Mitsubishi HC1500 DLP Home Theater Projector Review - General Performance
Overall, the HC1500 (link to specs) is a typical low cost DLP projector - small, light, and limited in placement flexibility compared to LCD competitors. Separating it from the pack however is its impressive brightness, which will be covered below. Only Panasonic's LCD PT-AX100U is brighter in brightest mode (20+%), but in best modes, for movie watching, they are not only closer, but the HC1500 is the brighter of the two.
HC1500 User Memory Settings
HC1500 Remote Control
Lens Throw and Lens Shift and Sharpness
SDE and Rainbow Effect
HC1500 Projector Brightness
Audible Noise Levels
Projector Screen Recommendations
Overall, the menu system is easy to use. Pressing menu brings up a horizontal strip of four menu items. Arrow keys allow you to choose one, and the enter key takes you to the first menu item. The strength of the menu system is that you don't have lots of menu levels to navigate. Almost all controls are on those four menus. Items that have multiple choices allow you to scroll through them with left and right arrow keys.
I personally would favor highlighting and getting a pull down menu, so that you can see all the options, but this is a perfectly acceptable and fast menu system. The main menu shown above does not go away over time, just stays on the screen. I'd be happier if the projector had the option for the menu to go away after a short while without using it.
The Image menu (right) of the HC1500 contains all of the controls for image quality. Gamma mode lets you choose one of the main presets - Cinema, Natural, Sports, and User defined. After that, there are the usual contrast, brightness, color (saturation), and sharpness controls. Also on the Image menu is the Color Temp which offers up presets, and a User savable area (shown below) for custom adjustments (such as we did to come up with a slightly better color balance than the original out of the box performance). Also found on this menu, is the control for Brilliant Color, and Mitsubishi's vertical image control, which allows you to do things like move a letter boxed movie's image up or down on the screen. This in turn would allow you to not fully drop down a motorized or pull down screen, so that the the screen shape becomes 2.35:1 for Cinemascope width movies (most movies). A nice touch, though most people won't use this feature.
The next major menu is the Installation menu, shown here. From this menu, you can choose lamp brightness, auto power settings, background color (when there is no source image), and your positioning (front, rear, ceiling mount, table). Also on this menu, is control for the 12 volt screen trigger, test pattern options, and the lamp timer.
Moving to the Feature menu, here you get control of aspect ratios, you can input a password for security, adjust where the menus appear on the screen, language selection, and several features for manual or Auto selection for video sources.
A Signal menu, not shown, allows adjustments for computer signals, if the auto feature doesn't do a flawless job of locking onto your computer's output.
HC1500 User Memory Settings
The HC1500 offers three savable settings. Each can be accessed from either the menu system, or directly off of the remote control. You must select one of them to get into the advanced menu controls to separately control RGB brightness and contrast.
HC1500 Remote Control
The Mitsubishi HC1500's remote control is a small black unit, with backlit buttons.
There is no separate backlight button, but all buttons are backlit, and hitting any of them will light up the remote.
Unfortunately the backlighting is dim. I find it difficult to read the buttons in a dark room. It's not the size of the text on the buttons, but the dimness that bothers me.
The range on the remote appears to be acceptable. I had no problem standing behind the projector, while filling a 106" diagonal screen, and intentionally bouncing the infra-red signal off of the screen to the projector's front IR receiver.
As to the layout, it's pretty easy to navigate, with Power buttons on the top, followed by the Source buttons.
Next comes the four arrow keys for navigation, with the Enter button in the middle, and directly below, on the left is the Menu button itself, and across from it, the Aspect ratio button, to toggle between 4:3, 16:9, etc.
Directly below that are your 3 user memory recall buttons.
Next comes direct access buttons for Contrast, Brightness, Color Temperature, Gamma, Sharpness and the Iris control.
On the last row is the Auto Position button, for correct lock on to analog signals, a Blank (the screen button) and the dreaded Keystone Correction button (you should definitely try to avoid using keystone adjustment, as it slightly degrades the image).
