I recommended a few models, one of which he ultimately purchased. And you know what? He couldn’t be happier … with the TV and the financial savings.

As long as there are people like my dad around, there will still be a need for big-screen rear-projection HDTVs that offer good performance for a great price. The WD-57833 is just such a TV, provided you take the time to set it up correctly – or, better yet, pay a professional to precisely calibrate it for you. While it lacks the accuracy and refinement that characterize a high-end theater display, its brightness, vibrant colors, limited motion blur and good viewing angle make it a nice choice for a general-purpose, living-room TV – especially for the HDTV lover. If you want to fill the hole in the center of your entertainment console without emptying your wallet, the WD-57833 is worth a look.
Manufacturer Mitsubishi
Model Diamond Series WD-57833 DLP HDTV
Reviewer Adrienne Maxwell

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