Pros: HD-Ready, Widescreen, Mitsubishi Promise Module.
Cons: Not as good a picture as Toshiba RPTV's.
The Mitsubishi WT-46809, the smallest and least expensive model in the Mitsubishi entry-level Platinum line of HD-ready widescreen rear-projection TV's (RPTV's), offers an interesting tradeoff. On the one hand, these TV's don't quite achieve the pleasing, sharp, filmlike image quality which you'll get with the similarly-priced Toshiba widescreen HD-ready TV's, such as the 42H81 or the 50H81.
This isn't to say the picture quality is bad. It's actually quite good. It's just that with the output of a DVD player, which is a very popular video source device for home-theater enthusiasts who buy widescreen HD-ready sets like the 46809, the image quality falls slightly short of what you'll get with a model like the Toshiba 42H81.
On the other hand, this HD-ready RPTV, like all similar sets from Mitsubishi, features the company's so-called "Promise." Here's The Promise, in Mitsubishi's words: "We will engineer and manufacture the upgrades necessary so the television you purchase today can be made compatible with near-future advances in digital television and digital interconnectivity. Specifically, we promise that you will be able to have your television upgraded, at a reasonable cost, to include an off-air HDTV tuner, a cable TV tuner (for unscrambled programming), an IEEE 1394 (FireWire?) connection, HAVi system control, and 5C copy protection."
So, is Mitsubishi saying they'll protect you from obsolescence, no matter what new technology comes down the pike? Judging by some posts I've seen on newsgroups and HT forums, there are Mitsubishi customers who believe this to be the case.
However, there are a few things to keep in mind about The Promise. First, no matter how hard Mitsubishi tries to keep The Promise, they have yet to attach an actual dollar figure to the words "reasonable cost." Some observers have estimated that the upgrade will cost $1,000. Others, supposedly basing their numbers on conversations with Mitsubishi customer service reps, have said it's more likely to be a few hundred. Home Theater Magazine cites a figure of "under $1,000," though I have not seen this directly from Mitsubishi.
Besides the price not being fixed, the biggest problem I can see with The Promise is that it only anticipates the advent of an IEEE-1394/ 5C (also called DTCP, for Digital Transmission Content Protection) connection format, also known as Firewire or iLink, depending on the manufacturer (Apple or Sony, respectively; though Firewire has become a generic word for IEEE-1394). Unfortunately, it appears likely that some upcoming video source devices will use another connection standard, known as DVI, with a copy protection format known as High Bandwidth Copy Protection (HDCP).
Right now, it's unclear which video source devices will have DVI/ HDCP. I will be posting a background piece shortly containing all the current information on both IEEE-1394/ DTCP and DVI/ HDCP, as well as my outlook on the likely future developments with high-definition source devices.
Options for Getting HD Reception without the Promise Upgrade Module
If you do buy a 46809, you won't be locked in to using The Promise module to upgrade to HD reception. As with any HD-ready TV now on the market, you can go out right now, today, and buy the auxiliary tuner needed to receive digital broadcast signals, convert them to analog high-def output, and feed this high-def analog signal into the inputs of the 46809.
In most major metropolitan areas of the United States, and even in such exotic locales as Kalispell (did I Kalispell that right?), Montana, you'll be within range of a DTV broadcast. Right now, 266 television stations broadcast digitally (most in either 480p, 1080i, or 720p). According to the National Association of Broadcasters (nab.org), "DTV signals are now being transmitted in 92 markets that include 77.74% of U.S. TV households."
The CBS network broadcasts most of its weeknight primetime lineup, as well as Max Bickford on Sunday and the Young and the Restless soap opera on weekday afternoons, all in 1080i.
NBC broadcasts The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Monday through Friday, as well as Crossing Jordan, also in 1080i.
ABC recently inaugurated the broadcast of many of its weeknight primetime shows, the weekend movie, and the Disney show, all in 720p.
PBS broadcasts specials periodically in 1080i with the following coming up shortly: March 21,
Great Performances: Kurosawa; April 2 - 16, The Shape of Life; May 8 - 15, The Aleutians: Cradle of the Storms; May 14 - June 4, Evolution.
All 1080i and 720p broadcasts (from any broadcaster) are in 16:9 widescreen format.
The Fox Network broadcasts many of its weeknight primetime shows, such as the X-Files, Malcolm in the Middle, Boston Public, Ally McBeal, Titus, and Dark Angel, all in widescreen 480p (the new ATSC resolutions allow for 480p to either 16:9 widescreen or 4:3 standard aspect ratio, meaning ratio of width of picture to height of picture).
