Mitsubishi HC1600 720p, DLP, Home Theater Projector Review

HC1600 Home Theater Projector: Out of the Box Picture Quality

The HC1600 is OK when it comes to out of the box picture quality. Color balance is a little off (very typical). In the case of the HC1600, the color temperature is mostly low – too warm (shift toward red), especially in the darker areas of a scene. It’s definitely watchable, but spending a few bucks on a user calibration disc (and roughly an hour of your time), will make a visible difference, and improve viewing pleasure. If you are too chicken to tackle that (it really isn’t difficult, even for a non-techie), then I suggest you plug in the settings we provide in the calibration section below, based on our calibration of this Mitsubishi projector, into your HC1600. Each projector will differ slightly (mostly variation in lamp performance), but these settings should get you at least 80% of the way from “out of the box” to best performance.

“Out of the box”, for those on the lookout for more detail, the HC1600 does a great job in terms of shadow detail. I’m talking about as good as it gets. Black levels are, on the other hand, very average. (This doesn’t really change with calibration.)

Mitsubishi HC1600: Skin Tone Handling

We’re now talking post calibration. Skin tones proved to be very good. There are times when it’s less than excellent, but never worse than very good. I found skin tones, in both movies and in HDTV sources, to be pretty natural looking. Keep in mind when looking at all the images below, that what you see on your monitor is not going to be a great representation of what I see projected on the screen. There are many reasons – my dSLR’s limitations, the fact that your monitor can’t begin to match the color dynamics or contrast of a good projector, and so on. Still, if it looks great here, on the small screen, it’s only going to look better in your room!

We’ll start with the usual two standard DVD images from Lord of the Rings. You can detect a slight push (too much) red. Quite honestly, this is more the result of my camera than anything else. Figure on the screen, the skin tones look even more natural.

Keep in mind that when you consider how good color – or skin tones, are, you need to consider the lighting of the scene. Sunlight, incandescent lighting, or even, as is popular today, adding a definite color caste to a movie (The Matrix), or even different color emphasis in different parts of a movie (different lands in Lord of the Rings). Immediately below are three photos of James Bond from Casino Royale (Blu-ray DVD), under different lighting – pure sunlight, fluorescent lighting (in an “airport”) and diffused sunlight (shade).

Mitsubishi HC1600 Projector: Black Level and Shadow Detail

HC1600 Black Level Performance

Alas, if the HC1600 has one particular weakness when it comes to picture quality, it is its black level performance. This projector’s black levels are very so-so, and that’s considering that it is an entry level 720p projector. The projector, on really dark scenes, just can’t do blacks dark enough to give you that feeling of jet black, more of “pretty dark gray”. As you can see in the images immediately below, first, of some space scenes.

This first Blu-ray image is from Space Cowboys – a nice dynamic, dark scene with a small area of bright white, and also bright red – a challenge for a dynamic iris.

 

This next image is from The Fifth Element. It is an image I use in all reviews. In this case, I didn’t crop out the letter box area at the top and bottom. The image, as usual, is somewhat overexposed, to reveal the full depth of the starfield, but in this case the blacks are very gray, whereas on other projectors, the letterbox, and the space background are definitely darker: Getting away from space scenes, here is another image, of a night scene from Aeon Flux: Overall, on a scene like this, filling a 100″ white screen surface (Carada Brilliant White screen), the blacks look pretty good, but they still aren’t that black. The letterbox area is distinctly gray, not enough to ruin the enjoyment, but enough to occasionally notice. This is one reason why I recommend high contrast gray surface screens for this projector. It will lower that black level, and really helps, in my opinion. It is necessary, for those more critical of black levels, but most will be satisfied, overall, with the Mitsubishi’s performance.

HC1600 Shadow Detail Performance

While black level performance could be better, shadow detail performance is truly excellent. Dark scene after scene, the HC1600 revealed as much or more detail than competing projectors, and many more expensive ones. I believe there is a bit of a trade-off, that the almost blacks can’t get quite as black as other projectors, but that also makes them a bit lighter, and easier to make out the details. Whatever the finer points, you won’t lack for details in dark areas.

Let’s start with this extremely dark scene with Clint Eastwood in Space Cowboys. This is an excellent example of both the excellent shadow detail, and the weaker (lighter shaded) blacks. Look to the details in the black blinds, and the white vertical lines. Below the image from the HC1600, are two additional images, one from the direct DLP projector competition, the Optoma HD65, and the third one, is the Panasonic PT-AX200U, a slightly more expensive 3LCD powered 720p resolution, home theater projector. (Keep in mind that color shifts tend to be much greater on these long time exposure, very dark images). Skin tones look far more similar in reality. Concentrate on shadow detail and blacks.

Optoma H65 (sorry, this image is a little underxposed compared to the others, so you’ll have to mentally compensate):

Now, here’s a fourth image, from the JVC RS1, which until a year ago had the best black levels, and very good shadow detail, and was widely considered the best 1080p projector at the time.

HC1600
Optoma HD65
Panasonic PT-AX200U
JVC RS1
HC1600
+Optoma HD65

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