Rear-projection HDTVs, as a category, are on their way out, and DLP-based sets are the only microdisplay choice available, now that all manufacturers of LCD- and LCoS-based rear-projection displays have basically ceased production. Samsung and Mitsubishi are pretty much the only players left in this category--they're the only two manufacturers listed on the Best Buy and Circuit City Web sites under "rear-projection." The way things are going, 2008 or 2009 may be the last year for rear-projection, lasers notwithstanding. As with any technology nearing the end of its lifespan, RPTV is becoming an even better bargain than before, as long as you're aware of its limitations, such as poor off-angle performance compared to plasmas.
Samsung's HL61A750 is the company's top-of-the-line 61-inch model. It has a really solid feature package, with lots of options focused on optimizing the picture, and generous connectivity to accommodate all your video sources without any issues. Most importantly--at least to this reviewer--it is an excellent performer, with deep blacks and accurate color temperature after just a few tweaks in the user menu. Rear-pros may be a dying breed, but if you're looking to get 61 inches for less than $2,000 (street price), the Samsung HL61A750 is an excellent performer and handily beats the comparable Mitsubishi WD-65735.
If you've seen one big-box microdisplay, you've just about seen them all. This is especially true now that Sony's interestingly styled SXRD rear-projection sets are no longer produced. The Samsung HL61A750 sports a glossy black finish with a very thin bezel surrounding the left, right, and top edges of the screen. Samsung's signature round blue circle still sits directly below the middle of the screen.
While the TV's cabinet is unchanged, the remote has undergone a complete makeover. It has a glossy black finish, and I wasn't a fan of the multicolored buttons. I was disappointed that it is not backlit at all, and the round dial around the Enter button intended to help you navigate the menu is awkward to use; I found myself going to places in the menu I didn't intend to visit. The internal menu system has not changed since last year's DLP models, and is quite intuitive and easy to use.
Like most modern big-screen LCDs, the HL61A750 has a native resolution of 1080p, which works out to 1,920x1,080 pixels. While we often downplay the importance of 1080p resolution at smaller screen sizes, with a 61-inch screen you should be able to see the benefits of 1080p over 720p, albeit at a very close seating distance of 7 feet.
Three picture modes are available, including Dynamic, Standard, and Movie. I chose Movie, as it produced the best results at the factory presets. The selectable color temperatures are Cool 1, Cool 2, Normal, Warm 1, and Warm 2; we selected Warm 2, as its by far the closest to the broadcast standard color temperature.
The Detailed Settings menu includes several additional adjustments and almost all of them, including Black Adjust, Dynamic Contrast, Edge Enhancement, and xvYCC Color, are best shut off. The LED control adjusts the backlight for the LEDs, and is very useful in optimizing the black level of the set. The lower you set it the better the blacks, but you also decrease light output, so there is a tradeoff.
When in the Movie mode, you will find that many of the settings in the Picture Options menu are grayed out, indicating they are set correctly and should not be changed. I was very pleased to see that Samsung has added a Blue Only mode, which is helpful in getting color and tint set correctly, as a blue filter really isn't accurate enough with these types of displays (check this tip for details). Color Gamut comes set to sRGB, and that is the most accurate setting. This feature changes the primary colors, and sRGB is very close to the HDTV specifications for red, green, and blue. The Normal and Wide modes bring the primaries way beyond where they are meant to be.
(Updated July, 31, 2008) The Samsung's selection of aspect ratio modes is solid, and includes a Just Scan option that displays 1080i and 1080p without scaling. Since this is a rear-projection set it still overscans about 2.5 percent, which obscures the extreme edges of the image--whereas flat-panel sets can typically show the entire image with zero overscan.