Collectively, I refer to these digital broadcasts as high-definition/ digital-television, or H/DTV.
In order to receive over-the-air (OTA) H/DTV broadcasts and display them on the 46809, you will need a set-top box (STB) digital tuner. Models such as Samsung's SIR-T150 (OTA H/DTV broadcast only) sell for as little as $599.95 at the jandr Web site. In fact, their in-store price on the SIR-T150 is $499.95, so if you talk to them on their toll-free order line you might get them to bring the price down a bit. Epinions doesn't list the SIR-T150, but you can connect to the jandr video section via the J&R Check Latest Price link on this page (copy and paste this into the Address box in your Internet Explorer browser):
Alternatives to OTA HD Reception
An OTA STB is not your only option for getting H/DTV video. After OTA reception, the most popular high-def TV choice is satellite HD. In fact, the majority of STB's, including those from Sony, Mitsubishi, Toshiba, and others, include satellite HD tuners, designed to work with the DirecTV service. The DirecTV satellite HD service includes HBO and a demo channel as well as a pay-per-view channel. It also includes the new HD Network which mainly carries sporting events, such as college basketball, in HD.
The competing satellite HD service is that provided by the Dish Network. The Dish satellite HD lineup includes the HBO and Showtime movie channels, a pay-per-view channel, the HD Network, the CBS Network HD programming, and a demo channel (the demo channel is great for showing off your monitor to friends and is very popular with retailers as a way to get shoppers to stop and look in awe at HDTV's).
The Dish Network satellite HD receiver, the Model 6000, is a good value, selling at $500, with an OTA module available for another $100.
Right now, Dish Network, the smaller of the satellite companies, appears to provide the best value of the two satellite HD providers. However, this may soon become a meaningless distinction as DirecTV and Dish Network intend to merge. Pending regulatory approval, the smaller company will purchase the larger and the two competitors will become a single corporate megalith. This does not bode well for satellite HD pricing, though it may result in an improved level of programming selection.
The final option for getting high-def TV programming is cable. Right now, a few cable providers, such as Time Warner Cable New York City, have a HD some HD channels. The HD service from cable companies tends to be expensive and limited. For example, TWCNY only offers the programming from HBO and CBS. Usually, to get HDTV from a cable company you must buy a separate tuner using a standard known as Quadrature Amplitude Modulation, or QAM.
Some HDTV's, such as Mitsubishi's 55859 55-inch projection HDTV, have integral QAM HD cable tuners (receives unscrambled HD cable). Keep in mind that HD cable is completely separate from digital cable. Digital cable is just the standard analog (480i) cable feed digitized at the cable-company end of the line, sent to your home in the digital domain, and then fed to a converter box on top of your TV where it's changed into analog video and output through a composite or S-Video jack.
For general background on the DTV rollout, see my Epinions article "Everything You Always Wanted to Know about H/DTV (But Were Afraid to Ask)":
Dimensions and Construction Quality of the 46809
The 46809 is a fairly short TV, with a height measurement of 38.25 inches. Like the Toshiba 40H80 and the Sony KP-43HT20, the 46809 requires a stand to bring it up to the minimal proper viewing height. Compact RPTV's like this are often called tabletop models, though with weights close to 200 pounds you'd want to make sure that any table used to hold one of these TV's was a sturdy piece of furniture. You could easily build your own small platform for the 46809, or buy a decor-matching ready-made stand from Mitsubishi for about $300.
The other dimensions of the TV are 42.75 inches width and 27.1 inches depth. The set weighs 170 pounds.
Mitsubishi constructs the 46809 case using a combination of particle-board (medium-density fibreboard, or MDF) and plastic. The bottom, top, left side, and right side of the case are made out of MDF boards, with a thickness of about 0.625 inches (5/8th's of an inch). The outer edges of the back of the case are made from the MDF board, but most of the back is made of a large plastic molding with screws attaching the molding to the board at intervals of approximately nine inches.
In the lower-front face, below the screen, the plastic is patterned with holes, some of which, on the right and left sides, are hollow, allowing the passage of the sound waves from the speakers located under the front at these points. The front face framing the picture screen is also plastic.