HC1500 Lens Throw, Lens Shift, and Sharpness
The Mitsubishi HC1500 home theater projector shares the same placement measurements as the HD1000U. To fill a 100" diagonal, the HC1500 can be as close as 11 feet 11 inches, or as far back as 14 feet 6 inches. This will allow some to mount on the shelf in the back of their rooms. Remember you are measuring to the front of the lens. So, with a shelf that is 24 inches deep, you are looking at a 100" screen working in a room 16.5 feet deep, and, considering the HC1500 has plenty of power, the popular 110" diagonal screen size will work shelf mounting in an 18 foot deep room. I wouldn't be afraid to match this Mitsubishi projector with even a slightly larger screen, if that works in your room.
The HC1500 does not have adjustable lens shift. But like its big brother, the HC3000 or, for that matter, Optoma's HD72 and HD70, it has a lot of lens shift built in. This places the projector below the screen surface - or above. For a 100" screen, it works out to placing the lens about 16.9 inches below (or if the projector is inverted) above, the respective bottom or top of the screen surface. If you choose to shelf mount, you'll probably want it up high so people aren't walking through the image. You could mount it to the bottom of a high shelf, or use a shelf and build a simple cradle for it - to hold it upside down. If you try that, you'll want to make sure you don't do anything to limit ventilation.
As to sharpness, the Mitsubishi is pretty good. I would give it a very slight edge over the average DLP projector, and even a bit more, compared to the Panasonic. But all would be very close, until you get into the few projectors (rarely in this price range) that have superior optics and sharpness. The more expensive Sanyo PLV-Z5, is sharper, (and has a more visible pixel structure), but overall, the HC1500 does a good job.
For a sharpness test, I have recently switched to to my DTS sampler disk, for a different image, to demonstrate both sharpness and pixel visiblity. The image seen here, is about 10% of the DTS disk's menu screen. Click on it, and you will see a much closer (and larger view) that covers probably no more than 5% of the whole screen. Pixel structure is slightly visible here. You will find this image on a number of other recent reviews, for comparison.
Mitsubishi HC1500 SDE and Rainbow Effect, Pixel Visibility
As a classic 720p DLP projector, screen door effect is not an issue unless you sit extremely close. Comfortable seating where pixels are only barely detectable in bright areas like credits at the end of movies, or perhaps stationary whiteish areas like clouds, would be less than 10 feet back with a 100" diagonal screen. I'm currently watching it filling my full 128" diagonal screen, with my eyeballs less than 12 feet back, and I have to really look to even detect pixels.
The image to the right shows the full screen. Click on it for a larger image of at a very small portion of the lower center of the guide.
For comparison purposes, you will find a similar enlargement in the Panasonic PT-AX100U review. See also the DTS logo in the section above, for a look at the HC1500's pixel structure.
Mitsubishi HC1500 Projector Brightness
Wow time. Mitsubishi claims 1600 lumens - a hundred more than the HD1000U, and significantly brighter than the 1000 lumens of their HC3000. When we tested the HD1000U, it came up short of claims - just 1115 lumens in brightest modes, but the HC1500 turns out to be much brighter. Perhaps the HD1000U review unit I received was below average and this HC1500, above average in performance, but bottom line, the HC1500 measured about 600 lumens more than its predecessor. I double checked my measurements, just to be sure.
Although not the brightest mode, lets start with the Cinema mode, the best for movie watching.
Using Cinema's default settings - Color at 2, Brilliant Color at 3, etc., the HC1500 cranked out a most impressive 1218 lumens with the lamp on full power. Dropping into low power (eco-mode as many call it), lumens decreased to 964, a drop of almost 21%. That 21% difference should be consistant regardless of which Picture mode you are using. Even in low power, that makes the HC1500 very bright. My own JVC is one of the brightest 1080p projectors and only puts out about 800 lumens in full lamp mode, and many home theater projectors, in their best modes, only do 250-500 lumens.
