Mitsubishi PD-6130 Plasma HD Monitor and HD-5000A HDTV Receiver/Controller
The 60-inch-plus plasma is the big kahuna of flat-screen designs. If you want to go really big and really flat (under 5 inches), plasma is the only technology that will get you there. Mitsubishi has adopted the two-box approach for their new plasmas. On its own, the PD-6130 is a 61-inch HD monitor. Add the HD-5000A controller, and it functionally becomes an integrated HDTV.
The Plasma Monitor
Let's begin with the PD-6130. This is a true monitor; it has no tuner and no speakers. This svelte, silver-framed beauty has numerous inputs, including one component video, one RGBHV, one VGA, and one DVI connector with HDCP copy protection. The panel's native resolution is 1,365 by 768, which is the same as that of many 50-inch panels. Roughly the same matrix applies to all big plasmas: more surface area but no more picture elements.
The setup process was quite normal. I used my Sencore 403 signal generator and the color filters supplied with the Avia test disc to set the user controls, and the results were very pleasing. Each input has its own memory settings. The screen brightness was quite high, measuring 51.4 foot-lamberts at full contrast on a 100-IRE window. I turned down the contrast control (white level) to the proper viewing level using the Sencore's stair-step test pattern. I prefer to view most content in moderately low light. An excessive light level tires my eyes and shortens the life span of phosphor-driven displays like this one. I needed to set the brightness (black level) control at three-quarters of its maximum; this is unusually high, but it didn't present any problems.
The user video controls aren't on a separate hot button on the non-backlit remote, but Mitsubishi has intelligently listed them first in the layered menus. My "how many button pushes does it take to change the contrast" test came in at three, an excellently low number.
The PD-6130 represents advances in behemoth (60 inches and over) plasma design. Early models suffered from poor black levels and so-so white levels, along with many picture artifacts. The PD-6130's black level measured a mere 0.06 ft-L on a 0-IRE window, low enough to provide an excellent viewing experience with the room lights turned down or off.
The set has a four-level gamma control that adjusts the logarithmic relationship between input signal level and display level. Good gamma contributes to subtle changes in brightness, and video is ideal at a gamma value of 2.2. The PD-6130's number-four setting had an average value of 2.05 over the entire brightness range. (The value changed in different parts of the range, which is why I specify an average here.) At the number-one setting, the average gamma measured 1.78. The Mitsubishi did an excellent job with light objects, like a white shirt; it retained the shirt's visible wrinkles and shape, while many other digital displays would have crushed the whites and made the shirt a bright, glowing blob with no form.
The remote's format button accesses the six screen settings: 4:3, standard (also known as full), stretch (a disproportionate zoom), expand, a proportionate enlargement, and zoom, which makes the picture bigger still.
Mitsubishi specifies 256 levels of brightness, indicating 8-bit signal processing. In previous 8-bit designs, the coarse steps between black and white created false contouring on faces and objects. Mitsubishi must have incorporated additional signal processing because I didn't observe this anomaly or others, such as poor dark detail.
I connected the panel alternately to both cable and satellite boxes to view standard- and high-def signals. The results were excellent. I set my HD cable box's output to 1080i, and the Mitsubishi's signal processing converted the program to the panel's native resolution. When I connected the plasma to the DVI output of a 720p-capable DVD player, the results were also excellent. Using the player's progressive component video output yielded picture artifacts, probably due to a combination of the player's inferior analog output and the additional upconversion needed to reach the display's native matrix.
Additional tests confirmed the PD-6130's excellent reds, with a color point close to the HD standard. Looking at the SMPTE color bars through several of the plasma's inputs, it displayed nearly ideal red proportions, free of red push—the scourge of accurate fleshtones. My only complaint is that the yellow SMPTE color bar appeared slightly green. The ColorView function can accentuate the hue and saturation for red, blue, green, yellow, blue, and magenta. I moved the yellow more toward the red; this wasn't ideal, but it did eliminate the green tinge without affecting the other SMPTE bar colors. The display has slight video noise, but it was too low to see at normal viewing distances.
Adding the HD-5000A
I attached the HD-5000A to the plasma via the MonitorLink/DVI connection. The HD-5000A has two NTSC tuners, one ATSC tuner, and one unencrypted QAM tuner, as well as three IEEE 1394 connections with 5C copy protection and the NetCommand link. It also has one HD component/
RGBHV input (480i/480p/1080i), two 480i/p component inputs, and a VGA (640 by 480) 15-pin jack. Functions include NetCommand 2.0, picture in picture, picture outside picture, and the HAVi graphic user interface.
The NetCommand feature allows the HD-5000A to control all of the plasma's functions; with IR flashers, it can control most major-brand components. Set it up, and your home theater becomes quite easy to operate. Short of a megabucks control system, it's one of the best user interfaces ever made. The HD-5000A's backlit remote has hot buttons for audio and video adjustment, and you can select inputs via the onscreen GUI.
After connecting the HD-5000A, I rechecked the color temperature and found a slight but measurable difference compared with the performance when my generator was connected directly to the plasma. I adjusted the gray scale using the PD-6130's onscreen user menu and supplied remote. (Caution: These settings should not be changed without the proper training and test equipment.) Once set, the picture was near the ideal D6500 from light to dark, providing neutral grays, near blacks, and more-accurate images.
The HD-5000A adds a second scaler to the PD-6130. The controller converts all content to either 480p or 1080i and then sends it to the PD-6130 via DVI, where it's again converted to the panel's native resolution. The HD-5000A would not accept a native 720p signal and only outputs 480p or 1080i, according to the owner's manual. This double scaling has disadvantages. The amount of video noise increased perceptibly, especially with low-level signals, such as dark scenes and night skies. HDTV images looked great, but DVD images and satellite and over-the-air broadcasts had more noise and motion artifacts than I saw when I connected the source box directly to the panel and let it do all of the scaling. I'm sure the lack of a direct digital DVI connection didn't help.
Less-critical users may feel that the HD-5000A's superb convenience outweighs the picture-quality virtues of direct plasma connection. Either way, the Mitsubishi PD-6130 delivers clean high-definition images with excellent transitions; dark, deep blacks; and bright, sparkling whites. It should be on your A list if you're shopping for a big-kahuna flat-panel display.
• Easy system control with NetCommand
• Advances large-screen plasma technology