Mitsubishi HC3000 - General Performance
The Mitsubishi HC3000 is pretty typical of most DLP projectors using the Darkchip2 technology. I mention this, because like others, including the Optoma HD72, BenQ PE7700, and InFocus IN76, the HC3000 (link to specs) is relatively small, under 10 pounds, has a zoom lens with a limited amount of zoom range (certainly compared to LCD projector competition), and lacks adjustable lens shift. If you spend more, on a Darkchip3 projector, like the BenQ PE8720 (that's what I own), the Optoma HD7100, or others, including far more expensive ones, you will normally find that those projectors have a bit more range in their zoom lenses, and do have variable lens shift, and are typically larger.
Below are links to the many topics in this section. However, I'm going to start with an unusual item. The Mitsubishi HC3000 is the first home theater projector that I have tested that does NOT have filters to change or clean. Since few users actually follow the recommended schedules for doing so, that are recommended, most projector owners have projectors that are not cooling optimally, which results in them running hotter, and that, in turn, means that they won't get as many hours out of their lamps as if they did follow the maintainence schedule. Note: Mitsubishi still recommends that you occasionally inspect the ventilation grills and when they get dirty, wipe them clean with a soft, damp cloth with mild detergent.
So, kudos to Mitsubishi, for an improvement that we all should appreciate!
User Memory Settings
Lens Throw and Lens Shift
SDE and Rainbow Effect
Audible Noise Levels
Lamp Life and Replacement
Projector Screen Recommendations
Mitsubishi HC-3000 Menus
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.
Shown are the main menu, and images of the image and installation menus.
User Memory Settings
The HC3000 offers three savable settings. These 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.
Mitsubishi HC3000 Remote Control
The Mitsubishi HC3000's remote control is a small black affair, 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 rather dim. At least I find it difficult to read the buttons in a dark room without difficulty. 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 definitley try to avoid using keystone adjustment, as it slightly degrades the image.
Mitsubishi HC3000 Lens Throw and Lens Shift
We've covered most of this before. The projector has fixed lens shift. As designed, to get the correct rectangular shaped image, the bottom of the image will be higher than the center of the lens. I did not measure, but, per Mitsubishi's data sheet, a 100" diagonal 16:9 screen, will have the bottom of the image 16.9 inches above the center of the lens. This will allow the projector to sit on a fairly low table, or, if ceiling mounted, will have it mounted above the top of the screen surface. For those of you with low ceilings (such as basements) this could pose a problem for ceiling mounting.
The zoom ratio is 1.2:1, so with the same 100" diagonal screen, you can place the projector as close (measured from the front of the projector), as 11.9 feet, and as far back as 14.5 feet.
Mitsubishi HC3000 Aspect Ratio
(This section is copied (with minor changes) from the Optoma HD72 review, as both use the same 1280x768 aspect ratio chip:
Where to start here. The HC3000 is one of the first of a new breed of DLP projectors that use DLP chips that have 16:10 ratios, not the 16:9 which is the HDTV standard That gives you 1280x768 instead of the usual 1280x720 resolution. This has a number of implications:
It does mean that you can hook up a computer to your projector and output true XGA resolution, without any image degrading compression technology. (WXGA - "wide XGA" most often means1280x720, and therefore really can't do true XGA (1024x768) without compression. There are a small handful of WXGA projectors that use 1366x768 which can do XGA without compression. The later has only been available on LCD powered projectors. Texas Instruments (TI) has apparently decided that a good compromise is to stick to the 1280 width (same as the HDTV format) but add about 6% more height to the projected area giving them the 1280x768 WXGA). Yes that means there are now three different resolutions that are all called WXGA! (So much for standards).
So, do you buy a 16:10 screen (you can get those made custom), or go with the traditional 16:9 screen. I expect the vast majority will go with 16:9. That means that when you set up your projector to fill the 16:9 area, you will have some overshoot above and below the screen. If you have 100" diagonal screen, the usable surface is just shy of 50" tall. The overshoot at the top and bottom works out to a about 1.5 inches at the top and at the bottom. This normally means that the unused area (when watching DVD or movies will throw some dark gray light that will hit the mask around your projection screen. This should be barely detectable assuming your screen has a nice (typical) matte black border around the viewing surface. Note if you are buying a pull down screen (they normally have smaller borders, you might want to make sure it has at least 1.75" of black material at the bottom.
Of course, if you do go this route (a 16:9 screen), and you do project an XGA computer signal, you will have the first 24 pixels hitting the border at the top, and the bottom 24 pixels hitting the bottom border. If your projector is mounted (or placed) where you can access it, you could, of course zoom out just a touch to allow the whole XGA image to fill the screen.
(End of content from the HD72 review.)
SDE and Rainbow Effect
The Mitsubishi HC3000 is typical of DLP projectors with 720p (technically, the HC3000 is 1280x768, but you will only be using 1280x720. As I have expressed in other reviews, different people have different tolerances for seeing pixels. Most, I believe don't mind if pixel structure is slightly visible in things like text credits at the end of movies or in large bright evenly lit areas on the image, as one tends not to notice. Others don't want to be able to see the pixels at all. I fit into the first catagory, and from my perspective the HC3000 works fine if you sit about 1.1 times screen width, which with a 100" diagonal screen is about 9 feet back. Those noticeably more critcal, for the same sized screen might prefer 11-13 feet back.
