Mitsubishi WD-73837 DLP Rear-Projection HDTV Page 3
Like many rear-projection sets, the Mitsubishi’s high-gain screen has a hot spot—more of a band, actually—across the center of the screen. But it was more noticeable on test patterns than on normal program material.
While rear-pro sets do lose brightness off axis, this set doesn’t produce the odd effects that LCD flat panel displays often produce off axis (obvious color shifts, degraded black levels). If you remain roughly centered on the screen vertically, the Mitsubishi will dim when you move off center horizontally. But it didn’t produce any anomalies that are likely to bother the average viewer—even at the widest angle I checked (about 45 degrees).
There was also video noise in some source material, particularly large areas of solid color or white. The noise was there on a 52-inch Sony XBR9 flat panel I used for comparison, but it wasn’t visible on all of the source material. This suggests that while the Mitsubishi may exaggerate noise present in the source, it does not add significant noise of its own.
So far, what I’ve described sounds like nothing out of the ordinary—a big set at a good price with the usual assortment of shortcomings you might expect in a budget (for its size) design.
But if you see the Mitsubishi WD-73837 set up and well calibrated, you will likely be as impressed as I was. While its bright image can be a disadvantage in a darkened room, I never found it to be fatiguing. The images jumped off the screen, with vivid but not overdone color and crisp detail. The processing issues I noticed in the Video Test Bench results never bothered me in my real-world viewing.
One of the first things that impressed me about the Mitsubishi was its solid black level. While it’s not KURO-like by a long shot (see HT Labs Measures), only a handful of HDTVs we’ve tested can surpass it. And none of those can simultaneously match the WD-73837’s peak white level. This combination may be largely responsible for the set’s potent visuals. The dark belowdecks scene at the beginning of Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (Blu-ray) had a touch of grayness, and the shadows weren’t as deep or the black bars as nearly invisible as they are on the very best displays I’ve seen. But they weren’t far off. The blackness of space behind the opening star field in Stargate: Continuum (Blu-ray) was a bit lighter than I’d prefer, but despite this, there were far more visible stars than on most other sets. In chapter 3 of the same film, you can easily make out details in the bulkhead on the darkened deck of the tramp steamer Achilles—without a compromise in the surrounding darkness.
The wobulated image process slightly overlaps the successive images in each frame, which eliminates any visible screen-door effect. Even from right next to the screen, I couldn’t make out individual pixels. While this might suggest a softened image, that’s not what I saw. Small details were clearly visible, if not quite as achingly crisp as you’ll see from a good flat panel display. Even good-quality SD material looked fine on the Mitsubishi—within the inherent limits of standard definition, of course.
The set’s color was good, although it had some odd twists. When I adjusted the overall color and tint settings (using a test pattern and the set’s Blue Only mode) and calibrated the color management system in the Picture+ menu, the color points were good, but the color intensities were off. This is a sign of color decoder errors. (All sets have color decoders, which convert the input color to the form required by the display—for example, from component on HDMI to red, green, and blue.)
But despite this, the color from most program material was more than satisfying. Morning Light (Blu-ray) is a superb new documentary about a sailboat race from California to Hawaii. The colors looked spectacularly natural throughout, from the green of Hawaii where the young crew trained, to the bright, sunlit fleshtones. However, when I checked out Madagascar (Blu-ray), it looked just a little less punchy than I know it can be. I easily fixed this with a small increase (four steps) in the Color control. Fellow video-tech obsessives will recognize that this actually skews the color, as set by a test pattern and the set’s Blue Only control. But it resulted in the best visible compromise.
As long as I had the Mitsubishi side by side with the smaller Sony XBR9, it was hard to resist a few comparisons, apart from the noise issue I mentioned above. The Mitsubishi had slightly deeper absolute blacks and better shadow detail, but not by much. The Sony’s richer color, resolution, and more lustrously three-dimensional image gave it the advantage in those areas. The Mitsubishi was brighter, but the visible difference wasn’t pronounced. I’d have to give the Sony the edge in overall image quality. But the Mitsubishi held its own, particularly on really dark scenes. Combine that with the sheer impact of its big screen and its $400 cheaper retail price, and this is a closer call than you might imagine.
I did uncover a few chinks in the Mitsubishi WD-73837’s armor—a bit of geometric distortion, some slight hiccups in its video processing, and a less than perfect color decoder being primary among them. But these pale in comparison to its strengths. Its big, bright image jumps off the screen in a convincing way. The color may not be technically perfect, but it never looks wrong. And its respectable black level and contrast let the image breathe in a way that even some pricey flat panels can’t yet manage.
Yes, it takes going against the flow to choose a set that will dominate most living spaces, instead of a décor-friendlier and trendier flat panel. But few flat panels provide an immersive experience to compete with this proudly retro, rear-pro design. It may not be the easiest set to like when it’s off, but it’s easy to love when it’s on.