Mitsubishi HC4000 Projector Review
Mitsubishi's HC4000 (check out Mitsubishi here) replaced the "award winning" HC3800 (awards from us, and other reviewers), late October 2010. It is basically an improved version of the older model. Each year there are a few basically new projectors, but most are simply minor imrprovements. Some see new features. Others just refinement. The HC4000 fits into the refinement class.
We received a pre-production version, which allowed us to post this review in time for the CEDIA show, although the HC4000 did not become available to consumers for about an additional month.
It should be noted that the older Mitsubishi HC3800 was awarded the Best In Class Runner-Up Award in our annual Home Projector Comparison Report in April 2010, and received our Hot Product Award, when reviewed. We're pleased to also award the Mitsubishi HC4000 projector our Hot Product Award.
September 2010 - Art Feierman
Last updated Dec. 2010.
Mitsubishi HC4000 Projector Overview
First things first. The Mitsubishi HC4000 (click for specs) projector is very bright in "best" movie mode, and it's got impressive color. And a low cost of operation! And other things, including a very reasonable price. Those are a few of the reasons it picked up the award.
Here's a lower cost projector, in the form of the Mitsubishi HC4000 (info about Mitsubishi here), that can handle larger screens, even in its best mode. I like that, as someone with a 128" high contrast gray screen (Firehawk G3). The HC4000 fills it rather effortlessly, in "best" mode, with Brilliant Color on, and can still fill it with BC off. Nice!
It's not often we complete a review of a home theater projector based on working with a preproduction projector. Yet, that's exactly the case here with our HC4000 projector review. Last year, the HC3800 we received was even earlier - call it an engineering sample, but then, this is now a 2nd generation projector from the HC3800 platform. We received the HC4000 about 3 weeks ago (August '10), and have actually had to wait a few days to post, in line with Mitsubishi's announcement.
For those curious as to what the differences are between an engineering sample, and pre-production, well, the engineering sample last year - half the inputs didn't even work... Everything works dandy on this HC4000 projector (but then, it is a 2nd generation projector, with mostly minor improvements).
We may take another look at a full production HC4000, just to see if brightness increases, or changes to the color tables (that would render our provided calibration settings worthless). If they change the color tables, we'll recalibrate.
For those of you sensitive to the rainbow effect, the HC4000 projector should have less effect on you than most other lower cost DLP projectors. The HC4000 sports a 4x - that would be 14400 rpm - six segment color wheel. Much of the lower priced single chip DLP competition; BenQ W1000, Vivitek H1080, Viewsonic Pro8200, use 2x or 3x wheels and therefore should have more visible rainbows to those sensitive.
Most will find the HC4000 to be an excellent "little" and low cost 1080p home theater projector, worth considering if they are looking for a projector anywhere near the price.
Some Basics: The HC4000 pricing is not yet set ( a few days before CEDIA as I write this) but it looks like $1495 MSRP, and based on the street prices of the older HC3800 it replaces, I think $1299 is a good number, for now, to quote as the projected street price. We shall see. The HC4000 is a DLP projector with 1080p resolution. As one of the lower cost 1080p projectors (the lowest are at $899), it is a basic home theater projector in several ways. For one, it has the usual rather limited placement flexibility of most lower cost DLP projectors. Also, while the HC4000 offers quite respectable black level performance, it does so without a dynamic iris, which means it can't match more expensive DLP projectors (like the BenQ W6000) with irises, when it comes to the blackest blacks.
Being a fan of brighter projectors, I love that this Mitsubishi HC4000 projector is bright, in its best movie mode (it's bright with Brilliant Color off, and even brighter with it on). It also has has a longer than average lamp life (to keep your long term ownership costs down), and has pretty impressive picture quality, with very impressive skin tones (like last year). This is an affordable projector that should please some rather picky potential owners, especially those into picture quality. Consider it a step up in performance from the real entry level priced 1080p projectors.
Mitsubishi HC4000 Projector Highlights
- Very good skin tones, both natural and rich looking (very classic DLP) post calibration, and impressively good right out of the box
- Extremely bright in "best" mode, with over 600 lumens
- Brighter than average in "brightest" mode too
- Very good black level performance, considering no dynamic iris
- The primary improvement (in blacks) due to an upgrade to a Darkchip3 performance DLP, from the Darkchip2 in the HC3800.
