Rear Projection TV Reviews The best rear projection HDTVs for home entertainment

Are you thinking of going really BIG? Despite the latest 65″ 70″ flat-panel TVs, nothing beats a rear projection TV as an immediate, inexpensive no mess, no fuss solution to a massive TV.  If you have the necessary floor space, unpack one of these ‘big boxes’ and you are ready for big screen TV entertainment!

For the same price of the ‘affordable’ 70″ Sharp LC-70LE745U 3D LED TV, you can get an 82″ Mitsubishi DLP 3D premium rear projection TV with Internet streaming. Still expensive, well… the Mitsubishi mid-range series can deliver an 82″ 3D TV with Internet TV for $1,000 less! And if you want to go bigger, 92-inch rear projection TVs are also available.

It is true that equally massive LED TVs have become a consumer reality, yet LED TVs sell nowhere close to the price of an equivalent screen size DLP TV.

In this article, we first discuss the rear projection market – taking into account the latest announcement from Mitsubishi – to see if it is still worth investing in rear projection when the industry is actively pushing the more expensive LED TVs. We then look at available RPTV options for big screen TV entertainment.

Is rear projection still the way to go for a really big screen TV?

Many had long predicted the demise of rear projection as large LED and plasma TVs became more affordable. And as if to make things worst, Mitsubishi has announced on December 1, 2012, that it will not continue with its rear projection TV business to focus on B-to-B solutions and home theater video projectors.

We therefore thought of expressing our opinion before proceeding with this rear projection TV review update.

First of all, let’s make one thing clear here: Mitsubishi rear projection HDTVs are still readily available and will continue to be available for some time from major retail stores till the present stock lasts – possibly at higher discounts.

In addition, Mitsubishi aftersales service has always been one of the best and as expected, Mitsubishi will continue to support their discontinued DLP HDTVs for parts and servicing for the expected lifetime of these HDTVs; this is the norm with all serious manufacturers. As such, we do not see any higher risks here opting for a rear projection HDTV now following Mitsubishi announcement.  Rather, as long as these sets are available, there is no reason why one should refrain from opting for a DLP TV if this delivers the best big screen TV option for your money.

However, we still think that Mitsubishi’s announcement will have a major impact on sale of available DLP HDTVs, especially when even prior to Mitsubishi’s decision, the rear projection TV market had already shrunk to its minimum – amounting to just less than 2% of all large area display sales (60-inch and up) in the US market. Therefore, it is only logical that many in the market for big screen home entertainment ask if rear projection is still the way to go. Mind you, 2% may not sound much but here we are dealing with a market that posted $15.5 billion in sales in 2011 despite 5% decline in overall sales of large area displaysLCD, Plasma, and DLPsover 2010.

So… What is available at this point?

The latest lineup of rear projection TVs from Mitsubishi covers 10 new massive lamp-based DLP sets for 2012, apart from their 75-inch LaserVue sets and seven equally valid lamp-based DLP options from 2011. These TVs range from 73-inch up to 92-inch; the latter represents almost five times the screen area of a small 42-inch TV, and twice the screen size of a 65-inch HDTV!

These massive HDTVs are available at a price that is within the price bracket of a typical 65-inch LED HDTV! The 92-inch flagship Mitsubishi WD-92742 featured above is selling at under $3,000 while the 82-inch mid-range WD-82740 is selling on amazon for less than $2,000.

You see, the biggest advantage of rear projection TVs is their affordable price in comparison to their sheer screen size.

OK, Mitsubishi’s laser-powered rear projection TVs are more expensive than lamp-based DLPs. The 75″ flagship Mitsubishi LaserVue L75A94 pictured here is selling online at reduced price of $3,300; yet that is still less than a typical premium 65″ premium LED HDTV, this despite that the LaserVue is capable of a bright picture and superb image performance.

No one does rear projection TV reviews anymore; the market is too thin but when HDGuru published his rear projection TV review of the first LaserVue in 2008, he stated that the L65A90 was capable of superior performance to any other TV at the time. And rear projection TV reviews submitted by lucky owners of the latest LaserVues show that these users are equally impressed with the spectacular picture afforded by these DLP HDTVs.

Mitsubishi LaserVue utilizes advanced rear projection TV technology based on a three-color laser light engine that does away with the traditional color wheel. The result is superior picture with exceptional color accuracy, wider color gamut, improved energy efficiency, and reduced running costs over lamp-based DLP TVs as no lamp replacements are required for the expected lifetime of the LaserVue.

