Honeywell MT-HWJCT42B2AB Altura MLX review: Honeywell MT-HWJCT42B2AB Altura MLX
The name Honeywell is probably best known in the United States for its appearance on fans, humidifiers, air purifiers, and the like, but the conglomerate--which is involved in industries from aerospace and fluorocarbon to automotive turbochargers, according to its Web site--recently licensed its name to Soyo, a maker of LCD TVs and monitors such as the DYLT032D we reviewed a couple of years ago. That TV didn't fare well in our tests, and the Honeywell Altura MLX had a tough time as well. In this set's favor is a relatively inexpensive price, especially for a model with a 120Hz refresh rate. Going against it is just about everything else, from black level performance and color accuracy to the actual performance of its 120Hz processing. In the end it's tough to recommend this TV to anybody, especially when much better performing LCDs are available for around the same price.
The Honeywell Altura MLX--we'll drop that MT-HWJCT42B2AB part for the remainder of this review--disguises its budget TV status with pretty good looks. In evidence are the same styling cues that graced Samsung sets from last year, for example: glossy black finish, rounded corners, and a swiveling, pedestal stand. The only accent, aside from the too-prominent "Honeywell" logo, is a thin horizontal strip of chrome-ish plastic set above the gap housing the hidden speakers below the screen.
When you include the stand, the Alura MLX measures 40.4 inches wide by 28.5 inches tall by 13 inches deep and weighs 50.7 pounds. Remove the stand and its dimensions shrink to 40.4 inches wide by 26.3 inches tall by 3.8 inches deep.
Remote control design is one area where makers of budget TVs often cut corners, and Honeywell is no exception. In its favor, the medium-length remote can control three other pieces of gear, features lighting behind the volume and channel keys, and incorporates some differentiation between the various button groups. Unfortunately it's not as responsive as we'd like--we often had to press buttons more than once to execute some commands--and the cluster of 16 identical keys toward the bottom, which runs the gamut from aspect ratio and input selection to picture and sound mode toggles, is jumbled together into an indistinguishable grid.
Honeywell's menu system looks very similar to the one found on Vizio TVs and the Haier HL47K, and it even shares some remote codes with the latter. "Coincidences" such as this are common among budget models that share off-the-shelf electronics and software. The menu design is clean enough, and nothing serious was missing, although we'd like to see text explanations to accompany menu items.
The Honeywell's big bullet point is that 120Hz refresh rate, complete with a dejudder processing circuit that smoothes out motion in film-based sources. Other benefits of 120Hz include somewhat reduced blurring in motion and the capability to take advantage of 1080p/24 sources. We'll cover these items in more detail below, but first it's worth mentioning one major problem we had with the Honeywell's dejudder feature: you can't turn it off. The Altura MLX is the first TV we've tested with dejudder that doesn't provide the option to forgo the (often artificial-looking) processing.
Like most LCDs these days, the Honeywell also has a 1080p native resolution, although at this screen size it's nearly impossible to see any extra detail compared with 720p models.
The picture controls on the Honeywell are relatively sparse and ill-conceived. First off, only one of the picture modes ("User") can be adjusted--making changes to any of the others automatically switches back to the User setting, which has the unfortunate side effect of erasing whatever settings you had there originally. Worse, the User controls are not independent per input. The two component-video inputs and the two HDMI inputs share the same User settings, so contrast on HDMI1 and HDMI2, for example, must be set at the same level. Finally, there's no backlight control, which makes adjusting the display for optimum contrast in dark rooms a lot more difficult.
There are a few advanced controls on tap. The most important is a User color temperature setting, which, unfortunately, behaves the same way as the User picture setting (in other words, write down your settings). We did appreciate having the capability to adjust color temperature beyond the three presets, however. An Advanced picture menu is filled with options that, for the most part, are best left turned off.
Aspect ratio control on the Honeywell Altura is also a bit less comprehensive than we'd like to see. You can only choose from among two selections with HD sources, wide screen and 4:3, and worse yet, there's no "dot by dot" or similar mode that maps 1080i and 1080p sources to the TV's pixels with no scaling. That means the set can't perfectly resolve those sources, and that there's always some overscan. Standard-definition sources allow a third option called Zoom, as well as a setting that automatically selects an aspect ratio. We did appreciate the inclusion of a picture-in-picture mode as well as the option to freeze the action.
