Editors' note (March 4, 2010): The rating on this product has been lowered because of changes in the competitive marketplace, including the release of 2010 models. The review has not otherwise been modified. Click here for more information.
If the heyday of the gigantic-screen rear-projection HDTV is over, somebody needs to tell Mitsubishi. The company is the sole remaining proprietor pushing out 60-inch-plus TVs too thick to hang on the wall and too inexpensive to merit a cameo on MTV's "Cribs." Its 2009 lineup features two series of what it calls home theater TVs--to differentiate from its flat-panels--and the WD-737 is the cheapest. The main reason for buying this TV is to get as much screen for as little money as possible, and the WD-737 series fulfills that role admirably. It can't match the black-level performance of most flat-panels we've tested, it has some uniformity issues unique to its category and of course you'll eventually need to replace the bulb. However, the replacement is relatively inexpensive ($99, plus shipping), color accuracy is very good, and did we mention the picture is gi-normous? If you want to go really big for less, the WD-737 series is the only game in town.
Series note: We performed a hands-on evaluation of the 65-inch Mitsubishi WD-65737, but this review also applies to the other screen sizes in the WD-737 series: the 60-inch Mitsubishi WD-60737, the 73-inch Mitsubishi WD-73737, and the 82-inch Mitsubishi WD-82737. All of the sizes share identical specifications and should produce very similar picture quality.
The Mitsubishi WD-737 is basically a big black box. The first thing we noticed after the size, and the decidedly nonflat depth, was the company's laudable decision to make the business side of the TV nearly all screen. A half-inch-thick border that would seem tiny even on a 26-inch TV surrounds the Mitsubishi's massive screen on the top and sides, while the cabinet measures seven inches tall on the bottom. Matte black is used along the edge of the picture and a glossy finish is relegated to the lower lip of the bottom cabinet panel, below a smile-shaped arc that hides the speakers. A flip-down door on the front panel conceals a few controls, but no inputs or memory card slots.
As much as we didn't mind the utilitarian styling of the TV itself, we couldn't stand the remote control. Where to begin? A confusing jumble of same-size keys surrounds a Tinkerbell-size cursor control that's all-but-unusable (unfortunately, operating the TV requires using it all the time). The four main function buttons blend together, none of the keys are illuminated and all are hard to tell apart by feel or location. There's also no dedicated key to switch aspect ratio. You can use the remote to control up to four other pieces of gear, but you probably won't want to. A universal remote is almost a necessity with this TV, if only so you can put the horrendous included clicker away forever.
Mitsubishi's new "Activity" system introduces a solution to a problem that doesn't exist: changing inputs. It replaces a standard, perfectly functional input selection toggle with items like "Watch TV" and "Watch DVD," which you can assign to one or more renameable inputs. It's a good idea in concept, but in practice we found it confusing. Unnamed and unassigned inputs, for example, automatically appear under "Watch TV," regardless of what activity they're actually used for; there's no easy way to incorporate an AV receiver; and the Activity key on the remote will confound people looking for a more conventionally named button.
The menu system itself is nearly as poorly-conceived as the remote. Often the menu would pause for a second, displaying an hourglass, before responding, and a couple of times it failed to respond at all. Counterintuitively, it required us to press "enter" instead of the down arrow to move into a submenu directly below the main menu selection (we can't tell you how many times we messed this up and had to go back). Few of the menu items are accompanied by text explanations.
On the plus side, we appreciated the "More" menu that provided shortcuts to often-used functions such as audio and video presets or aspect ratio. Compared with previous years, however, Mitsubishi's menu and remote design have definitely taken a step backward.
As Mitsubishi's entry-level lineup of DLP TVs, the WD-737 is equipped with the basics yet missing a couple of the step-up options found on the more-expensive WD-837 models. The most prominent omissions are PerfectTint controls and the NetCommand system, which lets the TV control other AV gear using an IR blaster system and an on-screen interface.
Notably, neither series of Mitsubishi DLP-based TVs have an LED lighting system, as Samsung's excellent A750 series from last year. Instead Mitsubishi stuck with the standard lamp-based system. The company won't provide an estimated lamp life, but the warranty period for the lamp is one year, and replacement lamps are just $99 plus shipping and tax. For more info on how DLP technology operates in general, check out our guide to rear-projection HDTVs.
Mitsubishi has significantly improved its picture controls over last year. The company offers four picture modes, three of which are adjustable using basic parameters and a fourth, called "ADV," that finally offers a selection of many of the more-advanced picture adjustments found on other HDTVs. Those basic controls include a choice of two color temperature presets, a three-position noise reduction control, an edge enhancement option, and a "Deep Field Imager" that automatically tweaks contrast and brightness. There's also PerfectColor function for adjusting color decoding, a Film Mode setting that engages 2:3 pull-down, and a "Smooth 120Hz" option said to smooth out motion (it does not, however, introduce dejudder processing). Check out Performance for more details.
Engaging ADV mode calls up a menu that looks almost like a service menu, not a user menu, with a smorgasbord of advanced options all conveniently summarized at once. They include gamma presets, gain and cut controls for fine-tuning color temperature, a full color management system, and even horizontal and vertical positioning. We also appreciated the blue-only mode for adjusting color saturation and tint without having to use filters. The ADV mode on the WD-737 models offers one independent input memory per input, while the step-up WD-837 models get two.
Mitsubishi also highlights the "3D-ready" aspect of its DLP TVs, but the main real-world use for this feature is computer gaming. You'll need special graphics drivers and glasses to use the WD-737's 3D feature, as well as a compatible PC. Current systems that work with the TV include Nvidia's 3D Vision and DDD. We didn't test this feature for this review, but CNET did review the Nvidia system separately.
The WD-737 provides three aspect ratio selections for high-definition sources and a healthy six for standard definition. The HD sources do not include a "dot-by-dot" mode as seen on most 1080p flat-panel displays because the rear-projection Mitsubishi must preserve some overscan along the edges of the image.
The set isn't equipped with picture-in-picture or a mode that freezes the image, and there's no specific energy saving mode to cut down on power consumption. However, it is extremely efficient on a watts-per-square-inch basis compared with most flat-panel LCD and plasma TVs.