A Film-like Image

LaserVue HDTVs apart, for informed buyers looking for really big screen HDTVs, price is not the only appealing factor; even standard lamp-based DLP rear projection HDTVs support superb overall picture performance, with a bright picture that exhibits very good black level performance, deep saturated colors, excellent overall image uniformity and an image that is more film-like than LCD and plasma TVs thanks to the DLP chip wobulation process.

The latter is necessary as DLP rear projection TVs use a 960 x 1080 micro-mirrors Texas Instrument DMD chip; the full 1080p image is generated through wobulation. Mitsubishi uses the term 120Hz sub-frame rate instead of wobulation. A small optical actuator offsets (wobulate) the 960 x 1080 pixel image by ½ pixel 120 times a second to create the full 1080p 60Hz image. This ½-pixel displacement helps soften the pixel edges for a seamless more film-like image with no visible pixel structure as instead is the case with plasma and LCD TVs.

Superior 3D imaging

The use of checkerboard technology to implement 3D on DLP display systems helps render superior 3D images that are virtually free from 3D image crosstalk and closer to what one enjoys in 3D movie theaters. Despite that the resultant 3D DLP image is at half the resolution of active 3D 1080p displays—the same as you would enjoy with passive 3D glasses TV systems—the DLP TV 3D picture performance is better.

In addition, if 3D is for you, rest assured that the bigger screen size afforded by rear projection TVs makes for a more immersive 3D viewing experience in the home, one closer to the 3D experience at the cinema than that possible with smaller size TV screens. (More on 3D TV viewing can be found in our 3D TV guide here.)

And there is more…

If you want an out-of-the-box big screen TV solution that is larger than 70-inch and still affordable, rear projection is the only present TV display technology that delivers. In other words, there is still a segment of the HDTV market which is not yet catered for by flat-panel TV technology; the few 80″ LED TVs available start at $4,500 for a 2D TV while the only 3D 80-inch LED TV is selling at $5,500.

Some may say RPTVs are not as slim, and you cannot wall mount a rear projection TV. But with most of today’s flat-panel TVs mounted on the provided table-top stand, the slimness advantage of plasma and LED TVs soon fades away. At 15-inches deep, the 75″ Mitsubishi LaserVue is not deeper than a 65″ LED TV with the provided table-top stand. And while more affordable lamp-based DLP TVs are somewhat deeper—18″ for 73″ DLPs, going up to 25″ for 92″ sets—keep in mind that here we are dealing with massive screen size TVs that would still require a table base of comparable depth for stability purposes.

Nothing is perfect…

So far, this rear projection TV review discussion focused mainly on the benefits of rear projection, but these systems have their drawbacks as well. Apart from their bulkier size which can be an issue in restricted spaces, cold start-up times can be frustrating with newcomers to RPTVs. The latest Mitsubishi DLPs exhibit an average cold start-up time of 25 seconds.

Like LCD and in particular edge-lit LED TVs, RPTVs lose brightness and picture fidelity when seen from off-angle; mind you, they are not worst than LCDs, rather they are better off in this respect than the latest and more expensive LED TVs.

Many also associate RPTVs with picture geometry errors and brightness uniformity issues. Mind you, these are more issues with older rear projection TVs than the latest DLP TVs; by 2008, professional rear projection TV reviews had shown that geometry errors were so minimal you need a special test pattern to detect such errors if at all present; and brightness uniformity with rear projection TVs is no worse than what you get with the best LCD TVs!

Rear Projection TV Reviews – 2012 Roundup
Mitsubishi Rear Projection DLP HDTVs

2012 Mitsubishi DLP TVs cover four series apart from the LaserVue L75-A94 HDTV referred to earlier on in this article from 2011. These include entry-level C12 and 642 HDTVs, the 742 step-up series, and the 842 premium series DLP HDTVs. All four series cover 73-inch and an 82-inch versions while step-up and premium series also include the only 92-inch rear projection TVs presently available for home entertainment.

In this second part of our rear projection TV review, we discuss each of these series to see what exactly is on offer for those who want to go really, really BIG!

Entry-level DLP HDTVs: C12 and WD-642 Series HDTVs

Both series are very similar in features, with the C12 Series HDTVs being a 2D version of the WD-642 3D HDTVs. One other minor difference is that the C12 comes with two HDMI inputs instead of the three HDMI found on the 642 series.

Common features present on all series including C12 and WD-642:

Plush 1080p, Mitsubishi’s proprietary upscaling technology of lower-resolution signals to 1080p for a better image.

