Mitsubishi HC3000 DLP Video Projector 
Home Theater Front Projectors DLP Projectors
Written by Kevin Miller   
Saturday, 01 April 2006

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.

The HC3000 is a really competent little performer, especially impressive in several regards when you consider its price. It utilizes the Texas Instuments’ Dark Chip 2, which delivers reasonably good black-level performance, but not quite as good as that of the step up-chip Dark Chip 3. Still, the blacks on the 3000 are quite a bit deeper and richer than on any transmissive LCD projector I have ever seen. If you are projecting onto a smaller screen size, say, from about 72 to 80 inches wide, closing the iris will improve blacks slightly and you will still have an amply bright picture.

Blacks are also extremely clean and smooth with no “false contouring” or solarization artifacts in very dark scenes. I watched a variety of DVDs on the 3000, but for black-level torture testing, I used the excellent transfer of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (20th Century Fox/Lucasfilm). The opening scene of this movie with the space shots is particularly telling. Similar space scenes like this in other parts of the film did look just slightly milky, lacking that inky depth you get with CRTs, and some DLP projectors with the Dark Chip 3 chip.

Overall, the color accuracy on the HC3000 is excellent. Color decoding is dead on with no “red push” whatsoever, and it also decodes green well. The colors of red, green and blue are closer to accurate than those of many DLP projectors out there, and the Brilliant Color improved the accuracy of the red by a good bit. The Brilliant Color definitely brightens the picture perceptibly. I found that the actual X and Y coordinates for red were greatly improved after engaging this feature. Red measured x= 648 and y=327 before engaging Brilliant Color, and x=637 and y=332 with it on, with the ATSC reference for red color space being x=640 y=330. This is a nearly perfect red, which is something few if any projectors out there can claim. Pre and post measurements on green and blue showed no change whatsoever. Green measured x=345 and y=601, with the reference being x=300 and y=600, which, even though x is way off, is closer than most projectors out there when you factor in how close y was. Blue was much closer, measuring x=147 and y=065, with the reference being x=150 and y=060.

Two other important components of color fidelity are gamma and grayscale tracking. The HC3000 has a number of selectable gamma and color temperature settings. I settled on User 1 gamma as being the most accurate gamma setting, with the slowest rise out of black. The user color temperature setting is the only one that actually allows you to calibrate the grayscale. As I mentioned earlier, the 6500 setting was way off. I ended up with a very flat and accurate grayscale from top to bottom, measuring 6550 Kelvins at 20 IRE and 6550 at 80 IRE, after calibrating the user color temperature. With the accuracy of the color decoding, primary colors, gamma and grayscale combined, the colors and skin tones looked quite natural for a small entry-level DLP projector.

Chapter 4 of the Hollow Man DVD (Columbia/Tri-Star), when the invisible ape becomes visible again, revealed good color saturation and very natural-looking skin tones. A variety of scenes from “The Fifth Element (Columbia Tri/Star) reinforced this observation. Looking at some scenes in Training Day (Warner Home Video) , which has a more muted look to it, it became evident to me that the HC3000’s color is relatively faithful to the original. It won’t deliver the saturation of a good CRT projector or a good three-chip DLP projector, but you really can’t expect that from a one-chip DLP projector with a color wheel.

Video processing was good on the HC3000, with solid 2:3 pull-down and crisp, clean artifact-free delivery from the 480i interlaced component outputs of my Panasonic DVD-RP91 DVD player. In fact, I watched DVDs exclusively from the interlaced output of the player, because the progressive output of the 91 is not good.

After a separate calibration of the HD input, I spent several days watching HD from my Time Warner digital cable HD feed. The 3000 delivered all of the resolution from a 720p resolution test pattern at both the component and HDMI inputs, which is something that many native 720p projectors can’t claim. Consequently, HD looked crisp and clean on the 3000. Dark concert footage on HDNET looked convincing, with good shadow detail in the background of the crowd.

The Downside
I was disappointed to find only one HDMI digital input on the projector. This is an industry-wide issue in front projectors, as few of them, especially in the $3,000 to $5,000 price range, offer more than one HDMI input. It can be a problem when it comes to optimizing the picture quality if you are switching two HDMI video sources into one input on the projector. For example, if one HDMI source is a standard-definition scalable DVD player, and the second is real HD, then often the correct level of the picture parameters will be different for these two sources, but since you only have one input on the projector, you only have one set of picture controls. Some of the new A/V receivers now have picture controls in them to help solve this problem. The black-level performance on the HC3000, while adequate, is certainly not as good as similar projectors with Dark Chip 3 DMD chips in them, but projectors with the better chip are slightly more expensive.

Finally, the lack of any vertical and/or horizontal lens shift is a disappointment. I would expect at least vertical lens shift to help make installing the projector a little easier. The 15:9 aspect ratio that gives you a little electronic vertical shift doesn’t offer anywhere near as much range as the physical adjustment on other similarly-priced DLP projectors.

The bottom line here is the HC3000 is capable of delivering very good performance when you compare it to other similarly-priced LCD and DLP projectors. In terms of color accuracy, it is one of the tops in its class. My reference has been for sometime and remains a Runco eight-inch CRT on a six-foot-wide screen. The Mitsubishi HC3000 doesn’t match it in terms of color saturation (the actual amount of color in the picture) or in black-level performance. However, it does outperform the CRT in light output and in accuracy of the gamma and grayscale tracking.

Other DLP projectors in the Mitsubishi’s class at the moment are the Optoma H77 and the Infocus 7205. The Mitsubishi is certainly comparable to both, a bit less expensive than the Infocus and about the same price as the Optoma. It is superior in overall color accuracy to both when you look at the entire picture: that is, the red, green and blue colors, accuracy of gamma and grayscale and color decoding. The HC3000 will smoke virtually any similarly-priced transmissive LCD projector in every performance parameter. It specifically will blow away most LCD projectors in black-level performance, as well as color saturation and accuracy. If you are on a tight budget and want to put together a front-projection home theater, the HC3000 should definitely be on your short audition list.
Manufacturer Mitsubishi
Model HC3000 DLP Video Projector
Reviewer Kevin Miller
Chipset 1-Chip
Native Resolution 720p

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