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Mitsubishi Unisen LT-249 review: Mitsubishi Unisen LT-249

Mitsubishi Unisen LT-249

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David Katzmaier
Steve Guttenberg
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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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Steve Guttenberg

Ex-movie theater projectionist Steve Guttenberg has also worked as a high-end audio salesman, and as a record producer. Steve currently reviews audio products for CNET and works as a freelance writer for Stereophile.

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15 min read

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OVR
6.9

Mitsubishi Unisen LT-249

The Good

Superior sound quality compared with other TVs; solid black-level performance; relatively accurate color; adjustable dejudder processing; Vudu on-demand video and Pandora streaming work well; numerous picture adjustments; includes three HDMI and three component-video inputs; extremely thin bezel results in nearly "all screen" look, except for the speaker.

The Bad

Expensive; uneven screen uniformity; dark areas dinged bluer; clunky remote control and menu design; very little surround effect; subwoofer required for the best sound.

The Bottom Line

If you want the best sound available from a TV, the Mitsubishi LT-249 series will be worth the high price.

Editors' note (March 4, 2010): The rating on this product has been lowered because of changes in the competitive marketplace, including the release of 2010 models. The review has not otherwise been modified. Click here for more information.

At CNET, we never review the audio quality of a TV, because, frankly, it's usually terrible. As we said in our How We Test TVs page: "We believe that anyone who cares [about sound quality] would be better served investing in a separate audio system." However, Mitsubishi's LT-249 series is an LCD TV designed for people who do care about getting decent sound without having to fuss with an external audio system. Therefore, we tested the Mitsubishi's sound the same way we test other sound bar home theater systems.

What's the verdict? When paired with a subwoofer, the LT-249 can belt out audio as well as the smaller sound bars it resembles, which should sonically satisfy fuss-intolerant, decor-conscious buyers. The high-end Mitsubishi also has solid picture quality, although it won't match the better LED-powered LCDs and plasma TVs available in its price range. It also has a compelling suite of interactive features including Vudu and Pandora. However, this HDTV is all about the speaker; so if you don't mind paying more for better sound, the Mitsubishi LT-249 series deserves a place on your wall.

Series note: We performed a hands-on evaluation of the 46-inch Mitsubishi LT-46249, but this review also applies to the 52-inch Mitsubishi LT-52249. The two LCDs have identical specifications aside from screen size, so we expect them to exhibit very similar performance.

Design
In an era where nearly every HDTV maker designs its flat panels with so-called hidden speakers, those tiny drivers that cower behind thin slits along the bottom or the edges of the picture frame, Mitsubishi's LT-249 series proudly wears its sound on its sleeve. Below the display sits a prominent bar centered around a metal mesh grating that protects a row of 16 tiny speakers, each a bit larger than an inch in diameter. The outside speakers are placed closely together, and the inner speakers are placed further apart. The whole bar runs the width of the chassis and it can't be removed.

Mitsubishi LT-249 series
The attached sound bar houses 16 forward-facing speakers.

Although the 5-inch-tall speaker bar increases its cabinet height and makes it taller compared with other LCDs, the Mitsubishi LT-249 otherwise follows a commendably compact aesthetic. The border around the screen is less than an inch wide, which offsets the bulky area below the display nicely. Mitsubishi uses a glossy black finish for the frame and the speaker bar, although the curve and higher gloss of the bar can cause some reflections of brighter items below the screen (such as our silver TV stand). The Mitsubishi's stand is also glossy black and doesn't swivel.

Mitsubishi LT-249 series
Each of the drivers is a mere inch in diameter, so a subwoofer really helps fill out the sound.

You'll either like the TV's speaker-dominated look or you'll hate it, but we count ourselves fans of its appearance. Also, design-conscious buyers will appreciate that no combination of separate speaker bar and TV will look as integrated as the Mitsubishi does. This TV is best installed as a single discrete audiovisual unit, preferably on a wall, with no external devices or connections nearby.

