Mitsubishi LT-46149 46-inch LCD HDTV
The Short Form
|$2,800 ($3,299 list) / MITSUBISHI-TV.COM / 800-332-2119|
TV audio performance has taken a back seat to picture quality for years - a balance that Mitsubishi manages to redress with its newest LCD model
• Much better sound than on most TVs • Minimum setup fuss • Plenty of inputs and flexible picture controls
|• Upconverted SD images look softer than usual • Slow to switch between HD and SD signals|
|• Built-in surround soundbar • 120-Hz display • TV Guide On Screen program guide • Deep Color and x.v.Color display options • SimplayHD-certified HDMI 1.3 connections • Inouts: 4 HDMI; 3 component-, 2 composite-, and 1 S-video; 2 RF antenna/cable; USB • 42 x 30 x 14 in; 78 1/4 lb|
When it comes to enjoying movies and TV, audio performance is at least as important as picture quality. After all, you can get the gist of a movie or TV show just by listening, whereas watching pictures with no sound can be pretty frustrating. Yet in the push to get that "all picture" look on newer flat-panel TVs, the built-in speakers have become little more than an afterthought.
I reviewed another Mitsubishi 46-inch LCD HDTV, the LT-46144, in the January issue, and found its audio performance disappointing. The company must have had similar feelings, because this new model, the LT-46149, has a surround soundbar built right into the set - the first I've encountered on a flat-panel TV. Mitsubishi calls this bottom-mounted soundbar an Integrated Sound Projector (iSP), and it adds less than 2 inches to the overall height of the set (which otherwise has a super-slim gloss-black frame).
The iSP has 16 small drivers spanning the TV's width. To generate a surround effect, an advanced algorithm takes the five individual channels of the audio signal and focuses each into a narrow steerable beam by manipulating its phase across the driver array. By reflecting each beam of sound off the walls of the room in a controlled manner, the iSP can deliver a pretty credible surround effect. On the downside, the tiny drivers don't offer much in the way of bass, although the TV's variable subwoofer pre-out makes it simple to add a sub.
While it's the soundbar that sets the LT-46149 apart from other LCD TVs, that doesn't mean Mitsubishi has skimped on picture quality. With a 120-Hz display option (and an associated circuit for film-judder removal) as well as an adjustable backlight, this TV is bang up to date with many of the latest LCD video-performance features.
The set's four HDMI 1.3 inputs make it compatible with both Deep Color display and the wider x.v.Color space. You also get up to three component-video inputs. The main jack pack is located toward the left side of the back panel, while a flip-open panel on the set's left edge gives easy access to an A/V input with combined composite- and component-video jacks and a USB port for displaying photos.
The remote is intuitive and uncluttered, and it has a partially backlit keypad. Six picture-size options are available for standard-def images. Depending on the signal format, there are only three or four size options available for high-def, including a direct pixel-mapping mode that displays 1080i/p pictures with no overscan.
The LT-46149's out-of-box picture was set so the TV would make an impression on a store's brightly lit sales floor. But I found that simply changing the picture mode from Brilliant to Natural and the color temperature from High to Low did much to improve its picture. As with many other LCDs, the backlight setting proved critical in balancing light output and black-level performance. The manual states that the set's Warm color-temperature setting conforms to the 6,500-K NTSC standard, but my measurements showed that it was much cooler (see Test Bench). And the user menu doesn't offer any white-balance adjustments beyond selecting the Cool or Warm mode. On the plus side, each input has its own picture settings, allowing you to tweak the setup for each connected source.
The iSP has a setup menu where you first enter the TV's position in the room, and then the lengths of the surrounding walls. This gets things in the ballpark, and you can fine-tune each channel using a pink-noise signal, listening for the reflected high-frequency sound as you tweak the direction of each channel's sound beam using an onscreen diagram. To extend the bass, I hooked up a Sunfire Super Junior subwoofer, which I could easily switch in and out as needed.