Mitsubishi WS-65807 65" Wide Screen HDTV
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Feature Article
Mitsubishi WS-65807 65" Wide Screen HDTV

October 1, 2000
By Scott Lewis

To review an HDTV requires providing a little background on the technology. If you are in the market for a HDTV you should read this article. I will explain some of the basics you need to know regarding the current state of HDTV, and will explain how I came to buy this particular model. Let me tell you, the picture is awesome, but not the best available. So read on for what will hopefully be a honest and informative review of the Mitsubishi WS-65807. Be sure to read the section on what to look for to know why almost every HDTV (ready or otherwise) is not, and never will be, a true HDTV.

What is HDTV?

Contrary to popular belief HDTV is not digital television. DTV is Digital Television. HDTV (High Definition Television) is a standard for resolution and picture format. There are currently 18 standards for HDTV. I expect one or two of them to dominate the market by 2006 when the FCC says everyone will broadcast in HDTV.

From the research I have done it seems that 1080i has the best shot at becoming the one true standard for HDTV. However 720p has enough of a following that it may be the Betamax of HDTV that is a thorn in all our sides as we wait for the entire television market to get with the program.

i and p are used to describe the way images are "drawn" on a screen. The i in 1080i means interlaced, while the p in 720p means progressive. An interlaced signal is drawn on screen in two passes, the first pass draws the odd numbered lines of the picture (1, 3, 5, etc) while the second pass draws the even lines of resolution (2, 4, 6, etc.). A progressive screen has its lines draw all in one pass (1, 2, 3, 4, etc.) Traditional television is interlaced while computer monitors are progressive. That is one of the reasons why computer monitors look sharper than television (and why WebTV sucks). For reference, standard television is 480i. The number is the number of lines in the picture.

What about digital? Digital pictures are easier to compress and broadcast than analog. This is how DirecTV and Dish Network have been doing business since their respective beginnings. It makes sense then to pass a digital signal from the tuner (the device that actually picks up and "tunes" in the stations) to the TV screen. A TV that is capably of receiving a digital signal from a digital tuner is Digital Ready. If the TV has the Digital tuner built-in it is a Digital TV (DTV). Simple, right? Not exactly, but it is getting there. A true HDTV must be capable of displaying all 18 standards for resolution and do so in a letter-box (16:9) format as opposed to current television's nearly square format (4:3). HD-ready TVs will be able to display all 18 signals with an upgraded tuner purchased in the future. All HDTVs (from what I can tell) will be able to use a digital tuner, bringing this all together.

Lets' recap... HDTV is both letter-box format (16:9) with the necessary resolutions (720p, 1080i, etc). DTV is a TV that has a digital tuner capable of receiving a digital signal and sending that digital signal to the monitor for display. "Ready" versions mean they will require some amount of upgrading to do what they don't do now.

Toshiba, Pioneer, Sony

I started my big screen TV adventure by looking at a Toshiba TW65X81 65" HD-ready TV. It looked great. But at $6000 my wife and I had to think hard about it. My wife was thinking about staying around $5000. We decided to take a look at a high end retailer and saw that Pioneer's Elite series of HDTVs has a better picture. Colors seem to be richer and the picture overall was a little sharper. Research I did on the Internet seemed to corroborate my observations. People tend to like the Toshiba, but many professional reviews claim the Pioneer Elite series has the best picture. Unfortunately the Pioneer's 65" Elite Pro 710HD was $7800 locally. Even online I never saw a price below $6500. More than we wanted to spend.

We did get the chance to see Sony's latest offering. It is a 65" HDTV that we saw with a HDTV signal. It was outstanding. Even when viewed from 7-8 ft. scan lines were not visible. The Sony also had speakers that were along side the cabinet running from floor to the top edge of the TV. It would have been a great TV, but not at $10,000.

All of these TVs use 7" CRTs to project the image on the screen. 7" CRTs are not capable of displaying all the pixels (1920x1080) in a 1080i signal (more on this later). 9" CRTs are required to get all of the resolution for true HDTV. I have not seen a 9" CRT equipped TV with my own eyes, but I hear with a true HDTV signal they are an order of magnitude better than a 7" CRT equipped TV. Every 9" CRT equipped TV I was able to find a price for was $9000 or higher. Ouch!

Mitsubishi

The Mitsubishi WS-65807 is an HD-upgradable TV. I don't know why Mitsubishi decided to use the word upgradable vs. ready, but they will probably have to change to using HD-monitor in the near future due to the Toshiba/Hitachi fiasco. The Mitsubishi doesn't seem (to me) to be a true HD-ready TV anyway, and may be the reason for their marketing phrase. As I said earlier, a HDTV must be capable of displaying all 18 formats. The 65807's documentation claims native handling of 480i (regular TV and standard DVD), 480p (progressive scan DVD), and 1080i (the most likely HDTV in my opinion). It clearly states that 720p and other formats will have to be converted to be displayed.

