Mitsubishi LT-46148 Review
46" 1080p LCD HDTV, $2799
Last month, Mitsubishi began rolling out their new 148 series of LCDs, which includes most of the high-end features that you would expect from an HDTV in this price range. More importantly, it delivers the picture quality that you should demand.
Last October, I reviewed Mitsubishi's LT-40134. After rereading that article, I must admit that I have had similar impressions and experiences with this new model - which is not a bad thing.
Indeed, the two possess many of the same features. One of the major additions to this newer sibling is what Mitsubishi labels Smooth120Hz Film Motion. By changing a setting in the Video menu, you can increase the TV's frame rate from 60 per second to 120. (I'll discuss my take on 120 Hz later in this review.)
(Editor's Note: Mitsubishi produces two other models in the 148 Series, the 40-inch LT-40148 and the 52-inch LT-52148. They have similar specs to the LT-46148 and this review can be applied to them also.)
Our Star Ratings
With HD material the LT-46148 excels. The full range of colors is exceptionally brilliant. The TV handles standard definition programs about as well as can be expected. The integrated speakers could only be described as adequate.
The PerfectColor image controls are invaluable for a tweaker. I like the USB Photo feature with GalleryPlayer support, but the interface needs more refinement. I would have expected that this 2008 model would include an Ethernet port, if not PIP options. If you need the supplied IR emitters, add a half a point.
Ease of Use: 4.0
The setup is a bit unconventional and may require you to actually read the manual. If you plan on implementing all the features, like the NetCommand IR (infrared) system, set aside a couple of hours one evening.
You can definitely find 46" 1080p HDTVs for less. The Mitsubishi LT-46148's picture quality will not disappoint. But for this price, I would like to see the TV cram-packed with all my favorite features.
Star Ratings Description
Ratings are relative to when the review was written. The obvious example is Value, what you could purchase for $2000 two years ago or even two months ago would seem like a bad value for that price now. We have given only a precious few 5 Star ratings, which we reserve for truly outstanding accomplishment.
Out of the Box
If bezels continue their rate of shrinkage, in a couple of years, I'll need a magnifying glass to measure them. Last year's one inch bezel has been shaved to three quarters of an inch on the top and sides. Even the bottom of the frame, which houses the speakers, is only three inches at its widest.
HDTVs this year also seem to be waging a successful weight loss campaign. The 2007 40" LT-40134 tipped the scales at 69 pounds. This year's 46" model, with its Thin Frame design, has slimmed to 62 pounds and only 42 inches wide.
With all this dieting, I am surprised that the LT-46148 is almost five inches deep, without its base. Many other manufacturers are introducing TVs that are less than two inches deep.
Since I have to lug these wide screen wonders around, I appreciate their weight reduction efforts. I think very soon we will see HDTVs weighing a pound an inch - a 42" TV at 42 pounds. The trend will make them more portable, placeable, and mountable.
Another feature that I am beginning to consider essential is a stand that swivels. This Mitsubishi TV swivels on its base 30 degrees left and right. Like most LCDs, the picture washes out a bit when you sit off to the side. Ideally, your viewing angle should be perpendicular to the front of the TV. If you have a couch or a recliner that is off center, it is a whole lot easier to swing the TV around then to schlepp the sofa.
Mitsubishi also makes plugging in cables more convenient with their two side mounted connection panels on the back of the TV. The smaller one, which is almost on the left edge contains one set of Component Inputs (PrPbY) with matching stereo Audio Ins. The Y connector can also be used as a Composite Video In.
In addition, a USB port is provided where you can upload JPEG photos and view them in HD on the monitor.
The larger panel supplies four HDMI inputs, two Component inputs (YPbPr) with matching stereo Audio Ins, one S-Video, one Composite (with Audio), a digital Audio Out (cable), and a stereo analog Audio Out.
The two RF antenna inputs connect to integrated NTSC/ATSC/QAM tuners. Since the tuner system is Clear QAM compatible, you can attach your cable TV signal directly into the RF connector and tune in unscrambled cable stations.
Often, when you see two RF inputs, the TV has split screen capabilities. The LT-46148 does not. Even though the remote control has a Split button, the manual advises that it is not functional on this model. Therefore, no Picture-in-Picture or POP.
