Mitsubishi HD4000 Widescreen Projector Review - Image Quality
The Mitsubishi HD4000 Widescreen DLP Projector is interesting. It is suitable as a business projector, and will work for many, as bright home theater projector.
As a result, we will look at the projector separately for these two possible uses, starting with it's performance as a business projector.
And, as a bright home theater projector
In it's brightest mode, the HD4000 produced 1341 lumens, off about 30% from claim (most projectors seem to come in between 20 and 30% below), a little dissapointing. The setting that gets you this, is either Auto, or Sports, with the color temp setting set to High Brightness and the lamp in full power mode.
Switching to Video/High Brightness, or Cinema/High Brightness, output remained impressive, dropping only to 1228 lumens. Despite leaving the Color Temp setting to High brightness, instead of 6500K which is the optimum temperature for movies, the color temperature reading was excellent, with the Cinema combo at an almost perfect 6538K, the video/high brightness, was also very good with a color temperature of 6751K.
Dropping out of High Brightness mode makes a rather significant difference, for example, in the Cinema mode, lumens drop from 1228 to 878 lumens.
The bottom line on brightness, is that for presentation purposes, the almost 1400 lumens might be a little below typical for a 2000 lumen projector. Keep in mind that a 10-15% drop in lumens is barely detectable. What is more important, is what the HD4000 is capable of as a business projector. So, in full power mode, it should have no trouble with fully lit conference rooms (full florescents) on 5 and 6 foot screens and a bit larger. It should be able to handle audiences of up to 150, on screens of 10-15 feet diagonal with low to moderate lighting, as is typical in a hotel ballroom presentation. Few people today need more than the typical 2000 lumen projector, in fact 2000 lumens for years (until perhaps 3 years ago) was the standard for typical rental and staging projectors - big 15 - 40 pound beasts that people would rent at business hotels for large meetings, and luncheons. Of course the more power the merrier, but the HD4000 has more than ample brightness for vast majority of presenters.
Because this projector is a widescreen, it should also become popular in other venues, including church sanctuaries, where widescreen has a big advantage, especially in presenting announcements, but definitely hymnals for the congregation to follow along with. The HD4000 should do well in smaller church santuaries and multi-purpose rooms as well as in schools, and their multi-purpose rooms.
I've already touched on the color balance (grayscale color temperatures), above, but I need to address a specific issue that affects most DLP projectors. For many years, DLP projectors have not been doing a good job of reproducing bright reds and yellows, especially in presentations.
Quicktip: True, this is not a problem with a good DLP home theater projector, but that's because they are often similar to much brighter rated business projectors, but knock down their brightness in best modes for home theater, to anywhere from 300 to 500 lumens. By decreasing the brightness, they can make sure of better reds and yellows.
What was most impressive with the HD4000, is how well it handled those bright reds and yellows, even in its very brightest mode. As one of the four DLP projectors reviewed as part of my six projector review, the Mitsubishi definitely had the best reds and yellows (reds very good, yellows pretty good).
The Mitsubishi projector still couldn't match the reds or yellows of the two LCD projectors, the Panasonic LB60NTU, or even the entry level Epson S4, but comes pretty close. I seriously doubt any business presenter would have any problem with the color accuracy. (The possible exceptions - photography, and also graphic design, and related, where dead on color is sometimes required.
You can see here two images - our Pie Chart above, and a four color bar that is part of my text analysis spreadsheet.
I should note, that the primary difference between the Cinema mode and Video mode, is the gamma of the image, rather than the very slight shift in color accuracy.
I will discuss color further, in my comments about using the HD4000 in the home.
The HD4000 is not the sharpest projector on the block.You can see this in the spreadsheet text image. The softness is more than managable for presentations, but if you are looking for that "razor sharp" look and feel, (that LCD projectors tend to be known for), you won't match that here. I would say sharpness is barely average for DLP projectors. Video also appears a touch soft even with a HD 720p source, significantly so compared to my BenQ 8720, but probably only slightly so compared to Optoma's HD7100 home theater projector. In terms of business projectors, it was not quite as sharp as the Dell 2400MP, but comparable to Optoma's TX700.