The number of connections on the Honeywell is a bit below average, even for a budget set. The back panel offers just two HDMI ports, a VGA-style PC input (1,920x1,080-pixel maximum resolution), and a pair of component-video inputs. There's one composite video and one S-Video input (although they share a single set of audio input jacks), an RF input for antenna or cable, and a coaxial digital audio output. There are no easy-access connections on the side or the front panel of the TV.
The Honeywell Altura MLX left plenty to be desired in the picture quality department. The worst issue was overly dark gamma--basically, dark areas of the picture were too dark compared with bright areas--that made everything appear too dull, joined by the fact that dejudder, which again couldn't be disabled, introduced numerous artifacts.
Prior to our calibration, the Honeywell was among the least-accurate HDTVs we've tested this year, and afterward it wasn't much better. The best precalibration picture mode was User with the Warm preset engaged, but it resulted in a very green grayscale--the human eye is most-sensitive to green among all the colors--that plunged deep into blue in dark areas. Our calibration reduced the green tinge and tamed the set's light output somewhat, but we still had to leave it brighter than we'd like to, at 60 footlamberts compared with our standard 40 ftl. That's because the nonadjustable, overly dark gamma made the entire image seem too dull at 40 ftl, and really hurt the image quality. Of course, in our darkened room the resulting brighter image caused some eyestrain, especially during bright scenes (see below), but it was better than the alternative. Check out the bottom of this blog post for our complete picture settings.
Our comparison this time around included another budget model, the Haier HL47K, along with a few more-expensive 120Hz displays, including the Sharp LC-46D85U, the Sony KDL-46W4100, and the Samsung LN52A650, and as always, for reference, the Pioneer PRO-111FD plasma.
This time we checked out the Journey to the Center of the Earth Blu-ray on our reference PlayStation 3.Black level: Producing a deep shade of black is not in the Honeywell's repertoire. After calibration, its dark areas were even lighter than those of the Haier, for example in the night sky above Iceland as professor Anderson and his son drive toward Reykjavik, which looked more like twilight than the deep night seen on the better displays. Details in the shadows, such as Anderson's hair and dark jacket as they sit in the car, appeared duller and less distinct than on the other displays as well, including the Haier again, an issue we blame on the Honeywell's dark gamma. In fact, the dark gamma made dark to midbright areas appear significantly duller than we'd like to see, even after we increased the TV's light output beyond our standard level for calibration, as described above.
On the flip side that higher light output, which we needed to use to make up for the darker gamma, caused eyestrain when the TV displayed bright areas, such as the overcast sky in Chapter 5 or the rainbow waterfalls in Chapter 10. Of course, watching in a room with more ambient light would have alleviated this issue, but we prefer watching movies in the dark. Unfortunately, with the Honeywell that's not as pleasant an experience as with most other HDTVs.
Color accuracy: While primary colors were relatively close to the HD standard, the Honeywell's uneven grayscale and lackluster saturation made colors appear worse than we expected even on a budget set. Skin tones in brighter scenes, like Hannah's face during the mountain climb in Chapter 5, looked good enough, but the bluish tinge in dark areas caused it to appear darker and less natural in scenes like the indoor lighting of her house in Chapter 4. Black and near-black areas looked extremely blue as well, and in colorful scenes such as the building of the wind-propelled raft in Chapter 12, which included lush green plants and a weird rosy sky, the hues didn't appear as rich or saturated as the other displays.
Video processing: The Honeywell features dejudder processing that cannot be turned off, and the result is a smoothing effect that's extremely noticeable in most kinds of program material, especially film. We're not fans of the effect, so we wish it could be turned off. In general, it makes motion seem too video-like, and cameras all seem as if they're on rails. We understand some viewers may prefer the smooth look, however, so it's worth comparing the Honeywell's smoothing with that of other dejudder-equipped 120Hz displays, including the Sony and the Samsung.
