As far as picture-enhancing features go, some are worthy, and others should not be used. Film Mode engages 2:3 pull-down in the video processing, minimizing motion artifacts and jaggies when looking at film-based material such as DVD movies. Three selectable color temperatures are available, with Warm being the closest to the industry standard of 6,500K. Auto Color and Edge Enhancement should definitely be shut off, as these features hurt picture quality rather than enhance it.
Conveniences include dual-tuner PIP, although you're limited to viewing only standard-def sources and analog channels on the smaller inset window. The set allows four aspect-ratio choices for standard and 480p sources, but unfortunately, you can't change aspects with HD sources. In addition to five picture presets, the system lets you you further tailor the picture using manual controls and independent input memories.
Connectivity is fairly generous on the HD61THW263, although there aren't any front-panel inputs; all of the jacks are located to the lower left of the back of the set. A single HDMI input, two FireWire ports, and two sets of wideband component-video inputs head up the list of video connections. There are also two A/V inputs with both composite and S-Video jacks and an A/V output with composite video only. In addition, we counted two RF inputs: one for cable TV and one for an antenna; a CableCard slot; and the Ethernet port for Internet connection. RCA says that it may also make firmware upgrades available through its Web site.Overall, the RCA HD61THW263's image quality can't quite compete with that of other DLP-based TVs we've seen, such as Samsung's HL-P5085W and Mitsubishi's WD-52525. Yes, we found that its black-level performance was quite good. Blacks were also fairly clean, with only minimal low-level noise being visible just above black. The video processing was also good, with solid 2:3 pull-down processing when Film mode was engaged.
Color decoding is the set's biggest weakness. Red and green are severely underdriven, and the result is washed-out, somewhat anemic-looking color. Of course you could increase the color control, but that throws the color balance further out of whack. Our review sample also had a marked geometry problem, which made horizontal lines appear to bow across the big screen. For example, it showed up with both the program guide from DirecTV and on all 2.35:1 aspect -ratio films.
After a full ISF-style calibration of the HD61THW263, we sat back and watched some of our favorite DVD movies. Chapter 12 of the Seabiscuit DVD looked pretty mediocre, with somewhat washed-out color and skin tones that appeared too pale. The beginning scenes from the director's cut of the Alien DVD looked impressive with respect to black-level performance, thanks to the HD2+ DLP chip.
HDTV material from our DirecTV HD satellite feed looked pretty good, but again color was a bit washed out (it wasn't as noticeable as it was with DVDs, however). Comparing this RCA side by side to the Samsung HL-P5085W with the same HD feed, the Samsung absolutely blew it away in terms of color rendition. As far as resolution goes, the HD61THW263 was the only 720p native DLP set we have tested that actually displays all the resolution of a 720p signal. Conversely, the focus on the set was not crisp, so images still appeared somewhat soft.
We also checked out the performance of the Web browser and discovered that it was adequate only for casual surfing. It loaded pages quite slowly over our normally speedy network, and it wouldn't load pages that require cookies, such as shopping sites and many Web-based e-mail services, such as Hotmail.
|Before color temp (20/80)||9,575/7,425K||Poor|
|After color temp (20/80)||7,450/6,550K||Poor|
|Before grayscale variation||± 1,158K||Poor|
|After grayscale variation||± 194K||Average|
|Color decoder error: red||-25%||Poor|
|Color decoder error: green||-20%||Poor|
|DC restoration||All patterns stable||Good|
|2:3 pull-down, 24fps||Y||Good|
|Defeatable edge enhancement||N||Poor|