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Mitsubishi LT-144 review: Mitsubishi LT-144

Mitsubishi LT-144

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David Katzmaier
David_Katzmaier.jpg

David Katzmaier

Editorial Director -- TVs and streaming

David has reviewed TVs, streaming services, streaming devices and home entertainment gear at CNET since 2002. He is an ISF certified, NIST trained calibrator and developed CNET's TV test procedure himself. Previously David wrote reviews and features for Sound & Vision magazine and eTown.com. He is known to two people on Twitter as "The Cormac McCarthy of consumer electronics."

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14 min read

Design
In person, Mitsubishi's LT-144 series looks strikingly compact and almost all-picture, a marked departure from the design of the Sony KDL-XBR4 series, for example. That Spartan look, which we really like, is carried though by the LT-46144's dark-matte-gray color, unadorned face, and vanishingly small speaker slit. The only hint of indulgent styling comes from the glossy ring around the base of the black swivel stand. Our only external design complaint is leveled squarely at the bright blue LED on the lower left that remains lit during operation.

7.2

Mitsubishi LT-144

The Good

Reproduces a deep shade of black; relatively accurate primary colors; thin bezel makes for a compact cabinet; understated styling; can control other external equipment via an IR blaster; solid connectivity with three HDMI inputs.

The Bad

Overly blue initial color temperature; cannot adjust color temperature in user menu; limited aspect ratio control with HD sources, including a lack of a "dot-by-dot" mode; 120Hz does not smooth motion in pans and camera movement.

The Bottom Line

The ultracompact Mitsubishi LT-46144 LCD HDTV offers decent picture quality, but a few flaws prevent it from topping the best models.
As compete for your hard-earned dollars, every difference between the two flat-panel HDTV types takes on more significance. This year, with the availability of 1080p resolution in both, 120Hz processing has emerged as the big spec-sheet differentiator: LCD has it, while plasma does not. Those extra hertz--60 is the standard--ostensibly reduce blurring in fast motion, although the most noticeable benefit we've seen has more to do with smoothing out the stuttering effect seen on film-based sources. Mitsubishi's LT-46144 is another example of the high-end, 120Hz LCD breed, but unlike others we've reviewed so far, including Toshiba's 52LX177 and Sony's KDL-46XBR4, it doesn't appreciably smooth out anything. The set does a fine job in some areas of picture quality, delivering relatively deep black levels, but its inaccurate color temperature doesn't help its cause. All in all, the Mitsubishi LT-46144 delivered a solid, if unspectacular performance, and its main appeal can be found not in its picture but in the compact size of its cabinet.

Mitsubishi LT-46144
The bezel around the screen of Mitsubishi LT-46144 measures just an inch thick on the top and sides.

The frame around the Mitsubishi's screen itself is narrower than any LCD (or plasma) we know about, except for Toshiba's RF350U series, which beats it by a fraction of an inch. Along the top and sides the LT-46144's bezel measures just 1 inch wide, and the area below the screen is commendably compact as well, stretching about 3 inches from the bottom of the screen to the bottom of the panel itself. Overall, the 46-inch LT-46144 measures just 42.3 by 29 by 12.6 inches including the stand, and 42.3 by 26.9 by 5.6 inches without it, and it weighs 71.7 and 63.3 pounds respectively.

Mitsubishi's clicker has been redesigned from the flyswatter of yore. We liked the more manageable size and the red backlight behind most of the important keys, 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.

The company has redesigned its menu system for this model as well, and although the new layout is a bit less attractive than in previous years, we like that it packs more information onto the screen at once. The main picture menu gives way to a submenu for PerfectColor, and while common picture parameters such as contrast and brightness drop obediently to the bottom of the screen while being adjusted, the color submenu annoyingly obscures the screen. The menu system also includes a very intimidating-looking setup screen for the set's Net Command remote interface (see Features for details).

Features
Like a few other high-end LCD TVs this year, the Mitsubishi LT-46144 offers 120Hz processing, which, as we mentioned earlier, is supposed to reduce motion blur. When we asked the company why the set doesn't offer a feature that provides an additional smoothing effect, sometimes called "de-judder," like Sony, Toshiba, and Samsung do, the rep claimed that current solutions produce artifacts that make film start to look more like video. Point taken, but we found the smoothing effect appealing on some material, and having it as an option, so the viewer can decide for himself, is always a good thing. We also think it's unnecessarily confusing that Mitsubishi uses the "Smooth 120Hz" moniker on this TV when it lacks a de-judder feature.