6-Color Video Processing, whereby apart from the red, green and blue, the video processing extracts the three secondary colors (cyan, yellow, magenta) to individually process each color; coupled with Mitsubishi six-segment color wheel, the result is greater color accuracy, with whiter whites and a wider range of color.

Comprehensive connectivity: Multiple HDMI inputs (two on C12, three on 642 and 742 series, and four on 842 and LaserVue HDTVs), with Deep Color technology, CEC support, and PC connectivity via HDMI; PC/DVI audio input; one component video input whose Y (green) input also serves as a shared composite video input; digital audio output; and a 3D glasses emitter port on the WD-642 which connects to a suitable emitter such as the Mitsubishi 3DGEX103 XPAND 3D glass and emitter kit shown here.

What is missing is a USB port; the one provided is only used for servicing. Only premium 842 and the flagship LaserVue series get a second USB input.

Deep Color Technology aimed at maximizing high definition color performance by creating smoother transitions between different shades.

120Hz Sub-frame-rate: This is often confused with the Mitsubishi Smooth120 feature found on the LaserVue. Smooth120 works in conjunction with the film mode to reduce motion blur in action scenes. Instead, 120Hz sub-frame refers to the 120Hz wobulation sub-frame process explained earlier on in this article. In other words, these are not 120Hz HDTVs in a similar manner to LCDs as some may interpret this rather ‘gray’ spec. It just means Mitsubishi DLP TVs generate 120 sub-frames per second with each sub-frame containing half the pixel data of a full 1080p frame, to generate the 60 frames at full 1080p resolution.

Energy Efficient: All sets including 92-inch models are rated at 213W and have an FTC estimated yearly energy consumption guide of just $43; this falls within the lower end of the power consumption scale for 69-inch and up HDTVs.

Frame-Freeze Function: This feature is similar to the frame freeze function found on LG HDTVs; it lets you freeze the current TV frame say during a commercial to take note of a telephone number, etc.

User Settings: These HDTVs come with four picture modes (Brilliant, Bright, Natural, and a Game mode); otherwise you get a rather reduced set of user-adjustable picture controls. However, all important adjustments are there; these include brightness, contrast, saturation, tint (to adjust the ratio of green to red), sharpness, noise reduction, and a basic high-low temperature setting. There is also a film mode for 24p content with 480i and 1080i signals, a screen saver feature, and eight aspect ratio settings. All A/V adjustments have independent memory per input; this greatly eases optimization of picture parameters for different connected devices. WD-642 series and above, also support advanced professional calibration.

Audio comes in the form of 10W per channel stereo; sound quality is much better than what you find on flat-panel HDTVs even though we still recommend using a dedicated sound system to complement the large beautiful picture of these HDTVs.

Mitsubishi WD-742 Step-up Series 3D HDTVs with StreamTV

This Mitsubishi step-up series adds a few extras over 642 and C12 HDTVs, with the most important being the new Mitsubishi StreamTV Internet media application. This feature enables instant access to over 100 different Internet TV services, including access to the latest releases of streaming 1080p movies from VUDU and social media content.

Complementing StreamTV is the provided TV remote which includes an Internet button for direct access of the StreamTV application, and an iPhone/iPadtouch remote control app.

These sets come as wireless-ready, meaning all it takes is to plug in the Mitsubishi AWNU231 Wireless USB Adapter to get instant access to your broadband connection. And unlike the WD-642 HDTVs, WD-742 HDTVs come with the 3D IR emitter built-in.

Apart from 73″ and 82″ HDTVs, the WD-742 series introduces the first of two massive 92″ sets for 2012, the Mitsubishi 92-inch WD92-742. As discussed above, the 92-inch screen market segment is very thin but if you want a TV this size, at least you know it is available, and this for a relatively affordable price of $4,500. It is not cheap but that is the same list price of the 60″ Samsung UN60ES8000 LED TV! And yet, the Mitsubishi gives you more than twice the screen area for your money!

Much more affordable are the 73-inch and the 82-inch versions; the 73-inch WD-73742 selling online at $1,600 while the bigger 82-inch WD-82742 is available at under $2,800. This price difference with respect to the 92-inch set makes the smaller but still massive HDTVs more appealing as a giant size HDTV option.

Mitsubishi WD-842 Premium Series DLP 3D HDTVs

As with the WD-742 series, the WD-842 series covers three screen sizes, 73-inch, 82-inch, and the second massive 92-inch DLP HDTV. This series comes with a considerable number of enhancements over 742 HDTVs, the most important is the use of an improved clear contrast screen for deeper blacks, and a 16-speaker surround soundbar delivering 32W of total power for one of the best immersive TV sounds presently available through the use of the TV speakers.