Overall, the TV has a feeling of solidity, probably from the MDF board used in its construction. The similarly-sized Toshiba TV's are in the same weight ballpark as the 46809. The 42-inch Toshiba 42H81 weighs 130 pounds while the 50-inch 50H81 tips the scales at 193 pounds. But the 46809 doesn't flex much when you move it around.
The 46809's case slopes outward as you go down and back from the top, reaching a bump that sticks out in the back of the case, about halfway between the bottom and the top. This gives the TV a depth measurement which is substantially larger than that of other competing tabletop HD-ready TV's such as the Toshiba 42H81 with a depth of only 18.6 inches (height of 46.5 and width of 39.4) or the Sony 43HT20 with a depth of 22.75 inches (height of 42.1 and width of 38.0). You'll have to allow a deeper space in your room to contain the 46809.
Optional MB46809 Case
The Mitsubishi-made case, which brings the set up about a foot, setting it at a proper viewing level (so the center of the screen is slightly higher than the eye level of a seated viewer), model number MB46809, will make a $300 hole in your budget. It has dark-tinted glass doors, each of which swing open from hinges at the far (left/right) sides of the stand. Magnetic click-latches hold the doors closed. Behind the doors, there's a storage space approximately ten inches tall.
A divider runs from the front of the storage space to the back, dividing it horizontally into two equal sections, each of which is about 18 inches wide. Since 17 inches is a standard width for consumer electronics components such as VCR's, DVD players, and receivers, the two sections of the stand are a good physical match for most home-theater gear. However, as these are fairly tight storage spaces, it would be best to avoid storing anything like an A/V receiver which would tend to run fairly hot.
A View of the 46809
To get an idea of the appearance of the 46809, sitting on its optional case, take a look at the page you get to when you go to the following URL, click "Products," and then click on "Platinum Series" (it's the TV at the front; you can click on the "WT-46809" link underneath the picture to get a view of the set from a side angle):
Mitsubishi provides a generous set of inputs and outputs with the 46809, most of which are located in a single connection-jack area on the left-hand side of the rear-panel of the TV.
For your RF (Radio Frequency) inputs, such as the connection to your cable box or your antenna, there are two coaxial jacks. To allow loopthrough with a cable connection, there's a single coaxial RF output jack.
For standard (480i) connections, there are three S-Video/ composite-video/ R/L audio sets. You would use these for any of your standard video connections such as a VHS VCR.
There are two component-video (Y-Pb-Pr) connections, each with three RCA jacks, which will accept input at 480i and 480p (such as the output from a progressive-scan DVD player, for example). Each of these two component-input sets has a corresponding R/L audio connection.
Finally, there's a single component-video connection with five RCA jacks, handling Y, Pb, Pr, H, and V (the last two are for horizontal and vertical sync signals). This last component-video connection will take input at 480i, 480p, and 1080i. You do not have to use all five connections. If you have a 1080i-output device, such as the analog output from an STB digital high-def broadcast tuner, with only Y-Pb-Pr output, you can connect to just the three Y-Pb-Pr connections on this five-jack component-video connection. As with the other component-video inputs, the Y-Pb-Pr-H-V set has a corresponding R/L audio input jack pair.
The Y-Pb-Pr-H-V component-video connection will also accept an analog VGA-connector output. To make such a connection, you will need one of the adapters with a VGA jack on one end, connected to a cable whichs splits into five separate cables, each terminating in the appropriate type of RCA plug (Y-Pb-Pr-H-V).
To connect your TV's audio to an external A/V receiver or amplifier, there's a set of R/L audio outputs. Also, there's a set of composite-video/ R/L audio output jacks, labeled "monitor," which would allow you to run your TV output to the REC input of a VCR.
On the front of the set, just to the right of the control buttons, there's a set of inputs with S-Video, composite-video, and R/L audio. These allow convenient connection of any NTSC-standard video source such as a camcorder or a video game.
Finally, in the connection-jack area there are a couple of 1/8th inch miniplug jacks, one labeled "Active A/V Network" and one labeled "IR - Home Theater." These allow connection to other Mitsubishi components, such as VCR's, to let you have coordinated remote control of multiple pieces of Mitsubishi video gear.
Resolutions of the 46809
The resolution of NTSC standard analog TV is 480i (480-interlaced). Interlaced resolution means that each of the 30 video frames each second (30 fps) is divided into two fields, for a total rate of 60 fields per second. Two fields make up each frame, with the first field containing the 240 odd-numbered lines of the frame and the second field containing the 240 even-numbered lines of the frame.
