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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.
If the heyday of the gigantic-screen rear-projection HDTV is over, somebody needs to tell Mitsubishi. The company is the sole remaining proprietor pushing out 60-inch-plus TVs too thick to hang on the wall and too inexpensive to merit a cameo on MTV's "Cribs." Its 2009 lineup features two series of what it calls home theater TVs--to differentiate from its flat-panels--and the WD-737 is the cheapest. The main reason for buying this TV is to get as much screen for as little money as possible, and the WD-737 series fulfills that role admirably. It can't match the black-level performance of most flat-panels we've tested, it has some uniformity issues unique to its category and of course you'll eventually need to replace the bulb. However, the replacement is relatively inexpensive ($99, plus shipping), color accuracy is very good, and did we mention the picture is gi-normous? If you want to go really big for less, the WD-737 series is the only game in town.
We performed a hands-on evaluation of the 65-inch Mitsubishi WD-65737, but this review also applies to the other screen sizes in the WD-737 series: the 60-inch Mitsubishi WD-60737, the 73-inch Mitsubishi WD-73737, and the 82-inch Mitsubishi WD-82737. All of the sizes share identical specifications and should produce very similar picture quality.
The Mitsubishi WD-737 is basically a big black box. The first thing we noticed after the size, and the decidedly nonflat depth, was the company's laudable decision to make the business side of the TV nearly all screen. A half-inch-thick border that would seem tiny even on a 26-inch TV surrounds the Mitsubishi's massive screen on the top and sides, while the cabinet measures seven inches tall on the bottom. Matte black is used along the edge of the picture and a glossy finish is relegated to the lower lip of the bottom cabinet panel, below a smile-shaped arc that hides the speakers. A flip-down door on the front panel conceals a few controls, but no inputs or memory card slots.
As much as we didn't mind the utilitarian styling of the TV itself, we couldn't stand the remote control. Where to begin? A confusing jumble of same-size keys surrounds a Tinkerbell-size cursor control that's all-but-unusable (unfortunately, operating the TV requires using it all the time). The four main function buttons blend together, none of the keys are illuminated and all are hard to tell apart by feel or location. There's also no dedicated key to switch aspect ratio. 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's new "Activity" system introduces a solution to a problem that doesn't exist: changing inputs. It replaces a standard, perfectly functional input selection toggle with items like "Watch TV" and "Watch DVD," which you can assign to one or more renameable 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.
The menu system itself is nearly as poorly-conceived as the remote. Often the menu would pause for a second, displaying an hourglass, before responding, and a couple of times it failed to respond at all. Counterintuitively, it required us to press "enter" instead of the down arrow to move into a submenu directly below the main menu selection (we can't tell you how many times we messed this up and had to go back). Few of the menu items are accompanied by text explanations.
On the plus side, we appreciated the "More" menu that provided shortcuts to often-used functions such as audio and video presets or aspect ratio. Compared with previous years, however, Mitsubishi's menu and remote design have definitely taken a step backward.
As Mitsubishi's entry-level lineup of DLP TVs, the WD-737 is equipped with the basics yet missing a couple of the step-up options found on the more-expensive WD-837 models. The most prominent omissions are PerfectTint controls and the NetCommand system, which lets the TV control other AV gear using an IR blaster system and an on-screen interface.
Notably, neither series of Mitsubishi DLP-based TVs have an LED lighting system, as Samsung's excellent A750 series from last year. Instead Mitsubishi stuck with the standard lamp-based system. The company won't provide an estimated lamp life, but the warranty period for the lamp is one year, and replacement lamps are just $99 plus shipping and tax. For more info on how DLP technology operates in general, check out our guide to rear-projection HDTVs.
Mitsubishi has significantly improved its picture controls over last year. The company offers four picture modes, three of which are adjustable using basic parameters and a fourth, called "ADV," that finally offers a selection of many of the more-advanced picture adjustments found on other HDTVs. Those 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 Film Mode setting that engages 2:3 pull-down, and a "Smooth 120Hz" option said to smooth out motion (it does not, however, introduce dejudder processing). Check out Performance for more details.
