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 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.