Other features include:

PerfectColor and PerfectTint provide the user more controls over the picture settings; adjustments cover saturation (intensity) and hues of the six basic colors on the color wheel (the three primary and the three secondary) separate and independent of each other, and separate for each input.

ISFccc advanced video adjustments for professional calibration of brightness, contrast, tint, sharpness, color levels and more to get the best picture subject to your local lighting conditions for both day and nighttime viewing; the respective settings will then be saved as ISF Day and ISF Night.

Advanced Audio Support with variable subwoofer output and left/right rear surround pre-amplifier outs while the TV built-in speakers handle the front left/center/right sound channels. Should you decide to connect the TV to an AV receiver, the TV speakers may also serve as the center speaker in a 5.1 speaker setup; for the purpose, a center-channel input is available on the TV main connection panel when the TV sound is set to Center Channel Mode.

Other audio features include iSP Calibration Microphone supporting automatic audio setup for the correct balance of sound levels between the different audio channels, and Bluetooth audio streaming to wirelessly stream audio from any Bluetooth A2DP device such as an iTouch/iPhone or Blackberry, to your Mitsubishi DLP TV.

Enhanced Connectivity complemented by four HDMI ports, 2 USB ports with file support for both photos and music and the USB wireless dongle, Ethernet port, an extra shared component/composite video input on the side for a total of three, and wired support for IR TV remote.

Editor’s Note: The WD-842 series was not yet available at the time of this rear projection TV review update. In the meantime, it is worth taking note that 2011 WD-840 equivalents come with almost the same features. Rather, we do not see any significant differences or feature upgrades between the full 2011 and 2012 lineups.

This means this the 840 series may very well provide a suitable alternative. Both the 73-inch WD-73840 ($2,100) and the 82-inch WD-82840 ($2,750)have so far proved to be among the best-rated HDTVs in rear projection TV reviews submitted online by system owners, averaging 4.8 stars out of 5 in user ratings.

The 75-inch LaserVue L75-A94 Flagship DLP TV

We have already touched upon LaserVue in this rear projection TV review. Mitsubishi had originally came with the first laser powered DLP TVs in 2008; the 75-inch L75A94 is a third generation LaserVue DLP HDTV and comes with a few enhancements over standard lamp-based DLP HDTVs. These arise mainly out of the use of the laser light engine over standard lamp-based DLPs. Most important of these is the Mitsubishi LaserVue superior color accuracy and brighter images, much brighter than lamp-based sets using a higher wattage HID lamp.

These sets are also among the most eco HDTVs around. The new 75-inch LaserVue qualifies as Energy Star 5.3 compliant; it comes with a reduced power consumption of just 75 Watts in Home mode and an FTC energy guide of $20 in yearly consumption—less than smaller LED TVs!

One final advantage arising out of use of the laser light engine is that the laser light source is expected to last for as long as the lifetime of the HDTV, resulting in zero lamp replacements and significantly reduced running costs.

An Enhanced Feature Set

LaserVue HDTVs include all features found on the WD-842 premium series but in a thinner package. At just 15-inches deep, this 75-inch DLP TV is relatively slim. Other features on the LaserVue only include:

Cinema Color, accessible by selecting the Cinema picture mode, supports a much wider color gamut for more natural looking color similar to that of commercial movie theaters equipped with digital projectors.

More Picture Modes: The Cinema mode referred to above forms part of the extended picture modes on the LaserVue; it helps optimize the picture for a properly dim environment. In addition, the laser light engine gives these sets the ability to deliver a new bright picture for use under bright lighting; this new picture mode is termed Super Brilliant.

12-Bit Plush 1080p up-scaling technology for higher image quality

Smooth 120 works in conjunction with the film mode to reduce motion blur in action scenes even though DLPs are less susceptible to motion blur than LCDs. As expressed earlier on, these are not 120Hz HDTVs. In other words, DLP HDTVs cannot do 5:55 pulldown de-judder on native 1080p24 film-based content. You can still watch 1080p24 using the traditional 2:3 pulldown technique, but this leads to judder – mainly noticeable in scenes that either incorporate slow camera pans or were shot with a handheld camera. In fact, Mitsubishi mentions only motion blur and does not refers to judder reduction, a totally different beast. For a detailed explanation of motion blur and judder, please refer to our article ‘LCD Motion Blur‘.

Other less important features include an ambient light sensor to automatically adjust the image brightness to the light in the room, and a cosmetic ‘blue’ light accent.

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