Those two models have adjustable smoothness settings but the Honeywell's dejudder cannot be adjusted, and it seemed to provide a smoothing equivalent to the most potent settings on the other two displays. In our experience, more smoothing produces more unnatural artifacts, and the Altura MLX was no exception. We noticed numerous incidents of breakup, for example, where parts of a fast-moving object would seem to detach from the rest. Sean's shirt briefly broke apart as he moved across the screen in Chapter 12, and his whole body seemed to do so when he moved offscreen in Chapter 11. These kinds of artifacts were frequent enough to prove distracting, and we doubt many critical viewers would stand for them. Compared with the Sony and Samsung, the Altura MLX exhibited more frequent artifacts--the two examples we just gave, for example, didn't look as noticeable on either of them.
All three seemed to share similar instances of a different artifact, which we liken to a halo that blurs the background that borders a foreground object. We saw this issue in Chapter 10, for example, when the three explorers enter the cave of waterfalls.
One benefit of 120Hz is that it can accept 1080p/24 sources properly to preserve the natural cadence of film without having to perform the 2:3 pull-down process necessary with 60Hz displays. Unfortunately, when we fed the Honeywell a 1080p/24 source from our PS3, it still applied dejudder processing, so this benefit was basically wasted. We could see no difference between 1080p/24 and standard 1080p on this display.
Motion resolution measured about 600 lines, or about average for a 120Hz LCD, and the Honeywell properly deinterlaced both film- and video-based sources. Since it lacks a dot-by-dot aspect ratio setting, it was unable to display every line of 1080i and 1080p sources. As always, while watching program material (as opposed to test patterns), we found it nearly impossible to distinguish between the resolution characteristics, motion or otherwise, of any of the sets in our comparison.
Uniformity: In very dark scenes we noticed that the upper corners appeared a bit brighter than other areas, but otherwise the Honeywell's screen was quite uniform. Off-angle performance was worse than the other displays in our test with the exception of the Haier, however, with dark areas washing out and discoloration setting in quickly.
Bright lighting: As a matte-screened LCD, the Altura MLX did a better job of reducing reflections and ejecting ambient light than the plasma or shiny-screened Samsung LCD, although the latter was better at maintaining black levels in bright rooms.
Standard-definition: The Altura had no trouble resolving every line of the DVD format, and the grass and stones of the bridge in the Detail test shot looked relatively sharp. The TV did a good job cleaning up jaggies in moving diagonal lines and a waving American flag. Noise reduction wasn't the Altura's strong suit--even on the most aggressive setting, it allowed plenty of moving motes and snow in the skies, sunsets, and flowers in our test footage. The Honeywell successfully engaged 2:3 pull-down detection to remove moire from the grandstand behind the racecar.
PC: The Honeywell is one of the few displays we've tested that performs better with an analog VGA connection than via digital HDMI. When connected via analog, the set resolved every detail of a 1,920x1,080-pixel source perfectly, with crisp text and no overscan. When we selected the same resolution via HDMI, however, the lack of a dot-by-dot aspect ratio mode meant the Windows Taskbar, along with the other three extreme edges of our PC desktop, were overscanned off the screen, and we couldn't get them back. Text also looked blocky and lines were similarly imperfect, and the set failed to resolve every line of the source resolution.
|Before color temp (20/80)||6217/6066||Average|
|After color temp||8191/6538||Poor|
|Before grayscale variation||+/- 566||Average|
|After grayscale variation||+/- 481||Poor|
|Color of red (x/y)||0.638/0.332||Good|
|Color of green||0.287/0.61||Good|
|Color of blue||0.146/0.06||Good|
|Defeatable edge enhancement||No||Poor|
|480i 2:3 pull-down, 24 fps||Pass||Good|
|1080i video resolution||Pass||Good|
|1080i film resolution||Pass||Good|
|Honeywell Altura MLX||Picture settings|
|Picture on (watts)||207.27||206.74||N/A|
|Picture on (watts/sq. inch)||0.27||0.27||N/A|
|Cost per year||$64.15||$63.99||N/A|
|Score (considering size)||Average|