PICTURE QUALITY Even before calibrating the set (see "in the lab," below), I was impressed by the relative accuracy of the Professional and Cinematic picture presets. I chose Professional, which defeated the Contrast Expand feature to provide full shadow detail and got the TV reasonably close to peak home theater performance.
Being too picky for "reasonably close," however, I made a few more tweaks before killing the lights and settling in to watch the Kill Bill, Vol. 2 DVD. The text of the credits looked characteristically (for a DLP TV) razor-sharp and stable. I also quickly noticed another DLP calling card - the rainbow effect. The pastor's white shirt in the wedding rehearsal, for example, trailed very brief bursts of red, green and blue as I looked away and then back again. Most viewers won't notice rainbows, though.
In the black-and-white opening scene, I was very impressed by how the shadowy areas and gray backgrounds graduated smoothly to a deep, satisfying black. Bill's boots, for example, looked inky and glossy, and his dark suit showed no trace of false contours - blocky patches of video noise that show up in shadowy scenes on some digital sets. Details were sharp and lifelike. I especially enjoyed the closeup face-off between Bill (David Carradine) and The Bride (Uma Thurman) on the porch of the chapel. His craggy skin stood out in stark relief.
Color returned in the following scene of painted hills, whose varying blues, browns, and reds looked great. My testing had revealed the set's tendency to slightly de-accentuate red and green, so I turned the color control up to compensate. The Bride's face ran a realistic gamut from pale to ruddy with rage and fear throughout the movie - but blues were a little too intense, as in the strip club's lighting.
Next I turned to high-def from the Dish satellite receiver. CBS's broadcast of the U.S. Open tennis tournament looked, as I expected, incredible. I got a great sense of the speed given the ball by Roger Federer's forehand as he rolled over a hapless Tim Henman, and I could make out every face in the crowd. The onscreen graphics looked rock-solid in both 720p and 1080i modes, and the green swath of court was noise-free.
The RCA was capable of showing every dot of detail in 720p high-def programs, a feat that, surprisingly, some "native 720p" sets cannot match. With test patterns, the picture was noisier via component video than HDMI - digital test signals were reproduced impeccably. Although I couldn't detect any of that noise in the high-def programs I watched, I'd still recommend feeding the HD61THW263 via its digital connections whenever possible.
BOTTOM LINE When I first heard about this TV's radical design, I expected image quality to suffer as a result of the optical tricks required to shrink cabinet depth to a little more than half a foot. To my surprise, the loss of all that depth didn't appear to affect the picture at all - the TV behaved as a high-end DLP set should. And "high-end" is the operative term. At ten grand many shoppers will be comparing this RCA HDTV to a 61-inch plasma, not a DLP set. But its exceedingly clean picture, with really dark blacks, is better than that of any like-sized plasma TV I've seen.
In the Lab
Color temperature (Professional preset before/Personal after calibration)
Low window (20-IRE) .............. 6,664/6,605 K
High window (80-IRE) ............. 6,146/6,323 K
Brightness (100-IRE window before/after calibration) 37.1/40.2 ftL
The Low color-temperature preset yielded a good grayscale out of the box, but the RCA slightly emphasized blue at the low end of the scale and red as brightness increased. After calibration, the brighter areas were closer to the NTSC standard of 6,500 K, although the trend of bluer shadows and redder highlights remained. Peak brightness was excellent before and after calibration.
The set produced the full range of black to white through both its component-video and HDMI inputs at all resolutions. The Contrast Expand feature seemed to sink black level, so I left it off. The set maintained a fairly consistent level of black, although not as consistently as some DLP TVs I've seen. Color decoding was below average - according to the Avia test DVD, greens and reds were de-accentuated by about 20%. Geometry was not perfect - the extreme upper right and left corners bent outward slightly, and there was very minor bowing across the screen. Off-angle viewing was very good to the sides and average from the top and bottom. Brightness was slightly less uniform than I'd expect in a DLP TV.
Copyright © 2013 Bonnier Corp. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.