Mitsubishi HC3800 - Review Summary
A summary of the Mitsubishi HC3800 projector's pros and cons and capabilities.
Update: We recently reviewed the Mitsubishi HC4000, the replacement of the HC3800. Click here to read the projector review of this new award-winning Mitsubishi projector.
(original date: 9/28/2009), updated on 11/29/09 - Art Feierman
Mitsubishi HC3800 Projector - The Bottom Line
The bottom line on the HC3800 seems to be that Mitsubishi has introduced an "entry level" home theater projector using DLP technology, and 1080p resolution, for a MAP (minimum advertised price) of $1495. The HC3800 is more an entry level projector in terms of price, than it is, in terms of performance.
No doubt, it isn't the least expensive 1080p projector out there. In fact it's street price shoud be about $400-$500 more than three new announced (or already shipping), $999 1080p projectors, and there's always some manufacturer's last year's model closeout floating around too.
On the other hand, it's performance looks to be superior to the only of the $999 projectors we've reviewed so far, the Optoma HD20. The HC3800, overall, also bests the more expensive Samsung projector, which is a few hundred more. There's only so far you can expect a projector in this price range to go. It's not a match for several projectors in the $2500 - $3000 range, but, all of that has been discussed on the Competitors page.
Let's just say, that if the budget is tight, you can spend less elsewhere, but it looks like by doing so, you'll also have to settle for less performance. You can spend a whole bunch more, and do better, as well.
At the Mitsubishi HC3800's price point though, it only seems to have one serious current competitor, and thats the new Epson, which just arrived, and is next on our review list.
What makes the HC3800 especially attractive, and wins a lot of love from me, is it's brightness. This projector is capable of almost 1000 lumens in its best mode! True, it doesn't have many extra lumens for a brighter, and inferior mode for dealing with ambient light, but it does fill a large screen with your favorite movie, rather effortlessly compared to almost everything else!
Ok, so it's bright, but there are other factors that are needed to be a great projector for its price, and the overall picture quality is high on that list. Skin tones are extremely good, and surprisingly so considering we're working with an engineering sample). Black levels, while hardly anything to write home about, turn out to be superior to other projectors lacking a dynamic iris. That said, the HC3800 can't match the blacks of the competition that have good dynamic irises, such as the new Epson.
The zoom lens, with it's greater than usual flexibility (for a DLP projector) of 1.5:1 is a nice improvement, but what may get a lot of attention is th support for an anamorphic lens, without a motorized sled. Mitsubishi isn't the first to offer this, but it is definitely the least expensive projector that can. Only the Panasonic, which "emulates" an anamorphic lens, would make for a less expensive anamorphic type solution, but the Mitsubishi's way of approaching the issue is the better way.
Ultimately, though, the reason I'm singing the praises of the HC3800, is that, while it seems to do just about everything very well (execpt for the lack of great black levels), it combines a great picture - a natural, film-like classic DLP look and feel, with lots of rich colors and depth to the image, with lots of lumens. That in turn gives the projector a lot of pop and wow factor at the same time.
Can you spend more and buy better, sure. Can you spend the same amount and buy better? I don't think so, not from the list of new projectors so far, this fall. Yes, a couple of similarly priced 1080p projectors may offer different strengths than the HC3800, but I doubt any would prove to be superior, overall.
Don't forget some of the hidden strengths of the HC3800 projector either. If you recall, the lamp life is an exceptionally long 3000 hours at full power, and 5000 hours in low power (eco-mode). Combine this with a $299 replacement lamp cost, (and an extra year of warranty) and it only takes a couple of years or so, before users find that the HC3800 didn't really cost them any more, long term, than the typical $999 projector. You simply spend more now, spend less later.
The Very Bottom Line on the HC3800 projector:
The Mitsubishi HC3800 already looks great to me, and that's with working with an engineering sample. I have to believe that the full production units will be at least a little better in several areas. Update: The new full production HC3800 calibrated even better than the sample, and produces a slightly superior image with color accuracy and skin tones being a touch better than the original sample, and that was already very good. -art
If the Mitsubishi HC3800 will work in your room, physically, then you will be hard pressed to find a better overall solution for the money. OK, it lacks a dynamic iris, doesn't offer CFI (creative frame interpolation) although most folks aren't even familiar with CFI, and few projectors offer it, and an occasional other bell and whistle, but, when it comes to the picture, the HC3800 is a major contender.