With a progressive resolution, such as 480p, 60 full frames, of 480 lines each, are projected during each second. The 480p resolution is used with progressive-scan DVD's players and with some DTV broadcasts (such as those of the Fox Network). According to the new DTV standards, known as the ATSC resolutions, a 480p signal can be in either the 4:3 aspect ratio (ratio of width to height) or the 16:9 aspect ratio (also known as widescreen, or 1.78:1). The Fox Network broadcasts use the 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio.
The highest resolution the 46809 can accept and display is 1080i. As specified by the ATSC resolutions, all 1080i signals are in the 16:9 aspect ratio.
The 46809 uses two display resolutions: 480p and 1080i. Signals fed into the set at 480p or 1080i are then displayed at one of these resolutions, known as "native" resolutions (meaning the input and display resolutions are the same). With NTSC-standard signals at the 480i resolution, such as the output from a standard DVD player, an NTSC-standard TV broadcast (actually 330i), or the output from a VHS VCR (actually 240i), the video is bumped up in resolution and displayed at 480p.
DPM3 Line Doubling and Resolution Enhancement
To increase the resolution of NTSC-standard interlaced video signals, the set uses technology which Mitsubishi calls Diamond Digital Pixel Multiplier, or DPM3. Mitsubishi says DPM3 is superior to standard systems which "just ?double' the number of vertical scan lines." The company says their system increases the resolution of the horizontal as well as the vertical scan lines. The DPM3 works with standard broadcast, standard cable, standard satellite, standard (480i) DVD, VHS VCR, and S-VHS VCR output.
The TV has a film mode which avoids problems when running film-source material through the DPM3 process taking it from 480i up to 480p. However, the very best way to deal with film-source DVD's is to play them back on a progressive-scan DVD player and then display the output of the prog-scan player at the TV's native 480p resolution.
For more information on why it's better to bump up DVD output to 480p inside a progressive-scan DVD player and to then display this in native 480p mode on an HD-ready TV, rather than feeding the 480i output of a standard DVD player into an HD-ready set and line-doubling the video signal inside the set, as you would do when feeding the TV 480i DVD player output, putting it through the DPM3 line-doubling process, and then using the film mode, see my review of the Pioneer DVD-434 DVD player:
If you want a great deal on a progressive-scan DVD player, check out Panasonic's DVD-RP56:
Film Mode -- another Way to Say 3:2 Pulldown
Briefly, here's the idea behind the 46809's film mode, also known as 3:2 pulldown. The standard video stream from any DVD will be at the 480i resolution, meaning each of the 30 video frames per second comes out of the MPEG2 decoder as two fields, with the first containing the 240 odd-numbered lines of the frame and the second containing the 240 even-numbered lines of the frame.
The way an integral line-doubler in a TV, such as the DPM3 circuitry in the 46809, works is that it doubles the number of lines in each field, creating 60 full, 480-line frames each second.
The problem here comes about because film is a 24 frame-per-second (fps) medium. Were film a 30 fps medium, like video, then there would be no problem. But it's not. The way that problem is circumvented is that the first frame is assigned to three video fields, the second to two video fields, the third to three video fields, the fourth to two video fields, etc. Thus, by alternately applying each film frame to first three consecutive fields, then the following two consecutive fields, then the following three consecutive fields, then the following two consecutive fields, etc., the 24 film frames each second are distributed to fill the 60 video fields each second.
As long as you don't have too much motion from one frame to the next, this won't cause a big problem. However, this system can result in video field pairs where the first field has video from one frame and the second field has video from the subsequent frame. If there was a great deal of motion between these two film frames, a motion artifact, with image distortion, can result. Thus, the TV's so-called "film mode" is basically a form of what's usually called 3:2 pulldown, which is simply a way to compensate for the differing frame rates of video and film and the problematic way they will at times interact when DVD is output at 480p.
Widescreen Display Modes
One of the biggest decisions a buyer of an HD-ready TV has to make is whether to buy a TV with a 4:3 aspect ratio (width to height) or a set with a 16:9 aspect ratio. Getting a set with a 4:3 aspect ratio, which is the standard for current NTSC broadcasts, makes the most sense for somebody who intends to use their new HD-ready TV mainly to watch standard broadcast and cable TV.
On the other hand, if you're considering a TV like the 46809, with its widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio, you've probably got an eye on the DTV future, where almost all broadcasts and video source material will be in the widescreen 16:9 (or 1.78:1) aspect ratio. In fact, if you're a home-theater enthusiast, 16:9 might not seem like such a widescreen aspect ratio to you. It's quite likely that you're watching many DVD's in the ultra-widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio.
