Mitsubishi Drops DLP Displays: Goodbye RPTVs Forever

A pioneer of big-screen rear projection TVs, Mitsubishi (MEVSA) was the last hold-out in DLP displays, and finally is discontinuing the line as part of a corporate restructuring.

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So long, RPTV—the only big screen I’ve ever known. Meet my family and our 15 years of Mitsubishi in the slideshow below.

By Julie Jacobson
December 01, 2012

Mitsubishi Electric was the last hold-out in the rear projection TV (RPTV) business, and now the company is dropping the line, CE Pro has learned.

Mitsubishi Electrical Visual Solutions America, Inc. (MEVSA), the group in charge of the RPTV and other video product lines for both residential and commercial markets, has sent a letter to authorized service centers (reprinted below) indicating they are “discontinuing the manufacture of 73”, 82” and 92” DLP projection televisions.”

The memo, issued by MEVSA president and CEO Junichi Nose, indicates that the move is part of an “important change in business direction, which will necessitate a corresponding restructuring of the MEVSA organization.”

Nose says MEVSA will continue to be headquartered at its current Irvine, Calif., location and adds, “We expect that these changes will have a minimal effect on you and your business.”

Reached early this morning, Max Wasinger, long-time exec with Mitsubishi’s video products and currently executive vice president of sales and marketing for MEVSA, tells CE Pro, “We are in the midst of an orderly exit from the DLP TV business. MEVSA will now focus on B-to-B (projectors, display wall, printers, digital signage, monitors, etc.) and the home theater projector business.”

TV ANALYST SAYS ...
The microdisplay category had a great run and was really the first “thin” big-screen TV. Unit sales for the microdisplay RPTV category hit point of 2.2M units in 2006. The category remained significant thought 2007, and in 2008 shipments fell dramatically to a little over 500,000 from 1.3M in 2007.  It was in 2008 that we really saw big-screen LCD TV take off, with sales of 52” models over 1.5M.

Recently, the category has remained relevant only in the size 70” and above, with 70” struggling as well this year. Volume for 2011 fell to 210,446 units and this year we are projecting sales flat or below. The rental channel was the category’s main supporter in recent years, but as large flat-screen manufacturing prices declined, the rental channel quickly moved to LCD TVs.—Tamaryn Pratt, principal, Quixel Research.

Wasinger will take on the position of executive vice president of sales for all Mitsubishi Professional Products and solutions. Frank De Martin, vice president of sales for MEVSA, is staying with the organization, Wasinger says.

A Brief History of Mitsubishi and RPTV


Mitsubishi has a storied history in the big-screen RPTV market, launching a 50-inch HD-ready CRT for the home market in the mid-1990s (I had one of the first – see image gallery). CRTs gave way to DLP and other “thinner profile” RPTVs in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and Mitsubishi continued to lead the way.

As with the other key TV manufacturers, Mitsubishi made the shift to flat-panel displays in the early 2000’s, shipping a wide range of LCDs like the other guys. But while other TV makers were phasing out their microdisplays (DLP and LCOS), Mitsubishi continued to innovate in the category.

For example, in 2007, the company unveiled eight LCD flat panels and nine DLP RPTVs.

By 2009, the only other serious RPTV maker, Samsung, exited the category, giving Mitsubishi a virtual monopoly.

The manufacturer took advantage of that position and decided to focus on RPTVs. In early 2011, Mitsubishi exited the overcrowded LCD market and shortly thereafter announced it would cease production of all TVs smaller than 65 inches.

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Frank De Martin (left) and Max Wasinger flank their biggest fan, CE Pro editor Julie Jacobson, 2011

And just after that announcement, the company unveiled a new line of really-big-screen DLPs that were substantially less expensive than any flat panels on the market. For example, the 92-inch WD-92840 retailed for $5,999 when it was introduced. Today, you can pick one up for less than $2,500.

In late 2011, at an expo presented by the buying group Nationwide/Specialty Electronics Nationwide (SEN), Mitsubishi explained its decision to move forward with RPTVs, noting that it is simply the best bang for the buck, and one of the few TV categories that could be profitable for dealers.