Mitsubishi is also touting support for xvColor, a wider color gamut that allows the TV to show more colors, but it's not all that useful because it requires xvColor-enabled content to function properly, and such content isn't available at the moment, outside of a few camcorders. Mitsubishi expects the first xvColor content to become available in video games, but as for Hollywood movies and HDTV shows, we're not holding our breath. In case you're keeping track, the set also supports another HDMI 1.3 feature that depends on currently nonexistent content, Deep Color.

Naturally, the LT-46144 sports a native resolution of 1080p, meaning that it has 1,920x1,080 pixels, the highest generally available today. That number perfectly matches the pixel count of the highest-resolution HDTV sources, although unlike most 1080p HDTVs, the LT-46144's cannot completely resolve those sources. All sources, whether HDTV, DVD, standard-definition TV, or computers, are scaled to fit the pixels.

The major reason why the LT-46144 can't fully resolve 1080i and 1080p sources is because it lacks a "dot-by-dot"-style aspect ratio mode. Nearly every other 1080p TV we've reviewed lately has such a mode, which displays those sources without scaling or overscan. The Mitsubishi, on the other hand, has just two aspect ratio modes available with 1080i and 720p sources, both of which scale the incoming sources and introduce overscan (you can't change aspect ratio at all with 1080p sources; they're stuck in the non-dot-by-dot "standard" mode). It's worth mentioning that it's nearly impossible to spot the loss of resolution in normal program material, and that the overscan is not obnoxiously evident, but purists will probably want a dot-by-dot mode anyway. With standard-def sources, the LT-46144 allows a healthy choice of six aspect-ratio modes.

Mitsubishi LT-46144
The Mitsubishi LT-46144's main picture menu.

Mitsubishi offers a decent number of picture adjustment options on the LT-46144. They start with three preset picture modes, all of which can be adjusted independently for each input. That's three independent picture setting groups per input, offering plenty of flexibility for inveterate tweakers who want to set up, say, one mode for daylight, another for early evening, and another for pitch darkness. The Mitsubishi also has a set of picture parameters called "global" that includes a film mode that engages 2:3 pull-down and four levels of noise reduction. There's also a "120Hz demo" setting that scrolls a preset picture across the screen, most likely so stores can show off the benefits of 120Hz. To actual owners, this mode is useless since it doesn't affect normal program material and those benefits, from what we can see, are greatly exaggerated by the demo.

Mitsubishi LT-46144
PerfectColor allows more control over color balance.

The LT-46144 has the ability to fine-tune color balance via its PerfectColor controls, although it lacks the PerfectTint controls found on some other Mitsubishi models. The set also offers a pair of color temperature presets, of which Low came closest to the D6500 standard. Unfortunately, it wasn't close enough that we didn't miss having the ability to fine-tune color temperature as well.

Another feature unique to Mitsubishi is the NetCommand system, which enables the TV to control other AV devices using an included two-unit IR emitter--generally, you'll set it up to command a cable or satellite box and an AV receiver. This system can learn the commands of various clickers and the learning process is quite painless.

Mitsubishi LT-46144
The NetCommand IR control system's included two-unit emitter.

(Editors' Note: We did not test NetCommand with the LT-46144, trusting it to behave the same as it did during our earlier test of the Mitsubishi WD-65734, which follows).

We set up our DirecTV HR20 as the "satellite" device in about five minutes, and afterward were able to control it almost seamlessly via the Mitsubishi's remote. There was a slight delay between each button-press and the HR20's response (less than a second but still noticeable) and, inconveniently, we couldn't repeatedly press a key in succession to move more quickly. Some keys, such as the forward and reverse skip for the DVR, had to be assigned to smaller function keys on the Mitsubishi's remote, and calling up the HR20's menu was an inconvenient process that involved getting to the input screen first, then pressing Menu (you can instead dedicate a function key to the device menu, but that's less than intuitive). So the system could use some refinement and wasn't quite as satisfying to use as a good universal remote, but it does allow you to stash your gear out of sight and still control it.

While the LT-46144 lacks a power-save mode designed to conserve energy while the TV is turned on, it can be set to consume less power when turned off, aka standby mode. According to our tests, it uses about 11 watts less power with standby energy saver engaged, which works out to just about $6 per year. As a trade-off, the set takes about three seconds longer to warm up and turn on. See the Juice Box below for more power consumption details.

Mitsubishi LT-46144
The back panel of the Mitsubishi LT-46144 offers three SimplayHD certified HDMI inputs.

