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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Samsung HL-S6188W DLP HDTV

In a rather interesting reversal of fortune, the Samsung and the Sony swapped positions compared with their rankings in last year’s RPTV Face Off. This was really due to one thing: defeatable DNIe.

Samsung’spicture-enhancement” circuitry proved to be last year’s ultimate polarizing factor. Some of our judges liked it; most of them didn’t. Either way, it certainly didn’t make the image look natural. The problem was that you couldn’t disable the DNIe. This year’s model had no such affliction. In fact, in Movie mode, you can’t even enable the DNIe. Without this handicap, the display’s strengths got to shine through.

The Samsung’s most noticeable strength, interestingly, is its color. While every other display in this Face Off (in fact, most displays in general) had oversaturated color points, the HL-S6188W had nearly perfect color points. The result on the screen is an image that looks inherently realistic. This seemed to be the aspect of its performance that pushed it to the top of everyone’s rankings. In fact, every judge commented on the display’s natural look and realistic colors. As it won out over other TVs that had better contrast ratios and much better black levels, the importance of accurate color points seems to be clear.

The Samsung’s processing was very good with both 480i and 1080i material. There were almost no noticeable jagged edges on the Silicon Optix DVD’s flag scene. The Samsung picked up the 3:2 sequence quickly with Gladiator but not at all with the synthetic Silicon Optix test. Like most of the TVs, it couldn’t pick it up at all with 1080i, either. The scaling was pretty good, and most of the judges gave it compliments on its level of detail. The same was true with noise, as in there wasn’t a lot of it.

This set wasn’t without its problems, and one stands out over the others. This TV is way too bright. Don’t dismiss this, as it is a real issue. If you plan to watch this TV in a dark room, it will be extremely fatiguing. If, for example, a night scene transitions to a day scene, you will probably wince and squint your eyes. It’s that bright. With no way to adjust the light output in the user menu, I question the usability of this TV at night, as did several of the judges. It’s too bright. Several other TVs in this Face Off have an adjustable iris to drop the light output when desired. This TV needs a usermenu iris adjustment more than any display we’ve reviewed. Sure, everyone loves a bright display, but this one has gone over the edge. An adjustable iris would also address this TV’s other shortcoming, mediocre blacks.

Yet, the Samsung still won, despite its eye-watering light output. The scaling and deinterlacing (except for 1080i) are good. The colors are nearly perfect, and it tracks D6500 quite well. The contrast ratio is good, although the black level is merely OK. It’s one of the most realistic and natural RPTVs we’ve seen through here, and it’s our clear winner. Just don’t forget to bring some sunglasses.


Sunday, March 04, 2007


Narrowly squeaking past the Toshiba to secure the first-runnerup spot, the JVC was this year’s polarizing choice. It had one firstplace vote, two for second place, and a fourth- and a fifth-place vote, as well. It all depended on what each reviewer valued—or was bothered by—the most.

Older JVC RPTVs were known for having great processing—as well as pretty terrible black levels. Thankfully, this year’s models have an iris. You can adjust the iris for blistering light output, almost as much as the Samsung’s—or, even better, for the second best black level in the Face Off. All the while, the contrast ratio stays high, usually in the 5,000:1-to-6,000:1 range. This is an excellent implementation of an iris, allowing the JVC to have an extremely wide range of light-output options.

Color wasn’t the JVC’s strong suit. The Sony set was less accurate, but, interestingly, because all of the Sony’s colors were off uniformly, it wasn’t as objectionable. The JVC,on the other hand, had a very oversaturated green, while blue and red were less so. Because of this imbalance, several judges commented that, even though it didn’t seem as oversaturated, it seemed more off.

The remote, like all recent JVC remotes, has a lot of tiny, identical buttons. It’s hard to navigate, but at least it’s backlit. The menus, too, are the same as those found on previous models and really don’t complement this TV’s performance, price, or decade, for that matter. Oh, well; with any luck, you won’t have to use the menus often. The Theater Pro button on the remote puts the TV in a movie mode that drops the iris and color temperature down to theater-type levels.

Without the iris, there is no doubt that this TV wouldn’t have ranked this highly. ith the competition so strong, this addition was a smart move for JVC. The excellent contrast ratio, black level, and processing make for a strong display. The color accuracy isn’t great, but it’s not as bad as that of some. Overall, JVC did a lot of things right, and the HD-61FN97 is a very highly performing runner-up.


Friday, March 02, 2007

Toshiba 62MX196 DLP HDTV

In last year’s RPTV Face Off, the Toshiba and JVC TVs tied for second place. This year, the Toshiba missed out on that same tie by only one point. Other TVs in this Face Off excelled strongly in certain categories and not in others. The Toshiba, on the other hand, did well in most categories, except for one, that is.

The comments for the Toshiba generally remarked on its balance. The color accuracy, while not as good as some of the other displays’, was better than average. The Toshiba’s overall contrast ratio was the second lowest, but its ANSI contrast ratio was the second highest. The amount of detail was better than some but not as good as others. And there didn’t seem to be too much noise in the image with any of the sources we demoed.