None of this bothers me at the moment. I can't even get a HDTV signal in my apartment. The apartment complex uses DirecTV with a single dish. It mirrors that signal to the individual apartments. The dish is not a HDTV dish. DirecTV dishes (and I assume this is the case for Dish Network) that can tune in a HD signal are elliptical in shape.

So I won't even be able to experience HDTV until I move into my as yet not built house next year. DirecTV broadcasts 1080i for select HBO and Showtime channels. This means that next year I should be able to get DirecTV at my house and enjoy some amount of true HDTV. Until then I am enjoying the same programming as all of you without HDTV. I just get to see it larger than most people.

So how good is it?

Without HDTV is a HD-whatever TV worth it? Absolutely. DVD movies played appropriately look stunning. It took a little while to get everything on the TV set to perfection. Except for adjusting convergence everything is straight forward and easy to set. A friend lent me a DVD from Avia that has everything necessary to setup a home theater. The instructions on setting up the video settings (contrast, brightness, color, tint and sharpness) were invaluable. It took about an hour or so to get everything right, plus about an hour overall playing with the convergence. All in all it is an easy TV to setup.

Convergence on the other hand is a royal pain in the but. But this is not Mitsubishi's fault. They actually have done an excellent job in allowing you to adjust convergence (the aiming of the red, green, and blue CRTs, or "guns," that make up the picture). The standard adjustment puts a big crosshair in the center of the screen. You adjust the red and blue until the crosshair is white. Green is fixed and you are lining up the red and blue to it. Simple. If you need further adjusting you can go into the advanced convergence setup. This puts a massive grid on the screen and you can adjust the convergence from a few dozen places around the screen. This is where it gets to be a pain. If you are not experienced at this, and don't have perfect vision it will be hard on the eyes.

Like I said, this is not Mitsubishi's fault. They provide excellent control. But since my TV required some significant adjustments in the advanced convergence screen it was not a very pleasant task.

The 65807 has plenty of formats to display a picture any way you could want. This includes a "narrow" setting that puts gray bars down the sides of the TV leaving you with essentially with a standard 4:3 format image. (BTW... I measured this to be 53-1/2" for comparison to non-wide screen TVs). You can display regular TV full screen (where everyone looks a little short and fat),  and expanded to crop the top and bottom of the image for movie theater-like TV watching. There is even a fun house setting. Setting the format to "stretched" takes a standard TV image and leaves the center portion normal but the the outer sides stretched to fill the screen. People on the sides of the action look really fat, and when there is panning it looks like you are in a fish bowl. Interesting but a little unusual to get used to.

I usually watch regular Television programming on "expanded" (top and bottom cut off and the rest of the picture fills the screen). This is basically a preview of HDTV to come. Yes this kind of magnification gets a little grainy, but if the signal is clean it looks very good. I tend to use the sun house "stretched" format when I need to see the top and bottom of the screen.

A TV this large tends to exaggerate a bad picture. When the signal is even slightly poor, which some of our local channels are, the TV amplifies it and it looks terrible. That is the real pitfall to a huge TV... good signal = very good, great (DVD) = stunning, poor = horrible, and a bad signal could make you - as Wayne would say - blow chunks. I will live.

Speaking of DVDs... the DVD performance is excellent. In fact the TV is so good it allowed me to determine that a number of DVDs I owned were not up to the best standards for a DVD. Take Top Gun for example. When you play the movie you must choose between playing it in wide screen and normal. But the wide screen format is a matted version of the normal image. So you get more information on the top and bottom of the screen in regular 4:3 viewing and are penalized when viewing in letterbox. Letterbox is supposed to provide more information to the sides. A great example is The Hunt For Red October. There are many scenes where you can tell that letterbox is required. On my TV there are still black bars on the top and bottom when displayed. But the subtitles are in those black bars. My VHS copy of the movie has the sub-titles on the picture.

I rented Any Given Sunday. So far it is probably the best picture I have ever seen in my life. I can't wait until everything looks that good. Mission To Mars, and Terminator 2: Judgment Day (Ultimate DVD Edition) were also jar dropping.

This Mitsubishi is supposed to be "less featured" than other models. Even the salesmen at the store recommended it over two other more expensive models we were looking at. Now that's unusual. But the WS-65807 has one feature I have not noticed in any HDTV I have seen... front connections. Maybe I wasn't looking hard enough, but I can't recall seeing this before. And it seems so logical. This TV is HUGE, and it would be a pain to roll it out to connect a camcorder. The TV has a standard set of RCA jacks, red/white/yellow, and a S-Video jack all on the front of the TV. Very nice touch.

