Face Off: Big-Screen Smackdown What Do You Think?

What Do You Think?

It's always Face Offs like this that make me wish there was one retailer who sold every brand of A/V equipment. Because of stiff competition and narrow profit margins, rear-projection manufacturers are forced to choose retail outlets in which they are the "king of the sales floor." As a result, you will rarely find comparable sets side by side. Luckily, we at HT have the guts to stick four of these units next to each other. (At least Mike Wood does.) As the proud, new owner of a digital video camera, I can tell you that front y/c inputs are not only important but a necessity. The Mitsubishi seemed to have one up on its closest competition in this category. At least the Panasonic offers composite inputs on the front. Hello, Hitachi and Zenith?! The Panasonic display produced amazing resolution with SMPTE test patterns yet appeared a bit "soft" when it came to regular materials (such as movies). I was constantly scanning back and forth between the Mitsubishi, Zenith, and Panasonic. I sincerely question why the Hitachi was even in the same room, as it did not come close to the picture quality of the other three sets. Not only were colors blue and fleshtones too cool, but the resolution appeared to suffer as a result. Although Mike claims this can be corrected by an ISF-certified technician, I'd question the value of this on such an inexpensive set. The Zenith, on the other hand, looks much better as set by the manufacturer. The real competition in picture quality came down to that of the Zenith versus the Mitsubishi. Out of the box, the Zenith was better, but it fell second to the Mitsubishi set overall because of its lack of features. I'd rate the displays as follows: Hitachi last, the Zenith third (due mostly to its lack of inputs), the Panasonic second, and the Mitsubishi first.—Clint Walker

My dilemma in this Face Off is simple—the Zenith's picture versus the Mitsubishi's features. Now I should qualify that by saying that the Mitsubishi's picture was definitely good enough to make considering its extra features an issue. In my book, it finished a close second in image quality to the Zenith. I wouldn't have considered it on peripherals alone, even though it did have the most worthwhile features of the group (plenty of inputs, a well-executed menu and convergence system, and a good remote). And it wasn't as though the Zenith was devoid of quality features. The only thing it really gave away to the Mitsubishi was overall number of inputs. Both sets had solid comb filters and accurate color rendition. Where the Zenith distanced itself from the crowd was in its attention to detail and black-level reproduction. Definition in dark areas was clean and precise on the Zenith, while some of the other sets delivered a formless blob of darkness where varying shades and subtle detail should have been. The Mitsubishi was again second-best here, but it didn't offer the deep blacks of the Zenith. When all the dust clears, the Zenith would be my horse. Features are nice, but I buy a TV for its picture, period. I'll give up a few perks for a better picture every time, even if the difference in image quality is minor.—Chris Lewis

A friend who was shopping for a TV recently asked for my advice. When she stated that she wanted a TV with a good picture, I had to stop and ask why. I wasn't being sarcastic (although I usually am); I really meant it. I've come to realize that there are two kinds of people in the world: those who will go to the ends of the earth for good performance and those who have been convinced they need it, even though they could really care less. OK, so maybe there's a third group consisting of those who really don't care and haven't been convinced otherwise, but I'm guessing they're not reading this anyway. For those who don't have a copy of Avia or Video Essentials (DVD test discs) living permanently in their DVD player, the Mitsubishi and Panasonic displays offer great features and "good" pictures. I, however, am a performance nut. It takes six remotes to make my system work, which drives my fiancée nuts. It doesn't matter if it's a high-quality, anamorphic DVD of the latest movie or the evening news. Everything has to be perfect. For anyone like me, the Zenith is the best choice.—Mike Wood