The HC1100 is a rather plain-looking projector that looks for all the world like a business unit, rather than home cinema model. With a carrying weight of only 2.9 kilograms and dimensions of 310mm by 245mm by 100mm it's even moderately portable. While it does sport a semi-curved top design, it simply can't compare to the showy visuals of, for example the Epson Dreamio EMP-TW1000 or InFocus IN76.
Controls on the HC1100 are top-mounted and suitably minimalistic, which is fine in a home projector. All of the focus and zoom controls are manual. They have a nice degree of resistance, which makes setting focus and zoom particularly easy, even if you're a compulsive image fiddler. In a similar vein, the remote is small, light and quite pleasant to use.
On the gripes front, the projection legs on the HC1100 are mounted at the rear, which is fine if you're projecting from behind and above your sitting position, as it allows you to tilt the lens downwards. Conversely, if you're projecting from a low position - and at this price point it's not inconceivable that some consumers may buy the HC1100 for ad-hoc movie viewing from a small table - it's not possible to tilt the screen upwards.
The HC1100 is a DLP projector with a maximum output resolution of 1280x720; that makes it suitable for a top whack 720p/1080i projection scale, which is quite good for a projector in this price bracket - bear in mind that if you insist on 1080p as being the only "true" HD resolution, then you're looking at a price bracket in the plus-$5000 space. Mitsubishi claims a contrast ratio of 3000:1 and an ANSI Lumens rating of 1000. The HC1100 uses a four-speed colour wheel to create its images, which is again acceptable but not top-of-the range.
The HC1100's OSD is more geared towards the technical user, which is fine if you're getting the projector installed for you; those who are timid about messing around with contrast, gamma and colour temperature settings may find it a little daunting. The fact that the picture presets are simply numbered -- rather than being given setting names for particular visual applications -- also makes it a slightly less appealing unit for novices.
The HC1100 covers its input bases very well indeed, with composite, S-Video, Mini D-Sub and HDMI connectors, covering just about every home projection need. About our only gripe here is that the HC1100 only sports a single HDMI port, unlike the similar Sanyo Z5; this limits the future expansion potential of the HC1100. Mitsubishi rates the onboard fan at a relatively quiet 25dBA in low lamp mode.
Testing with a variety of DVD, HD-DVD and game material -- sometimes being a product reviewer is a really tough gig -- revealed where the HC1100 performs well, and also where it doesn't. It would be unfair to expect crystal sharp clarity for what is a mid-price projector, and for the most part the HC1100 impressed us with very nice, clear images on most of our test material.
Predictably for a DLP projector we did spot some rainbow-style colour aberrations on fast-moving material, although your perception may differ, and we've certainly seen far worse in many other projectors. Black levels were likewise not the best we've ever seen - the space battles in Star Wars Episode III were a little washed out -- but for the most part we weren't concerned about poor contrast quality.
The onboard fans do a good job of keeping the HC1100 cool, and do so in a mostly quiet way; if you're projecting in quite a small room -- or like movies with lots of quiet pauses -- you may notice it. We certainly noted how effective it was at expelling heat, as sitting at certain angles from the projector in moderately close proximity will give your hair a blow-dry while you watch.