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Mitsubishi WD-527/528 review: Mitsubishi WD-527/528

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The Good 2:3 pull-down in the video processing; accurate color decoding; NetCommand external-device control interface; TV Guide EPG; two independent memories per input; two HDMI inputs; two FireWire inputs.

The Bad Soft picture; no dedicated PC input.

The Bottom Line The WD-52527 has a remarkable feature set and plenty of connections, and its image will satisfy casual viewers, but shoppers in search of the best picture-to-price ratio will want to look elsewhere.

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6.6 Overall
  • Design 6
  • Features 8
  • Performance 6

Review summary

Big-screen microdisplays get more affordable by the day, and the 52-inch LCD-based WD-52527 is Mitsubishi's least-expensive example for 2005. The company has embarked on the unusual strategy of mixing LCD and DLP technologies in its 2005 big-screen rear-projection lineup, opting to offer DLP only in new high-resolution 1080p models and fleshing out the rest of the line with LCD models that are clearly a step down in picture quality as well as asking price. Nonetheless, Mitsubishi generally charges more than Sony or Samsung for its HDTVs, and this set is no exception, listing for a couple hundred more than comparable (albeit 2-inch-smaller) sets such as the Sony KDF-E50A10 and the Samsung HL-R5067W. In its favor, the WD-52527 has a remarkable feature set and plenty of connections, and its image will satisfy casual viewers, but shoppers in search of the best picture-to-price ratio will want to look elsewhere.

Editor's note: Mitsubishi has informed us that the sample that we reviewed had an earlier firmware version that suffers from inaccurate color decoding. They updated the firmware in our review unit, and the color accuracy did improve. They claim that the new firmware is present in televisions currently for sale, so we've updated this review and raised the rating to reflect this information. The Mitsubishi WD-52527 looks unobtrusive compared to other high-tech big-screen TVs. A black bezel surrounds its screen, enhancing the perceived contrast ratio of the picture. A dull silver strip along the front of the set camouflages a row of buttons and status lights. The speakers, finished in gunmetal gray, sit at the very bottom of the chassis.

This tabletop 52-inch model has a discreet footprint and cabinet size (about 50 by 34 by 18 inches) and weighs a mere 114 pounds--relatively small, although not quite as petite in proportion as Sony's 50-inch KDF-E50A10. Like most microdisplay vendors, Mitsubishi offers an optional custom stand for the WD-52527 (model MB-52527, $349 list price).

The remote is the same one Mitsubishi has included with its lower-end TVs for many years now. It's well laid out and extremely intuitive to use, and while it has only a few backlit keys, that's a few more than on most entry-level remotes. We're also fans of the internal menu system, which does a fine job providing access to the set's many features. It's the same system you find in earlier models, and we're all for that; why redesign something that works well? As with any rear-projection HDTV, the most important feature is the imaging element; in this case, Mitsubishi chose a 720p native resolution LCD chip array with exactly 1,280x720 pixels. That should be enough to display all the detail of 720p HDTV sources (but it isn't--see the next section for more) and causes all other sources, including 1080i HDTV and standard-definition DVD and TV, to be scaled to fit the pixels.

Mitsubishi loaded this set with options. In addition to the federally mandated built-in ATSC tuner for off-air HDTV broadcasts and the Digital Cable Ready CableCard slot for those who want to skip a cable box, it has the TV Guide EPG. Intended to make up for the loss of your cable company's guide if you choose to install a CableCard, TV Guide depends on listings that piggyback on your cable lines and therefore may perform erratically. It's probably not as intuitive to use as your cable company's EPG (Mitsubishi actually includes a separate TV Guide user manual), but it's better than nothing if you want to use a CableCard.

Other conveniences include PIP and POP features, which are cool if you want to keep tabs on more than one program at a time. Mitsubishi's implementation is more versatile than that of most sets at this price range, allowing you to watch two high-def sources simultaneously--the only real limitation is that they can't both be HDMI, internal digital cable, or internal ATSC. You can choose from six aspect-ratio settings with standard-def sources but just two with high-def.