The Video mode, was almost identical in brightness, with 1230 lumens with lamp on high.
Sports mode starts out at 1263 lumens, but by cranking up Brilliant Color, to 10, the lumens jump to a dazzling 1824 lumens, making this projector a serious contender with the Epson Cinema 400 and Panasonic PT-AX100U, for those needing lots of lumens. With Brilliant Color set to 10 you no longer have the most natural image, but that is true of the brightest mode of just about every home theater projector.
HC1500 Projector - Light Leakage
The HC1500 leaks light out the front, through the lens. The amount is not significant, and I do not consider it to be anything you would notice while watching, except if you have light colored walls and the projected image is black. Then, you might be able to see some light on the wall, mostly toward the right side if you are looking for it to be there. Realize that the image below is dramatically overexposed. The bright gray on the screen is supposed to be black. The areas in the upper (small) and lower right corners are white text and graphics (the lower is the DVD logo, so badly overexposed that it's completely blown out).
You can see the light leakage in a oval shape, over, and more noticable to the right. Then there's an extra light aberation in the far upper right.
You'll note that there seems to be a mask around the DLP in the light path, because there is a black area all around the projected image. (Yep, that's not a screen frame!)
I never noticed it once, while watching hours of movies, but it is there!
The image above is from the HD1000U, however we saw the same results with the HC1500, as was expected.
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Mitsubishi HC1500 Audible Noise Levels
The HC1500 could be slightly quieter, but then DLP projectors typically are noiser than LCD models. In low power mode, it is certainly quiet enough. Even those who are the most noise intolerant, should not have an issue. Run the HC1500, though, at full power and it may not please those same highly critical people. The noise level, claimed to be 31db at full power, is not by any means excessive. Most people will never notice it while watching a movie, unless they are listening for it. The sound is low pitched (no high pitched "whine"), and even if you notice it (listening for it), I suspect that as you settle into your movie, even if you notice it in quiet scenes, it shouldn't be intrusive. So, concern is only for those who really hate hearing any fan noise at all, ever!
I would say that it is just slightly quieter than the HD72. On the other hand, The Panasonic PT-AX100U is definitely quieter in both full and low power modes.
HC1500 Projector Screen Recommendations
If you are looking for the best screen to maximize movie watching, I would automatically recommend high contrast gray surfaces. They will darken the blacks, and help reject a little side ambient light. Since the projector has brightness to spare on all but the largest screens, this is probably the best way for most to go. You could use either a dark gray surface, (like the Stewart Grayhawk, or their Firehawk, which I use). Virtually all screen manufacturers make such gray surfaces. I think the lighter grays are probably more desireable than the darker ones, unless you have a small screen - less than 110" diagonal.
If movies are only one segment of what's important, and you favor an emphasis on brightness as people watching sports and Discovery HD, you could consider a white surface, with or without gain. Just remember that your black levels will be brighter and more visible
HC1500 Projector Measurements and Calibration
I should note that the grayscale color temperature in every setting was extremely consistent, from dark grays to almost white. Like most projectors, pure white tends to shift the color temperature a bit, usually cooler (more bluish).
For example, in our initial measurements, of Cinema/Warm, we measured:
100 IRE 6565K
80 IRE 6971K
50 IRE 7133K
30 IRE 7119K
Note these are definitely different than the HD1000, which actually showed a drop in color temp from 100IRE to 80IRE, whereas the HC1500 shows a rise.
After calibrating (Cinema/User)
100 IRE 6564K
80 IRE 6822K
50 IRE 6629K
30 IRE 6183K
The settings we plugged in to get those numbers are:
Contrast - R=0, G=5, B=9
Brightness - R=0, G=0, B=-6
Overall contrast was set to +2
H1500 Image Noise
The amount of image noise is typical - nothing to write home about. Image noise was minor and about standard for DLP projectors. Walk up closer to the screen and you can see it easily, but at normal seating distances, it should rarely be of notice, even on large stationary and color consistent areas (like a blue sky around dusk).