By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Although a demonstration of its forthcoming laser-based DLP TV line drew most of the buzz, Mitsubishi recently showed dealers and the press here most of its 2008 TV lines, all of which have been positioned for placement in the "premium" retail tier.
For the first time, the company revealed LaserVue as the name of its laser-based rear-projection HDTV models, which will be formally introduced in June and shipped to dealers in the third quarter.
The company also showcased some of the first LaserVue pre-production models and offered a shootout against comparably sized flat-panel LCD and plasma sets. The LaserVue models, with 1080p resolution, seemed to present significantly higher levels of contrast, black level and color saturation compared to flat-panel samples. However, executives withheld specifications, screen sizes and pricing details until this summer.
Among the rest of the lineup, the company showed three UHP-lamp-based 1080p DLP TV lines and three 1080p flat-panel LCD TV lines, featuring new advanced features and cabinet styling.
Frank DeMartin, Mitsubishi Digital Electric America marketing VP, said the company opted to position its entire assortment as "premium lines" this year in an effort to distance itself from the pricing pressures that continue to increase in the entry and middle tier segments of the flat-panel and rear-projection TV business.
The company is working with dealers that can sell the benefits and features of its products without relying on heavy price promotion. It has also opted to no longer offer derivative models.
"We wanted to find a way for us to stay out of the fray, and to find a way to offer our dealers a way to be profitable," DeMartin said. "There are plenty of lines out there that they can get crazy with. There was no sense for us to get in there. There have never really been true premium LCD products."
Instead of spending heavily on promoting the brand as a premium LCD TV line, DeMartin said Mitsubishi plans to lean more on dealers to help it create a new image as a high-performance LCD TV supplier this year.
"The bottom line is that retailers that promote your brand are going to make money on your brand. If they are making money on your line, they are going to sell you all day and all night," DeMartin said.
Meanwhile, Mitsubishi will continue to aggressively pursue the DLP rear-projection business, but in light of the declining ranks of rear-projection TV brands, Mitsubishi this year has opted to downplay the name "rear projection" in favor of "60-inch and above big screen," to underscore the price advantage of DLP in the 60-inch and larger screen sizes. It is also opting to stress the LaserVue name for its lineup of laser-based DLP sets coming in the third quarter of 2008.
"We talk about 60-inch and above as a category," said Max Wasinger, Mitsubishi sales and marketing senior VP. "Sixty-inch and above is still a vibrant, substantial part of the business, and still a vital part of our dealers' opportunities to do business going forward."
The UHP-lamp-based DLP line will include three series this year including the 735, 736 and 835 series. All offer 1080p HDTV resolution, Texas Instruments' new Dark Chip 4 digital micromirror device, an improved five-color wheel, thinner frames, increased brightness, HDMI-CEC control and 3-D-ready capability. All DLP models will also include the company's six-color processor to enhance color saturation.
Mitsubishi expects Hollywood's renewed interest in 3-D movies — with the forthcoming home theater release of "Beowulf" and others — to help spark interest in its DLP products later this year. The Mitsubishi line will support use of 3-D glasses offered by several third-party suppliers to create the effect.
The step-up 735 DLP series will include the 60- ($1,799 suggested retail), 65- ($2,199) and 73-inch ($3,199) screen sizes.
The 736 series will include the 65- ($2,499) and 73-inch ($3,599) screen sizes. Step-up features include a different cosmetic design, wired IR, NetCommand, DeepField Imager contrast enhancement and a front HDMI input.
The 835 Diamond DLP series will feature the 65- ($3,399) and 73-inch ($4,699) screen sizes. Features include step-up cosmetic design with blue-light accents, Smooth120Hz frame-rate conversion, wired IR, NetCommand and Dark Detailer, which enhances image detail in dark areas.
The LCD lineup, which will ship in May, includes the 148, 149 and 246 Diamond series. All offer 1080p HD resolution, 120Hz frame rates and ultra-thin frame bezels, measuring smaller than 1-inch thick. The 120Hz frame-rate technology also has been improved this year with "de-judder" technology to smooth out motion in images.
In the conversion of film-to-video, 24Hz artifacts can be seen in slow panning scenes. Mitsubishi's 120Hz Film Motion technology is said to eliminate the artifacts for smooth fast or slow moving content.
The Diamond series will add a variable control of de-judder effect to enable film lovers to dial up or down the judder effect to keep the feel of film, the company said.
All LCD TVs also use 10-bit panels, a six-color processor, x.v.Color and Deep Color capability.
All LCD models will also play still frame images from GalleryPlayer using a thumb drive that will plug into an included USB 2.0 port on each set.
The 148 LCD TV series, which Mitsubishi said "is not an entry level line at all," will include the 40- ($2,499), 46- ($2,999) and 52-inch ($3,599) screen sizes.
The 246 Diamond series will include the 46- ($3,799) and 52-inch ($4,499) screen sizes. Step-up features will include the aforementioned Variable Smooth120Hz Film Motion system, DeepField Imager for higher contrast imagery, a high-gloss cabinet design with blue-light accents, and a low-profile speaker design. Sound is also improved through optimized speaker apertures.
DeMartin said Mitsubishi is looking at using RGB LED backlighting in future LCD products, but, "We felt it wasn't right yet. One of the big issues is cost, among other factors."
Mitsubishi said it is also considering introducing its first Blu-ray Disc player later this year.
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