When you first set up the Mitsubishi WD-52527, it asks you to go through the NetCommand setup process. NetCommand allows you to control other components in your A/V system via an onscreen interface; it uses infrared repeaters to address the remote sensors on external gear. Once set up, the system performs well, provided your particular piece of equipment exists in its remote-code database--it can also learn unknown devices, but programming is a tedious process. In general, we prefer using a good universal remote, but some users may prefer the onscreen interface.

Just this year, Mitsubishi threw in two picture presets (Bright and Natural) that can each be adjusted for brightness, contrast, and so on for every input. Tweak-happy owners can now set up each input differently for, say, daylight and nighttime viewing. The Perfect Color feature is intended to help improve the overall color accuracy, and it does help some, although not as much as we would like. The WD-52527 also has selectable color temperatures but only two: Low and High, with Low being the most accurate.

The connectivity options on the WD-52527 are as generous as we could expect. Two HDMI inputs and two FireWire (IEEE 1394) ports are on tap for compatible sources. There are also two component-video inputs, two A/V inputs with S-Video, and two DVI stereo audio inputs for folks wanting to adapt a DVI source device to the HDMI input. Rounding out the connectivity on the rear panel is one set of A/V outputs with composite video, a pair of RF antenna/cable inputs, and a coaxial digital audio output. For gamers and camcorder users, there is a set of front-panel A/V inputs with S-Video on the lower-left front of the set. The only missing link is a dedicated PC input; you'll have to monopolize one of the HDMI jacks and connect your computer's DVI output via a DVI-to-HDMI adapter to hook up a PC. Overall, we found the Mitsubishi WD-52527's image quality adequate for an LCD rear-projection set, although not quite as good as that of the competing Sony KDF-E50A10, which we set up right next to the Mitsubishi for comparison. Foremost among our list of gripes is that the WD-52527 looked softer and less detailed. According to the 720p resolution test from our Sencore VP403 signal generator, the Mitsubishi didn't pass anywhere near all the resolution at the HDMI input. This was clearly evident when comparing the WD-52527 to other 720p native-resolution sets we've tested this year; with both DVD and HDTV sources, the WD-52527's picture looked softer.

After the firmware upgrade (see the editor's note at the beginning of this review), the Mitsubishi's out-of-the-box color decoding was quite accurate, showing no errors in red and only a slight error in green. The grayscale in the Low color-temperature setting came relatively close to the standard, but unfortunately Mitsubishi provides very limited grayscale control in the service menu, so calibration improves the grayscale only marginally.

Tests revealed solid video processing, with 2:3 pull-down detection that helps eliminate artifacts in film-based material, such as most prime-time TV programs. The picture was relatively free of video noise, but as with all LCD rear-projection sets, we saw evidence of visible pixels (the "screen door" effect) when sitting closer than about eight feet. And as expected, we also noticed that uniformity on white and gray fields wasn't up to DLP standards--the image became slightly discolored toward the top and the bottom.

Black-level performance was decent for an LCD, but not as good as on the Sony KDF-E50A10 and certainly not as good as on the 720p DLP rear-projection sets we've reviewed recently, such as Samsung's HL-P5085W and last year's Mitsubishi WD-52525. The WD-52527 cleanly rendered the opening scenes from our black-level torture-test DVD, Alien, with little or no low-level noise in dark-gray shadows just above black. The Superbit version of Vertical Limit looked pretty good but a bit soft, again compared with how it looked on the Sony and other 720p sets we've seen.

HD content also looked less detailed than usual from our DirecTV HD satellite feed. HDNet, which usually provides a pristine, crystal-clear picture, appeared significantly softer than usual. On the other hand, colors were vibrant and skin tones looked reasonably natural.

Before color temp (20/80) 6,250/7,400K *Good*
After color temp (20/80) 6,150/6,925K Poor
Before grayscale variation +/- 641K Average
After grayscale variation +/- 396K Poor
Overscan 3% Good
Color decoder error: red 0% Good
Color decoder error: green -5% (0%) Good
DC restoration All patterns stable Good
2:3 pull-down, 24fps Y Good
Defeatable edge enhancement N Poor
*Note: The scores marked with *asterisks* were originally in error. They now contain the correct scores.

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