We're not fans of the company's remote control or menu design. It is the same as on the Mitsubishi WD-737 series we reviewed. The remote is simply the worst we've ever used. It's a confusing jumble of same-size keys that surround a Tinker Bell-size cursor control that's all but unusable (unfortunately, operating the TV requires using it all the time, especially with interactive features). Its buttons blend together and are hard to tell apart by feel. Also, there's no dedicated key to switch aspect ratio. At least this version has red backlighting. You can use the remote to control up to four other pieces of gear, but you probably won't want to. A universal remote is almost a necessity with this TV, if only so you can put the horrendous included clicker away forever.

Mitsubishi LT-249 series
Mitsubishi's 2009 remote control is the worst we've ever used.

Mitsubishi's new "Activity" system introduces a solution to a problem that doesn't exist: changing inputs. It replaces the standard, perfectly functional input selection toggle with items like "Watch TV" and "Watch DVD" that you can assign to one or more renamable inputs. It's a good idea in concept; but in practice, we found it confusing. Unnamed and unassigned inputs, for example, automatically appear under "Watch TV," regardless of what activity they're actually used for; there's no easy way to incorporate an AV receiver; and the Activity key on the remote will confound people looking for a more conventionally named button. By the way, if you're looking to access the Vudu feature, it's buried in the Activity section and is nowhere to be found in the main menu.

The main menu system is nearly as poorly conceived as the remote control. Often it would pause for a second, sometimes displaying an hourglass, before responding, even when using a function as basic as the volume control. Counterintuitively, the menu requires you to press "enter" instead of the down arrow to move into submenus. On the plus side, we appreciated the "More" menu that provided shortcuts to often-used functions like audio and video presets or aspect ratio. However, when compared with previous years, Mitsubishi's menu and remote design have definitely taken a big step backward.

Features
Without LED backlighting, the Mitsubishi LT-249 is missing a few feature bullet points that other brands' flagship flat panels have. However, its speaker bar is the Mitsubishi's big unique value-added feature. The LT-249 improves upon the other "Unison" TVs with speaker bars in the company's lineup by adding two additional down-firing speakers, but the concept is the same.

The bar, which Mitsubishi calls a "sound projector," is designed to provide a simulated surround effect and has some advanced setup options found on many external bars. A menu lets you to set room dimensions and layout information, adjust angle, and change levels or all five channels. The LT-249 also includes a mic that works with an autosetup routine, and there's a subwoofer output to connect an external sub, along with preset modes such as Stereo and Night, in addition to Surround. Check out the Performance section for full details on how the bar sounds.

Mitsubishi LT-249 series
Vudu delivers great video quality and plenty of first-run movies on a pay-per-view basis.

Interactive features: The LT-249's other big feature bonus over lesser Mitsubishis is its interactive features, starting with the capability to stream on-demand, pay-per-view TV shows and movies from the Vudu service. Mitsubishi is the second HDTV maker, after LG, to include Vudu on its TVs. The Vudu service works as well on the LT-249 as it does on the LG 50PS80. You can check out the LG review or the review of the original Vudu for additional information, but here's the short story: video quality on Vudu is top-notch and approaches Blu-ray in the best examples of the highest-quality HDX format, but you'll have to pay quite a bit for the privilege. First-run HDX titles like "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" cost $5.99 for a 24-hour rental, and you can buy the standard-definition version for $19.99. You'll also need a solid high-speed Internet connection to take full advantage on the on-demand service.

Mitsubishi LT-249 series
First-run titles in Vudu's highest-quality HDX format cost $5.99 for a 24-hour rental (when they become available), and you can buy the standard-definition movies for $19.99.

The Mitsubishi LT-249 doesn't offer other streaming video services like YouTube or Netflix; however, Vudu provides some useful extras in its Internet apps section. Our favorite is its Pandora app that accesses the popular streaming radio Web site: you just input an artist's name (using the onscreen virtual keyboard) and you'll hear songs by that artist and related music. Just as with the regular version of Pandora, you can skip six tracks before it asks you to create a new channel (essentially, search for a new artist), and you can sign in to your existing Pandora account. We especially like Pandora on this TV, because of the LT-249's focus on sound quality.