Also, the TV does not offer a VGA connector. If you want to plug in a computer, you use the HDMI in. If your video card has a DVI out, then you'll need an DVI to HDMI cable or adaptor. A DVI/PC stereo pair of Audio Ins is included on the panel.
The connection panel contains no Ethernet port for connecting to the Internet or your home network. I am beginning to expect this feature on higher end TVs, especially as many viewers are starting to watch streaming content from the Web.
With the explosion of digital photographers, I also consider a USB port a must-have. And maybe by 2009, I will encounter robust software to accompany that USB port. Mitsubishi's USB Photo Menu is typical of the current crop of interfaces, with limited options for accepting (under 5 MB JPEG photos only) and playing back (only a basic Wipe transition) images.
I do give Mitsubishi credit for teaming with GalleryPlayer, a company that sells collections of some of the finest high definition still imagery available. Whether your tastes runs towards Vermeer's The Girl with the Pearl Earring or Dali's The Persistence of Memory or Sean Davey's photo Surfing in the Tube, GalleryPlayer's images can transform your HDTV into a personal art gallery.
Mitsubishi provides a NetCommand IR (infrared) system to control other devices, such as a DVD player, with the TV's remote control. You plug the IR cable into the back panel of the LT-46148 and then place the emitters in front of the remote control sensors on the auxiliary equipment. You can then run through a process where the TV remote learns the commands for the other equipment.
The remote control itself is partially backlit. The middle portion glows red. I like the big buttons and easy to read labels. For a multi-function remote, it is well laid out and surprisingly easy to navigate.
Mitsubishi has added one feature that I hope to be seeing in all new TVs. In the Setup menu, you can switch the Energy setting from Fast Power On to Low Power. As many of you know, even when a TV is turned Off (but not unplugged), it is sucking a lot of juice.
In this Green era, manufacturers are implementing a Low Power option. When selected, the TV eats up less energy, but it will take more time for the TV to power on. I found that the LT-46148 took about 30 seconds. I think it's a reasonable trade-off.
Our basic setup procedure has changed recently. To calibrate the monitor, we now are using the Blu-ray version of the Digital Video Essentials DVD called HD Basics. We are playing the DVD on a Pioneer BDP-94HD Blu-ray player connected to the HDTV with an HDMI cable.
We use the test patterns to adjust black level, white level, and color bias. The player is set to output a 1080p signal, which is the native resolution of the Mitsubishi LT-46148.
The Video menu provides the basic adjustments, Contrast, Brightness, Color (Saturation), Tint (Hue), Sharpness, Color Temperature and Backlight. Also, you have Picture Mode presets labeled Brilliant, Game, Bright and Natural. The default setting is Brilliant, which is way, way too vivid for my understated tastes. Natural was a much better choice for a starting point.
With LCDs with a Backlight setting, I begin by pushing it down to at least the middle of the scale, if not lower. Once again, our testing facility has fairly subdued lighting and I'm not a big fan of an overly bright picture.
Next, before I adjust Tint and Color, I set the Color Temperature. The choices on this TV are limited to High (Cool) or Low (Warm). The manual states that "Natural/Color Temp at the low setting displays video at approximately the 6500K industry standard for NTSC pictures."
I found that Low biased the color too far to the yellow "warm" side. I preferred the High setting. Actually, I would really prefer more choices. Many TVs offer five Color Temp selections, including a Neutral. On the LT-46148, High seemed a little too cold and Low was much too warm for me.
I then turned my attention to adjusting Brightness and Contrast. If you are familiar with the test patterns to set Brightness, one has three bars in varying shades of gray. When I first displayed that pattern, I could only see one of the bars, no matter how much I boosted the Brightness control.
I was perplexed because I couldn't imagine that this TV would perform this way. Finally, I decided to look at the Black Level setting on the Pioneer Blu-ray player. With a simple bump up one notch on the player, the three bars reappeared on the pattern and I was able to fine tune the Brightness level on the TV. It was a classic reminder to me of the interrelationship of AV components.
Beyond the basic Color and Tint controls, Mitsubishi provides a powerful utility called PerfectColor. Its sliders allow you to adjust saturation for six individual colors, Magenta, Red, Yellow, Green, Cyan and Blue.