In some cases, if the pixel structure is slightly visible, when viewing certain source material, such as the grass on a football field, the screen door effect may give you a patterning, or even a fuzzy look. Move back a foot or two, and that will vanish. Again, though, those distortions are not likely to be an issue even at 9 feet back.
As to the rainbow effect caused by the spinning color wheel, this affects a very small percentage of the population. If it was greater, then DLP home theater projectors certainly wouldn't dominate the market. In the case of the HC3000 projector, it uses a 4x color wheel, which is typical for low priced to moderately priced home theater projectors. Note, my own BenQ 8720, which is close to twice the price offers 5x, but, in it's best mode, drops down to 4X, and this is a projector, that, at the beginning of the year, was over $6000 street price.
The bottom line, if you end up being one of the few that can detect the rainbow effect, and it bothers you, you will need to be looking for an LCD projector, or an LCOS projector (the LCOS home theater models are far, far more expensive right now).
The HC3000 leaks a little light out the right side (if you are viewing the projector from the back). The amount is small, and should not pose a problem.
Audible Noise Levels
Mitsubishi claims 25 db in low power mode, which is extremely quiet, and quieter than most other projectors. My own experience, in my testing room, found it to be very quiet, but not as quiet as I had anticipated based on their published specs. Still, it is one of the quieter projectors. (Of course the noise level will vary, depending on where you are sitting relative to the projector - in front, to the sized, underneath...
Switch to high power mode, and the Mitsubishi projector becomes significantly noisier. Enough to be readily audible in most rooms if you are within 6 feet of it. There are those who demand an extremely quiet projector, and few of them will find any projectors quiet enough to fully satisfy them when the projectors are in full power mode. For most of us, once we get immersed in the movie or other viewing, we simply just won't notice the noise, even on quiet scenes. Overall, the Mitusbishi projector does a good job competitively in terms of audible noise levels.
The HC3000 is moderately bright, despite it's rating of only 1000 lumens. Like all home theater projectors (OK, there probably is an exception), the lumen output in this projector's best mode is only a fraction of the rating. Most home theater projectors, in best mode produce anywhere from high 200 lumens to 500 lumens or a little bit more.
Our measurements on the Mitsubishi in it's best mode, which also means low power, and Iris stopped down for best contrast and black levels, measured 465 lumens.
I would suspect the color adjustments I made, to reduce that by around 10%. If one chooses to open the iris (it has only two positions - open and stopped down), contrast and black levels will degrade slightly, but you should see about 25% more lumens, and the HC3000 will still have impressive black levels. Depending on the size of your screen, room, etc., you may decide that you need to open the iris for a slightly brighter picture. Please remember, that a 20% increase in brightness is very subtle. If you closed your eyes for a minute, and someone opened the iris, its most likely you wouldn't notice the difference in brightness, unless you were really trying to see if you could tell.
I should note that I measured brightness before calibrating. Since the HC3000 was "cool" (in the 7000K+ range -favoring blue over red), the measurements should be a bit lower after calibration, with the color temperature close to the desired 6500K range.
Overall, as I have mentioned in the image quality section, Optoma's HD72 is a little bit, but not significantly brighter, and that's the brightest under $3000 projector I have yet measured. So that definitely place the HC-3000 as a "fairly bright" home theater projector, and significantly brighter than the LCD projector competition.
Since I have been comparing the HC3000 to the Optoma HD72, I should point out that the Optoma's best mode, has their AI on (Optoma chose an AI controlled lamp dimming to enhance black levels, while Mitsubishi uses their iris.) One downside to the Optoma HD72, is that with AI on, their fan is louder than the HC3000s. I should note, therefore, that in the comparison images you have seen, the Optoma had AI turned off, so that both projectors were similar in noise levels, and because when I pause my Oppo DVD player, it's bright pause icon on the screen tends to negate the operation of the Optoma's AI.
Lamp Life and Replacement
The HC3000's lamp is rated 2000 hours in full power mode, and 3000 in low power (eco-mode as many manufacturers call it). This is typical of most projectors in this price range, and, since it is brighter than most, especially LCD projectors, there's a good possibility that in your room, you might find that you can run the HC3000 in low power, whereas you would use high power for many other projectors. If that's the case, you get to enjoy a quieter projector, and extend it's lamp life.
Projector Screen Recommendations
Always a challenge! People's screen sizes vary, as do their room conditions, including whether their walls are dark or light colors, where people sit, etc.
With the HC3000, the black levels are extremely good, and that translates to less need for a light or dark gray high contrast surface. In fact, I found the Carada Brilliant White screen that I use in my testing room to work exceptionally well at 106" diagonal, and I'm confident that you can go a couple of sizes larger than that. I was extremely impressed with the black levels when viewing all kinds of content on that screen.
