Mitsubishi HC5500 1080p 3LCD Home Theater Projector Review:

OK! What we have here, in the form of the new Mitsubishi HC5500 (link to specs), is a projector both better, in terms of picture quality, and worse, in terms of placement flexibility, than the Mitsubishi HC4900 it replaces. At least initially, it’s also selling for more than the HC4900, which for most of its life, was street priced around $2000 or less. The HC5500, by comparison is currently (8/08) street priced at $2495, less a $200 mail in rebate.

Because of the higher net street price, the HC5500 is priced below, but much closer to a host of other 1080p projectors, including the Panasonic PT-AE2000U, the BenQ W5000, the Optoma HD80/HD8000 series, and of course, the Epson Home Cinema 1080UB. Of all of those just mentioned, only the Optoma HD8000 sells for $3000 or slightly more (only available from local dealers), while the others are mostly in the $2500 – $3000 range.

All of the 3LCD projectors mentioned have much better zoom range, and all have better lens shift range as well. The DLP projectors; the Optomas and BenQ W5000, also have only 1.2:1 zoom lenses, although each has slightly different throw distances. The BenQ W5000 also has lens shift (the Optomas do not), with almost exactly the same range on the lens shift, as the W5000.

While the addition of a dynamic iris significantly improves black level performance, the competition is tougher these days. The Epson – the reigning black level champ under about $4000, is definitely a cut above, in this regard. Of the others mentioned, all are roughly comparable in black levels to the Mitsubishi. Further below, I’ll look at how it stacks up to several of the aforementioned projectors.

Mitsubishi HC5500 Projector: Pros, Cons, and Typical Capabilities

Mitsubishi HC5500 Projector: Pros

  • One of the most affordable 1080p projectors
  • Brighter than most 1080p projectors when comparing “best” color modes
  • Very good color after calibration
  • Extremely sharp image
  • Dynamic iris, for improved black level performance
  • Very good shadow detail
  • Excellent gamma controls
  • Extremely quiet operation
  • Longest life lamp – 5000 hours in eco-mode, for low cost of operation
  • Compact form factor
  • One of the least expensive 1080p projectors
  • Low image noise
  • Very good manual, with reasonable explanations for many functions

Mitsubishi HC5500 Projector: Cons

  • Limited placement flexibility due to 1.2:1 zoom lens, no match for other 3LCD projectors, and no better than DLP projectors
  • Lens shift is more limited than other 3LCD projectors, the same as the BenQ DLP, but of course better than the Optoma projectors, none of which have lens shift
  • No horizontal lens shift (rarely an important issue)

Mitsubishi HC5500 Projector: Typical Capabilities

  • Average brightness in “brightest mode”
  • Manual
  • Good Menus, but nothing exceptional
  • Range of the remote control
  • Lamp life in full power mode
  • Black level performance
  • 2 Year warranty is typical, although longer than some competitors

Mitsubishi HC5500 Projector: Competitive Aspects

The HC5500 is not only more expensive than its predecessor, but improved to the point that the extra few hundred dollars it sells for, is easily justified. That said, though, how does it stack up against the competition. I’ve already addressed the general physical placement issues above, so here’s a quick take on how it compares in other ways. Also, note that the HC5500 is one of the first new home theater projectors released in the second half of 2008, and understand that most new home projectors hit in September thru January, so many of these projectors mentioned will have newer models replacing them in a few months.

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