Engaging ADV mode calls up a menu that looks almost like a service menu, not a user menu, with a smorgasbord of advanced options all conveniently summarized at once. They include gamma presets, gain and cut controls for fine-tuning color temperature, a full color management system, and even horizontal and vertical positioning. We also appreciated the blue-only mode for adjusting color saturation and tint without having to use filters. The ADV mode on the WD-737 models offers one independent input memory per input, while the step-up WD-837 models get two.
Mitsubishi also highlights the "3D-ready" aspect of its DLP TVs, but the main real-world use for this feature is computer gaming. You'll need special graphics drivers and glasses to use the WD-737's 3D feature, as well as a compatible PC. Current systems that work with the TV include Nvidia's 3D Vision and DDD. We didn't test this feature for this review, but CNET did review the Nvidia system separately.
The WD-737 provides three aspect ratio selections for high-definition sources and a healthy six for standard definition. The HD sources do not include a "dot-by-dot" mode as seen on most 1080p flat-panel displays because the rear-projection Mitsubishi must preserve some overscan along the edges of the image.
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, it is extremely efficient on a watts-per-square-inch basis compared with most flat-panel LCD and plasma TVs.
Connectivity on the WD-737 series is decent. The back panel includes three 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. One port is reserved for 3D glasses. 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.
Overall, the Mitsubishi WD-737 performed very well for the price. Its strengths include color accuracy and the sheer impact of its huge screen--that, unlike older CRT-based rear-projection units, can get plenty bright for even the brightest rooms. On the downside, the big set couldn't match the black-level performance of flat-panels we tested, and its screen showed some grain along with a few other less-noticeable uniformity issues.
The most accurate picture mode on the WD-737 was ADV, so we used it as a starting point for our adjustments--which, as it turned out, were relatively slight. We performed our standard calibration, curbing light output to 40 footlamberts, choosing the 2.2 gamma preset (which came relatively close at 2.16 after our adjustments) and bringing the grayscale a bit closer to the standard, although it was quite close to begin with. Primary and secondary colors were also very close to the HD standard by default. We played around with the color management system to try to get them even closer, but we were unsuccessful at improving those color points without adversely affecting color decoding, so in the end we left the CMS at its default values.
We didn't have any other rear-projection HDTVs on-hand to directly compare with the Mitsubishi, so we made do with a few larger flat-panels at various price points. We included the relatively inexpensive Panasonic TC-P50X1, the midpriced Sony KDL-52V5100, the higher-end LN52B750, and Panasonic TC-P50V10. As usual our reference display was the Pioneer PRO-111FD. We checked out old favorite "I Am Legend" on Blu-ray for most of our image quality tests.
Black level: The capability of the Mitsubishi to deliver a dark shade of black didn't measure up to that of the other displays in our lineup. As usual, the difference was more obvious in dark scenes, such as when Will Smith closes up his apartment for the evening in Chapter 3. The shadows, letterbox bars and black areas of the image appeared lighter in comparison, which led to a less-realistic, more washed-out look overall. Details in shadows, such as the wrinkles on his hand and the edges of the furniture in the hallway, seemed natural enough considering the lighter black levels, however.
Color accuracy: The WD-737 compared very well with the better displays in our lineup at producing accurate color. Skin tones, like the faces of the Smith's unexpected visitors in Chapter 19, looked nearly as accurate as those on our reference display, thanks in large part to the Mitsubishi's solid grayscale, primary and secondary colors and color decoding. We also appreciated that black and near-black areas stayed relatively true. While shadows appeared just a bit blue, they were still closer to true black than most the other displays. On the downside, the overall image lacked the richness and saturation we saw on the other displays, a lack we attribute mainly to the Mitsubishi's lighter black levels.
