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Hitachi HDPJ52 review: Hitachi HDPJ52

Hitachi HDPJ52

Kevin Miller
5 min read
Review summary
The Hitachi HDPJ52 is a beautifully designed, full-featured projector with excellent setup flexibility and decent overall video performance. While we tend to favor DLP projectors for picture quality, especially for crucial black-level performance, the gap between LCD and DLP continues to lessen with each generation. It's also worth noting than no current-generation HDTV-resolution DLP projectors can approach this Hitachi's price. The Hitachi HDPJ52, successor to the PJ-TX100, has a lot going for it in terms of sheer picture quality and performance, especially with a street price in the neighborhood of $2,500. The Hitachi HDPJ52 is a stylish, high-tech-looking projector that would add grace to just about any home theater. Our review sample was finished in a high-gloss black. In fact, it is similar in design and looks to the Sim2 1-chip DLP projectors. Small and compact at 13.4 by 5.7 by 11.2 inches (WHD), it weighs in at a little more than 10 pounds.
Hitachi's remote is quite small, and its closely spaced buttons make it a little awkward for those with large hands to use. It is fully backlit, however, which makes setup in a dark home theater a pleasure. Direct-access keys for all inputs, aspect-ratio control, iris control, and memories are available. Having all of these controls on the remote is both convenient for the end user and makes a custom installer's job--programming functionality into a touch-panel remote system--relatively easy. The Hitachi HDPJ52's internal menu system is fairly straightforward and easy to navigate. The Hitachi HDPJ52's 1,280x720 native resolution qualifies it as a true HDTV display, and of course, that means it should display every pixel of 720p HDTV sources. All other sources, including 1080i high-def, computer sources, and standard-def sources such as DVD and VHS, are scaled to fit the chip.
A projector's feature package is best measured in terms of setup flexibility and functions that help fine-tune picture quality, as opposed to convenience features. The Hitachi PDPJ52 acquits itself well by that yardstick--it's one of the few projectors in its price range, for example, with both horizontal and vertical lens shift, which give added flexibility when mounting it relative to the screen. The overscan adjustment feature is useful for slightly overscanning the image with cable and satellite sources for the elimination of compression lines at the edges of the picture, but we found the system a bit counterintuitive. The 0 setting is really about 5 percent to 7 percent overscan, and the maximum setting of 10 actually gives you 0 percent overscan.
The eight Gamma settings that offer adjustability of different areas of the gamma, while useful for technicians, will likely just get many DIY-ers confused. Selectable color temperatures include 6,500K; 7,500K; 9,300K; and four custom settings that give you a total of nine grayscale adjustments for calibration, which is more control over grayscale than most projectors offer. You can engage 2:3 pull-down in the input menu under Progressive Scan for the elimination of motion artifacts from film-based sources such as prime-time TV from cable and satellite and for use with interlaced DVD players. Selectable color dpace choices of Auto, RGB, REC709 for HD and REC601 for SD is another awesome feature for videophiles--it allows you to match the projector's color gamut to the source yourself. The Hitachi HDPJ52 also provides four custom memories that allow you to store different settings for as many as four video sources.
Finally, there's a keystone feature, which we highly recommend you don't use. Keystoning the picture is only necessary if the unit hasn't been mounted properly relative to the screen, and using it actually reduces the projector's resolution capability and introduces unwanted artifacts to the picture.
Connectivity is somewhat limited given the amount of digital video sources we have today. A lone HDMI input is our biggest complaint, but that's comparable to other projectors in its price range. There is also one component-video input, one S-Video input, one composite-video input, a VGA-style PC input for computer use, and an RS-232 control port. Overall, we were impressed with the image quality of the Hitachi HDPJ52 and rate it slightly higher than the significantly less-expensive Panasonic PT-AE900U. Black-level performance is pretty solid for a three-panel transmissive LCD projector, about on a par with that of the Panasonic but not as good as the 1,280x720 resolution one-chip DLP projectors with HD2+ chipsets, such as the much more-expensive InFocus 7210. Video processing is decent on the Hitachi HDPJ52, with 2:3 pull-down selectable in the progressive-scan feature in the Input menu labeled Film.
Color is a mixed bag on the HDPJ52. Via the component input, the color resolution is way down--resembling composite or S-Video at best in chroma frequency response. As a result, you'll see softer details in colored areas than you would otherwise. Black-and-white or luma resolution is also truncated at the component input. For those two reasons, we recommend you use the HDMI input for both DVD and HD if possible. This can be achieved with one of the new A/V receivers with HDMI switching or with a stand-alone HDMI switcher. Both color resolution and luma resolution are up to spec at the HDMI input.
The Hitachi HDPJ52's color decoding is excellent with no red push whatsoever and green being decoded accurately. There is also selectable color space for both SD and HD material, which is both unusual and welcome. Primary colors are also a mixed bag, with green being way off from the ATSC spec, but red was close to accurate and blue even closer.
After a thorough calibration for both DVD and HD sources, we spun up a couple of our favorite reference DVDs. The excellent transfer of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back served as our black-level torture test with its many scenes in outer space. Blacks were reasonably deep, rich, and exceptionally clean with no false-contouring artifacts and no visible low-level noise, all common problems with inexpensive fixed-pixel displays. Seabiscuit on DVD revealed good color saturation and naturally rendered skin tones. Grass and trees did give away the wacky choice of the primary color of green appearing somewhat on the neony side or just too intense.
HD material looked mostly excellent from our Time-Warner cable feed. Even dark concert footage on HDNet looked impressive. The Discovery HD channel's American Chopper really popped, with good color saturation and excellent detail.
The Hitachi HDPJ52 is a solid performer in most regards and is definitely better than most of the three-panel 1,280x720-resolution LCD projectors we have reviewed in the last couple of years. Its black-level performance is its biggest shortcoming, but the HDPJ52 is better in this regard than many, and it is only objectionable to purists who crave great performance in the darkest of material.
Before color temp (20/80)5,500/6,050KAverage
After color temp6,950/6,475KAverage
Before grayscale variation+/- 555KAverage
After grayscale variation+/- 130KAverage
Color of red (x/y)0.652/.0340Average
Color of green0.332/0.641Poor
Color of blue0.147/0.050Good
Overscan0 percentGood
DC restorationAll patterns stableGood
2:3 pull-down, 24fpsYesGood
Defeatable edge enhancementYesGood

Hitachi HDPJ52

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 7