Editors' Note 11-27-07: This product is a 2006 model that has been replced by the Mitsubishi WD-833 series
Big-screen rear-projection HDTVs are inexorably giving up ground to flat-panel models, and thanks to plasma and flat LCD price erosion, that process is happening more quickly than ever. Today sales of more-expensive 50-inch plasmas equal or exceed sales of cheaper 50-inch projection sets, and it's just a matter of time before even bigger, 60-inch plasmas are available for prices that challenge RPTVs. Until then, however, people who want a 60-inch-plus HDTV are generally going to go with projection.
Mitsubishi's WD-65831 is just such a 65-inch DLP-based RPTV. Despite its place among the most expensive of its breed, it's still a relative bargain compared to similarly sized plasmas, namely Panasonic's TH-65PX600U. Its principal competition comes from the likes of Sony's KDS-R60XBR2, which we had an opportunity to compare directly to the Mitsubishi. Both sets produced excellent pictures, and image quality competition was close to a wash--both sets received the same performance rating, with each having its own strengths and weaknesses (see Performance for details). Overall we liked the Mitsubishi slightly better on account of its more compact design, but of course that's more subjective than anything. The supersleek WD-65831 brings an amazingly complete feature set to the table as well, with a tremendous input selection and every extra you could want--and then some. For someone who wants a top-of-the-line 65-inch set but can't quite stomach eight grand for a plasma, the Mitsubishi WD-65831 is as good as it gets.
As we mentioned, we love the WD-65831's looks, and looks aren't something big-screen HDTVs generally do well. The highlight is the set's extremely thin bezel around the screen, which allows this big HDTV to take up less room than the Sony KDS-R60XBR2. The Mitsubishi measures 58.5x40.8x19.8 inches and weighs a comparatively feathery 99 pounds. The cabinet is entirely glossy black, with a subtle strip of charcoal-gray speaker grille that runs along the bottom of the screen. Below that is a couple inches of pedestal base, rounded along the edges, with a flip-up door fronted by the Mitsubishi logo.
Opening the door reveals a set of A/V inputs with composite and S-Video; a FireWire jack that can connect to IEEE 1394 devices, such as digital recorders, as well as camcorders; a quartet of media card slots that encompasses just about every format available; and eight keys to input commands if you happen to misplace the remote. Mitsubishi's clicker has been redesigned from the flyswatter of yore. We liked the more manageable size and the red backlight behind every key, but we wish the new remote offered a few differently placed, strategically located keys. We found the staid grid of buttons difficult to get to know by feel.
Hitting the Menu button brings up a relatively friendly graphical interface that leads you through a range of setup options quite clearly. Mitsubishi's audio and video settings are accessed by pressing their respective buttons on the remote, which might initially be confusing to people who expect to find those settings in the main menu. All of the picture controls conveniently occupy little screen real estate, making adjustment much easier. The main exceptions are the control screen for Perfect Color and Perfect Tint, which take up almost the entire screen.
Foremost on the WD-65831's feature list is its DLP-based light engine. The set uses the same Texas Instruments DLP chip found in competing 1080p DLP televisions, but the company has added one proprietary feature: a six-color color wheel. The wheel provides separate filters for secondary colors cyan, magenta, and yellow, which the company says improves color reproduction (see Performance). As a 1080p native-resolution display, the WD-65831 can resolve every detail of 1080i and 1080p sources, and all other sources are converted, as usual, to fit the pixels.
Mitsubishi included an excellent array of convenience features, starting with a two-tuner, split-screen picture-outside-picture feature that lets you view two shows at once. It offers a good range of combinations, including PC-with-HDMI and component-with-HDMI. In addition to the ATSC tuner and CableCard combo, Mitsubishi adds the TV Guide onscreen EPG to make the loss of your cable box's EPG sting a little less. The set can also read memory cards to play MP3 or WMA music files and display JPEG picture files.
Unique to Mitsubishi is the NetCommand system, which is designed to let the TV control a rackful of A/V gear, much like a universal remote. It uses a series of IR emitters--Mitsubishi includes enough for four devices with the WD-65831--to send remote-control commands to your stuff. Of course this necessitates telling the TV what kind of gear you have, and selecting from a list of remote codes or going through a "learning" process to input codes that aren't already in the TV's database. When you first connect a piece of equipment, the television senses it and prompts you to perform NetCommand setup, but you can easily skip that if you'd like. Once everything is set up, you can control the equipment using the TV's onscreen interface, which includes buttons such as Play, Guide, List, and Record just like the devices' remotes. We didn't test this feature on the WD-65831, but we have used it in the past and it's pretty effective, although we still prefer a well-programmed universal remote. One of the benefits of NetCommand, however, is that it lets you stash your gear out of sight.
Moving past the conveniences, the WD-65831 affords a great deal of control over the picture, although there aren't as many controls as on the Sony (where many of them are rather superfluous). There are just two aspect-ratio selections available for HD sources and a solid six for standard-def. There are three different picture modes, called Natural, Bright, and Brilliant, with Natural delivering the most accurate default settings. Changes made to any mode are saved individually in that mode and are different for each input, allowing plenty of picture setup options. There are two color-temperature presets, High and Low, with the latter coming closest to the 6,500K standard.
Another set of controls is unique to Mitsubishi. Perfect Color and Perfect Tint promise the ability to fine-tune each of the primary and secondary colors--red, green, blue, cyan, magenta, and yellow--for saturation and tint. Again these settings are independent per input. See Performance for details on the effectiveness of these controls. A few other options for picture control are available, including a four-step noise-reduction circuit, an edge enhancement control called SharpEdge that we left off for high-quality sources, and a so-called Deep-Field Imager, which alters black levels in different areas of the screen, so we left it off after setting the black level properly.
Mitsubishi has always offered excellent connectivity on its high-end big screens, and the WD-65831 is no exception. Its prodigious back panel supports two HDMI inputs, three component-video inputs (one more than normal), a DVI input that can handle digital or analog computer signals (analog may require a VGA-to-DVI adapter) or HDMI sources (again, adapter required), two A/V inputs with composite and S-Video, separate audio inputs for the HDMI and DVI connectors, a pair of RF inputs for antenna and/or cable, an optical digital audio output, a monitor A/V output, and a pair of IEEE-1394 (FireWire) ports, for use with D-VHS recorders or future digital recorders (possibly including Blu-ray and/or HD DVD recorders). As we mentioned, the WD-65831's front panel houses additional input possibilities.
The Mitsubishi WD-65831 can produce a great-looking picture, but it takes a bit of work. After setup, we appreciated its deep blacks and solid shadow detail; clean, uniform picture; and sharp images from 1080-resolution sources. We would have liked to see better color accuracy both before and after calibration, but the myriad controls helped this issue quite a bit.
Calibration: We began as always by setting up the Mitsubishi in a completely dark room and adjusting its picture controls accordingly. The WD-65831 can get extremely bright, but we found that turning down contrast did improve black levels and make the picture easier on the eyes in the dark. We ended up with a maximum light output of around 35 footlamberts. Prior to calibration, the Mitsubishi's grayscale came fairly close to the standard in the Low preset (see the geek box below), but was somewhat greenish. Afterward, grayscale tracking was very good, although we were disappointed that the set, unlike some others, didn't allow us to tweak the grayscale in the user menu.