When I moved the HC3000 into my viewing room (my own home theater), I was filling my Stewart Firehawk's 128" diagonal. The Firehawk is a light gray high contrast surface, and I found the HC3000 to be able to do a passable job, with the iris stopped down and low power mode, etc. Opening the iris gave it some extra "oomph" which was appreciated, and the high contrast nature of the Firehawk, still gave me better blacks than I probably had on the Carada with the iris closed down.
Overall, the projector should be comfortable with anything from about 80" to 110" diagonal with a high contrast gray, like the Firehawk, a Da-lite HC CinemaVisiont, etc., but unless you also need those HC screen's ability to reject some side ambient lighting, I think I would stick to high quality white surfaces with modest gain, like the Stewart Studiotek 130 (pretty much the reference standard out there), the Carada, or other equivilent screens. (The Carada claims a 1.4 gain, and Studiotek, 1.3.)
One more thought for you. Lamps dim over time. Your projector will likely be visibly dimmer by the time you have 1000 hours on the lamp. As a result many users who use low power when they first install their projector, or have an iris closed down, may switch to full power, or open the iris to compensate for the lamp's lost lumens. When I say that the HC3000 did a passable job with certain settings, on my 128" screen, remember I'm using a virtually brand new unit. The same claim would not be fully true when the lamp is at 1500 hours, etc.
Of course, I have had to mention aspects of the calibration and settings previously in the review. Let's take it from the top.
I found the HC3000 to have cool colors (stronger blues) out of the box, than it's settings would indicate. The goal for movie watching is a temperature of 6500K. Using the HC3000's Cinema mode, which should produce 6500K, the measurements yielded significantly higher temperatures. At full on white (100 IRE), the HC3000 measured 7629K, at 80 IRE (80% of white - light gray, 7633, and at 50 IRE (50% gray), 7565K.
For the calibration, I had contrast at -1 (recommend -2 or -1), Brilliant Color set to On, and the projector was in Low power mode. (you can expect to measure slightly different temperatures in Low and High (Standard, as Mitsubisi calls it) power modes.
To adjust the color temperature, I switched the Mitsubishi HC3000 to User Memory 1 (you can't make the individual color adjustments in their preset modes). I again set the color temperature to 6500K and adjusted from there.
With the goal of getting as close to 6500K on medium bright (80 IRE) and fairly dark levels (30 IRE), I ended up with the following settings:
Contrast: Red: +10, Green: 0, Blue: -1
Brightness: Red: 2, Green 0, Blue: 0
This resulted in some very good results:
80 IRE: 6547K
50 IRE: 6357K
30 IRE: 6443K
However measuring full white, still gave me too much blue: 7390K. It is typical, I have found, for many home theater projectors to be very consistant in the 30 - 80 IRE range, but have a signficant shift in the brightest and darkest measurements. The good news, is that if you end up with measurements like this adjusted ones, you should be very pleased.
I also measured 20 IRE, which, is definitely at the limits of my light meter, the way I test. At 20 IRE (which I often don't bother to measure), the temperature dropped to 6143, still very respectable.
Overall, the calibration made for excellent results as you can determine from the images in the previous section.
Please note, What I do in my calibration, is set contrast, brightness, and then calibrate for accurate grays (6500K). This is a basic calibration, and does not deal with many of the adjustments that a professional calibrator will do (including calibrating the secondary (complementry) colors: Cyan, Yellow and Magenta. Having said that, I doubt that more than a tiny percentage of people buying a home theater projector, in the HC3000's price range will even consider the typcial $350 - $1000 that a professional calibrator may charge. (They may also calibrate for room conditions with additional ambient light, and may also calibrate for HDTV viewing, which does not use 6500K as the reference.
The bottom line, is that the HC3000 does need some adjusting to maximize the picture and your viewing enjoyment. You have several options, of course, starting with a professional calibration, however, short of "dropping the big bucks", you could simply input the settings I have reported here, and see how they work out for you. Better still, get yourself a calibration disk designed for end users, such as the AVIA disk, which dealers sell for less than $50. That (and other competing disks) will let you set brightness, contrast and adjust for best gray levels. Most of these disks are very user friendly. The AVIA disk for example has a very good tutorial, it focuses more on getting the job done, than trying to explain the technology. Almost anyone who can use a remote control, should have the wits to go through the tutorial and then calibrate their projector. I estimate that it shouldn't take more than 1 hour on your first try. Once you have the hang of it, you can probably complete the process in 20 - 25 minutes. Rocket science made easy!
I have a new toy, I recently started using the Silicon Optics HQV disk to look how projectors compare on jaggies, motion artifacts, and noise. The noise levels were very good and passed the test. Only on some motion artifacts on one test, was the projector a bit slow in correcting. The HC3000 does have an (image) noise filter, and the general background noise, is essentially invisible at normal viewing distances. You probably can see the noise when looking for it, but you aren't likely to notice while enjoying content. (Unless, of course, you are one of those people who spends more time analysing the image, than watching the content).
So, overall, image noise is not a problem, and the HC3000 should be better at handling it than the average DLP projector. (LCD projectors seem to have less image noise, but have other issues instead, such as vertical banding - which personally, I find to be more serious if visible.