There are also apps for Picasa and Flickr, the two major photo gallery Web sites, that let you sign in to view your photos. (When we tried to access our Picasa account, however, the system failed and restarted. Eventually it took us back to the main Vudu movies screen, so Vudu has some bugs to work out with the system). Other apps available include two varieties of solitaire, a video service called On Demand TV that consists mostly of short clips and podcasts, and a strange "Now Being Watched" feature that jumps around a Google map of the U.S. showing what Vudu users in various locations are watching.

In general, the apps are easy to use and we appreciated their clear instructions and straightforward interface. Its responsiveness was quite good, especially compared with Yahoo widgets, and we anticipate Vudu creating more apps as its service spreads to more devices.

Mitsubishi LT-249 series
The main picture menu is where you'll find the basic controls for the first three picture modes.

Picture adjustments: Mitsubishi outfitted the LT-249 with a 240Hz refresh rate. We really appreciated that you can choose the amount of dejudder processing (zero is an option) you'd like to apply to the image thanks to the set's 10-setting adjustment.

Mitsubishi LT-249 series
A menu labeled "Global" contains options that apply to all inputs, including the Mitsubishi's adjustable dejudder setting.

The company has also significantly improved its other picture controls over last year's models. The company offers five picture modes, three of which are adjustable using basic parameters, and the other two settings, called ADV, offer advanced adjustments. The basic controls include a choice of two color temperature presets, a three-position noise reduction control, an edge enhancement option, and a "Deep Field Imager" that automatically tweaks contrast and brightness. There's also PerfectColor function for adjusting color decoding, a PerfectTint setting for tweaking hues (these two are disabled in ADV mode), and a Film Mode setting that engages 2:3 pull-down processing.

Mitsubishi LT-249 series
The ADV menu includes numerous picture controls.

Engaging the ADV mode calls up a menu that looks almost like a service menu, rather than a user menu, with a smorgasbord of advanced options all conveniently summarized. Settings include gamma presets, gain and cut controls for fine-tuning color temperature, and a full color management system. We also appreciated that it has a blue-only mode for adjusting color saturation and tint without having to use filters. The ADV mode on the LT-249 models offers two independent input memories per input, one each for day and nighttime viewing.

The LT-249 provides four aspect ratio selections for high-definition sources and a healthy six selections for standard-definition sources. The HD sources include a mode called Full Native that eliminates overscan along the edges of the image.

Other features: The set isn't equipped with picture-in-picture or a mode that freezes the image, and there's no specific energy-saving mode to cut down on power consumption. However, there is an option to turn off the backlight (available under the normal backlight adjustment in the menu) to save power for when you just want just TV sound--an especially nice touch for Pandora or other music-only listening. Mitsubishi does offer a fast Power On option that increases standby power use (from 0.38 watts to about 32 watts) to turn the TV on more quickly, avoiding the 10 second to 20 second warm-up time.

The LT-249 series also includes a feature unique to Mitsubishi called NetCommand that basically lets the TV act as a universal remote control. To use this feature, you'll need to purchase optional IR blasters (about $15 for the two-device version and $26 for four devices) and program the system. It uses preset remote codes and can also learn additional codes, much like a universal remote. It has the added advantage of letting you stash your gear in a cabinet (line of sight isn't required) and you can operate it via the TV's onscreen display. We didn't test this feature.

Mitsubishi LT-249 series
The TV's back panel includes four HDMI jacks and two component-video connections, spread across two separate areas. The second bay is recessed for wall mounting.

Connectivity on the LT-249 series is as extensive as we'd expect from a flagship HDTV. The TV's back panel includes four HDMI ports, two component-video inputs (either can accept composite-video connections instead), an antenna input, and analog stereo and digital coaxial (not optical) audio outputs. In a separate recessed bay, two HDMI and one component input, along with the antenna input, are housed facing downward to ease wall mounting. One of the component/composite inputs is also associated with a digital coaxial audio input, so you can feed surround sound from a device that doesn't have HDMI (although the more common optical-type jack would be preferable). A side-panel bay includes a third component-video input that can also accept composite-video, but doesn't offer another HDMI jack. There's also no analog PC connection; however, a side-panel USB port is available for digital photos and music, as well as an Ethernet jack to connect to the interactive services.

