Go shopping for a new TV at your local Best Buy or Costco, and you'll soon realize that making an accurate in-store assessment of picture quality is pretty much impossible. To overcome the bright lighting while trying to outdazzle their shelfmates, most new TVs come set to what we call blowtorch mode, giving little insight into their true potential. Therefore, many people, short of reading reviews, tend to make TV- buying decisions on features and price.
Even though its list price of $3,200 puts it squarely in the premium category, it would be tough to find another set that checks off more of those desirable features than Mitsubishi's LT-46144. While 1080p resolution has trickled down to even budget LCDs, this set includes a 120-Hz refresh rate, intended to reduce blur during fast onscreen movement. It also handles xvYCC color space and Deep Color, new technologies that hold the promise of enhanced color reproduction with future compatible program material.
The Short Form
|Price $2,900 ($3,200 list) / mitsubishi-tv.com / 800-332-2119|
|After some tweaking, Mitsubishi's sleek LCD delivers a fine picture.|
•Flexible picture controls
•Accurate color reproduction
|•Some uniformity issues on dark scenes
•Slow to lock on HD signals
•No pixel-by-pixel display mode
•120-Hz refresh rate
•Deep Color, xvYCC display options
•Inputs: 3 HDMI (ver. 1.3); 3 component video; 3 composite-video/S-video; RF antenna/cable; USB
•42.3 x 26.8 x 12.6 in; 63.3 lb
|In the Natural picture mode and with Low color-temperature setting, the Mitsubishi's grayscale tracking measured as much as +1,493 K off the 6,500-K standard, resulting in a somewhat bluish cast. Calibration resulted in readings of ±200 K from 30 to 100 IRE, good for an LCD. The color decoder showed a mild red pull and a moderate blue push using all inputs, although this was minimized with the PerfectColor controls. Primary NTSC colors were commendably accurate, with all three virtually spot-on.
The set resolved 1080i/p and 720p static test patterns, though detail and motion tests from the Silicon Optix HQV Blu-ray disc via HDMI revealed "jaggy" artifacts in both the waving-flag and spinning-bar tests. Jaggies were even more evident via component video with the same tests off the regular HQV DVD delivered as a 480i signal. Some screen-uniformity issues were visible in dark scenes, most notably as light streaks in the top corners of letterboxed images. Off-axis viewing was particularly good for an LCD, with some loss of contrast but no significant color shift at up to 30º off-axis.
Mitsubishi makes a special point of how much it has managed to shrink the frame surrounding the screen area - and at around 1 inch, this set's bezel is among the slimmest on any flat-panel TV. That, combined with its matte gray finish and tiny speakers tucked into the slim lower panel, lets the understated LT-46144 avoid drawing attention; it should also let the TV squeeze more easily into existing cabinetry where an old big-screen tube might have sat. The downside of this quest for sleekness is that the sound from the minuscule speakers is particularly tinny and lacking in body, although that won't mean much for those with a separate audio rig.
One thing that certainly isn't small on this set is the number of connections. With three of the all-important HDMI 1.3 inputs plus another three analog HD component-video inputs (one on the side), the LT-46144 can handle just about any combination of sources. You also get three composite-video/S-video inputs, along with a USB port for photos. Missing in action on the LT-46144 is a VGA port, though a PC's DVI output will work with one of the HDMI inputs. In a nice touch, the LT-46144 has a connection for a pair of supplied IR blasters, which you can set up to control other components that might be hidden in a cabinet.
Mitsubishi's remote is a refreshingly simple affair, with backlit keys that glow in a warm shade of red. The set is smart enough to know which inputs have connections, and it eliminates any empty inputs from the selection menu. It will also switch over automatically when it senses that you have fired up certain HDMI-connected components.
Standard-def sources give you a full complement of five aspect-ratio modes to stretch and zoom the picture, though only two are available for 720p and 1080i sources, and just one take-it-or-leave-it widescreen setting for 1080p. You might think this means that 1080p sources bypass the internal scaler to perfectly match the native resolution of the display, as with the "dot for dot" modes we've seen on other sets. But it turns out that this Mitsubishi sends everything through its "Plush 1080p" scaler, resulting in some modest overscan even on 1080p signals.
The comprehensive picture controls on the LT-46144 include three fully adjustable presets that can be selected individually for each input. Moving the set from its default Brilliant mode (and High color temperature) to its Natural/Low settings, along with dropping the sharpness to zero and lowering the contrast, will quickly yield a vast improvement in image quality.
Mitsubishi's Low color-temperature setting is said to conform to the 6,500-K standard, although it measured somewhat higher/bluer than this. Service-menu adjustments brought it in line, and the set's PerfectColor controls in the user menu (to adjust saturation of each of the six primary and secondary colors) helped correct some small color-decoder errors I detected with test patterns.
Once the LT-46144 was optimized, high-definition programming both from cable and on HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc looked exceptionally sharp and detailed. Likewise, measurements showed that the basic primary colors were actually quite accurate with this set, which was borne out in the TV's pleasingly natural-looking color. A clip from The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, for example, displayed an excellent palette of colors, with fine contrast between the backdrop's garish purples and blues, and the more natural hues of Jay's charcoal-gray jacket and wood desk. Similarly, a live concert clip of the Derek Trucks Band showed exceptional detail and subtlety, notably in the difficult-to-reproduce diagonal lines of Derek's guitar strings and the sharp contrasts of the chrome hardware on Yonrico Scott's drum kit.
Meanwhile, shadow detail in some of the darker scenes from The Patriot on Blu-ray was quite good: When Charlotte Selton (Joely Richardson) and the younger Martin children take turns as night sentries while hiding out, the details of their facial expressions and clothing remained clear in the dim candlelight. Overall, black level was better than average for an LCD, if not quite the best we've seen from the latest LCDs and plasmas. Black-level uniformity was more problematic, with some dark scenes and letterbox bars appearing lighter around the edges, especially in the upper corners of the screen.
Mosquito noise on lesser HD sources was smoothed effectively by the LT-46144's noise reduction circuit, without smearing much detail. Standard DVDs and non-HD cable channels, meanwhile, were both softer and noisier than with some of the new HDTVs we've seen lately. Another thing I noticed was that as I switched from standard-def to HD channels, the set consistently took 7 or 8 seconds to lock in and display a picture - a potentially agonizing wait.
With no way to turn off the LT-46144's 120-Hz refresh feature, it was hard to judge its effect. Most sports programs looked clean and detailed, but I still occasionally detected judder on fast motion, such as with the path of a passed football during a 1080i NFL broadcast of a Jets-Bills game.
Although Mitsubishi's LT-46144 exhibited a few quirks when faced with our demanding tests, it was impressive in everyday use. No, it's not the cheapest set at its size. But its many inputs and picture tweaks, excellent color reproduction, and unobtrusive minimalist styling should find it a place in many fine homes.