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Mitsubishi's HC3000U front projector proves that good things can come in very small packages. This compact, relatively affordable projector ($2,999 list) incorporates a new HD-resolution DLP chipset from Texas Instruments, one of the first with Brilliant Color technology. Aside from a sales-friendly name, the technology really does help improve some aspects of picture quality, contributing to the HC3000U's impressive all-around image. Of course, Mitsubishi does cut a couple corners to hit its price point. The most glaring omission is any sort of mechanical lens shift, which constrains this little projector's placement options somewhat. If it works in your room, however, the Mitsubishi HC3000's image quality makes it an excellent choice among budget HD-resolution DLP projectors. As far as looks go, the Mitsubishi HC3000U won't win any industrial-design beauty contests, but its exterior isn't offensive. The little unit measures approximately a foot wide by just less than 4 inches high by about 9.5 inches deep and weighs next to nothing (6.2 pounds). Our review sample had a light silver finish. This is one of the few small entry-level DLP projectors with the lens mounted directly in the center of the chassis, which lends a certain symmetry to the design and helps make ceiling-mount installation easier.
The remote is extremely small, and all the keys are likewise on the small side. We were pleased to find that it was completely backlit. We also liked the presence of direct-access keys for many of the functions, including all inputs, contrast, brightness, gamma, color temperature, aspect ratio-control, iris, and keystone. Custom installers will love this when programming touch-panel remote systems. The Mitsubishi HC3000U's internal menu is also well laid out and easy to navigate. There are essentially four separate pages that contain everything you need to set up and operate the projector. The Mitsubishi HC3000 has more features than your average front projector. First off, the odd native resolution of 1,280x768 yields a 16:10 aspect ratio instead of the standard 16:9. There is a 1,280x720 mode available, which lets the Mitsubishi reproduce true 16:9 sources such as HDTV without needless scaling (which can introduce unwanted artifacts). In this mode, the unused 48 pixels provide a small amount of electronic vertical shift in the picture when installing the unit. It is limited but handy nonetheless, especially since the HC3000U, unlike many projectors in its class, lacks any sort of mechanical lens shift of its own. This omission limits the positions you can place the projector relative to the screen--generally, you'll have to place it below the bottom edge of the screen or ceiling-mount it.
Another new addition is the Brilliant Color feature from Texas Instruments, which is starting to appear in a few late-model DLP units with TI's newest chipsets. In our tests, we found that it increases the overall brightness of the picture and made the primary color of red more accurate--although it didn't affect the color of green or blue (see for more).
Other features are mostly of the obligatory sort, such as selectable color temperatures, which include High Brightness, 9,300K, 6,500K, 5,900K, and User. It is interesting to note that the 6,500K setting wasn't all that close to the broadcast standard. There are two lamp modes, Standard and Low, as well as an iris that can either be turned on for high brightness or turned off for lower brightness and better black levels when driving smaller screen sizes.
The connectivity on the Mitsubishi HC3000U is a bit limited. There is one HDMI input, one set of 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 on board for control purposes. Although at this price we don't expect it, we would've liked to have seen two HDMI inputs on the HC3000U, because it would mean you could have separate digital connections for an upscaling DVD player and an HDTV source. In general, we really like the picture quality of the Mitsubishi HC3000U, especially considering its price. While its Dark Chip 2 DLP chip delivers very good black-level performance that's certainly better than just about any LCD projector, it falls short of some of the competition utilizing Dark Chip 3 chips. That said, blacks were as clean as a whistle and very smooth with no false contouring whatsoever, and near-black areas evinced smooth, accurate gamma with realistic transitions from darker to lighter areas. Closing the iris helped improve the depth of black a little.
The opening scene of the DVD Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back looked pretty decent, but space shots did appear just slightly milky, lacking that inky depth that you get with CRTs and the Dark Chip 3 DLP projectors. Chapter 10, with some dark backgrounds, was rendered well with good shadow detail.
Overall, the color fidelity of the Mitsubishi HC3000U was excellent. Color decoding was spot-on with no red push whatsoever. The primary colors of red, green, and blue measured closer to accurate than those of many DLP projectors out there, and engaging the Brilliant Color feature definitely improved the accuracy of the red. We were disappointed that the 6,500K color-temperature preset didn't come very close to the standard, but after calibration with the user-menu controls, the grayscale was almost dead-on.
Hollow Man, which still holds up as a reference-quality DVD transfer, looked excellent. Chapter 4, in which they bring the Ape back to visibility, really popped with excellent color saturation and awesome detail. Skin-tone rendition on this projector after calibration is quite natural, which is an indication of really good grayscale performance. Resolution measurements confirmed that the Mitsubishi HC3000U could fully resolve 720p via both the component and HDMI inputs.
The Mitsubishi HC3000 is yet another credible entry in the budget-priced DLP front-projector category that is increasingly filled with very competitive products. Available for well under $3,000 on the Internet, this little Mitsibishi has a lot to recommend it in terms of picture quality. Yes, the like-priced Panasonic PT-AE900U and Hitachi HDJ52 both offer more flexible mounting, but their image quality, especially in terms of black level, falls a bit short of the HC3000U's. For a few more bucks, the with a Dark Chip 3 will outperform the HC3000U in black level performance, but the color decoding and postcalibration grayscale performance are better on the Mitsubishi.
|Before color temp (20/80)||8,100/7,725K||Poor|
|After color temp||6,550/6,550K||Good|
|Before grayscale variation||+/- 1361K||Poor|
|After grayscale variation||+/- 94K||Good|
|Color of red (x/y)||0.637/0.332||Good|
|Color of green||0.345/0.601||Average|
|Color of blue||0.147/0.065||Good|
|DC restoration||All patterns stable||Good|
|2:3 pull-down, 24fps||Yes||Good|
|Defeatable edge enhancement||Yes||Good|