Rear-Projection TVs Step Up
Heating up the big-screen HDTV scene this holiday season is a bevy of new rear-projection sets based on one or another microdisplay technology such as DLP (Digital Light Processing) or LCoS (liquid crystal on silicon). We lab-tested three new models--JVC's $3255 HD-52Z575, Mitsubishi's $3700 WD-52525 (both 52-inch sets), and Samsung's $3499 HL-P5063W (a 50-inch model)--and found a lot to be pleased about.
All three sets approached or outperformed Optoma's OptomaTV RD50, which received our DW Choice award for rear-projection sets in last issue's 50- and 52-inch HDTV roundup. After our latest round of tests, Samsung's HD-ready HL-P5063W holds the DW Choice for its combination of superb image quality, rich features, and generous tech support.
While none of these sets has the cachet of a skinny hang-it-on-the-wall plasma display, all measure less than 18 inches deep (at 14.5 inches, the Samsung is the slimmest). The Mitsubishi and Samsung are based on DLP technology; the JVC is among the first sets to use JVC's proprietary D-ILA (Direct Drive Image Light Amplifier), which is an implementation of LCoS.
Our judges gave the JVC HD-52Z575 top marks for its color reproduction. Skin tones looked natural, and other hues appeared rich and vivid without seeming artificial. But no matter how we tweaked the controls, the JVC struggled with contrast: Details in dark and shadowy content, such as our HD clip from Joan of Arcadia, seemed to melt together. This, along with a complicated remote and on-screen menu system, dragged the JVC down in our overall rankings.
After we performed our baseline calibration, colors on the Samsung appeared a bit washed out. But it climbed to the top with its terrific handling of detail, brightness, and contrast; its performance in bright-room light; and its rendering of HD and DVD content. It also has an attractive design; an above-average sound system (it's the only set here with 15-watt-per-channel audio); and easy-to-navigate on-screen menus and remote control. Around-the-clock tech support was icing on the cake.
Mitsubishi's WD-52525 didn't score as well as the others (or the reference Optoma) in most performance tests: Colors--especially reds--generally looked oversaturated, which made for ruddy skin tones. And the DiamondShield protective screen, which is intended to enhance contrast and brilliance, produced annoying reflections in both standard and bright-light environments (you can remove this screen, however). The WD-52525 did handle standard-definition content well, and it delivered the best collection of features, including a CableCard slot for digital cable without a set-top box, a built-in ATSC-compliant tuner for over-the-air DTV (a $300 value), FireWire ports, and slots for several popular flash media formats.
If you're willing to pay extra for a set that can snag HD broadcasts from digital cable or over the air without requiring a set-top box, the WD-52525 is worth considering. But if you're going to use a cable or satellite box (click here for why you might have to), consider the Samsung. It's the best rear-projection TV we've seen to date.
The DW Choice award indicates our pick of the best product in a comparative review, regardless of price, based on multiple evaluative criteria.
The DW Value award honors a product in a comparative review that we deem an excellent value for the price. When price is an object, look for this logo.
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