Processing was fairly average. The 62MX196 picked up the 3:2 sequence with 480i on both the Gladiator clip and the Silicon Optix disc. The waving flag from Silicon Optix had some jagged edges,but it wasn’t too bad. While the 62MX196 deinterlaced 1080i/30 correctly, it wasn’t able to pick up the 3:2 sequence (like most of the displays here). As you’ll see in a moment, this was more of a pressing issue here.

While the value of this TV may seem high, you’ll need to add $300 to its price for a good calibration. Out of the box, the 62MX196 is wickedly cool, like every other Toshiba display we’ve reviewed recently. I understand why a manufacturer would want their TVs to be set to the coolest color temperature out of the box, but why not at least give us enthusiasts the ability to drop to normal levels if we want?

This is the only TV in this year’s Face Off that doesn’t accept 1080p on any input. Last year, such ability was a rarity, but now it is commonplace. This exclusion is notable and disappointing. Other TVs in Toshiba’s line accept 1080p, but not the 1080p RPTVs. Now that we have a real 1080p/60 source (PlayStation 3), this lack sullies an otherwise decent TV. Furthermore, the 62MX196 can’t pick up and process the 3:2 sequence from 1080i correctly.

So, on a performance level, the 62MX196 does a lot of things well but doesn’t excel in any one area. With the lack of a 1080p input, it wasn’t able to move any higher.


Wednesday, February 28, 2007


At this point, you are surely asking yourself, didn’t this TV’s predecessor win this competition last year? Well, yes, it did. What a difference a year makes.

It isn’t that this XBR2 is worse than the XBR1. In fact, in most ways, it is better. It’s just that, in the intervening year, the competition has gotten that much stronger, while this Sony is, well, very similar to last year’s. In reality, the performance of this display, the two runners-up, and the winner are all very close. Each display does some things well and other things not so well.

Obviously, contrast ratio and black level are two of the things that the KDS-R60XBR2 does well. At 14,544:1, its contrast ratio is more than double that of the next closest competitor. This is thanks, in part, to the fact that the Sony has the most active auto iris. This handy device trac ks the incoming video signal and adjusts the builtin iris accordingly. So, with dark scenes, the iris closes up and makes the whole image darker. With bright scenes, it opens and makes the whole scene brighter. As you can imagine, this makes for some rather inflated contrast-ratio measurements. Even so, when you set the iris to stay at one setting, the contrast ratio is still in the ,000:1-to-6,000:1 range, which makes the Sony comparable to the JVC and the Samsung.

The Sony’s processing was pretty middle-of-the-road. It icked up the 3:2 sequence with the Gladiator clip but not with the Silicon Optix discs (neither 480i nor 1080i). The video processing was OK; the waving-flag scene from the same discs had only slightly jaggededges .

Last year, due to the other aspects of the XBR1’s performance, everyone was able to overlook its oversaturated colors. This year, however, the Sony wasn’t so lucky. With other TVs offering a similar onscreen contrast ratio, better processing, and more accurate color points, the Sony dropped down in the rankings. The inclusion of 1080p inputs and a little better performance make this TV a little better than last year’s model, but, with everyone gunning for you, you can’t make do with baby steps.


Monday, February 26, 2007

Mitsubishi WD-65731 DLP HDTV

Much like the Olevia, there was one major thing and one slightly less major thing that conspired to drop the WD-65731 down in the rankings. These were black level and edge enhancement.

At 0.127 foot-lamberts, the Mitsubishi’s black level was more than 3.5 times as high as the second worst one. Not only is this a lot higher than the others in this test, but it is significantly higher than most of the other displays we’ve reviewed lately (even LCD flat panels). Unfortunately, the WD-65731 didn’t have a high enough light output to offset the high black level. Most RPTVs have terrible ANSI contrast ratios due to the amount of reflections that happen inside the cabinet (among other things). Mitsubishi had the best ANSI contrast in last year’s Face Off. This year’s model is slightly lower than that, but two other sets (the Toshiba and the Samsung) both made large strides in increasing their ANSI compared with last year’s models.

The other main negative is disappointing on several levels. More than the others, the WD-65731 had noticeable and non-defeatable edge enhancement. At first lance, this makes the Mitsubishi look detailed. On closer inspection, however, you can see thin white halos running along all of the edges. Displays use edge enhancement typically when, for some reason, they don’t have the resolution to look detailed on their own. Ironically (and sadly), the WD-65731 has that detail. It was one of only three displays (and the only DLP) that passed the onepixel-on/onepixel-off test both horizontally and vertically. So, the resolution is there, but the edge enhancement covers it up.

The Mitsubishi’s 3:2 pickup with 480i was about average, and, like most of the other TVs, the Mitsubishi didn’t pick it up with 1080i. Its video deinterlacing with 480i resulted in some jagged edges on the flag, but its 1080i deinterlacing was fine.

The color points, while not as accurate as the Samsung’s, were more accurate than those of all of the other sets here. The new remote is smaller and easier to use than the old one. It’s pretty basic, but the important bits are backlit. Decrease the black level and the edge enhancement, and you’d have an OK TV.


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