Rich, saturated and natural looking colors, film-like appearance, and almost 1000 lumens in best mode, make this a dream projector for the bucks for hard core movie fans. Yes, more money will buy you better black level performance, but not much else without spending a ton more money. The HC3800 has ample brightness for watching HDTV sports and general TV viewing with some ambient light, but other projectors can go brighter. I just can't think of one under $2000, that can provide more lumens, and a comparable or better picture. The HC3800 is a virtual light cannon among lower cost projectors for serious movie viewing, often with 50 to 150% more lumens than the competition when comparing "best" movie modes.
Our 1080p comparison report for 2010 won't get started until end of January, as there are a number of new projectors I just haven't seen/reviewed yet. That said, the HC3800 certainly seems to be in a contender for our Best in Class award for Entry Level 1080p projectors. It will have to slug it out with several less expensive projectors and others that cost a bit more.
As of right now, if I had to choose one from all the lower cost projectors out there (let's say under $1800 street price), for my own use, the HC3800 would likely be my first choice, so far, with the Epson 8100 not far behind. I think that pretty much says it all. And that comment automaticaly comes with our Hot Product award.
Mitsubishi HC3800 Projector: Pros, Cons, and Typical Capabilities
Mitsubishi HC3800 Projector: Pros
- Very good "out of the box" picture quality
- Extremely good color accuracy post calibration in "best" mode Rich, saturated and natural looking color
- Very good black levels for a projector in its price range, without a dynamic iris, and better than any lower cost projectors reviewed to date
- Extremely sharp image
- Bright: With almost 1000 lumens in "best" mode, this is as bright as you will find for a best mode, anywhere near its price
- Projector lamp can be changed without unmounting the projector (door is on the top, though well hidden)
- Very low cost of operation thanks to low cost ($299) long life lamp 3000/5000 hours, and a longer warranty than most similarly priced projectors (two years)
- Full support for an anamorphic lens, including "mode 2" with no need for an expensive motorized sled for the lens
- Interpolates 24 fps content to 48 fps
- 12 volt screen trigger
- An excellent price/performance value - it's going to be hard to beat
Mitsubishi HC3800 Projector: Cons
- Black levels, while respectable, are not a match for many more expensive projectors some of which are far better in this regard (the "ultra-high contrast) projectors
- Noisier than the average home theater projector, though about average among DLP home projectors
- The remote control is otherwise "respectable" but it's backlight is very dim
- It is more expensive than several other "entry level" projectors
- Although 24 fps is converted to 48 fps, other projectors offer up to 120 fps
- Would like to see a better method of saving settings and modes
- No lens shift, making rear shelf mounting (up high) impractical
Mitsubishi HC3800 Projector: Typical Capabilities
- About average brightness in "brightest" mode
- Menu layout
- Styling - it's black and slightly sculpted, but "nothing to write home about"
- Audible noise (fan noise for a DLP projector)
This Mitsubishi projector should make for a very good choice for the typical family room or bonus room. And, it's small enough to drag outside for those summer movie nights. Thanks, however, to the great picture, and lots of lumens, and surprisingly good black levels for it's price point, the Mitsubishi HC3800 should prove to be an excellent choice for the money, for most people. That should be true, whether multi-purpose room, or dedicated theater, and whether for a movie fanatic or someone who's just as into sports and HDTV as movies.
It's a great first projector for the money, for someone who just knows he's going to be hooked on home theater. Yet, makes just as much sense for the person who isn't an enthusiast, but wants a nice bright projector with a great picture, for a reasonable (and low) price. The last couple of years, Mitsubishi's entry level 1080p projectors have been 3LCD. While they had their strengths, this Mitsubishi would seem to be the most outstanding entry level 1080p projector (and least expensive) yet, from the folks at Mitsubishi!
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