This is an important section, due, in particular to the HD4000 projector being a widescreen XGA model. If you are using a traditional XGA laptop, the HD4000 will be happy to present normal XGA on the screen, with the far left and right sides of its widescreen capability being unused.
If you can feed it a source that is widescreen, at 1280x768, again, excellent clean text.
Throw some SXGA+ source material at it (1400x1050) as is popular on some of the larger laptops, and the HD4000 compresses down to XGA with minimal degration - almost certainly unnoticeable on typical Powerpoint sized type. Small type such as typical spreadsheet 10 point type is highly readable with the typical small amount of softness and unevenness normally associated with better compression technologies.
Ahhh, got your attention! One of the advantages of a widescreen laptop, is that many people are switching to widescreen laptops - I myself have access here to two of them for testing, a Dell Inspiron, and an Acer. The thing about widescreen laptops, however, is that most do not follow the widescreen (HDTV) standard of a 16:9 aspect ratio. Instead, they are often 16:10 ratio, (as both of mine are) as a result, they are 1280x800.
Now the HD4000 uses the new 1280x768 DLP chip, the same one used in many new home theater projectors. TI (the inventor of DLP) apparently likes selling this chip because it can serve two markets - those that want XGA (without compression) which the traditional widescreen DLP chips (1280x720) can't do. And they want to use it for home theater. This gives them higher production numbers, and lowers cost.
But, I digress. So the bottom line is, if I want my Dell (or Acer) to run with both the laptop display doing widescreen, and the projector being fed at the same time, I'm going to end up with 1280x800 to the projector as one of my options. I could not get both "screens" going, when set to 1280x768. As a result, a very small amount of compression is used to rescale 1280x800 down to 1280x768.
The image you see above, shows the compression losses on the HD4000 at the laptops' native 1280x800. As you can see on the right the text comes out just a little bit soft, but fairly even. You really have to look down to the 8 point white text on black type to see significant degradation, and it's still very readable.
The HD4000 also did a good job on our color compression test, with light yellow text on a medium blue background. Performance here was very good, but again, only the slightest amount of compression is used.
Basic Video Performance
For business purposes, video performance is impressive enough. That's all I need to say at this point, as next, we look at the HD4000 as a possible bright home theater projector, and I will further explore video performance.
I should comment that video performance is sufficiently good that the HD4000 should do great in sports bars, etc. for showing HDTV, as well as general business use.
The HD4000 projector - In Your Home
Let me get rid of the suspense first. Yes, the HD4000 definitely has the "skills" to be a serious contender as a bright projector for home theater, but there are compromises. As a result, the HD4000 isn't for everyone. Purists - seeking near flawless image quality, will not choose this projector. Most mortals, however may find the HD4000 right for them.
A little background:
Let me start by defining the potential users. Home theater projectors (at least almost all that sell for well below $10,000, are definitely not bright devices. They are generally designed to be able to fill a 16:9 screen of up to 120" diagonal, sometimes less, sometimes a little more (most commonly 92" to 110" diagonal). The caveat is that they expect to work in a near pitch black room, or something extremely close to that definition. Think movie theater.
The problems, of course are:
1. Not everyone can reduce their room ambient light to fully darkened or close to that. Some can do so at night, but may want to use the projector before the sun goes down as well.
2. While movies are definitely designed to be shown in the dark, (otherwise the dark scenes get seriously washed out - even with modest ambient light, many buyers have other uses in mind as well. They include watching general TV/HDTV, in particular, sports. Even if you can fully darken the room, who wants to invite some friend over and watch a football game in a blacked out room. It's just not natural. But even some regular TV type viewing or hooking up a video game like the X-box or PlayStation2, users may prefer more than minimal light in the room.
What to do? In some cases, with a smaller screen, especially those designed to reject ambient light, many get by. There is, however a strong market for those who wish to solve the problem by throwing more lumens at it. And that's a very reasonable thing to do.
