The Monster TV Face Off RCA P61310
Like the two other RCA TVs that we've reviewed recently, this one didn't fare too well, given its factory adjustments out of the box. For that matter, it's hard just getting it out of the box. At 220 pounds, this was one of the hardest TVs to lift, due to its lack of handles (OK, so only the Zenith had handles) and smooth, rounded edges with no handholds. This does give the set a sleek look. The P61310 does have a lot going for it, though. It was one of the few that had a built-in HDTV tuner and the only one to include an HD-DBS DirecTV receiver. At 61 inches, it was also one of the larger screens but had one of the smaller footprints. Aesthetically, I thought this was one of the better-looking sets, too.
While the inputs seem to be a little on the light side, it's not really as bad as it looks. Remember that the HDTV and satellite tuners are built in. This was also the only TV in the bunch that had a removable power cord. The remote control is the standard RCA remote: lots of buttons, and few are backlit. What saves it is that almost all of the buttons are shaped differently. After a little practice, you should be able to use it in the dark with little problem.
Picture quality was a mixed bag. The number-one comment about this TV was that the image was very, very red. This seemed to be the reason why most people ranked it where they did. There was also mild dot crawl, but the set has good DC restoration. You can disable the SVM, which makes the image appear sharper but actually adds artifacts, from the user menu—a big plus. In addition to an overall red image, the color decoder pushes red slightly. This, as Claire put it, made everyone look "lobster-esque." Most of us agreed that the P61310 had good image detail, and the numbers show this, as it had between 550 and 600 lines of resolution. Shadows on DVD weren't highly regarded, as they were a little too dark and appeared to get lost compared with the rest of the picture. The built-in line doubler does not detect 3:2; therefore, there are some jagged edges and artifacts with interlaced signals.
When we switched to HD signals, the comments changed. Almost everyone said that this TV looked the best in its group with HD material. Claire now thought it had a good balance between color and sharpness. Chris said that most of the problems that the set had with DVD material went away when the source changed. The P61310 also fared the best in its group with standard-definition off-air broadcasts.
After calibration, this TV looked a lot better. Its gray scale tracked better than that of most of the other TVs in the Face Off. If the extra cost of an ISF calibration doesn't bother you (it shouldn't; it's almost required with RPTVs), then this set is worth a look. It tracks well and has both a built-in HDTV tuner and DirecTV receiver. Even with the money you'll spend on calibration, this set is a good value, considering the picture quality you can get out of it and everything that's included.—GM
P61310 HDTV $4,000
Dealer Locator Code RCA
HT Labs Measures:RCA HDTV
The top chart shows the gray scale of the RCA HDTV as set by the manufacturer, in the most accurate menu setting possible. The set measures a low 4,500 Kelvin with dark images and leans upward to 6,300 K with brighter images. After making adjustments using the Photo Research PR-650, the gray scale measures within 200 K of D6500, the accurate setting, across most of the range. The bottom chart shows that the primary colors of the display's CRTs are excellent, matching those specified by SMPTE. This means that the display will reproduce all of the colors available in the system. The gray scale, shown in the middle of the triangle, goes from leaning toward red before calibration to being much more accurate (the middle red dots) afterward. The light output is approximately 27 foot-lamberts with a white window and about 29 ft-L with a full-white field. This means that RCA uses a good power supply that should be able to keep up with any demands of the video signal. The display has excellent DC restoration: Dark portions of the image stay the same as the image gets brighter. Scan velocity modulation is defeatable from the user menu. The color decoder pushes red slightly as set by the factory. The set's comb filter allows a little bit of dot crawl with composite sources. The TV displays at least 600 horizontal lines (per picture height) with NTSC sources, as measured using the resolution pattern from the Ovation Avia test DVD played on a Sony CDP-650D DVD player.—MW/GM