Mitsubishi WS-73909 Page 5

Watching the JAG recording that I made with the HS-HD200U digital VCR was one of the best high-def experiences I've had. Actors looked nearly life-size on the 73-inch widescreen set, and the textures of the plants, flowers, and trees lining the JAG base came through with incredible clarity. Amusingly, I could make out the thick droplets of water on Catherine Bell's neck as well as the uniformly placed sweat stains on the actors' shirts when they finished running the Jagathon - a sure sign they'd been carefully applied prior to shooting the scene. The WS-73909 may be a great set for watching DVDs, but it's ruthlessly detailed when displaying HDTV.

Mitsubishi's WS-73909 is the first HDTV I've seen that makes a serious effort to push the envelope of the country's new digital television system. The utterly transparent manner in which it communicated with the digital VCR over a FireWire connection provided a glimpse into the future not only of video but of all electronic devices in a networked home. That alone would make the WS-73909 a breakthrough product, but its remarkably crisp image and the elegant manner in which its NetCommand feature takes charge of ordinary IR-controlled components put it way over the top. If you want the most sophisticated HDTV available, the Mitsubishi WS-73909 is the set to get.

HAVi Update HAVi (Home Audio Video interoperability) is a technical specification jointly developed by Grundig, Hitachi, Matsushita (Panasonic), Philips, Sony, Sharp, Thomson (RCA), and Toshiba that allows for bidirectional communication between audio/video and other electronic devices linked in a FireWire network. For those just checking in, FireWire is a high-speed digital interface, originally developed by Apple Computer and subsequently adopted as Standard 1394 by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), that allows for data-transfer rates of up to 400 megabits per second. That's more than 30 times faster than a USB 1.1 connection and fast enough to accommodate multiple streams of high-definition video. In addition to digital audio/video and command/control protocols, a FireWire interconnect can also route power signals between devices. FireWire's high bandwidth and flexibility have made it attractive to consumer-electronics manufacturers, who see its vast potential for home networking and digital "convergence" applications.

At the January 2001 Consumer Electronics show, a number of manufacturers announced they'd be developing HAVi-compliant products with FireWire connections. By the end of the year, however, only four had materialized: a trio of integrated HDTV sets and a digital VCR, all from Mitsubishi. Why the delay in bringing HAVi-enabled products to market? Part of the problem has to do with Digital Harmony, a technology-licensing company that ceased operations in early 2001. Digital Harmony had been acting as a kind of clearinghouse for manufacturers looking to develop HAVi-enabled components, particularly amplifiers, receivers, and speakers. Apparently the company's demise dragged the prospect of imminently available HAVi audio products down with it. Despite the delay, there now appears to be some movement on the HAVi front. According to an industry source, other HAVi-enabled products, including cable boxes and satellite receivers, should be coming out in the first half of this year. The DVD Forum is also reportedly updating the DVD specification to accommodate FireWire/HAVi, with compatible players possibly hitting store shelves by the end of the year.