Like many HDTVs, this year the Mitsubishi LT-46144 has three HDMI inputs, all of which are located on the back panel. Unlike many sets, the LT-46144 is certified by SimplayHD, a more-rigorous HDMI compatibility standard than HDMI itself uses to ensure compatibility. Perhaps that explains why the TV seemed to take a lengthy 8 seconds or so to display a picture when we switched between HDMI sources and resolutions--component-video sources appeared in a more reasonable two seconds. Strangely, we didn't notice the same kind of delay switching sources with the WD-65734, which is also SimplayHD certified. For the record, we haven't experienced many HDMI compatibility issues during testing in the last year or so, and when we have, they're almost always the fault of the source device, not the display. Back-panel connectivity is rounded out by a pair of component-video inputs, two AV inputs with S-Video and composite-video, two RF-style inputs for antenna and cable, an optical digital audio output and an analog audio output. An analog VGA-style PC input, common to many HDTVs, goes missing on the LT-46144.

Mitsubishi LT-46144
The side panel adds a component-video input and a USB port for digital photo display.

Along the panel's right side, below the column of control buttons, there's a third component-video input that can also accept composite-video sources. Mitsubishi also includes a USB port on the side, although this model is missing the side HDMI port found on many other HDTVs this year.

Performance
Mitsubishi's LT-46144 came through with a decent performance, although it was not near the top of the high-end LCD picture-quality heap. Its strengths included good black-level performance and relatively accurate primary colors, but its bluish color temperature is a significant drawback, and a few less-important ones combined to spoil its chances against the best LCDs we've reviewed.

During our standard setup of the Mitsubishi LT-46144 for optimal viewing in our completely darkened theater, we tamed its prodigious light output to 40 footlambert (FTL) and adjusted black levels accordingly. Among the three picture modes Natural was best, although unfortunately it doesn't engage the Low color temperature setting automatically. For its part, the Low setting, the most accurate of the two, did not come very close to the 6,500K standard, and as a result many areas of the picture looked noticeably bluer than we'd like to see. We were unable to adjust color temperature with user-menu controls, so we were stuck with that bluish tinge. We did tweak color balance a bit using the PerfectColor controls, and primary colors were a good deal more accurate out of the box than on previous Mitsubishi sets, so we didn't miss having PerfectTint controls that much. For our full user-menu picture settings, click here or check out the Tips and Tricks section above.

For comparison testing, we set the Mitsubishi up next to a few other HDTVs we had on hand, including the 46-inch Sony KDL-46XBR4 and the 47-inch JVC LT-47X898, both LCD TVs with 120Hz processing, as well as the Pioneer PDP-5080HD, the Pioneer PRO-FHD1, and the Samsung FP-T5084, all 50-inch plasmas. We began by watching Fantastic 4, played over our Samsung BD-P1200 Blu-ray player at 1080i resolution.

First up, as always, we fired up a dark scene, in this case when Dr. Doom takes aim at Johnny Storm with a shoulder-fired heat-seeking missile. The dark recesses of the room, the letterbox bars above and below the image, and the night sky itself looked nice and deep--darker than on the Samsung plasma and the JVC LCD, for example, although not quite at the level of the Sony LCD or the Pioneer PDP-5080HD plasma. Our measurements bore these impressions out. Details in shadows on the Mitsubishi were passable for an LCD; we could see the contours of Doom's mask and his shadowed eyes quite well, for example, although things weren't quite as well defined as with the Pioneer or the Sony.

Color on the Mitsubishi was a mixed bag. The bad news is that, as we mentioned, the grayscale was skewed quite a bit toward blue, so skin tones and other delicate areas looked less realistic than on more-accurate TVs. When Jessica Alba reappears on the Brooklyn Bridge in her underwear, for example, her face and arms appeared somewhat paler and more washed-out than the other sets, and other skin tones followed suit. That went for white or gray fields too, such as the overcast sky or the white of the Fresh Direct van, which all looked too blue. Again, this issue is exacerbated by the inability to adjust the set's grayscale via user controls. Primary colors, on the other hand, looked good, from the bright red of the fire truck to the green of the tree leaves along the entrance to the bridge.

Unlike many 120Hz HDTVs, the Mitsubishi is not designed to smooth out judder, whether during pans, camera movement, or the movement of objects on the screen. We watched as the camera panned up the side of a building, for example, or followed the moving space station, and the telltale stutter of film was clearly visible on the Mitsubishi, which looked the same judder-wise as the sets--naturally, only the Sony delivered that smoothness we've come to associate as the main benefit of 120Hz. We've mentioned before that the smooth action can be disconcerting in many scenes, but having it available--and defeatable--certainly increases the appeal of a 120Hz TV in our opinion. We tried feeding the Mitsubishi 1080p and 1080p/24 sources and again there was no appreciable smoothing effect.