Mitsubishi LT-249 series
The side panel adds a third component-video and a USB port, but no HDMI connection.

Performance
The picture on the Mitsubishi LT-249 series was among the better examples of a standard-backlit LCD TV, with relatively deep black levels and mostly accurate color, although we certainly would have liked to see improved uniformity across the screen. Its sound quality was better than any TV we've reviewed, despite a weak surround effect and the need for a subwoofer. Overall it compared well with the better small sound bars we've tested.

TV settings: Mitsubishi LT-46249

Video performance: During the TV's setup, we determined that "Natural" came closest to providing an accurate picture among the three standard picture presets. Therefore, we used the Natural setting for our Before measurements in the Geek box. The sets main problem was a distinct bluish tinge to dark areas, along with a relatively dark gamma compared with our target of 2.2. For our standard calibration, we took advantage of the advanced picture settings to tweak the grayscale a bit. However, we couldn't do much about the blue in dark areas and gamma actually got darker overall (2.5, despite us choosing the 2.0 setting in the menu; the lowest 1.8 setting was less accutrate). We also took advantage of the CMS to tweak red, green, and cyan slightly, bringing the color points quite close to the HDTV standard.

Our side-by-side comparison pitted the Mitsubishi against a few other higher-end HDTVs we had on-hand, including the Sony KDL-52XBR9, the Samsung LN52B750, the Panasonic TC-P50V10, and the LG 47LH90. Our reference display was the Pioneer PRO-111FD, and we watched "The Dark Knight" on Blu-ray Disc for most of our image quality tests.

Black level: For a standard-backlit LCD, the Mitsubishi delivered among the deepest shades of black we've seen. It came up just short of the Samsung B750 and bested the Sony XBR9 by a hair, overall, but the two plasmas and the LED-backlit LG got darker, as expected. The differences were subtle among the three standard LCDs, but they became most visible in scenes with more black areas, such as the nighttime cityscape at the beginning of Chapter 2, the shadows on the rooftop around Commissioner Gordon, and, as usual, the letterbox bars. In brighter scenes, such as when the Scarecrow steps out of the van in the parking garage, the black level differences evened out until they were nearly indistinguishable between the three standard LCDs.

Details in the shadows, such as the body armor of Batman and his assailants and the exterior of the Batmobile, were quite good, albeit a bit darker and less natural than on the plasmas or the LG. The Samsung and Sony tended to obscure more details than the Mitsubishi in shadows.

Color accuracy: The LT-249 performed relatively well in this department. We appreciated its even grayscale in brighter scenes. This allowed flesh tones like the face of Bruce Wayne's date in Chapter 5 to appear relatively natural, if a bit paler than our reference and most of the other sets. The Mitsubishi's primary and secondary colors were very good, as evidenced by the color of the sea under Wayne's yacht and the jungle in the background. Its green saturation was a bit off because of tweaks we made to the CMS to improve accuracy. Overall, its color saturation was a notch below the Samsung's and about the same as the Sony's, and, again, the plasmas and LG were superior.

The major issue with the LT-249's color accuracy was the bluish cast to dark areas and shadows, a common issue with LCDs. The issue was worse on the blacks of the Samsung than on the Mitsubishi, but the Sony was best among the three standard LCDs.

Video processing: Mitsubishi's 10-step Smooth Film Motion setting it included on the LT-249 affects the amount of smoothness introduced into motion (dejudder) and the amount of motion resolution (antiblur). We wish there was a way to separate the two, as there is on dejudder-equipped Samsung and Toshiba LCDs, but at least you can dial in the amount of smoothing you prefer. We prefer "0."

