Mitsubishi HD4000 Widescreen Projector Review

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 1280×720 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.

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