Hitachi CP-X5021N LCD Multimedia Projector Review

CP-X5021N Brightness

The CP-X5021N is rated at 5000 lumens.  Unfortunately, with our test unit, we found this rating to be highly optimistic.  Using the Normal lamp setting, in Daytime picture mode (the brightest), we measured only 3377 lumens at mid-zoom range, nowhere near the claimed 5000 lumens.  While many projectors fail to reach their rated output, this was more extreme than normal, leading us to believe that there may be a lamp issue with our particular unit, as we tried a number of different adjustments to improve the output to no avail.  Going to full wide zoom had only a marginal effect on the output, increasing it from 3377 to 3542 lumens.  At full telephoto zoom, output dropped to 3010 lumens.  While this CP-X5021N iis still quite bright, it’s only about 70% of the rated output.  (Few projectors meet their claims, but, being off by 30% is greater than most (10-25% off).

Update 2/16/11: We discovered that the somewhat dissapointing lumen measurements were due to two items. The first, (which would have made a difference) is that we do not calibrate business and education projectors, we only measure them. As so, we measure using their default settings in different modes.

The second issue, is that, by my reckoning Hitachi made a mistake in their firmware as to the default Brightness setting. I shall explain:

1. With brightness on default (0 on a -32 to +32 scale), blacks and dark shadow detail are badly crushed. The image is dark. The correct setting for Brightness (once I broke out a test disk) is either +12 or +13).

2. While +12 or +13 is ideal, the picture continues to get brighter, as I tried +22. At +22, the picture is still very good, true the blacks aren’t as black as they could be, but we haven’t lifted them much, dark grays are still nicely dark and the image still looks pretty good.

3. Going all the way to +32, the image continues to brighten. But, at +32 things are way over the top, there really aren’t any very dark grays or very dark anything. This is not how you want to be presenting or teaching – though you might force that position if fighting way too much ambient light for a 5000 lumen projector. In other words, avoid +32 because of degraded picture quality.

4. Therefore, ideally, Hitachi should have had set what shows as +12, or +13, as 0. Or, they might have gone a little higher maybe +16 or +18, still a very good picture, and resulting in a default setting that makes sense.

5. Please remember – about the first thing you’ll want to do, when setting up this Hitachi, will be to raise Brightness (at least for Dynamic mode) to +12.

Bottom Line: I did some very quick remeasuring, here are the approximate lumen counts with Brightness set to:

Header Content
0 3542 Lumens
+12 3718 Lumens
+22 4063 Lumens
+32 4367 Lumens

What were’ saying is, with minor adjustment the projector not only produces more brightness, but has a better picture than when using the default 0 setting for Brightness. As it turns out the Hitachi CP-X5021N produces a proper 3718 lumens with optimum brightness setting, but still looks very good pushing out over 4050 lumens. Then there’s that last 300 lumens, but it does start to seriously degrade the image.

With a solid 4000 lumens, plus some extra in reserve for impossible situations, this Hitachi X5021N projector is more formidable than we first thought. The difference between its claimed, and measured brightness is now fairly typical of projectors, with that objection removed, we’ve elevated this Hitachi to our Hot Product Award, from a Special Interest award. Or as I had put it when we first published the Hitachi review:. “If it weren’t for the dissappointing lumen count compared to their claim, it would have gotten the higher award.” I’m glad that all sorted itself out.

Back to the original content.

All further measurements were taken at the mid-zoom point.  Using Normal picture mode, which provided the best trade off between picture quality and brightness, the output was 3140 lumens.  Cinema mode was a respectable 2710 lumens.  Dynamic mode, which varied from most projector Dynamic modes in that it had darker blacks than Cinema mode, came in at only a slightly lower 2666 lumens.  Next up were the three colorboard modes, with Blackboard mode at 3377 lumens, Greenboard at 2533 and Whiteboard at 1851.

Changing the lamp from Normal to Eco brightness mode resulted in a drop of about 36% (from 3140 to 2000 lumens) in Normal picture mode.  This results in quite a large drop from the brightest mode to the Eco mode, which is much greater than most projectors in this class.  As even the brightest mode doesn’t come close to the rated output, this makes Eco mode of questionable value for presentation use in larger venues.  This tends to negate the advantage of the CP-X5021N’s rated lamp life of 5000 hours in Eco lamp mode.

Mike’s January update: A second unit was brought in to confirm the measurments, which the Hitachi folk found to be surprisingly low. The second X5021N arrived, and produced measurements almost identical to the first one. In fact, at the mid-point of the zoom lens it measured only 39 more lumens – so 1% (and change brighter). Based on measuring two different Hitachi projectors, we have to treat this Hitachi as a 3500 lumen type projector (it beat that, with zoom at wide angle – how the manufacturers measure).

Still 3500 lumens is a healthy amount of brightness, even for larger rooms (a decade ago, 2000 lumens was the mark of an “Auditorium projector” (and a decade ago, many 2000 lumen projectors weighed in at 30 – 50 pounds.) As such, we believe the projector capable of larger screens in classrooms and multi-purpose rooms with some ambient lighting!

Networking

The Hitachi CP-X5021N has network control capabilities that are becoming standard with most of today’s multimedia projectors.  Connecting the CP-X5021N to a computer network via its RJ-45 jack permits remote management, scheduling and control of one or more projectors.  As an IP address is set for each projector, multiple projectors can be connected to the network and controlled via a web browser by any computer on the network as well.

Unlike some of the competition, the user can also run presentations over the network to one or more projectors.  A single projector can also display presentations from four PCs simultaneously.  The user can also check the lamp hours as well as enable warning notifications by email. We do not check actual networking functionality, but have seen Hitachi demonstrate working features such as email notification across a network.

Audible Noise

The CP-X5021N has a rated noise level of 36 dB in Normal lamp mode and 30 dB in Eco lamp mode.  Both of these noise levels are typical for projectors in the CP-X5021N’s class.    Subjectively, the CP-X5021N is very quiet in Eco mode and not obtrusively louder in Normal lamp mode.  It’s unlikely that even the higher noise level would come into play for the CP-X5021N’s intended uses.  Combine this relatively low level of noise with the powerful 17-watt built-in speakers and it truly becomes a non-issue for presentations with sound.  There is no need for externally powered speakers to overcome projector noise with the CP-X5021N.

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