By the way, this Mitsubishi model cost us $3749 locally with free delivery. The lowest price I saw on the Internet was $3500 but I could not get a shipping cost without ordering. From all my viewing and research I would have to say it has the most bang for the buck. Its picture looks as good as the Toshiba TW65X81, and I would have to see it side by side with the Pioneer Elite Pro 710HD to tell a difference. It does not support all the HDTV formats natively, but it looks great with DVD movies and I would assume even better with a progressive scan DVD player (hopefully my next purchase). This TV should provide endless hours of enjoyment for years.

If you are worried about dropping big money on a TV but want a big screen set, think heavily about the Mitsubishi. I will definitely get $3700 worth of use out of this TV over the next 6 years while the TV and electronic industries fight there way to a single HDTV solution.

What to look for?

Earlier I mentioned 7" CRTs (also called guns, they are the actual projecting lenses in the TV). 7" CRTs are not capable of displaying all of the 1920x1080 pixels in a 1080i HDTV signal. In my opinion this means that no TV with 7" CRTs is truly HDTV or even HD-ready. 9" CRTs are required to display the full 1920x1080 HDTV signal. Pioneer claims to be able to display about 1600 of the 1920. From what I can tell it looks like the best you can get out of a 7" CRT TV is about 1600x800, but I could be wrong. Mitsubishi claims 1200 lines of resolution for my TV.

However, compare this to standard television's 480i signal that is only 640x480. 1600x800 is a quantum leap forward over current TV. Keeping this in mind and the fact that we don't really have a true standard for HDTV, you need to decide if you will get your money's worth out of a big screen TV until all the HDTV rhetoric is over (supposedly in 2006 by the FCC's regulations).

That being said I would recommend looking for a much more reasonably priced HDTV than $8000-10000 that will still need to be replaced for true HDTV viewing. Then again you may not actually notice. Remember it is easy to pick one picture as better than another when they are side by side. But how many people are going to put these side by side in their home.

Keeping all this in mind I need to throw another wrench in the works. DVD! Current DVDs only have a resolution of 720x480 in letterbox. (Note: Not all DVDs use the full 480 lines. Only anamorphic DVDs use the 480 lines for the actual picture. Other DVDs, like Top Gun mentioned above, use matting, which essentially has the black bars on top and bottom of the picture as part of the 480 lines of resolution. But that explanation is for another article in itself. I will only concern myself with anamorphic DVDs for this article.) With 720x480 resolution in a section of the TV, accounting for the black bars on top and bottom that are not included in those numbers, you have a good deal more resolution in DVD than you do with standard TVs. That is why a DVD player has such a good picture even on your current TV.

But what happens when regular TV is better than DVD? Eventually we will have recordable DVD of some kind. And I would assume we will eventually be able to record HDTV signals. You can expect DVDs to be significantly upgraded to work very well in a HDTV environment. Personally I hope they call it HDDVD, that would be a hell of an acronym.

What all this boils down to is that all your video equipment is on the hit list for obsolescence. Eventually you will need a new satellite dish or cable system to receive HDTV, a new tuner to get that signal to the TV, a new TV to display it, a new DVD player to watch rented and bought movies, and a new recorder (tape, DVD, or hard drive based) to save those episodes of Friends.

Buying a HDTV today is not a smart idea if you are thinking it will be useful 6 years from now. It will, but you will still be planning a replacement schedule. It is impossible to buy a future-proof TV today. Although getting a model with 9" CRTs will help a lot, it is an expensive proposition. For certain don't buy a TV with a built-in digital tuner. For two reasons, 1) The tuner will need to change eventually. 2) It is a lot easier to add a Tuner to a TV waiting for it then removing a tuner to upgrade it. The question to ask is whether you think you can get your money's worth out of a really sharp rear projection TV today, and for the next 6 or so years.

At $3700 we didn't have to think too hard about whether we would get our money's worth. The DVD performance alone is worth it until the HDTV dust settles. It was only a matter of whether it fit in our budget. I already know I will get a 9" CRT (or better) model some day. The only question is when. 

Conclusion

Don't get too concerned with minor differences in picture quality at the store. Two TVs side by side may show a slight difference in picture quality, but a lot of TVs can be adjusted better than they have been for the showroom (unless it is a high end retailer that spends the extra time ensuring all their TVs are well adjusted). Also, you won't have two TVs side by side in your home. If the picture is just a little better, but costs almost $4000 more (as with our Mitsubishi vs. Pioneer at $3700 vs. $7800, respectfully), I would forget about it. Remember, you will still end up buying a better TV 6-10 years from now. Get a TV that will give you very good results for the next 6 - 10 years. At that time you can get a great TV that works with whatever HDTV signal you will have then.

The Mitsubishi WS-65807 is an excellent TV. It is one of the best bang for the bucks in the HDTV marketplace. It should provide me with great movie watching for years. I will worry about true HDTV when it is ubiquitous.

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