Brightness vs. HT projectors
The typical home theater projector produces from 300 to 500 lumens in it's best mode, and maybe 500 - 750 in its brightest mode, but some projectors don't even hit 300 lumens in best mode, and few get much over 600 in brightest. For this reason dealers (especially online) have always sold huge numbers of business projectors to those needing the lumens. I would say from my own previous experience, that most commonly used "business" projectors are 2000 - 3000 lumen DLP models (and some newer "affordable" 3500 lumen projectors are now available). In addition there are a couple of very bright LCD models, but they are typically over $4000, and can't match the contrast and black levels of the DLP's.
The first drawback to using a typical business projector is that it's aspect ratio is the traditional 4:3, not the desired 16:9 widescreen ratio. As a result, they have less pixels available - lower resolution - with HD signals, then the tradtional 1280x720 home theater projector. For this reason, for the last few years, I've been a proponent, telling manufacturers that there is a significant market for widescreen business projectors in the home (or bright, dedicated home "entertainment" projectors. Except for those LCD models however, none have been around (in normal price ranges), and the LCD models do not offer black levels and contrast close to what is desired for home theater.
To give you a good idea about how the HD4000 performs - brightness wise - compared to a good, dedicated, home theater projector, consider the three images below. All are shot under the same lighting, with my side back shades open, and some daylight pouring in.
This small angled shot of the room gives you a very good representation of the actual conditions.
Now, for the three images below all shot with the same lighting, over a period of about 15 minutes (however two different DVD players where used, and the frames are slightly different. (a few seconds apart in terms of the movie). The first is an image photographed to show what my BenQ 8720 looks like, with a fair amount of ambient light. It is set for it's brightest reasonable performance: Home Theater mode, lamp at full power, and Iris wide open. The image is definitely not what I would call watchable (thus I spent the "big bucks" for those motorized shades).
The 2nd image is the HD4000 in Cinema Mode/High Brightness, and the 3rd image, is the HD4000 at it's brightest: (Auto or Sports mode/High Brightness). All three images were shot with the same exposure. As you can see, those extra lumens do make a rather significant difference!
Note: I used the zoom lens on my 8720 to reduce the image size - instead of filling my screen, to project about the same size as the HD4000 image.
That has just started to change. The Mitsubishi HD4000 is one of the first to hit the market. Other units are starting to ship, from other manufacturers. I had originally planned to review the Optoma EP1690 - also a widescreen, for the multi-projector comparison, but they weren't able to deliver one on a timely basis and Mitsubishi stepped up and offered the HD4000.
So here we have the HD4000. The review unit puts out over 1200 lumens in its video and cinema modes - two to three times the brightness of most home theater models. Since I am looking at this projector as a "bright" HT model, I was actually more concerned about it in it's brightest modes than lowest (which is still pretty bright).
I was very pleased, when I discovered that both the Cinema and Video presets, mixed with the High Brightness setting, delivered not only lots of lumens, but color balance very close to the ideal 6500K, although greens were too strong. Although I did not formally calibrate the projector, I did a quick "eyeball" adjustment, by going to User 1 which allows access to RGB controls. I reduced Green brightness and contrast by -3, and -5. Those were the settings for many of the images below.
Black Levels and Shadow Detail
The HD4000 can't quite match the best black levels and contrast of dedicated DLP home theater models, such as their own HC3000, but rivals some of the LCD home theater projectors (when you turn off their "enhancements"). As a result, you get very good contrast and very acceptable black levels. In reality, if you have even a small amount of light in your room - maybe a 25 watt lamp in the back, that is on, that light will throw enough lumens at your screen to easily wipe out the difference in black levels and contrast between the HD4000 and projectors with 2-3 times the contrast. You need a fully darkened room for best black levels to be achieved.
To view shadow detail, the next image is normally exposed, and the one below, is the same frame, overexposed (from Lord of the Rings). By overexposing the second frame, it allows you to see the shadow detail along the bottom and right, that is lost by the limitations of my digital camera.
On the color side, color handling is pretty good, I watched several movies (or parts of them), including; The 5th Element, Lord of the Rings, Serendipity (HD) and Phantom (HD), as well as some Jay Leno. In all cases, the HD4000 closely resembled a home theater projector in performance, except for brightness, where it shines.