- Typically limited placement flexibility as a DLP projector, with (in this case) moderate zoom range, and no lens shift
- Dual anamorphic modes allow use of anamorphic lens for Cinemascope viewing (no letterbox) without needing an expensive motorized lens sled
- Based on an estimated $1299 street price, the HC4000 could prove to be the best or one of the best projectors near its price, (as was its predecessor)
Specs for Mitsubishi HC4000
MSRP: $1495. Online "street price"? Our estimate: $1299
Technology: Single chip DLP
Native Resolution: 1080p (1920x1080)
Brightness: Manufacturer claim: 1300 lumens
Measured Brightness: "best mode": 550 lumens, "brightest" 1151 lumens
Zoom Lens ratio: 1.5:1 Manual zoom and focus
Lens shift: None
Lamp life: 3000 hours at full power, 5000 hours in eco mode
Weight: 7.7 lbs. (3.4 Kg)
Warranty: 2 Year Parts and Labor
Click here for full specifcations: Mitsubishi HC4000
Mitsubishi HC4000 Special Features
Black Level Performance - DarkChip 3
In speaking with Mitsubishi product management, they immediately pointed out that the biggest change to be found in the HC4000, is the upgrading of performance of the DLP chip. Basically Mitsubishi has gone with a DLP chip with better contrast for better blacks. (Yes, we were able to see the difference.) I have both here, and have done side by side photos, which you will see further into the review.
HC4000 Lamp Life
Lamp life may not be as exciting as black level performance, but it usually is of particular interest to those buying relatively entry level priced projectors. After all, if cost wasn't a consideration, you would probably be reading a review of some $4000 or $8000 projector now, not one that's under $1500.
Most lamps are rated 2000 hours at full power, and 3000 in low, or "eco-mode" power. Though many projectors are sporting longer life bulbs the last year or so.
The Mitsubishi HC4000, however is rated 3000 hours at full power, and an extremely long 5000 hours in low power mode. Combine that with a the Mitsubishi's very bright "best mode" and a lot of folks will be running in "eco-mode" for their movie watching, while with another projector, they might be at full power, getting only 2000 hours, instead of 5000 hours. That trade-off can save you hundreds of dollars in a year or three, depending on how much you use your projector. For example, compared to the lower cost Optoma HD20, if both are used with lamp at full power, and you watch 20 hours a week, you will have used 2 additional lamps for the Optoma by 6000 hours, but only 1 for the HC4000 - bingo, you've just saved over half the cost difference between the two projectors, assuming typical lamp pricing. Of course 6000 hours, represents 40 hours a week for 3 years, not an unreasonable amount for those of us who use our systems as our general TV, as well as for movie watching. If you want to best the life of the Mitsubishi lamp, the only one I can think of, that's noticeably better are the Epson's which claim up to 5000 hours in any mode. Still, the Mitsubishi lamp should outlast most of the competitions!
1.5:1 Zoom Lens
Nothing has changed with the lens setup: The HC4000 is one of a recent batch of DLP projectors that are finally offering more than the absolute minimal 1.2:1 zoom lenses. Finally, you'll have a bit of placement flexibility if you need it. I'm not sure how many people buy 3LCD projectors over DLP projectors simply because of placement flexibility advantages of the typical 3LCD projector. That said, the HC4000 still lacks adjustable lens shift so it can't be rear shelf mounted, although with the longer zoom range, in some rooms that aren't too deep, you could mount the projector under a shelf on the rear wall, or a mount coming from the rear wall. Ultimately, though, a projector either works in your setup or not. The HC4000 has more chance of working, then, say the lower cost Optoma HD20, which is more limited.
Related to the zoom lens, is the HC4000's compatibility with using an anamorphic lens, which it does. The HC4000 projector however has two anamorphic modes, the usual, designed to work with the lens for Cinemascope movies, and the second mode, so you can watch everything else without removing the anamorphic lens. In other words no motorized sled needed). This is discussed further in the Performance section of this projector review.
Image below - from the trailer for last summer's Star Trek movie: