Mitsubishi LT-46148 46-Inch HDTV LCD Review

When it comes to appearance, you can either go with a distinctive frame (such as Samsung's recent 'Touch of Color' sets) or one that attempts to slim down to the point of invisibility. The LT-46148 goes with the latter route, and is all the better for it; there's a mere 3/4-inch at the top and down the sides, while the bottom bulges to 3-inches thanks to the speakers. Anybody expecting similarly waif-like depth will be surprised, though: at just under 5-inches (excluding the base) the LT-46148 is far from being the thinnest HDTV. Plastics are gloss-black and seem high quality, with no noticeable flex or creak when rotating the Mitsubishi on its swivel stand. You can twist the set a full sixty degrees (30 off center in each direction).

Mitsubishi have obviously saved the inches for the LCD panel itself, and there's a full catalog of buzzwords to go along with it. SimplayHD, X.v.Color, Deep Color, Plush1080p, PerfectColor, Full Spectrum Color and Tru1080p Processing all get a mention, but the one they seem most proud of is Smooth120Hz Film Motion. More on that later, but it basically promises to remove jitter from fast camera moves and speedily scrolling text.

Inputs are almost as comprehensive as you might expect from a high-end HDTV, including four HDMI 1.3, two S-Video, one composite video/audio, three component video, three stereo audio and a single USB port. There's also a set of composite video/audio outputs and a coaxial digital audio output. Since the LT-46148 has two built-in NTSC/ATSC/Clear QAM tuners, you can hook up your cable TV connection directly to either of the RF antenna inputs and it will happily tune to any unscrambled channels.

When we say "almost as comprehensive", the two obvious omissions are VGA and ethernet. Both are surprising absences, the former as it's generally a mainstay of flat-panel displays given that many users choose to hook up their PC, and the latter because the HDTV company the LT-46148 keeps generally has the ability to get online. Functionality varies – from basic news and weather headlines to streaming content – but with the Mitsubishi the only digital media provision is viewing JPEG photos from an attached USB memory key. The menu system is basic and there are few slideshow settings.

Of course, if your computer has an HDMI port (or you have a DVI port and use an HDMI/DVI adapter cable) you can connect it to one of the LT-46148's four HDMI inputs. Maximum supported PC resolution is 1920 x 1080.

What the Mitsubishi has that many don't, however, is the NetCommand Home Network Control System. That's a convoluted way of saying infrared remote control, but it doesn't mean the system is any less useful. Plug the IR cable into the appropriate port and, with the emitters sitting in front of any connected DVD, PVR or Blu-ray box, the supplied learning remote will control them all. That way, all that needs to be on show is the HDTV itself; everything else can be hidden away in a cabinet. Factor in some time to teach the backlit remote control all of the appropriate commands; unlike, say, some of the more recent universal remotes there's no quick way to bypass teaching individual button presses.

Connected up, there's a wide degree of tweaking possible to get the LT-46148's picture exactly as you want it. From the 'Video' menu there are contrast, brightness, color, tint, sharpness, color temperature ('High' or 'Low') and backlight settings, together with factory presets (Brilliant, Game, Bright and Natural). PerfectColor, which you might remember from the swathe of buzzwords earlier, offers six sliders for individual color adjustments (magenta, red, yellow, green, cyan and blue).

One thing you won't find in the Mitsubishi is anything like Samsung's SmartLighting (found on its recent high-end HDTVs) which can selectively shut off or boost areas of backlighting independently. That allows pixels to show deeper blacks or, alternatively, brighter areas, effectively boosting the contrast range. Blacks on the LT-46148, like with many LCDs, are more dark grey, although there's happily only a little of the greenish tint that sometimes affects low-light pictures.

Mitsubishi's much-vaunted Smooth120Hz Film Motion system promises to iron out the jutter you might get watching footage at 60Hz, and in practice it's something of a mixed bag. Preloaded onto the HDTV is a split-screen demo, comparing scrolling text at 120Hz and 60Hz, and watching that example could make anyone a believer: the slower pane is painfully jumpy, the faster pane effortlessly smooth.

In real-world use, while fast camera pans can be glossed over (we found text seldom scrolls fast enough to cause a problem in the first place, even on the most chaotic of news channels) the flip-side is that Smooth120Hz can introduce artifacts of its own. They're relatively rare, but enough for us to leave the setting switched off unless media particularly demanded it (and it seldom did). Frankly the Mitsubishi was sufficiently blur free without it.

In action, then, the LT-46148 performs strikingly well, the combination of panel size and a broad, rich and accurate palatte of colors adding up to very watchable high-definition video. A copy of Shrek was almost too vivid until we tweaked the brightness and saturation down, while the Mitsubishi made a good attempt with the gloom of Batman Begins.

Standard definition is, of course, less satisfying. Several of the Mitsubishi buzzwords describe the LT-46148's attempt to upscale non-HD footage to as high a resolution as possible, and while they do a fairly reasonable job you're never going to mistake it for 1080p (or even 720p).

Similarly anaemic are the speakers, a simple stereo pair with a total 20W output. Mitsubishi obviously expect buyers to slot the LT-46148 into at least a 2.1 channel amplified setup (better still, full surround sound) and, after spending this amount of money on a 46-inch screen, you'd be crazy not to. Anything primarily talk-based – the news, then, or spoken-word documentary – is passable, but we were far happier with standalone speakers added.

Budget for that, though, and most are unlikely to be disappointed with the performance on offer from the LT-46148. It's a capable and visually pleasing HDTV, with rich (and highly tweakable) colors together with a discrete, non-distracting design. If you primarily watch dark and gloomy films then you might do better waiting for a set with LED backlighting that, as with the Samsung SmartLighting, promises deeper blacks. Anybody else, looking for a decent HDTV without too many fripperies, should have the Mitsubishi LT-46148 on their shortlist.