Just based on casual observation, I would say that about 80% of widescreen DVD's are in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio (close enough to fit seamlessly onto a 1.78:1, 16:9, screen) while the remaining 20% use the ultra-widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio. While these two aspect ratios cover most of the widescreen movie DVD's, you may at times encounter other, odd aspect ratios such as 3:1 (I actually saw this on the VHS tape version of Lawrence of Arabia).
No matter which kind of TV you choose, 4:3 or 16:9, you'll have to have a way to deal with displaying material in the aspect ratio which is not native to the TV. In the case of the 46809, this will mean material in the 4:3 NTSC-standard aspect ratio (as well as the ultra-widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio). The 46809 has a versatile array of display modes to deal with 4:3 programming (plus 2.35:1).
The Standard mode, as the name implies, takes 16:9 (1.78:1, but widescreen DVD's, at 1.85:1, are close enough for the TV to deal with them in this same mode) images and displays them with the 46809's entire 16:9-shaped screen. These kind of DVD's are usually referred to as "anamorphic" and sometimes they'll also be identified as "optimized for widescreen display" or some other marketing term, which will vary from one movie marketing company to the next, meaning they have a 1.78:1 or 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Remember, though, not all anamorphic DVD's are 1.85:1. There are also anamorphic DVD's at the more extreme 2.35:1 aspect ratio.
The Expand mode deals with 1.85:1 images which have been letterboxed and superimposed into a 4:3 (1.33:1) shape. In other words, this is for dealing with non-anamorphic widescreen material, such as non-anamorphic widescreen DVD's. These DVD's put out a 4:3 image where the letterbox bands (black horizontal bands above and below the image itself), as well as the 1.85:1 image itself, are all part of the frame, part of the actual 4:3 image. The expand mode simply expands the 1.85:1 image section of the 4:3 frame, both horizontally and vertically, until the letterbox and windowbox bands (vertical black bands to the left and right and horizontal black bands above and below the 1.85:1 image area) are pushed off the TV's 1.78:1 screen area.
The Zoom mode gets rid of the letterbox bands which you'd get when displaying anamorphic 2.35:1 images. Normally, the super-widescreen shape of these images means you get letterbox bands, even though you are displaying them on a 1.78:1 screen (this is because, while the screen is 1.78:1 widescreen, the image is 2.35:1 super-widescreen, and you still end up having to use letterbox bands above and below the image). As Mitsubishi says: "The Zoom mode linearly expands these images both horizontally and vertically so that the black bars are eliminated, a small portion of each side is cut off, and geometric accuracy is maintained."
Stretch Mode is for displaying regular 4:3 broadcasts on your 1.78:1 screen. It leaves the image pretty much untouched in the middle of the picture, while proportionately expanding it more as you get closer to the edges, thus filling up the entire 1.78:1 screen with the 1.33:1 (4:3) NTSC-standard broadcast image. This is an excellent mode because it fills up the entire 16:9 screen with the 4:3 image and avoids the possibility of burning-in the windowbox bands if you view a lot of NTSC-standard programming with your widescreen TV. The mode works very well because, with broadcasts such as a newscast, most of your attention is focused in the center of the image and you will be very unlikely to notice any distortion towards the edges of the image. The first time you see NTSC-standard 4:3 broadcast material in the Stretch Mode, you may perceive that the picture is distorted towards the edges. But after a short time watching in this mode many people don't even notice any difference between this and watching native-mode 4:3 material on an NTSC-standard monitor.
The Narrow Mode uses windowboxing, or vertical black or gray bars to allow a 4:3-shaped image to be displayed on a 16:9 screen. While this mode preserves the geometrical accuracy of the original 4:3 image, it wastes part of the screen area of the widescreen 16:9 set. Also, the Narrow mode exposes you to the dangers of screen burn-in, which can result from the black or gray windowbox bars being projected through your CRT's for lengthy periods of time. One way to guard against this is by keeping your contrast and brightness settings at 10% or lower.
The comb filter in the 46809 only increases image quality on video that enters the TV via either the RF (antenna) or composite-video inputs (such as from a VHS VCR). This is because a comb filter, also known as a Y/C filter, only works its magic by separating the luminance (Y) and chrominance (C) portions of the video signal.