Motion blur, which generally only occurs on flat-panel LCDs, has never been a very noticeable issue for us, but 120Hz is supposed to nearly eliminate it. One area where we have noticed some blur on several LCDs is in a quick-moving ticker on ESPNHD, and sure enough, the Mitsubishi's ticker was as blur-free as that of the plasmas. If blur during fast motion on other LCDs bothers you, then the Mitsubishi's 120Hz processing might be worthwhile.

As we mentioned above, the LT-46144 failed to resolve every detail of 1080i and 1080p sources via HDMI or component-video. This failure in the form of detail loss was nearly impossible to spot in normal program material, however, as the LT-46144 looked every bit as sharp as the Sony next to it and indeed as sharp as any other TV in the room. According to test patterns from the HQV disc, the LT-46144 also failed the test for 1080i deinterlacing, so we recommend using a 1080p source if a good one is available. Of course, that failure was again nearly impossible to spot in normal material and even our standard test from Ghost Rider, where the camera pans over the highway at the end of Chapter 6, looked quite clean.

Uniformity across the Mitsubishi's screen was below average for an LCD. We did notice that the sides of the screen appeared a bit lighter than the middle, and the upper-right and -left corners evinced brighter-still streaks that edged in diagonally a couple of inches. Those streaks were visible in the letterbox bars of the film, but we didn't find that other flat fields, such as the starry space around the station, appeared especially nonuniform. From off-angle, the Mitsubishi was about average; the picture did get a slightly reddish tinge when seen from extreme angles, and like all LCDs, the black areas washed out somewhat from less-extreme angles, but overall the picture didn't suffer as much as we've seen from many LCDs.

False contouring was minimal on the LT46144, but we did detect some edge enhancement that couldn't be removed despite turning the sharpness down to zero. It was nearly impossible to spot in normal material, but graphics, such as the big white-on-blue Marvel logo at the beginning of the film, did betray those enhanced edges on the Mitsubishi and not on the other sets in the room.

With standard-def sources, tested using the HQV DVD disc at 480i resolution via component-video, the Mitsubishi did not particularly impress. Although the TV resolved every detail on the disc, we saw some unwelcome flicker in the color bar pattern. The details in the stone bridge and grass from the Details test, however, appeared relatively sharp. We did notice quite a few jagged edges in the waving American flag and the moving diagonal lines from the test patterns. The Mitsubishi offers three levels of noise reduction, but we couldn't see much difference between them--which wasn't a big deal, since simply turning on the NR to any level worked well to clean up the noisy shots on HQV. The set engaged 2:3 pull-down effectively, although it wasn't quite as quick as with many other sets we've tested.

As a PC monitor, the Mitsubishi LT-46144 cannot be counted among the best LCD TVs. It lacks an analog VGA input, which usually isn't a big deal because HDMI inputs, which can connect to the DVI outputs of so-equipped PCs, usually provide for better PC image quality anyway. When we connected our test PC to the LT-46144, however, we were again disappointed by the lack of a dot-by-dot scaling mode, which caused the set to not fully resolve the 1,920x1,080 source, and introduced overscan along the edges, obscuring the taskbar and leftmost row of icons, for example, on a Windows desktop. Text looked blocky, softer, and even a bit edge-enhanced (with faint white borders on white-on-black and black-gray text) compared to the relative perfection we've seen on 1080p LCDs that have true dot-by-dot modes. Strangely, we also heard a faint, high-pitched hum when the set displayed the full-screen vertical resolution pattern, as well as a quieter hum on some related resolution patterns. We didn't hear the hum in other circumstances, including full-screen white, so it's not a big deal in our book.

TEST RESULT SCORE
Before color temp (20/80) 7,499/7,556 Good
After color temp n/a  
Before grayscale variation +/- 1,059K Poor
After grayscale variation n/a  
Color of red (x/y) 0.645/0.319 Average
Color of green 0.257/0.624 Average
Color of blue 0.151/0.059 Good
Overscan 3.5 percent Average
Black-level retention All patterns stable Good
Defeatable edge enhancement No Poor
480i 2:3 pull-down, 24 fps Yes Good
1080i video resolution Pass Good
1080i film resolution Fail Poor

Mitsubishi LT-46144 Picture settings
Default Calibrated Power Save
Picture on (watts) 309.58 203.31 N/A
Picture on (watts/sq. inch) 0.34 0.22 N/A
Standby (watts) 15.67 4.2 4.2
Cost per year $103.59 $64.29 N/A
Score (considering size) Poor
Score (overall) Poor

7.2

Mitsubishi LT-144

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 6