MM36100 Digital TV
Screen Doubles as Computer Monitor
By Jim Bray
RCA's MM36100 Digital
TV is 190 pounds of real home theater excitement.
It's a 36 inch "direct
view" (as opposed to "projection") TV that offers a great picture and
has enough other technological toys crammed into it to treat technophiles
The MM36100 is the
"entry level" ($2499!) model in RCA's Digital High Resolution series and
can show up to 864,000 pixels, or 930 lines of Horizontal Resolution.
This means it'll handle just about any signal you'd care to throw at it
short of HDTV, and if you add an optional "set top" box you can approach
that quality, too - though you won't get HDTV's 16x9 widescreen aspect
The TV's also an excellent
example of the technological "convergence" that's seeing television becoming
available on computers, while computers are raising their pretty little
heads just about everywhere else. No kidding!
This TV set also doubles
as a REALLY BIG computer monitor in a beautiful bit of flexibility that's
sure to please anyone who wants to play PC games in the family room. As
long as you have a PC in the family room, of course.
I don't normally have
a PC there, but I wasn't about to let the opportunity slip away, either
- so I dragged my PC from my home office, plugged it into the big RCA,
and fired it up.
Wow! There's something
almost decadent about sitting on the couch, with your feet up on the coffee
table and a wireless keyboard/mouse on your lap, writing your latest column,
surfing the Internet, or playing "Age of Empires" on this giant monitor.
It doesn't seem like work.
I was initially disappointed
to discover that, as a PC monitor, the RCA only displays 800x600 (SVGA)
pixels. I generally run 1280x1024 on my 19" PC monitor, so the lower resolution
seemed claustrophobic. It didn't take much "real world use", however,
to discover that a higher resolution probably wouldn't have worked well
anyway, because icons and the like would be too darn small to read from
across the room.
So 800x600 is actually
a pretty smart compromise; it's also a resolution with which many people
are already comfortable.
The average consumer
may not use the MM36100 as a computer monitor, but if it's something you
crave, it's there.
As a TV, the big RCA
has lots of stuff to love. Its picture quality is very good indeed, especially
if you set it up properly using test patterns like those offered on discs
like the "Video Essentials" DVD. Once
properly tweaked, and when using high quality video sources like DVD or
DBS, the MM36100 looks great.
The curving surface
of the large screen leads to potential problems with washout from your
room lights (my home theater's cursed with this at the best of times,
unfortunately), and there's some distortion evident when straight lines
are displayed, but it's never really annoying.
Besides, evils like
that are more than made up for by the wonderful size (especially when
watching movies) and the fine picture quality.
The TV also includes
dbx noise reduction and SRS (Sound Retreival System) audio that gives
a surround effect from its built in speakers. Sound quality is about what
you'd expect from a TV: it's fine for TV programs, but in a home theater
environment you're far better off patching it into your A/V receiver and
using your main speakers.
There are seven sets
of Audio/Video inputs, including RCA/S-Video jacks, a Component input
(for real high end video performance - and it makes a surprisingly big
difference), 2 PC monitor inputs, and front-mounted A/V and USB Ports.
Outputs include a
pair of fixed (constant level) audio and one pair of variable.
And there's more,
including Picture in Picture, a "3-Line Digital Comb Filter" (which separates
black-and-white detail from color data to prevent them from fighting),
and RCA's Dark-Tint, High-Contrast Picture Tube. The tuner can receiver
up to 181 channels of junk, and you can control access to them with the
The TV's set up menu
is easy to navigate (and to figure out!) and once you've chosen your preferred
settings you can store them in memory.
The universal remote
is pretty easy to use, though there's a bit of a learning curve.
Living with this big
RCA was a hoot. It ain't cheap, but it's sure fun to watch!
Jim Bray's technology columns are distributed by the TechnoFILE and Mochila Syndicates. Copyright Jim Bray.
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