|Honeywell Altura MLX 42-inch 1080p 10-bit HDTV|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Monitor | HDTV|
|Written by Olin Coles|
|Friday, 14 November 2008|
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Altura MLX Series Functionality
Most tech-savvy home-theater buffs can pick up the remote control to any consumer electronic and within minutes have the device programmed to their custom settings. I'm one of those people; groomed by a childhood of setting up the new VCR to record the families favorite shows and putting together the game console for the children. So when it comes to the menu on an HDTV, I want it to be as standard and traditional as possible. Televisions are not a new invention, and the configuration menu shouldn't try to re-invent the wheel. Honeywell agrees.
The Altura MLX on-screen menu can be navigated with by even the most novice user, primarily because of a very ergonomic menu layout. I found it pleasantly simple to auto-scan the channels into memory, and later refine my available choices by simply checking a box beside the channel. This feature made life much easier as I used the Electronic Program Guide to display the scheduled programming for each channel I visit. Once you've got your channels narrowed down, the Honeywell remote can be configured to remember you favorites or programmed to work as any of your other remotes (a remote code guide is at the end of the manual).
The Altura is not without it's technical features, of which there are more than a few, but this is where the 100+ page manual comes into play. After madly pressing the PiP button on the remote, I later learned that this feature wasn't included on the 42" MLX series. In place of this feature is a myriad of more feature-rich high-end functions, such as Dolby Digial decode or PCM. The picture controls allow for either custom manual 'User' settings, or one of three pre-defined viewing modes: Soft, Standard, or Vivid. The custom 'User' profile allows manual adjustment of Brightness, Contrast, Saturation, Hue, Sharpness, Color Temperature, and an 'Advanced Video' item which brings up a sub-menu. The Advanced Video menu allows you to adjust Dynamic Noise Reduction, Black Level Extender, White Peak Limiter, Color Transient Intensity, Flesh Tone, and Adaptive Luma Control. Clearly, the Altura is built to please both casual and enthusiast viewers.
120Hz 10-Bit Performance
I can recall the first time a 720p and 1080p were directly compared side by side with the same movie clip. It was apparent that True HD (as 1080p) is referred to was far superior to it's less mature sibling. So when I first experienced a 120Hz HDTV with 10-bit color depth, it left 1080p performance so far behind I was stunned. Very literally, stunned. The crisp clarity I enjoyed with Blu-Ray Disc movies at 1080p was very nice, but the picture never 'stood out' at me the way it did on the Altura. While the 120Hz/10-bit technology is not a Honeywell exclusive, there's such a difference over 1080p that it sets these HDTV products in a whole new category. Every HD movie I watched, including standard DVD and over-the-air HD broadcasts, had a 3D realism that was never before seen on other HDTVs. I could go on for days about how it still makes me feel a little uneasy about watching video with such realistic dimension and color, but the best example I can offer is convincing you to demo the technology in a showroom. See it there, and understand it here.
The Truth Behind HDMI Cables
After purchasing my first HDTV a few years ago, I was hit with the unexpected high cost of an HDMI cable. There's a lot of competition in the aftermarket HDMI cable industry, and the sad truth is that there's no benefit to be gained by using an overpriced digital cable. To understand what I mean, you must first understand digital transmission technology. Much like your digital monitor cable (DVI), the HDMI cable streams uncompressed digital audio and video signal from the source to the device. The source transmit the data in a binary form, and the viewing device (the HDTV) decodes the data. Perfect in - perfect out, as the saying goes. Unlike analog cables which were prone to suffer signal loss from EMI or 'electrical noise', digital data streams do not degrade; either the signal is present, or it's not. Nevertheless, some consumers insist on over-paying for their digital cables.
Honeywell satisfies both sides of the argument, and includes a premium HDMI v1.3b certified compliant cable which saves you (a lot) of money while delivering the best possible signal. Although all previous versions of HDMI have had more than enough bandwidth to support all current HDTV formats, HDMI 1.3 increases its single-link bandwidth to 340 MHz (10.2 Gbps) to support the demands of future HD display devices, such as higher resolutions, Deep Color and high frame rates. In addition, built into the HDMI 1.3 specification is the technical foundation that will let future versions of HDMI reach significantly higher speeds. Nevertheless, Honeywell let's you keep your analog cable mentality by including several features which make their HDMI cable what I consider to be triple fail-proof by using a dielectric process for optimum signal strength, high-density triple-shielding for maximum rejection of (irrelevant) RFI and EMI, and gold-plated connectors for optimal signal transfer and corrosion resistance.
There are still some good reasons why the added protection seems necessary from a digital cable. For example, HDMI v1.3 supports 10-bit, 12-bit and 16-bit (RGB or YCbCr) color depths, up from the 8-bit depths in previous versions of the HDMI specification, for rendering over one billion colors. Because consumer electronics devices are using increasingly complex digital signal processing to enhance the clarity and detail of the content, synchronization of video and audio in user devices has become a greater challenge and could potentially require complex end-user adjustments. HDMI 1.3 incorporates automatic audio synching capabilities that allows devices to perform this synchronization automatically with total accuracy. In addition to HDMI's current ability to support high-bandwidth uncompressed digital audio and all currently-available compressed formats (such as Dolby Digital and DTS), HDMI v1.3 adds additional support for new lossless compressed digital audio formats Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio. Regardless, a $2 HDMI cable will provide the exact same quality as a $200 cable, so long as it's got a working connection at both ends.
Honeywell HDTV Warranty
Honeywell touts a five-year warranty, which by our estimates is far better than nearly all other LCD HDTV manufacturers currently offer. Under closer inspection, Benchmark Reviews discovered that certain limitation and exclusions apply.