I’ve done a lot of research in the past few weeks. Since the beginning of my HDTV adventure, I’ve learned that although very little 1080p content exists on the market, that doesn’t mean purchasing a 1080p set is a bad thing. Sure, the new 1080p DLP HDTV’s have driven the cost down for 720p TV’s, but that’s a good thing. The consumer has more choices.
If you are considering the purchase of a 61” DLP HDTV or larger, you should seriously consider the extra resolution of the 1080p DLP market. This is especially true for HDTV’s that are in the 71” and higher market.
My den isn’t big enough for a huge DLP. I’m limiting my choices to the 52–58” range. There are a number of nifty sets to consider so here is what made my short list:
HP Pavilion MD5880n 58" 1080p Microdisplay TV – at first glance, you might consider this set butt ugly. Trust me, it grows on you. The mat black case absorbs light and glare. The speakers on the side simulate surround sound. The bottom has a flip open front cover where all of the component connections are.
This HDTV also has a number of other market differentiators. First, the HDMI ports are v1.2 and accept 1080p signals. This will certainly help “future proof” the investment of an expensive DLP. The theory is that eventually (in 12–24 months) we’ll have HD-DVD or Blu Ray players that deliver 1080p movies in 24, 30 or 60 frames per second.
The HP set has a bunch of component, VGA and CableCard connections. This makes it very flexible for HTPC, Cable, Satellite and fibre set top box connections.
The word on the street is that the picture quality (color, contrast, black levels, etc.) are all outstanding and the HP units received rave reviews at CEDIA, Sound and Vision magazine, AVSforum, etc. All of the reviews are preliminary since the units aren’t on show room floors at the time of this writing. One of the kewl things about being a Microsoft employee, and being a strategic partner with HP is the Employee Purchase Program (EPP) discount. If they offer some decent extended warranty options, this will likely be the winner for me.
Toshiba Cinema Series 56MX195 1080p DLP HDTV – like the HP, this HDTV has gotten its fair share of good reviews. It has a little brother (the 56HM195) that can be seen at Sears. I’m going to go see the MX in Dallas to check out the picture quality. The difference between the HM and MX is the addition of a VGA and Ethernet connection on the MX. I want the VGA connection for my Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 pc.
Unfortunately, this 1080p HDTV is similar to the rest of the market as far as the connections are concerned. The HDMI ports only accept 1080i. There’s still hope however because like many of the DLP’s, it has IEEE 1394 Firewire 400 ports. Once again, in theory this will allow for HD-DVD or Blu Ray DVD drives to play 1080p content. It’s still to early to tell when that will happen.
Another cool feature of the 56MX195 is the ethernet connection. This connection is designed to support the Toshiba Home Interactive Network Connection (THINC). I haven’t seen a precise description of the scope of this feature, but as far as I can tell it’s for playing music, picture slides shows, etc. by using your home network and any computer sources you may have.
I should probably check to see if I get an employee discount. The Toshiba sets are already priced at the bottom of the 1080p market yet the reviews suggest the picture quality is close to the top, of not the top. Seems like a good combination to me.
Mitsubishi WD-52628 1080p DLP HDTV – like the HP set, the Mits has a nice mat black case the absorbs light and glare. I am a little disappointed Mitsubishi did not include a VGA port. It isn’t a show stopper but it would be nice to have either a DVI or VGA port.
Instead, Mitsubishi decided to have three HDTV component connections in the back. It would be nice for every DLP HDTV to have three component connections. I purchased the BFG Tech NVIDIA 6600 for my HTPC. The 6600 allows me to connect to a HDTV by DVI, DVI->HDMI, DVI->VGA, DVI->VGA->VGA, component and S-Video. The Mits limits me to the component and HDMI connections with a max resolution of 1080i. That’s still pretty good and don’t forget, all of the 1080p HDTV’s upscale any incoming signal to 1080p.
I really like the picture quality of the Mitsubishi. I’ve spent a lot of time walking through the menus, doing side-by-side comparisons with the Samsung’s, and watching the reviews at AVSForum. The reviews have been very good and many claim the picture quality is superior to the Samsung. The on screen navigation of the menus seems slow to me.
The Mits is carried at nearly all of the brick and mortar stores in my area. It appears margins are smaller on the Mits because I haven’t seen and sale prices like the Samsung. I have noticed some of the sales people are motivated to try and sell the Mits. It appears Mitsubishi is offering some spiffs to help motivate the sales force.
Samsung HL-R5668W 1080p DLP HDTV – this was the first kid on the block. As you might guess, the picture quality is great and I love the floating bezel design. This HDTV has a VGA port, HDMI, component, etc. However, like most of the HDTV’s, none of the connections support 1080p except the VGA port. This set is widely popular and carried by many online and brick retailers.
Dealers are generally asking premium prices for this set and for good reason. The picture quality is good, it upscales all signals to 1080p nicely and has a great support channel. I saw the first discounts at Fry’s this week. They’ve been on the market the longest and the field is getting crowded so it’s nice to see the prices start to drop.
To be continued…