A 42-inch rear-projection set small enough to sit on a tabletop, the Gold Series WT-42311 represents the junior member of Mitsubishi's rear-projection lineup; it's the smallest size the company produces. It goes head-to-head with the likes of Toshiba's 42HDX82 and Sony's KP-46WT500, although it will probably cost you more than either of those sets. This little Mitsubishi is still bigger than any tube TV and half the price of most like-sized plasmas, making it a nice compromise between a big, high-quality picture and a not-so-big wallet. The WT-42311 comes in an attractive silver finish, and Mitsubishi offers an optional matching stand (for $299 list). Below the big screen, thin vertical slits cross the entire bottom third of the cabinet; it almost looks like it's wearing silver cords. At a little more than 25 inches deep and 110 pounds, this is one extremely compact, lightweight rear-projection TV.
Below the screen on the right, you'll find some basic function buttons, including menu access and channel/volume controls. Just to the right of that, the front-panel A/V inputs are concealed behind a retractable door. The remote has partial backlighting on major keys--kudos to Mitsubishi for that--and can command a variety of A/V components. Widely spaced rubberized buttons, a logical layout, and a natural feel place it among the top TV remotes we've used. Size can be deceptive; Mitsubishi packed just about every feature you'd find on bigger, more expensive rear projectors into this set. Like most HDTVs, it can display 1080i high-definition content (the most common format) but not 720p. You'll need an external HDTV receiver or Mitsubishi's Promise Module ($999 list installed), an over-the-air HDTV receiver upgrade, to watch high-definition content. Progressive-scan DVD and 480p television are displayed natively; the competing 42-inch Toshiba 42HDX82 converts 480p to 540p. Finally, the 42311 converts incoming NTSC content to 480p, resulting in a more stable progressive-scan image.
Picture-enhancing features include 3:2 pull-down in the video processing. It helps eliminate motion artifacts introduced when 24fps film-based source material is converted to 30fps video frame rates, as it is for DVD movies. There are three selectable color temperatures--Low/6500, Medium, and High--which give you a choice of a warm reddish hue (Low/6500) or increasingly cooler, bluer colors with the Medium and High settings. For composite video sources such as VHS and cable TV, a best-of-breed 3D-YC comb filter is on tap.
The obligatory aspect ratios options include a stretch mode to fill the wide screen and a zoom for nonanamorphic letterboxed DVDs. Mitsubishi calls the anamorphic aspect ratio standard; most other manufacturers use that name for the old-fashioned 4:3 ratio we are all used to. Regular 4:3 TV is shown with gray bars to either side to help reduce the possibility of burn-in. Finally, the 64-point convergence in the user menu is a nice touch that allows the end user to maintain tight convergence of the red, green, and blue guns of the CRT.
Convenience features are fairly comprehensive on the WT-42311. The two-tuner picture-in-picture (PIP) heads the list and includes a split-screen feature that shows two images side by side on the wide screen. PIP works with all sources, including 480p and 1080i. Unlike most of its kind, this set associates the picture settings specifically with each input--contrast, brightness, color temperature, and so on--so you can fine-tune the picture for each source.
On the audio side, there is a simulated surround mode, which uses only the sets' left and right speakers to give you a semblance of the surround experience, and Level Sound to tame the peaks and valleys between programs and commercials.
You won't find any jacks on the rear panel of this set. Rather, the jack pack sits in the middle of the right side, an arrangement that should make connections less of a chore. It has a comprehensive selection of jacks, including three broadband component-video inputs (one can also handle RGB/HV input), two A/V inputs with S-Video, one set of monitor outputs with composite video only, two RF inputs, and one RF loop out. There is also a set of front-panel A/V inputs with S-Video for convenient hookup of camcorders and video game consoles. As expected, out-of-the-box picture performance at factory-preset picture levels wasn't that great; in particular, the grayscale was too blue even in Low/6500 mode. As with some other Mitsubishi models, the color decoder tweaks reside in the user menu rather than the service menu, which is not designed to be accessed by consumers. You should be careful with these; they dramatically change the overall hue of the picture and should be set precisely using a color-bar test pattern. For best performance, we recommend that you get the set calibrated by a qualified technician.
After our routine full ISF calibration, the WT-42311 performed like a whole new TV. Mitsubishi finally added the ability to turn off Scan Velocity Modulation to reduce the edge enhancement and make the picture look more natural. The color decoder tweaks tamed the otherwise severe red push, resulting in much better overall color saturation. Note that you can't correct color for HDTV and 480p sources; these tweaks apply only to NTSC sources such as interlaced DVD, VCRs, satellite, and cable.
After taming the extremely cool color temperature and calibrating all the picture parameters correctly, we sat back and watched some scenes from Training Day. Chapter 4, where Denzel Washington takes Ethan Hawke for a ride through the streets of LA, looked crisp and clean with good color saturation. 1080i HDTV from a Sencore computer hard drive looked pretty good but a little bit softer than on some other RPTVs we've tested.