Digital light processing (DLP) is a technology that's relatively new to rear-projection televisions, and Gateway is a TV rookie itself--just look at some of the recent scores our reviews team has given the company. That's why we were pleasantly surprised by Gateway's sole rear-projection set, officially dubbed the 56-inch DLP HD-ready TV. It offers performance on a par with that of its more expensive DLP competition (the swankier Samsung HLN567W), plus a feast of inputs and a spouse-friendly PIP function. Yes, less-expensive, bulkier tube-based rear projectors, such as the Hitachi , will outperform this 56-incher, but it can handle computer images and delivers an equally bright picture from all viewing angles. All that and a relatively affordable list price make the Gateway our favorite value among DLP televisions.
While silver has been in vogue among most television makers for the past year, Gateway has taken its own stylistic direction. This DLP TV is a rectangular black hole: black borders frame a black screen sitting atop a black base. Only a line of gray buttons and the silver Gateway logo escape the gravity well. In its favor, this study in black-matte plastic doesn't reflect much room lighting.
Despite its large screen, this TV isn't furniture in its own right. You'll need to place it on a stand or a low bench to raise the display to eye level. Thanks to DLP technology, the set measures only 19 inches deep and weighs a mere 130 pounds. Its build quality seems a little light as well, but at least the jack connections are solid.
We liked the large, blue-backlit remote, though we would have preferred fewer buttons and tighter organization; novices may find this clicker confusing. Keys provide direct access to groups of inputs; for example, Comp cycles between the two component-video ins. The text-only internal menu system won't win any beauty contests and can be a challenge to navigate.
One unusual trait of DLP TVs is that they don't turn on immediately. After we'd hit the power button, the screen took an average of nearly 40 seconds to light up with a picture. The delay was quite a bit longer than what we experienced with Samsung's HLN467W. And the Gateway has its very own weird characteristic: you have to press the power key twice to turn off the set. Also, a couple of times during testing, our review unit's display went blank for one or two seconds.
Two major features stick out on the spec sheet: DLP technology and an extremely versatile picture-in-picture (PIP) function. The set's DLP engine is Texas Instruments' HD2 chip, which has a native resolution of 1,280x720--enough to display every pixel of a 720p high-definition signal. Like any fixed-pixel set, the Gateway converts 1080i HDTV; DVD; VHS; standard cable, antenna, and satellite television; and all other resolutions to fit the native pixel count. You'll need to attach a separate HDTV tuner to watch high-def programming.
The folks from Gateway say that their PIP feature makes it easy for two people to enjoy different shows simultaneously on the wide screen, and for the most part, they're right. The television comes with two remotes, so you and your TV buddy can independently change channels, swap sources, and even adjust the volume; the second window is linked to a dedicated headphone jack with a volume control. The PIP function's main limitation comes up with cable and/or satellite boxes; you'll need two to access all channels in both windows. Your DVI and RGB (computer) images must appear in the main display, but otherwise, any source can appear alongside any other.
Our favorite performance-enhancing feature, individual input memories, enables you to adjust contrast, brightness, and other parameters for each source. You also get a choice of three color temperatures. Four aspect ratios let you resize images on the wide screen: along with 4:3 and 16:9, you get Zoom for nonanamorphic DVDs and Panorama for stretching the picture's sides more than its center. Choices for HD sources are limited: via component video, Panorama and Zoom are totally inactive in 1080i, and you can't change aspect at all in 720p. Every mode but Panorama is available for 720p DVI transmission, but the set didn't accept our 1080i DVI signals.
Speaking of inputs, this Gateway has 'em in spades. Its DVI jack has HDCP copy protection for compatibility with HDTV receivers and DVI-equipped DVD players. Both of the rear component-video hookups can accept standard, 480p, and HDTV signals. A flip-out bay on the face's left side holds one A/V connection, and the back provides two more with S-Video. That front-panel compartment also hosts a headphone jack for each PIP window and one of the two VGA inputs for your computer. Finally, there's a full set of A/V outputs, complete with S-Video.
Overall, this DLP set performs similarly to its Samsung rivals, although its color isn't as accurate. And the Gateway can't deliver the inky blacks of CRT-based rear projectors; an image's darkest areas look very deep gray instead. On the other hand, this TV's brighter picture is more at home in brighter environments.
At the Warm color temperature, the television's out-of-the-box grayscale measured 8,058K at the low end and 6,059K at the high end--pretty inconsistent. Calibration improved the respective readings tremendously to 6,458K and 6,825K, much closer to the 6,500K ideal. We were also able to alleviate the greenish-blue bias in darker areas, although we couldn't remove it completely. To compensate for some errors in the red and green channels, we had to turn down the color control, so hues weren't as rich as we'd have liked.
As with other DLP TVs we've seen, darker scenes proved more of a challenge than lighter ones. In the opening pan from Alien, for example, some moving dots and noise appeared in the rings of the planet and the void. Space wasn't as black as with CRT televisions, although the Gateway equaled the Samsung DLPs on this count. Rainbows trailed behind the slowly assembling title at the top of the screen and showed up elsewhere. Some people won't perceive them at all, while others will be more sensitive to them.
We don't recommend pairing a progressive-scan DVD player with this set. We saw faint horizontal lines while watching 480p via the component-video input, and the image was shifted toward the bottom. Those problems disappeared when we switched off our DVD deck's progressive mode and engaged the Gateway's internal Genesis/Faroudja DCDi video processor.
When we watched component video, we couldn't eliminate edge enhancement without softening the picture, regardless of the sharpness setting. We also saw solarization effects. But some of those disappeared when we connected our DVI-equipped V Bravo D1 and set it to 720p output. The image improved significantly, coming through more cleanly and with no extra accentuation on outlines.
Naturally, the Gateway's picture got even better with a true high-def source. The 1080i D-VHS version of Behind Enemy Lines showed incredible detail. Take, for instance, the scene in which Owen Wilson uses the aircraft carrier's catapult as a placekicker. We could see every dimple on the football. Color accuracy didn't increase much, however, and the black-level and rainbow issues remained.