|Mitsubishi HC3000 DLP Video Projector|
|Home Theater Front Projectors DLP Projectors|
|Written by Kevin Miller|
|Saturday, 01 April 2006|
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There has never been a better time to take the plunge into a big-screen, front-projection home theater. Why, you ask? Two reasons: the products available have never been better in terms of picture quality and performance, and the prices have never been this affordable. A virtual plethora of front projectors are on the market in the $3,000 to $5,000 range, vying for your hard-earned dollars. The two technologies in front projection in this price range are LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) and DLP (Digital Light Processing). I tend to prefer the latter over LCD, because DLP, when designed well, provides superior picture quality, due mainly to its better black-level performance, and its superior color saturation.
Enter the Mitsubishi HC3000 1280 x 768 resolution one-chip DLP projector, which retails for $3,900. This projector utilizes the Dark Chip 2 DMD chip from Texas Instruments, a step down from the newer Dark Chip 3, which provides slightly better black-level performance. The native resolution of the projector is nearly exactly the resolution of 720p HDTV broadcasts, one of the two HD formats, which definitely qualifies the Mitsubishi as a true HDTV display.
The HC3000 is an extremely lightweight compact design. It measures 12.2 inches wide by 3.9 inches high by 9.6 inches deep, and weighs a mere 6.4 lbs. My review sample was finished in a light metallic gray. It is one of the few compact projectors I have seen that has the lens assembly centered on the chassis, which lends symmetry to the design, and also makes centering the unit on the ceiling relative to the screen much easier than projectors with side-positioned lens assemblies.
Speaking of extremely small, the remote is a truly miniscule unit. I was glad to discover that all the keys are backlit on the remote once you hit one. This makes tweaking and setting up the projector in a darkened home theater environment much easier. You would be surprised how many projector remotes don’t have this simple important feature. Custom installers will love the fact that there are direct access keys for most of the important and commonly used functions, including all inputs, contrast, brightness, gamma and color temperature, aspect ratio control, iris and keystone. The GUI (Graphical User Interface) or internal menu system is logically designed, well laid out, and consequently easy and intuitive to navigate. Basically, there are four separate pages that contain all the functions you need to set up and operate the projector.
As you might expect, the HC3000 has few if any of the standard consumer features that you would find on a consumer RPTV or even some plasma sets. It is strictly a monitor with no speakers, and no PIP (Picture-In-Picture) or other gimmicky-type convenience features. However, the HC3000 has more set-up and picture-enhancing features than your average front projector. Since literally every other one-chip DLP projector on the market has a native resolution of 1280x720, the 3000’s resolution of 1280x768 is a bit unusual, and yields a 15:9 instead of the traditional 16:9 aspect ratio you would expect. The advantage of this scheme is to effectively give you a small amount of electronic vertical shift in the picture, which will come in handy when positioning the picture on the screen. A new feature that I have yet to see on other DLP projectors is the Brilliant Color feature from Texas Instruments. Brilliant Color increases the overall brightness of the picture, and is said to widen the color space of all three primary DLP colors: red, green and blue. See the performance section for more details on this.
Other features include all you have come to expect from just about any high-definition TV, like selectable color temperatures, which include high brightness, 9300K, 6500K, 5900K and user. It should be noted that the 6500 setting wasn’t even close to the broadcast-standard color temperature of 6500 Kelvins. My measurements with a Minolta CS200 chroma meter showed the HC3000 tracked the grayscale from about 7500 to over 8000 Kelvins. Two lamp modes are on tap: standard and low, and the iris feature can either be turned on for high brightness or off to lower the light output when driving smaller screen sizes.
Both these features will prove useful and need to be set correctly for screen size and type. On my 72-inch-wide Stewart Filmscreen StudioTek 130, using the low mode and turning the iris off, I still had to bring the contrast down to -20 to keep the light output down to a still relatively high 30 footlamberts. The HC3000, with its 200-watt lamp, can be extremely bright and is capable of driving large screen sizes. I would recommend a gray screen material like the Stewart Filmscreen Grayhawk Reference for dedicated theaters with full light control and would recommend going with an 84 to 96-inch wide size at most.
Connection options on the 3000 are somewhat limited. The lone HDMI input is my biggest complaint, given that all video sources are moving to digital. Other inputs include one set of broadband component video inputs, an S-Video and a composite video input, and a 15-pin VGA input for computer connections. An RS-232 port is included for programming touch panel remote control systems from AMX and Crestron. The main reason I would’ve liked two HDMI inputs on the 3000 is so you could do separate connections digitally for an upscaling standard-definition DVD player and an HDTV set-top box. This would allow you to do separate calibrations for both inputs, rather than switching the two sources through a receiver to the same input.