Mitsubishi HC3 – Overview
Most importantly I was able to fully enjoy the watching TV and sports with a pair of lights turned on in the room. We’re not talking sunshine pouring in windows, but I am talking about more than enough light to wipe out all the dark areas in any movie regarless of the HT projector. Also to the point that’s more than enough light to comfortably entertain, which I think is the real strength of the this home theater projector.
One more thing, I did set up the HC3 projector next to a BenQ PE5120 on the custom screen you may have seen pictures of in some of my reviews – it is 48″ high and 206″ wide – more than enough to project two widescreen images side by side. The HC3 had enough extra brightness and dynamics, that with a small but significant amount of ambient light, the HC-3 actually did better in terms dark area detail, despite the lower contrast. This was because the ambient light was more than enough to wipe out any details that the 5120 would normally reveal in dark areas, that the HC3 could not. And because the HC3 is the brighter projector, it held up better overall. Remember though, in a dark room, the BenQ does much better on those shadow details.
Switching to movies, I started with Lord of the Rings (LOTR) – Return of the King. Now one thing about LOTR, is that there are plenty of dark scenes. This is where the HC-3 comes up a bit short in terms of details in shadow areas. A few less stars are visible in night scenes, and sometimes details in dark cloaks or the background are missing, as the HC-3 cannot get as close to producing blacks as higher contrast DLP projectors. Other entry level projectors that are DLP powered, may not be near as bright, but have the much higher (1500:1, 2000:1) contrast ratios, and do better “black levels”. Below is an scene from Bulletproof Monk. In the foreground our hero has his back to us, and he’s wearing a leather jacket. I have artifically boosted brightness so that you can see that there is no shadow detail there. Other projectors do find some detail, but again, movie watchers watch movies, and don’t spend their time looking for shadow detail. Below that is another scene from the same room, and you can definitely understand that there is plenty of detail overall, in dark areas, under the table, the couch, etc.
The real question, how much of a problem is this? That depends. If you are a movie purist and want the best overall image for watching both light and dark scenes, then you will probably be happier with a DLP projector, like the BenQ 5120, Optoma H31, Infocus Screenplay 4805. (all are slightly more expensive).
But, if TV and sports watching are your first love, and movie watching is fine too, but not your primary reason for buying a projector, then, for you, this is probably the best projector anywhere near the $1000 price point.
I moved through several other movies, including Bulletproof Monk, which has lots of dark scenes, and also a lot of high contrast scenes with a mix of both very dark and very bright. With the limitation of the HC-3 on black levels and shadow detail, expected, the overall viewing sensation was still very good. This projector may lose more shadow detail than the others, but it does handle the overall blend of darks and brights – very well – in no small part due to the saturation advantage of LCD over DLP.
So overall the HC3 does a more than acceptable job on movies (remember it has rich dynamic colors), but if you are “movies first”, you should at least check out the competition. If you are sports, TV focused, I think you’ve found your match.
Due to the low contrast, if you are concerned about dark levels, you may want to choose a grey surface screen (Stewart Greyhawk, Da-lite HC Da-Mat, etc.) Of course these high contrast surface screns, which do enhance the image, are expensive. This will darken those dark grays bringing them closer to the desired black, and they will also reject some ambient light from the sides. For TV and sports fans, a standard matte surface should be fine.
Let’s start with the remote control. I’m not impressed with this projector’s remote. It does provide separate buttons for different inputs, and about half the buttons are backlit, but many buttons including the power button are in strange places. As a remote just for the projector, in a home theater environment it doesn’t get used much. If you have an A/V receiver, it will probably handle your source switching, so mostly you’ll use it for intial setup, but possibly to change the color/image settings for different types of use (when you have ambient light vs, dark room, preferences for movies, vs those for normal TV, or sports, and for gaming. This remote is a learning remote, so you can program it to control 2 other devices, however, if you do want a single remote to control your whole system, I would recommend one of the third party top quality remotes from companies like Harmony or Universal. Again, remember that the HC3 projector started shipping at the end of 2003. Newer designed projectors mostly seem to have better laid out remotes. Still, this is hardly a deal breaker.
Projector Noise Levels
This Mitsubishi projector is noisy relative to the competition. Mitsubishi does not provide a spec, but in full power mode, I would estimate around 34-36 db. Most of the competition now is 33 db. or less and the quietest – are virtually silent – with decibles down in the mid to upper 20′s.
If you are ceiling mounting, the HC3 projector should be quiet enough for movies, and only be slightly noticeable on very quiet scenes. If, on the other hand, you plan to set it on a table next to where you sit, it is going to be noticeable on quiet scenes. Is it a big problem? Probably not, in fact the HC3 is probably no noiser, than most $6000+ HT projectors built just 3 years ago (such as the Sanyo PLV60 at 37db).
This again comes back to the fact that this LCD projector is better for TV/sports/gaming than movies. Believe me, on an average sporting event, or sitcom, you’ll never notice the noise.
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