Mitsubishi WS-65909 high-definition RPTV

Mitsubishi sells more high-definition televisions than anyone else, and with the WS-65909 Diamond Series rear-projector they've pulled out the stops. The WS-65909 has a 65-inch-diagonal, 16:9 screen and 7-inch CRTs. Its huge cabinet has a glossy burl wood finish of various shades of dark brown and black accents—this TV will dominate whatever room holds it. (The product is delivered in one piece, but can be separated into two pieces for delivery in the home.) It includes everything you might want, including an integrated DTV receiver, a digital cable receiver for unscrambled signals, and the company's NetCommand system for linking all your components so they can be controlled from the TV. In fact, in all my years of reviewing digital televisions, I've never encountered one with as many interesting and useful features.

Mitsubishi HDTVs come in three series of "good, better, best." There's the entry-level Platinum line; Platinum Plus, which is Platinum with some upgrades; and the no-compromise Diamond series. The WS-65869 Platinum Plus costs $5299, or $1200 less than the WS-65909 Diamond. For that extra $1200 you get built-in two-way speakers with 1.5-inch dome tweeters and 6-inch woofers that sounded pretty good for built-in TV speakers. The Diamond also gives you a better anti-glare screen shield, gold-plated jacks, and, most important, higher-quality lenses that should result in improved focus and resolution.

The WS-65909 converts all standard-definition programming to 480-line progressive scan using an internal scaler. High-definition images broadcast at 720p are converted to 1080 lines interlaced. The set has built-in 3:2 pulldown correction for film-based material, two wideband component-video inputs, and a motion-adaptive 3D Y/C comb filter, the best sort currently offered for use with composite source material.

There are also three IEEE-1394 (FireWire) digital inputs. Using FireWire for the first time, I can tell you that when these connections gain wide currency, everyone will appreciate it. They're perfectly easy to use—unlike S-video plugs, which are hard to align, or component inputs, which are easy to confuse. The WS-65909 has a good 64-point color-convergence system that is easy to operate, which is important. A set like this needs to be reconverged every month or so [I'd recommend more often, particularly with a new set while the circuits are still settling in.—;TJN], a process that takes about 15 minutes. The set also allows you to change all of the picture settings for every one of the multiple inputs—an excellent feature that will force you to spend a long time setting up, but, once you're done, will give you the best possible picture for every input device.

One complaint: Like most TVs, the WS-65909 comes with its Contrast control pegged, plus other settings to make picture and viewer scream. Such factory-default picture settings are meant to make the set stand out on a showroom floor by presenting the brightest possible picture, even if it washes out all the details. The problem with the WS-65909 is that it's very easy—after you've made all your adjustments—to accidentally hit a button that restores all of the factory defaults. I did that half a dozen times. If that happens, it's not so easy to restore your careful calibrations. The picture-setting bar graphs are not numbered, which means you can write down only approximations of your new settings. A related issue: While you're making adjustments, the picture-setting menu falls away after just five seconds—not enough time. When it disappears, you have to wade through several menus to get back to where you were.

The large number of analog and RF inputs offered by the WS-65909, not to mention the number of possible IEEE 1394 inputs (according to Mitsubishi, the set can support 64 IEEE 1394-capable devices) begs one entry-level question: How easy will it be to access them? If you're using Input 2, do you have to scroll though Inputs 3-14 before you get back to 1? Ideally, a remote control will have direct-access buttons, but 14 of them would create a crowd of buttons. The remotes for all Mitsubishi TVs have a two-directional toggle switch that allows you to scroll up or down, but the toggle on the WS-65909's remote calls up a menu listing all of the inputs and their labels. You can then navigate to the input you want, highlight it, and press Enter. Direct-entry buttons would be faster, but this is the next best thing, and it's fun to use.

But if you use NetCommand (see below) to set up the TV, the unused inputs are removed from the menu system. Even without using NetCommand, you can go into the menu and delete the unused inputs. There are also direct access IR codes for each input for use with aftermarket IR control systems.

Everything about the WS-65909 Diamond is attractively graphical, though Mitsubishi says some graphic programs were not ready when my review unit was shipped. But the set's software can be upgraded using a slot on the back; the company says the next upgrade will be sent to current owners free of charge.

Setup: FireWire, NetCommand, HAVi, etc.
For use with other IEEE 1394-configured components, the WS-65909 incorporates a control scheme called HAVi (Home Audio-Video Interoperability). HAVi permits two-way communication between devices. Many people in the industry—including, obviously, Mitsubishi executives—see this as the next big thing in the home theater industry. If and when it's fully in place some years from now, the tangles of cables behind sophisticated systems will disappear. Units will be linked with single 1394 cables, and that will be that.

But most of today's components are analog and not equipped to operate with an IEEE 1394 digital link. To provide convenient operation of these products via the WS-65909, Mitsubishi has written special software, packaged it together with HAVi, and dubbed the overall control system NetCommand.

NetCommand was incredibly easy to use. It allows you to connect any device to the WS-65909, and then control it using the TV's remote control. I tried it first with Mitsubishi's D-VHS recorder, which has a 1394 output that carries both audio and video. I plugged it in, and when I turned on the TV, a menu came up letting me know that a new 1394 device had been connected. I followed the prompts to the next screen, and the TV determined that the device was a D-VHS deck. One more screen, and the D-VHS deck was listed among the input devices. I tried it again, this time with JVC's 1394-equipped D-VHS deck (in for review), and the result was the same.

The process was only marginally more complicated when using non-1394-equipped devices, which Mitsubishi now calls "legacy" equipment. Even most brand-new, just-released components fall into this category. Using the NetCommand system for this and other devices requires looking up the remote-control IR code and connecting infrared blasters (supplied) to the back of the TV and the front of the DVD player. Once this is done, you can call up the input menu, highlight the DVD button, and press Enter. The DVD player will turn on, and the DVD will play when you press Play on the Mitsubishi's remote. The system can be set up so that executing the DVD command will also turn on your receiver and switch it to the DVD input. Setup was simple but time-consuming, but once it was done, the TV's graphical displays made using the system easy and fun—much easier and more satisfying than using a programmable remote control.