In the case of RF input, and composite-video input, where the Y and C portions of the signal are lumped together, it's advantageous to run them through the comb filter and separate them. But with video that comes in via the S-Video or component-video inputs, the comb filter offers no advantage since, in these cases, the Y/C portions of the image are already separated.
Generally speaking, the most basic kind of comb filter is a two-line comb filter. Then you move up to a three-line comb filter. In the case of the 46809, you've got not just a three-line comb filter, but a three-d comb filter, with motion adaptive 3/D Y/C system where the "comb filters store both fields of a complete video frame before they begin their processing," allowing for optimal performance with extreme motion and fast shifts in image coordination. This baby's ready to rock, it's ready to blast out and explode into super-gear mag-jamming overdrive.
Dual NTSC-Standard Tuners
As you would expect with a set costing two-thousand bucks, the 46809 includes an NTSC-standard broadcast and cable-ready tuner, allowing the set to receive any standard broadcast signal and to be connected directly to a cable line to receive any unscrambled cable-TV channel. In fact, the set has two NTSC tuners, allowing it to use its many picture-in-picture (PIP) features. As well as PIP, the set can split the screen, showing one video source on each half. It can also employ a picture-out-of-picture (POP) mode, using either three or nine channels simultaneously.
Like most RPTV's selling for less than $10,000, the 46809 uses seven-inch CRT's (cathode-ray tubes). I'm not sure why the small increase in size is associated with such a huge increase in total set price, but the next size up of CRT which you'll commonly find is the nine-inch units and these are usually employed in sets (RPTV's or video projectors) selling for well in excess of $10,000.
Functionally, the CRT's are like the picture tube in direct-view (standard) TV. While you might expect the CRT's to have the rectangular, 16:9 shape of a typical HD-ready RPTV's viewing screen, this is not the case. As with the CRT's in pretty much all 16:9 RPTV's, those in the 46809 have the NTSC-standard, almost-square 4:3 form factor. According to Home Theater Magazine, this is simply a matter of economics. Although, unfortunately, it causes a drop in resolution to just use a 4:3 CRT, masking off the unused portion, for 16:9 projection, it would be too expensive for any manufacturer to ramp up for production of 16:9 CRT's for RPTV's.
Compared to the picture-tube in a regular TV the CRT's in the 46809 run very bright and, thus, extremely hot. In fact, RPTV's often leave the factory in "torch" mode, with the brightness and contrast set up around (on a scale of 0 to 100). This is also true of RPTV's which have been demo models, because many retailers crank the brightness and contrast in order to make the TV look good under the glaring fluorescent lighting in a typical consumer electronics superstore. As a general rule, you should bring contrast and brightness down to about 20 (on a scale of 0 to 100) and adjust from there.
Like most RPTV's, the 46809 uses a set of three CRT's, one for each of the primary colors, red, green, and blue. The images from these CRT's are focused through a series of lenses and then projected onto the inside of the TV's acrylic screen. In order to enjoy a sharp picture, it's crucial that the images from all three CRT's cover, or converge upon, the same points. You can hire a technician to professionally calibrate your set, which will include a very careful setting of the convergence to make it as accurate as possible.
64-Point Manual Convergence
As opposed to many RPTV's which use an eight-point automatic convergence-adjustment system, the 46809 uses manual convergence adjustment with 64 points. Mitsubishi says this allows for more accurate convergence adjustment by the owner.
Mitsubishi provides an excellent remote control with the 46809. It's big enough to fit all the buttons, and to avoid the use of tiny, scrunched-together controls, but not too big to readily sit in your hand (if you're an average adult male, that is). In fact, the remote narrows at its vertical midpoint, making it very natural and easy to hold.
This remote will control a variety of A/V gear, from both Mitsubishi and other manufacturers. There's a slide switch at the top of the remote to set it to control various components such as: tv, cable, dbs, vcr, dvd, and audio.
Below the slide switch, on the left, there's a direct-entry numerical keypad with not-too-tiny buttons. On the right, there's a large power on/off button.
To the left again, below the keypad, is a row of three rocker switches which, going from left to right, control: Input, Channel, and Volume. As befits keys which you'll access pretty often, these rockers are fairly large.
Below these rockers, in the mid-center of the remote, there's a four-way toggle switch, labeled "adjust," for menu navigation.
The navigation controller is surrounded by a series of buttons controlling functions such as PIP, PIP Channel, Menu, V-Chip, and Format.