I also ran the HQV test suite on the HD4000 feeding it a 480i signal from my DVD player (Oppo). It's performance was very acceptable there. In the HQV jaggies tests it achieves a Pass (out of Pass/Fail). I have seen some home theater projectors do better on the test, but the Pass assures overall very good handling of jaggies. On the Image noise tests it also did well, achieving Pass ratings.. Motion artifact (noise) was also very good. It's not the best I have seen, but it does perform at levels demanded for good home theater, and rivals many dedicated home theater projectors. Not surprising, I would guestimate that it's performance in these areas is virtually identical, to Mitsubishi's very popular and well regarded HC3000 home theater projector.
What I did encounter was some, for lack of a better term, is posterization. Almost like large pixels seen in bright areas during image panning on video. (I learned of posterization, long ago, as a graphic effect in Photoshop). Unfortunately my attempts to capture this with my camera were unsuccessful - it is subtle.
Overall, the posterization is definitely a blemish on the HD4000's video performance. As a result, (as mentioned above) this is definitely not a projector for the purist. Those seeking a virtually flawless image will have to look elsewhere. However, for those of you less critical, including those more interested in sports and general viewing than movies, this is something you likely just won't care about, rarely would notice, and it won't show up on your radar. I do believe that this flaw is not critical to many potential users. Those of you who would find this aspect unnacceptable, have already, just from reading this, immediately said to yourself - "not for me."
Perhaps the biggest downside to the HD4000 as a bright projector for home theater is that it could be brighter still. While it will meet the needs of many people who need to do at least some watching with more than minimal light in the room, there's an old saying of sorts - you can never have too many lumens. I believe there is a definite market for bright widescreen projectors for home offering 3000 even 5000 lumens. (Of course they will need "theater modes" so their brightness can be lowered for nighttime/dark room viewing.) The HD4000 in low power cinema and video modes is suitable for dark rooms, although if the screen is too small, some may find the HD4000 overly bright. In folllowing some of various a/v forum threads, I have read of those who are affected by the rainbow effect when the image is very bright, but at lower overall brightness levels, are no longer sensitive to it. I cannot speak from experience, as I am only occasionally able to detect the rainbow effect, and typically only when I'm tired.
The HD4000 is fairly reasonably priced for it's video performance plus all those lumens. By comparison, even Mitsubishi offers a brighter widescreen projector, the WD2000, which we hope to review, but it's list price is $5995 vs the $3995 for the HD4000, so you would have to expect the WD2000 to sell for around $1500 more. Other very bright projectors that are widescreen, include the Sanyo WF10, an LCD projector, with 4000 lumens and a selling price definitely over $6000, and even more expensive models from projectionDesign, DPI, and Christie.
Let's look at some more images. First are the usual images to view flesh tones, Leeloo from the 5th Element, Arwen, and Gandalf, from Lord of the Rings.
Thanks in part to "Brilliant Color" processing, that is also found on Mitsubishi's HC3000 home theater projector, as well as others, including Optoma's HD72 HT projector, colors are rich and vivid, without looking unbalanced.
You can click on the Gandalf image for a much larger version.
Over the last year or so, I have mentioned several other DLP projectors as possible alternatives for the home. One sticking point (and this is true of almost all the DLP business projectors that have been sold to home users), is the speed of the color wheel. We are used to home theater projectors sporting 4x or 5x color wheels, to reduce the percentage of those sensitive to the rainbow effect to a couple percent of the buying public. Business projectors, though, typically have 2x color wheels, so a somewhat larger group will notice them. (Sorry, no good numbers as to the real world percentages, still, few return business projectors sold into the home market for this reason).
I am barely sensitive to rainbows, typically only when tired, and or by shaking my head and blinking my eyes quickly, on moving dark scenes with bright lines, to make them appear. With the HD4000, I definitely was able to pick up on those flashes of rainbows around bright objects, more easily than with home theater projectors. In fact, I was almost surprised, for a "business" projector, I thought it did pretty good, in this regard. No match, though, for dedicated HT projectors. If you are rainbow sensitive, you'll probably need to stick to a dedicated HT projector with a faster color wheel, or an LCD projector.
Well that concludes the longest Image Quality section I have ever written. By this time you probably sorely need a caffeine fix, before continuing to the general performance section.