In Issue 64, I reviewed the superb new Sony KDS-R60XBR1 1080p SXRD rear-projection set and predicted that DLP competitors might be nipping at its heels this year. Little did I know just how true this would be—or how soon. But a week later, when I got around to setting up the Toshiba 62HM195 62- inch 1080p DLP RPTV, I was shocked not only at the picture I was able to get, but also how well this much cheaper set ($1300 less) compared to the groundbreaking Sony.
The 62HM195 is way better than the last Toshiba DLP set I reviewed in these pages (Issue 59). I won’t prematurely proclaim this to be the king of DLP RPTVs this year, but read on and you’ll see why it impressed me.
DLP and plasma are the only fully digital display technologies available today. By that, I mean that a digital signal at the HDMI input remains digital until it actually reaches your eyes. That’s right—your eyes are the digital-to-analog converter. This seems to be the ultimate way to display video, but there is an ongoing debate about just how hard the human brain must work to function as a DAC and whether or not this causes viewing fatigue.
DLP’s second potential problem is the so-called rainbow effect due to the rotating color wheel, which annoys some people to no end. Anyone can see these rainbows with rapid eye movement while watching specifically selected images, but most people don’t notice them with realworld program material. With this Toshiba set, I was never bothered by either of these potential drawbacks (though I did hate the rainbows on earlier DLP front projectors). But if you’re one of the few who are hypersensitive to rainbows, you probably won’t want any single-chip DLP display.
All 1080p rear-projection DLP sets this year use the same Texas Instruments 1080p chip with Smooth- Picture, which shifts the image produced by an array of 960x1080 micromirrors rapidly back and forth to produce a 1920x1080 picture. Earlier implementations of this socalled wobulation technology produced unusual artifacts, but I saw none with this set (and I went out of my way to look for them).
Like LCoS and LCD projectors, DLP displays are powered by an expensive light bulb. This makes it easy to restore “like new” performance years in the future, but there is some question as to how often the bulb should be replaced. This probably depends more on the bulb design than the video technology, but some of the best DLP front projectors exhibit deteriorated performance after only 1000 viewing hours. Toshiba has thoughtfully provided a low-power bulb setting that should significantly extend the useful life of the bulb while, at the same time, reducing black level and only slightly reducing subjective picture brightness.
The 62HM195 is filled with deluxe features, yet its menu system and basic operation are highly simplified. Some consumers will want the Sony’s useful and potent image-enhancement controls and its ability to be tweaked to the nines, while others will welcome the Toshiba’s lack of complexity.
Highlights include a CableCARD slot for digital cable sans cable box, slots for various memory cards (for picture viewing and playing MP3s), two HDMI inputs, an integrated ATSC tuner (for off-air digital reception via antenna), TV Guide On Screen (a free interactive program guide), and TheaterNet for onscreen control of external components via IR blasters.
TV Guide On Screen is a particularly notable feature. In addition to giving you a free program guide for your own geographic area (antenna and cable but not satellite), it also allows you to search for and schedule recordings (a la TiVo) to a VCR or Toshiba’s new Symbio hard-disk recorder. Other FireWire-connected recorders might work, but Toshiba doesn’t guarantee it. If you receive programming with a cable box and/or record with a VCR, Toshiba’s G-LINK connection and IR blasters are provided to synchronize those components with TV Guide On Screen. Setting up this feature for your particular situation is easy. All you have to do is answer a series on onscreen questions.
The multi-product remote control is the fairly intuitive, backlit design that Toshiba has used for years, though it’s gotten a bit more complex lately. I had to memorize the location of the INPUT button that seemed out of place, but at least you can switch inputs (which can be custom labeled or hidden entirely) with two button pushes rather than having to scroll through a long list. Unfortunately, you must go a few layers into the menu system to find the signalstrength meter for off-air digital-station tuning.
Getting the best picture from this set was fairly easy, especially since there aren’t very many controls to tweak. Three picture modes are provided (SPORTS, STANDARD, and MOVIE). If you change a setting in any mode, the mode will be called PREFERENCE, and your settings will be remembered for that input.