In our motion resolution tests, the "0" setting delivered between 300 lines and 400 lines, similar to a standard 60Hz LCD. Increasing the setting to "1" scored just about 600 lines, similar to a 120Hz set. Higher settings increased the score proportionately, until the "10" setting maxed out at about 1,080 lines, as good as we've seen from any display. As usual, it was tough to see any blurring regardless of the setting in program material as opposed to test patterns.

Higher settings' dejudder effect became more and more objectionable to our eyes as the smoothing increased, and, as usual, the incidence of artifacts went up along with the setting. At 10, we noticed plenty of breakup around moving images, for example in the grid of the ceiling in batman's hideout in Chapter 7, along with faint halos around Wayne and Alfred's forms. As we turned down the smoothness, the artifacts became rare and less obvious, although the smoothing was still apparent in any setting above zero.

We were happy to see that the LT-249 correctly handled 1080p/24 content when we chose the zero setting. We confirmed this with the flyover scene of the Intrepid from "I Am Legend," where the motion showed the cadence of film without the hitching motion characterized by 2:3 pull-down.

Uniformity: The Mitsubishi fell short of the other sets in our lineup, exhibiting brighter spots in the upper right and left corners that were quite obvious in dark scenes and in the letterbox bars. Much less obvious, the edges of the screen appeared slightly brighter than the middle, although we appreciated that the set otherwise lacked the fainter bright spot variations we saw on the Sony.

We didn't see much difference in off-angle performance between the Mitsubishi and the Sony, and both seemed to preserve black levels a bit better than either the Samsung or the LG--although the differences were slight.

Bright lighting: The Mitsubishi LT-249 uses a glossy screen that, although not quite as shiny as the one on the Samsung, still reflects ambient light sources strongly. In a well-lit room, brighter objects like the open windows in our test facility or a viewer's white shirt were more distracting than on the other sets aside from the Samsung. On the other hand, the Mitsubishi preserved black levels in bright scenes better than the Panasonic plasma, but not as well as the Samsung.

Standard-definition: Showing standard-definition sources the Mitsubishi performed well. When we disabled the SharpEdge function, it delivered every line of the DVD format and the details in the grass and stone bridge from our test disc looked as sharp as we expected them to. The LT-249 series removed more jaggies from diagonal edges and moving lines, as well as from a waving American flag, than any of the other sets aside from the Samsung, which it tied. Its noise reduction was a mixed bag. In many noisy scenes, we didn't notice much effect in any but the "high" setting, which softened the image a bit, while in others Low and Medium were more effective.

PC: With a PC connected via HDMI, the set performed as expected, delivering every line of a 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution source with no overscan or edge enhancement.

TEST RESULT SCORE
Before color temp (20/80) 6736/6506 Good
After color temp 6493/6573 Good
Before grayscale variation 86 Good
After grayscale variation 89 Good
Color of red (x/y) 0.6241/0.326 Average
Color of green 0.2858/0.6108 Good
Color of blue 0.1509/0.0648 Good
Overscan 0.0% Good
Defeatable edge enhancement Y Good
480i 2:3 pull-down, 24 fps Pass Good
1080i video resolution Pass Good
1080i film resolution Pass Good

Power consumption: Maybe it's the need to power that speaker, but for whatever reason, the LT-46249 sucked more juice than any recent 46-inch LCD we've tested--by a healthy margin. Of course, it's still efficient compared with plasma TVs. It's also worth mentioning that if you engage the "Fast power on" setting, it will cost about $25 more per year, assuming you watch about 5 hours of TV per day.

Juice box
Mitsubishi LT-46249 Picture settings
Default Calibrated Power Save
Picture on (watts) 187.76 149.85 N/A
Picture on (watts/sq. inch) 0.21 0.17 N/A
Standby (watts) 0.38 0.38 N/A
Cost per year $40.74 $32.58 N/A
Score (considering size) Good
Score (overall) Fair

Annual power consumption cost after calibration

OVR
6.9

Mitsubishi Unisen LT-249

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 8Performance 6