Video processing: According to the manual, Mitsubishi's Smooth 120Hz function is supposed to smooth out motion, but in our observations it had no effect we could discern. First we tried setting our Blu-ray player to 1080p/24 output mode and checked out the pan over the Intrepid from Chapter 7, and the Mitsubishi looked the same whether we engaged Smooth 120Hz (we also tries switching Film Mode between Auto and Off, to no effect). The entire frame had the sort of slight stuttering motion characteristic of 2:3 pull-down instead of the smoother cadence of 24p, which was in evidenced on most of the other displays in our test. To confirm our observation we checked out the 60Hz Panasonic X1 plasma, and its stuttering looked very similar to what we saw on the Mitsubishi.
Next we tried our motion resolution test, and the WD-737 delivered between 300 lines and 400 lines, similar to the motion resolution of a 60Hz LCD, again regardless of its Smooth 120Hz setting. In its favor, it handled 1080i deinterlacing of both film- and video-based sources properly when Film Mode was set to Auto, and showed every line of 1080i and 1080p resolution from still test patterns. In program material these resolution characteristics were not obvious, although in some areas, like the edges of text on a Blu-ray's menu, for example, the Mitsubishi did appear a bit softer than the flat-panels. The issue wasn't a deal-breaker by any means, however, and the DLP still looked as sharp as the other displays with most material.
Uniformity: The WD-737 didn't evince the perfect uniformity of plasma, but did surpass the Sony LCD in this regard and performed well for a rear-projection set. When the screen faded completely to black, such as when Smith closed up his apartment, we didn't notice any overt hot-spotting, where the middle of the screen looks brighter than the edges. In brighter scenes, such as when Smith sits under the Bridge in Chapter 7, we did notice that the white clouds looked slightly brighter in the middle, but it certainly wasn't distracting.
From off-angle the WD-737 failed to maintain the same image as when seen from dead-on or above and below, becoming more washed-out. We also noticed that the hot spot moved a bit when we slid to one side of the couch or another. In normal program material, however, these issues again weren't distracting, and the WD-737 did a better job of maintaining black-level uniformity from off-angle than did the LCDs in our test.
More obvious to our eye was the slight graininess in bright objects like the clouds, which became more apparent when the entire image moved across the screen. That grain part of the screen structure and relatively easy to get used to, but it might bother purists and people who sit relatively close to the screen.
It's also worth noting that while we did experience some of the rainbow effect when we looked quickly from one side of the screen to the other, or in white-on-black scenes such as credits and titles, most normal viewing didn't elicit many rainbows at all, even during difficult high-contrast scenes like the flashlight-lit exploration of the darkened warehouse in Chapter 8.
Bright lighting: The big matte screen of the WD-737 held its own very well in bright rooms. It reduced reflections about as well as the matte-screened Sony LCD, and surpassed the capability of the gloss-screened LCDs and glass-screened plasmas to do so. It didn't maintain black level performance in bight light quite as well as the Samsung LCD, but all told it was still solid in this regard, and better than the Panasonic plasma.
Standard definition: The WD-737 delivered good standard-definition performance. It resolved every line of the DVD format and showed as much detail as we expected on the grass and stone bridge. It reduced jaggies on rotating diagonal lines and a waving American flag better than most of the other displays in our comparison, and its three levels of noise reduction cleaned up the skies and flowers in our test footage quite well. Finally the WD-737 handled our test for 2:3 pull-down with aplomb.
PC: Don't peg the Mitsubishi as the best big-screen computer monitor. It did deliver every line of horizontal and vertical resolution when fed a 1,920x1,080-pixel source, but overscan completely hid some essential elements along the edges of the screen, such as the taskbar and the left-most column of icons in Windows. We also noticed a slight clockwise tilt to the entire image that wasn't apparent when watching non-PC material.
|Before color temp (20/80)||6623/6430||Good|
|After color temp||6482/6536||Good|
|Before grayscale variation||97||Good|
|After grayscale variation||39||Good|
|Color of red (x/y)||0.639/0.328||Good|
|Color of green||0.315/0.594||Good|
|Color of blue||0.152/0.064||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: We did not test the power consumption of this size in the Mitsubishi WD-737 series, but we did test the 65-inch model. For more information, refer to the review of the Mitsubishi WD-65737.