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RCA HD61THW263 review: RCA HD61THW263


Kevin Miller
6 min read
With a depth of about 7 inches, RCA's HD61THW263 looks like a slightly overweight plasma panel in profile. In fact, it's a rear-projection television that uses DLP technology, but it can still hang on the wall. The company's latest innovation in RPTV design, with the help of projector maker InFocus, this ultraslim 61-inch set is definitely eye-catching, and its extremely small footprint will appeal to many buyers. However, its picture performance is not the best of the DLPs we've tested, and although RCA recently dropped this TV's list price to $6,999--a far cry from the more than 10 grand you'll pay for a similarly sized plasma--it's still quite expensive.

Editor's note: We have changed the rating in this review to reflect recent changes in our rating scale. Click here to find out more.



The Good

Solid black-level performance; video processing includes 2:3 pull-down, independent memory per input; comprehensive feature package, including built-in Web browser.

The Bad

Inaccurate color decoding; poor geometry.

The Bottom Line

While it's a tour de force in industrial design, this set's performance leaves something to be desired when you consider its hefty price.
The RCA HD61THW263 is mostly screen, with slim, perforated, recessed speaker grilles to either side of the screen and about one foot of chassis beneath. A thin black border surrounds the screen on all sides. Backlit touch sensors for power, menu, and volume and channel up and down are located on the lower-left side of the base, and they up the television's cool factor another couple of notches.

The remote is different from any other RCA remote we've seen. It's long and slender, and the keys are a bit on the small side. The company deserves kudos for making the remote almost completely backlit for use in darkened environments. The internal menu system is fairly straightforward and intuitive, with complete explanations of various functions.

Like all microdisplay sets, the RCA took a while to warm up--about 30 seconds from pressing the power button to seeing a fully bright picture. Occasionally, however, it wouldn't respond to turn-on commands, and since there's no "turning on" status indicator, it took a frustrating minute or so before we realized we need to press the power button again. Lamp life is rated at 3,000 to 4,000 hours, relatively low compared to other DLPs', and replacement lamps cost around $575, which is relatively high.

RCA advertises a depth of 6.85 inches, and according to our measuring tape, that's accurate. The set is about 46 inches tall and 62 inches wide, and you'll have to get a stand if you want it to remain upright, as none is included. RCA offers a couple of options here, including the RDLP50MD2 ($449 list) and the RTF4461W162 ($249 list). If you want to live the dream and hang this TV on your wall, you'll need the optional bracket, model PSWM263K1 ($549 list), as well as strong wall bracing to support the 132-pound television.

The RCA HD61THW263 employs Texas Instruments' HD2+ DLP chip, whose native resolution of 1,280x720 allows it to display every pixel of 720p HDTV material. Other resolutions, including standard-def and 1080i HDTV, are converted to fit the available pixels. Unlike some DLP-based sets, namely those from Samsung, the RCA isn't equipped to handle computer sources.

Uniquely, however, this television includes an Ethernet port for connection to the Web, and it comes complete with a wireless keyboard for surfing the Net. Naturally, this big-buck big screen also includes a built-in over-the-air HDTV tuner, while the Digital Cable Ready feature allows for digital/HDTV cable reception without a cable box, using a special CableCard provided by your cable company. If you use CableCard and the HD tuner, you may also want to invest in one of RCA's optional DVRs. The DVR2080 (40GB, $449) and the DVR2160 (80GB, $549) connect to the HD61THW263's FireWire ports and enable recording and time-shifting of high-def content.

As far as picture-enhancing features go, some are worthy, and others should not be used. Film Mode engages 2:3 pull-down in the video processing, minimizing motion artifacts and jaggies when looking at film-based material such as DVD movies. Three selectable color temperatures are available, with Warm being the closest to the industry standard of 6,500K. Auto Color and Edge Enhancement should definitely be shut off, as these features hurt picture quality rather than enhance it.

Conveniences include dual-tuner PIP, although you're limited to viewing only standard-def sources and analog channels on the smaller inset window. The set allows four aspect-ratio choices for standard and 480p sources, but unfortunately, you can't change aspects with HD sources. In addition to five picture presets, the system lets you you further tailor the picture using manual controls and independent input memories.

Connectivity is fairly generous on the HD61THW263, although there aren't any front-panel inputs; all of the jacks are located to the lower left of the back of the set. A single HDMI input, two FireWire ports, and two sets of wideband component-video inputs head up the list of video connections. There are also two A/V inputs with both composite and S-Video jacks and an A/V output with composite video only. In addition, we counted two RF inputs: one for cable TV and one for an antenna; a CableCard slot; and the Ethernet port for Internet connection. RCA says that it may also make firmware upgrades available through its Web site.

Overall, the RCA HD61THW263's image quality can't quite compete with that of other DLP-based TVs we've seen, such as Samsung's HL-P5085W and Mitsubishi's WD-52525. Yes, we found that its black-level performance was quite good. Blacks were also fairly clean, with only minimal low-level noise being visible just above black. The video processing was also good, with solid 2:3 pull-down processing when Film mode was engaged.

Color decoding is the set's biggest weakness. Red and green are severely underdriven, and the result is washed-out, somewhat anemic-looking color. Of course you could increase the color control, but that throws the color balance further out of whack. Our review sample also had a marked geometry problem, which made horizontal lines appear to bow across the big screen. For example, it showed up with both the program guide from DirecTV and on all 2.35:1 aspect -ratio films.

After a full ISF-style calibration of the HD61THW263, we sat back and watched some of our favorite DVD movies. Chapter 12 of the Seabiscuit DVD looked pretty mediocre, with somewhat washed-out color and skin tones that appeared too pale. The beginning scenes from the director's cut of the Alien DVD looked impressive with respect to black-level performance, thanks to the HD2+ DLP chip.

HDTV material from our DirecTV HD satellite feed looked pretty good, but again color was a bit washed out (it wasn't as noticeable as it was with DVDs, however). Comparing this RCA side by side to the Samsung HL-P5085W with the same HD feed, the Samsung absolutely blew it away in terms of color rendition. As far as resolution goes, the HD61THW263 was the only 720p native DLP set we have tested that actually displays all the resolution of a 720p signal. Conversely, the focus on the set was not crisp, so images still appeared somewhat soft.

We also checked out the performance of the Web browser and discovered that it was adequate only for casual surfing. It loaded pages quite slowly over our normally speedy network, and it wouldn't load pages that require cookies, such as shopping sites and many Web-based e-mail services, such as Hotmail.

Before color temp (20/80) 9,575/7,425K Poor
After color temp (20/80) 7,450/6,550K Poor
Before grayscale variation ± 1,158K Poor
After grayscale variation ± 194K Average
Overscan 2% Good
Color decoder error: red -25% Poor
Color decoder error: green -20% Poor
DC restoration All patterns stable Good
2:3 pull-down, 24fps Y Good
Defeatable edge enhancement N Poor


Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 9Performance 5