Mitsubishi's DLP: No Smoke, Just Mirrors

A reasonably priced alternative to high-end LCDs or plasma screens, the WD-65831's digital light processing brings TV into close focus

Editor's Rating:

The Good: An amazing picture filled with brilliant colors and rich detail

The Bad: Not as thin as LCDs or plasma screen TVs

The Bottom Line: A top-of-the-line TV for a price you would expect

Mitsubishi's 65-in. Diamond 831 series gives new meaning to the term "reality TV." The set is capable of producing a picture so rich in color and intense detail that it's easy to become immersed in the viewing experience and forget about everything else, including "normal" television stations.

This unit is made for the new breed of high-definition programming that's making its way into video and televised content. I found myself completely shunning non-HD networks in favor of whatever was showing in big-screen format, regardless of whether I could follow the storyline or was even interested in the show.

At one stage, I was transfixed for 30 minutes by a channel displaying only sunrises. The images were so brilliant—filled with seemingly millions of subtly different yellows and reds, that I felt as if I had been transported far away from my New York apartment to a place where people had time to simply watch the sun slowly emerge from the horizon. It was like being on vacation.

The Third Contender

Several technologies work in concert to give this rear-projection television its sparkling display. Instead of using the fluorescent light technology that powers plasma televisions or the crystals in liquid crystal display screens, Mitsubishi opted for Texas Instruments' digital light processing (DLP) technology. DLPs use, among other technologies, millions of microscopic mirrors to reflect varying amounts of red, green, and blue light onto a screen.

Once overlooked in the LCD vs. plasma battle for living room dominance, DLP technology is becoming more common and well known (see BusinessWeek.com, 1/23/06, "The War for the Digital Home").

To generate more buzz, TI (TXN) earlier this year launched an advertising campaign featuring a little girl, sometimes with an elephant, reflecting on the magical display created by mirrors (see BusinessWeek.com, 5/30/06, "Meet the DLP Chip's Biggest Booster").

Color Me Happy

The DLP chip is capable of displaying images with 1080p resolution, the highest available. Currently, even HD stations do not broadcast in 1080p, but rather 1080i, which is not quite as smooth. Some video game systems, such as Sony's (SNE) PlayStation 3, as well as disks that conform to the new Blu-ray and HD-DVD formats or video content from companies such as Microsoft (MSFT), are capable of displaying the higher resolution. However, in the future, more devices and probably TV stations will be broadcasting in 1080p, allowing Mitsubishi's WD-65831 to hold its own against sets that lack this capability.

I especially liked the features that let me adjust individually the intensity and tint of six different colors, particularly since I found that the picture was too blue and green right out of the box. Using the "PerfectColor" and "PerfectTint" menus, I could adjust colors to my liking with a few clicks of the remote.

Another welcome addition to this model is an image analyzer that automatically adjusts brightness and contrast for each picture. This tool scans 135 sectors of the picture and then adjusts accordingly. The result is that you don't get channels that seem way too dark and others that seem too light. Once the brightness is set, everything looks good, no matter how often you click around. The television has technology that enhances details in dark images as well.

Sound to Match?

Mitsubishi equipped the set with two HDMI inputs, for all those next-generation HD video broadcasting devices that you might want to hook up to your TV. The set also has three video inputs and a PC DVI-I input for a digital computer connection. The TV automatically recognizes what device is plugged into its inputs and adjusts the image and its location accordingly. For example, it will center a smaller-screen image emanating from a computer.

With a TV screen this beautiful, you probably want a proper sound system to match. To get that kind of quality, you would have to hook it up to an outside sound system. However, the two 10-watt speakers included on the set do a fine job of producing stereo sound.

The price of this television, between $3,500 and $4,000, reflects all of its capabilities and its large screen. Still, it's much cheaper than other 65-in. options, such as Sharp's 65-in. Aquos LCD screen, which costs between $8,000 and $11,000, depending on where you buy it (see BusinessWeek.com, 11/06/06, "Sharp's Leader of the LCD Pack").

TV Therapy

Another advantage of DLP is its weight. Unlike large LCD televisions that typically weigh between 100 and 200 pounds, DLPs are relatively easy to move around. Sharp's television weighs 160 lbs. This television weighs 99.

LCDs, of course, are highly regarded for producing some of the best pictures around and they certainly are thin. Plasmas are also super-thin and can be hung on the wall. Because it is a rear-projection television, Mitsubishi's DLP is slightly thicker and can't be mounted like a picture. It is thinner than earlier DLP models, however, and the shiny black frame around the screen is narrow enough to virtually disappear when you're watching TV.

All in all, I thought this DLP did a better job than many plasmas and LCDs that I've seen—though I myself haven't reviewed Sharp's Aquos or other "best of breed" TVs. It's a great set for anyone who wants TV to be more than a way to unwind after a hard day. This TV will help you forget the hard day altogether.