Towards the bottom are transport control keys for a VCR or DVD player, including Rec, Stop, Pause, Rew, Play, and FF. These are the least-accessible, but also the least-likely to be often used, so it made sense for Mitsubishi to place them in this location.
The most commonly used buttons on the remote are back-lit.
Overall, this is the best-designed remote I've ever seen, for a TV or for any other piece of electronics gear. The only way to improve on this remote would be to reduce the number of functions it controls, which would defeat its purpose.
Velocity Scan Modulation
Like many RPTV's, the 46809 includes the Velocity Scan Modulation (VSM) feature. This is supposed to increase the sharpness of the image, but it can result in ringing around objects. Unfortunately, the user menu does not allow you to turn off this function. You can turn it off through the service menu, but the service menu is supposed to be for the use of technicians only (because you could change one of the settings and forget how to change it back, or you might even implement a setting which caused damage to the TV). If you want to turn off VSM, you might find hints on how to do so at the hometheaterforum Web site or at hometheaterspot (look under the Mitsubishi section).
Closed-Captioning on Mute
One excellent feature of the TV is closed captioning on mute. The TV manufacturers should come to an agreement that makes this feature standard on all sets. This feature, as the name implies, activates the closed captioning as soon as you hit the mute button. It is very handy for deaf viewers. On TV's such as the Sony's, which lack this, it's necessary to slog through a bunch of menus to activate closed captioning.
Like most HD-ready RPTV's, the 46809 has very basic audio features. Essentially, sound reproduction is limited to a low-power stereo amp feeding left and right speakers located behind the front face below the picture screen. Each speaker is about 3.5-inches wide, which is small even by the standards of RPTV's.
Generally, this isn't a problem. For casual TV viewing, anything other than movie soundtracks, the TV's integral speakers will keep up just fine.
It actually makes sense for Mitsubishi to spend a minimal amount on the audio system, because most people who are interested in getting high-quality sound will purchase an A/V receiver and a set of surround-sound speakers, allowing them to take advantage of Dolby Pro Logic, Dolby Digital, DTS, and the other surround-sound formats.
The 46809 does have R/L audio outputs on the back panel, allowing you to feed the audio from whatever program you are watching direct to your surround-sound A/V receiver. In fact, if you are monitoring a broadcast with Dolby Pro Logic encoding (usually found on dramas and movies broadcast on TV), you can feed the sound, coming from the receiver's R/L audio outputs, to an A/V receiver and the receiver will extract the Dolby Pro Logic surround-sound from the stereo feed.
The TV has several other features. "Dynamic White Balance" makes sure that, no matter what the brightness level, the TV's color will be accurate. The "A/V Memory by Input" feature lets you fix the picture parameters for each of the TV's six different video inputs (the three composite/S-Video inputs, the two Y-Pb-Pr inputs, and the Y-Pb-Pr-H-V input). The "Color Temperature Control" has three settings. Basically, these settings let you make sure that white is really white (rather than a blue-tinted white or a red-tinted white). There's a timer for the V-Chip, allowing the TV to disable parental control on a fixed schedule.
Overall Image Quality
Out of the box, the 46809 looks pretty good. If you get it professionally calibrated, it will give you excellent picture quality, coming close to the kind of image you would get with an ISF-calibrated Toshiba RPTV. As with most HD-ready RPTV's, this set's weak point is with displaying NTSC-standard (480i) material such as standard broadcasts, standard cable, and VHS (or S-VHS) VCR output.
On the other hand, the 46809, especially with a proper calibration, will excel with 480p input and, especially, 1080i video.
Mitsubishi limits their warranty coverage to 90 days parts and labor on the "screen." Since the screen is only the acrylic screen onto which the CRT's project their images, and this is a component which is highly unlikely to "break down," they may refer to the CRT's when they say the "screen" warranty is limited to 90 days parts and labor. For non-screen parts and labor, Mitsubishi provides one year of warranty coverage. Some credit card companies will double the warranty coverage period, bringing it from one year to two.
When you buy the 46809, the retailer will likely push you to buy premium cables and an extended warranty, neither of which are very good values and/or make much sense to purchase along with your new TV.
First of all, you will get perfectly good performance with standard video cables from reputable manufacturers such as RCA, Recoton, Belken, and Radio Shack. Spending more for the more expensive cables, within a given type (composite-video, S-Video, component-video, etc.), will not give you an increase in performance.
