Mitsubishi HC5500 1080p 3LCD Home Theater Projector Review: Overview
8/9/2008 -Art Feierman
From a picture quality standpoint, the new Mitsubishi HC5500 (link to specs), their entry level 1080p home theater projector is a definite improvement over the HC4900. The slight increase in brightness helps, but an improvement in black level performance makes it a better projector. When comparing it to the HC4900 projector, though, there are also some trade-offs. Mitsubishi (no doubt to keep costs down), reduced the amount of zoom range of the lens, and the amount of lens shift, making it less flexible when it comes to placement. For some, this will eliminate the option to rear shelf mount the projector, if their room dimensions and screen size don't match up nicely with the Mitsubishi HC5500s zoom range. The HC5500 projector is also a bit more expensive than its predecessor, at least in the US, where the weak dollar has made it tough for manufacturers to hold or reduce prices this year.
Mitsubishi HC5500 Highlights:
- New dynamic iris definitely improves black level performance compared to older HC4900 it replaces
- Brighter than most of the lower cost 1080p projectors when comparing "best modes"
- Extremely quiet operation
- "Out of the box" color accuracy is typical, and not exceptional - the HC5500 will benefit greatly from a calibration, be it an easy to use, consumer calibration disc, or professional calibration
- Good remote control
- Motorized zoom, focus and lens shift
- Very good warranty
- Longer lamp life than most (in eco-mode) keeps cost of operation low
- Very limited zoom lens range compared to other 3LCD driven projectors
All considered, the HC5500, forgetting for the moment the reduced zoom and lens shift, is closer to the more expensive HC6000 in performance than the HC4900. That also means it is a much more formidable projector compared to similarly priced competition in the form of the Panasonic PT-AE2000U and Sanyo PLV-Z2000. Further, it has the advantage of being brighter than those two, and also the Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB and the Mitsubishi HC6000. Since I mentioned brightness, it is comparable in best mode brightness to the recently reviewed Viewsonic Pro8100, another new 1080p 3LCD home projector.
Projector: Basic Specifications
Click for full specs, and access to a pdf of the projector's brochure: HC5500
MSRP: $4995, MAP price (more indicative of selling price): $2495
Native Resolution: 1080p (1920x1080)
Zoom Lens ratio: 1.2:1
Lens shift: Vertical
Lamp life: 5000 hours low power (eco-mode), 2000 hours at full lamp power
Weight: 12.3 lbs. (5.5 Kg)
Warranty: 2 Years Parts and Labor
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Mitsubishi HC5500 Projector: Physical Tour
The HC5500 looks essentially the same as all of Mitsubishi's previous 1080p projectors, which means writing this section is mostly deja vu, all over again.
Facing the front of the projector we have the zoom lens mounted to the right side. As you can see, the lens is recessed, but in the sense that the casing comes forward to protect it, as the front of the lens is forward of most of the front of the projector, by several inches. There's not much else to report on the front, only that there are two drop down feet on the left and right, and the infra-red sensor for the HC5500's remote control is mounted low, right next to the left foot.
The zoom lens only has a 1.2:1 zoom ratio, making the HC5500, in this regard, much more similar to DLP projectors than other 3LCD projectors, most of which have 2:1 zooms or something close to that. This lens allows the projector to be placed (measured from the front of the lens), as close as 10.5 feet from the screen, or as far back as 12.8 feet. If you plan to shelf mount, since you need some clearance behind the projector for cables, etc., figure that for the 100" screen, your back wall needs to be less than 15 feet from the screen, unless you want a really long shelf. Obviously, if you get a larger screen, which the HC5500 has the lumens for, by the way, then you can place the projector further back.
Moving to the top of the Mitsubishi HC5500 you will find the control panel on the right side (looking from the rear of the projector now). From the left, there are two indicator lights; one for Status, and one for Power. The manual will tell you what different light/flashing combinations mean. Next comes the Power button. Mitsubishi uses the classic press once for on, press twice, to shut down. Further to the right on the bottom row, is the Menu button, and above it the left arrow button. As you would expect, the next row, has the up arrow and down arrow buttons with an Enter button in the middle. In the last vertical row toward the front, is the lens shift button, the right arrow is next, to complete the common diamond shaped navigation layout, and below it, the zoom/focus button.
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The left and right arrow buttons double as source select buttons with left toggling between computer and HDMI inputs, while the right one offers up the standard video choices (component, composite and S-Video). The up arrow, also functions as an Auto Position button, when not in the menus (that's mostly for computer a computer input).
The access panel to change the lamp is conveniently located on the right side of the HC5500 (looking from the back), which means you don't have to unmount the projector to change the lamp. In this case, for many users, that convenience may not be a big deal, as if owners choose to run in low power - "eco-mode" the lamp is rated 5000 hours, which means many are likely to replace the projector before they need a new lamp.
That takes us to the back of the Mitsubishi projector where the input panel is located. The HC5500 is pretty typical of today's 1080p projectors in that it offers 2 HDMI (1.3 with Deep Color support) inputs. In addition there is one component video input (3 color coded RCA jacks), and one computer input (which can alternately be used for a 2nd component video input). Of course you'll find the obligatory composite video and S-Video inputs as well. Rounding out the connectors are an RS-232 for "command and control", and a 12 volt screen trigger.
A Kensington Lock slot for security, the power cord receptacle, and the back infra-red sensor complete the back of the projector.
Give or take a change or two to the inputs, as well as the new zoom lens with shorter range, and less lens shift, the HC5500 is pretty much, physically the same as all the previous 1080p Mitsubishi projectors.
Time for the fun stuff, it's Image Quality time!