Back then, DeMartin discussed a competitor whose 70-inch flat screen – without 3D capabilities – retailed for $3,000

“You can get a 73-inch DLP for $1,599. And by the way, we [the dealer] can give you furniture, 3D glasses, a Blu-ray player and home theater in the box, and you’ll still pay less than $3,000.”

Mitsubishi continued to improve on its televisions with laser technology, which it was the first to introduce in 2008. The top-of-the-line “LaserVue” TVs feature much brighter pictures than traditional DLPs.

The latest model in what is largely regarded as a stunning TV line, is the L75-A96 75-inch LaserVue. It has an MSRP of $6,000 and a street price of about $4,000.

NEXT: My Life with Mitsubishi RPTVs, Memo from MEVSA president

My Life with Mitsubishi RPTVs


Mitsubishi RPTVs are the only big screens I’ve ever owned, starting with one of the first HD-ready CRTs (and clunky external HDTV box) back in the mid-1990s.

That sucker lasted us more than a decade and I never had to replace a bulb, tune it up or anything. I got the TV in Boston, moved it to Minnesota in 2000, moved it to another house in 2005 …

We just kept waiting for it to die, and when it didn’t … we gave it away and purchased a DLP in late 2008: the 60-inch WD-60735 for less than $1,000.

We had a big room and a nice media console, so why not go with a bargain, especially knowing the longevity of a Mitsubishi display?

When it came time to move to California this year, we donated the TV … to my stepson who couldn’t believe his good fortune. It now occupies about one-third of his living room and he can’t make his gamer buddies go away.

The interesting thing about transporting the display to the apartment was how incredibly light the beast was, despite its girth. It practically floated itself to the truck.

On to the next phase of our life. We figured we’d get our first big-screen flat panel but again went with a Mitsubishi RPTV, this time the 73-inch WD-73842 (MSRP $1,799).

We had several reasons for this choice, value-per-inch being one of them, of course.

The other reasons are:

  • We are in a rental and don’t care to mount a big screen, only to have to remove it and patch the wall
  • We have the media console anyway.
  • We were putting the TV and console in a corner, so the edges and depth would disappear anyway; the slenderness of a flat panel would be wasted there. As it is, it looks like a flat screen (see for yourself).
  • We like big, really big—bigger and bigger the older we get

In fact, I was in the midst of writing a review on the product, when I learned of its discontinuation. Sad news for value-minded people like me who like a really big screen.

It’s a fine TV for our space. Unfortunately, we have a really bright room with high windows that aren’t covered, so the picture washes out during the day.

When the sun isn’t streaming through the windows, though, the picture is immaculate – and we are watching it out of the box without calibration.

We have a soundbar, but it isn’t necessary with this set. It has a built-in 16-speaker array with 32 watts of total power.

Or, for surround sound systems, the speaker can be set as the center channel.

The system comes with the full suite of Vudu apps, which isn’t necessary for me since I use a Roku box, which gives me everything I need.

A full review seems a little moot at this point, but I can tell you I would have kept buying what Mitsubishi was selling.

In fact, maybe I’ll pick up a LaserVue model during the fire-sales that are bound to happen.

That would give me the brightness I need, plus RS-232 and IP-based control when we move to a permanent place and install a control system.

[After the break: message from MEVSA president]

VIDEO: Rockin’ around the DLP ... how we watched White Christmas every year: on a big Mitsubishi rear-projection DLP

NOVEMBER 30, 2012

To Our Valued Authorized Service Centers,

Mitsubishi Electrical Visual Solutions America, Inc. (“MEVSA”) will implement an important change in business direction, which will necessitate a corresponding restructuring of the MEVSA organization.

Effective immediately, MEVSA is discontinuing the manufacture of 73”, 82” and 92” DLP projection televisions. MEVSA will continue to be headquartered at the Irvine location and its Parts and Service Department will remain. MEVSA will continue to sell its other product lines, including projectors, data wall products, public displays, digital signage and printers.

We expect that these changes will have a minimal effect on you and your business, as MEVSA will continue to provide its high level of support to its network of dealers, distributors and authorized service centers. MEVSA will, for example, maintain the same websites and 800 numbers that you currently use.

We will keep you informed as to any procedural changes to our service support and warranty websites.

We appreciate your ongoing support of our mutual customers.

Sincerely,

Junichi Nose
President & CEO, Mitsubishi Electrical Visual Solutions America, Inc.



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