Hitachi CP-AW250N Projector - Image Quality
5-10-11 -Mike Rollett
Hitachi CP-AW250N : Color & Picture Quality
The Hitachi CP-AW250N has multiple video inputs, including HDMI, computer VGA and USB. As a result, we were able to compare the standard VGA input with the HDMI and USB inputs. Starting with my laptop connected via the analog VGA connection at the projector’s native resolution (1280 x 800) and in the Normal picture mode, the CP-AW250N provided a clear image with good color balance. As is typical for LCD projectors, colors were quite accurate in almost all picture modes, with the brightest (Daytime) tending to wash out the colors a bit. Nonetheless, they still appeared reasonably natural, with bit of a greenish cast over the image. Dropping down into any of the other modes was a noticeable improvement. The greenish cast is gone and the picture looks much less washed out. Cinema mode (and oddly enough, Dynamic) provided the best overall picture by far, with accurate skin tones and overall color balance. Both of these modes also provided around 80% of the lumen output of the Daytime mode. So, for those who can live with around 2000 lumens, Cinema mode is the best option.
Below, the Hitachi CP-AW250N projector in Cinema mode, Dynamic mode, and Daytime mode.
Switching to the HDMI input resulted in a slight increase in color depth, but that was only noticeable in Cinema mode and was very subtle. Using the USB PC input, there was no visible difference from VGA PC input in any mode.
Photo presentations looked particularly good in Cinema mode, but if you need more lumens, Normal mode was nearly as good. Skin tones maintain good realism and brighter colors still have good saturation. As mentioned in the Setup and Menu section of this review, you can really dial in the picture with the various picture adjustments available. This allows the presenter to tailor the image to the material. Blacks and shadow detail can also be adjusted via the gamma controls to provide a more natural look even in brighter ambient lighting conditions.
We also checked the CP-AW250N’s ability to present photos and other still images from a USB thumb drive. Images can be viewed individually or set up as a slideshow and, in both cases, can be easily controlled by the remote. Images looked virtually the same as when projected from a PC, thus adding to the convenience of the CP-AW250N.
Hitachi CP-AW250N : Readability
The Hitachi CP-AW250N was typical of ultra short throw projectors in that the corners furthest from the projector (the top left and right when table mounted) lose quite a bit of sharpness. This is primarily due to the convex mirror that enables the throw to be as short as it is. Using a Nokia monitor test pattern that projects very small text (about 6 pt.) into the corners, blurring of the text was very noticeable. However, larger text (14 pt. or higher) as would typically be the smallest text in a presentation was quite readable. Moving away from the top corners, the CP-AW250N’s readability was equal to any other projector in its class. Very small (8 pt.) text was easily readable on a 60” diagonal projected image, though not quite as sharp as other projectors that project directly from the lens to the screen. This was true of white text-on-black and yellow text-on-dark blue backgrounds as well. Nonetheless, unless you have a need for projecting full screen small text or detail (in which case you’d probably be looking at a much more expensive projector with high quality optics), the CP-AW250N will handle the job.
As we mentioned in the setup section, Hitachi’s Perfect Fit keystone adjustment does a very good job with minimal distortion. This was borne out in that, with the extreme corner exception mentioned above, text was still readable along the edges of the projected image.
Moving up to higher resolutions and different aspect ratios, the CP-AW250N did a solid job. Switching to 1600 x 1200 and then to 1024 x 768, text of any size was very readable and there was very little color fringing with the blue-on-yellow and yellow-on-blue text. The CP-AW250N continues a recent trend of multimedia projectors being able to handle non-standard resolutions and aspect ratios with aplomb. Also, as we’ve noted with other 3-chip LCD projectors, fringing or pixel offset with smaller text is often due more to slight misconvergence than it is to scaling or compression errors. For nearly all intended uses of the CP-AW250N, it will provide an easily readable display at any resolution.
Below, the Hitachi CP-AW250N projector first in 1600x1200 resolution, and then in 1024x768 resolution.
Hitachi CP-AW250N : Video Performance
While video playback will probably be a low percentage of the CP-AW250N’s use, it did a very good job with videos presented via HDMI from a laptop. The CP-AW250N’s 2000:1 contrast ratio (with the active iris engaged) is pretty much the norm for LCD multimedia projectors and combined with the proper gamma settings, provides some very nice video reproduction. Using Cinema mode, skin tones were quite natural and, as we also noted with photo presentations, the overall color balance was quite good. The default gamma setting for Cinema was not optimal for shadow detail, but that can be resolved with judicious use of the custom gamma settings. If brightness is not an issue, switching the lamp to Eco mode will also help improve perceived black levels.
If you need a little more brightness, video performance in Normal mode is more than acceptable, with good solid colors and decent skin tones.
If your video presentation includes sound, you’d be best to consider externally powered speakers. The CP-AW250N has a single built-in 10-watt speaker, which isn’t too bad, but its positioning on the bottom of the projector reduces its effectiveness.