With my red, blue, and green filter card that comes with the Digital Video Essentials DVD, I felt I could really zero in my settings while using a color bar test pattern as a reference source. More importantly, the PerfectColor controls allow you to subtly shift a program's colors to match your eye.
Interestingly, last year's LT-40134 also supplied a PerfectTint feature which adjusted the six hues. The LT-46148 does not offer it. Also, the
LT-40134 included a Deep Field Imager switch, which dynamically enhances black levels. It, too, is missing.
For me, practically, I didn't feel deprived of either. I felt comfortable that with the tools provided I could hone the picture to my aesthetic.
Now, about the Mitsubishi's Smooth120Hz Film Motion feature, in theory, 120 Hz displays will smooth out fast camera moves, which if seen at 60 Hz would tend to stutter.
If you think that you can't see this judder effect, a stress test demo is included in the Global sub-menu of the AV menu. The screen is split in half, the right side is at 60 Hz, the left at 120. Speeding across the bottom is a horizontal scroll of typed words. On the right side, the letters are jittering as if they just gulped three Espressos in a row. On the left, they settle as if they just ingested a double dose of muscle relaxers.
You can't deny the judder in such an example, but in the real world, networks like CNN have learned the proper speed so their scrolls don't jitter like a chain smoker's hands before his first drag of the day. Simply, most people won't notice the difference between 60 and 120 Hz displays as they are viewing their normal programs.
Of course, if you are particularly perturbed by judder, then the Smooth120Hz Film Motion feature might be just for you. Though I would suggest leaving it turned off unless you encounter an especially stuttering program. The manual advises to turn it Off if the Standard or High setting causes noise. And I did notice an occasional juddering artifact when it was turned on.
Once again, it would be peachy if all the content sources were standardized and we could apply one setting for all of the programs we watch, but with the proliferation of formats, that's a pipe dream.
Because of that Brightness snafu, it took me a couple of laps around the track before I felt comfortable with the images that I was seeing. But once I settled into a groove, watching Blu-ray movies was a delight.
In the travelogue sequences in The Bucket List - the Pyramids, the Himalayas, the Taj Mahal - I felt like a lucky accidental tourist. If I had any quibbles, the image was too sharp. I realized afterwards that I had not dropped the Sharpness level enough to suit me. Once I did, I was content.
The LT-46148 also did a great job of rendering Caleb Deschanel's lush cinematography in The Spiderwick Chronicles. The colors were bright yet full-bodied. Hogsqueal's spittle was clearly disgusting.
When I turn to standard definition programs, the image quality is understandably more hit and miss. Even though Mitsubishi heralds technologies like Plush1080p 12-Bit Digital Video Processing, Tru1080p Processing and Color 4D Video Noise Reduction, there is only so much quality that you can massage from an SD image.
Also, don't expect this LCD to produce the same black levels as a plasma display. Each new generation of LCDs seems to be improving on their ability to create deeper blacks. I await the fruition of LED backlighting with local dimming to push LCDs to the next level.
I usually connect my laptop to the TV to see how it substitutes as a computer monitor. Since my laptop only has a VGA out and the LT-46148 does not have a VGA input, I really wasn't able to give it a fair test. The manual does say that through the HDMI input, the TV is compatible with PC digital resolutions up to 1920 x 1080 (60 Hz).
Finally, even though the enclosed speakers can produce acceptable casual TV watching quality, I just feel that Mitsubishi doesn't have its heart in the LT-46148's sound system. The Audio menu is basic with no attempts at aural acrobatics. For example, no sound fields or equalizer controls are included.
I did receive an email last week from Mitsubishi announcing the introduction of their Ultra Thin Frame Premium Flat Panel TV with Integrated Sound Projector (iSP), which is an enclosure that houses a 16-speaker array. I can't wait to hear it. But let me be clear, this sound projector is not part of the LT-46148's package, therefore I continue to suggest purchasing a separate audio system.
The Mitsubishi LT-46148 delivers a bright, colorful picture and provides a capable set of image adjustment tools to keep it looking good. In a home theater setting, the integrated audio should be replaced with a separate sound system.