If you insist on buying an extended warranty, also known (more accurately) as a service plan, remember that you do not need to buy it from the same retailer who is selling you the TV. You might check the prices for a service plan at the jandr Web site. If you do buy a service plan, make sure to check the fine print since, basically, you are buying a contract and you want the best service guarantee you can get, for your money.
Low Price with Non-Authorized Dealer
To see one of the best deals on this set, click the crazyeddie link at the bottom of this review. Keep in mind, though, that crazyeddie may not be an authorized dealer of Mitsubishi RPTV's. In fact, many of the dealers who offer rock-bottom prices are not authorized dealers. Depending on the manufacturer, they may or may not back up their warranty on one of their sets which you purchase from a non-authorized dealer.
For specific advice on dealing with crazyeddie, you might e-mail Epinions user Placidman (Ralph Potts; placidman1802 @ netscape . net) who recently purchased a Toshiba 57H81 from crazyeddie and who has made several purchases from this merchant.
Pricey Peace of Mind with Authorized Bricks & Mortar Dealer
If you'd prefer to buy the set directly from a bricks and mortar retailer in the New York City area, The Wiz electronics chain is an authorized dealer, though their usual price is about ten to twenty percent higher than that of crazyeddie.
Price Spread Narrows on Smaller HD-ready and NTSC-Standard RPTV's
As the prices of NTSC-standard and HD-ready RPTV's converge, especially at the smaller screen sizes, it makes less and less sense to buy an NTSC-standard RPTV. At crazyeddie, Mitsubishi's 45609, a 45-inch NTSC-standard RPTV, sells for $1,465.00, while the 46-inch HD-ready Mitsubishi RPTV, the 46809, sells for $1,795.00, just a 22 percent increase over $1,465.00.
In fact, the proposition is only practical for those who want a large screen, period, and who have a very tight budget. In that case, you might opt for a model like the Mitsubishi VS-60609, a 60-inch NTSC-standard RPTV which crazyeddie sells for just $1,580.00. Of course, at this large screen size the scan lines, which are readily visible on an NTSC-standard RPTV, will be all the more obvious.
Personally, if you've got a couple thousand to spend, I'd suggest that, rather than going for one of the $2,000 55-plus-inch NTSC-standard RPTV's, you just go for a somewhat-smaller HD-ready set like the Mitsubishi 46809 and sit a little closer to the TV.
Alternatives to the 46809
Before making a final decision on the 46809, make sure you get a look at Toshiba's 42H81 or their 50H81. You can find these Toshibas selling at authorized dealers (Onecall) for $1,800 and $2,160 respectively, with both prices including shipping. At a non-authorized dealer, crazyeddie, you can buy the 42H81 for $1,518 and the 50H81 for $1,864, not including shipping.
With a street price around $2,000, give or take a couple of hundred dollars, the 46809 is an excellent value. While the future for digital-video connections are now not as clear as they were before the announcement of the DVI/ HDCP standard, Mitsubishi's "Promise" of a "reasonably-priced" upgrade to IEEE-1394/ DTCP connectivity may be all some people need to tilt their decision in favor of the 46809.
Whether or not newly-introduced digital-video connection standards make it hard for Mitsubishi to keep their "Promise," the 46809 is a solid value, especially for apartment dwellers and anybody else who wants HD-ready performance and is willing to sacrifice a very large screen size in exchange for getting a very capable, high-def RPTV in a fairly compact case and at a very moderate price.
There's no need to wait for tomorrow, and the unsure future of Mitsubishi's Promised upgrade module for HD OTA, HD cable, and IEEE-1394 connection to future HD display devices (such as the HD-DVD players, which are now in the prototype stage).
You can begin enjoying DVD's with the 46809 immediately, either playing them through one of the high-quality, super-economical progressive-scan DVD players, such as Panasonic's DVD-RP56, or by using the TV's intgral DPM3 line-doubler and resolution enhancer to bring the input from any standard DVD player up to progressive-scan quality.
On top of that, there are a wide range of STB digital tuners, almost all selling for under $1,000 and some selling for about $500, which, when added to the 46807, will allow this HD-ready TV to receive OTA and display full-scale, full-resolution 1080i HDTV broadcast images. Satellite HD and even HD cable STB's create even more HDTV possibilities with the 46807. Because of this, the 46807 is a TV that's ready for both today and tomorrow. Whatever developments Mitsubishi brings about with their Promise module will just be icing on the cake of a very sweet, very affordable HD-ready projection television.
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