The Art of Home Theater Projectors

Mitsubishi HC7900DW Home Theater Projector – Determining Value

Greetings, projector fans,

Mitsubishi HC7900DW home theater projector

HC7900DW projector - good in a family room, great in a home theater

As promised in the last review, I wanted to tell you a bit about how I decided in the last couple of days of the review, that the Mitsubishi HC7900 DW, deserved our HOT Product award, when only days earlier I was torn between giving it a Special Interest award (not as “major”), or no award at all.

First, I’ve been reviewing some rather bright home theater projectors lately, including several capable of more than 1500 lumens, and two breaking 2000 lumens.  That seems to have “colored” my initial thoughts.  I’ve also, in the HC7900 review, described it as a great projector for “condos” – in other words, smaller rooms.

Then, as part of the review, I finally moved the HC7900DW projector down into the testing room(from the theater), for some side by side work.  The usual Epson HC5020 (for comparisons) was in Texas, with Pete, for a gamers review, but I still had a dealer provided PT-AE8000 here, so I put the two side by side.  At the end of a couple of hours, spent viewing 2D and 3D, I still agreed with a number of thoughts I had going in, but also came away with some radically different considerations elsewhere:

Brightness:  While I had been describing the Mitsubishi projector as a smaller room projector, the side by side reminded me that calibrated, the Mitsubishi is actually more than 10% brighter than the Panasonic when it too is calibrated!   Now when I tried “brightest” mode against “brightest” mode, true, the Panasonic was far brighter.  Even in eco mode, the Panasonic was a lot brighter than the Mitsubishi at full power.  No contest.

HC7900DW projector has great skin tones

Beautiful color - skin tones in particular, make the HC7900DW impressive

“It’s the Picture…”   Here we go.   Brightness was important, but the kicker is skin tones.  The Panny looks great, but the HC7900 projector is simply a touch better – more natural looking.  That shouldn’t be a real surprise, since that’s generally been a “benefit” of well designed DLP projectors in the past.

Out the door went any thoughts of no award. A projector that can put up an image where skin tones are that good pretty much guarantees some award, unless it’s really screwed up in some other areas.   The HC7900 projector  proved better (skin tones) than the Panasonic, and therefore I’d have to say, also better than the Epsons, and probably comparable to the Sony HW50ES (or perhaps a touch better?  The Sony was gone by that time.

A Perception Problem for Mitsubishi!   I’ll blame them.  Damn them for changing the HC7900′s case to white, from last year’s black on the HC7800D.   The white implies family room, dark/black implies home theater/cave environments.  We know that’s not the case with Epson, who uses black casing on the Pro Cinema 6020 to distinguish it from the otherwise essentially identical Home Cinema 5020.  In Epson’s case, (pun), the black vs. white is more marketing than message.

By switching to white, (and supported in their marketing pieces, Mitsubishi paints the HC7900DW as a home projector more suitable for the family room / living room / bonus room crowd, than the theater crowd.

But, this projector is better in the Theater, despite the white case.  OK, you are asking “why” (most of you have figured it out though).   It’s the brightest mode issues, and combine that with 3D brightness.   Here’s the short version.  The Mitsubishi’s brightest mode may be able to output more than 1300 measured lumens, but, I can’t stand to watch it.  Not even for sports in a bright room.  It’s way too green.  red could be described as a myth.  Now, go to the next best mode, and you still are approaching 1200 lumens which these days, is about average for a brightest mode.

So, do the math.  700 calibrated lumens will do a great job on a 120″ diagonal screen for your 2D content, in a light controlled room.   And 1100+ lumens will do a respectable job for sports etc., with some, but well controlled (intentional?) ambient light.  Again, great in the “cave” or theater.

It’s when the projector faces rooms without great lighting control – especially in the daytime, that the HC7900DW starts running out of lumens quickly.  Of course screens can help, but, in general, the HC7900DW is no match for the various projectors that can put 25% more,  to almost double the lumens on all but a small screen, in such rooms.

Again.  With a smaller screen – say 100″ or 92″ the HC7900 is probably just fine in a family room situation.  But forget that 120″ that would be fine in a theater.   As to 3D, even in my theater 100″ diagonal was really stretching it brightness wise.

So, back to my award decision.   What changed my mind is this:  I determined that it certainly deserves a Hot Product Award if it’s going to be in a home theater/cave.  But, it can deserve it almost as much in that living room, – if you don’t go large screen.

And – this is important – for 3D viewing, count this a projector that’s fine for “playing around” with 3D, someone not really into 3D, not sure about it, and, on the fence if they even need it at all.   Or, perhaps a person who may well decide to replace the projector in a couple of years for whatever reason (including a newfound love for 3D).   But, the HC7900DW is  not my first choice – or even close, for someone like me, who really finds 3D to be superior (even my wife now agrees – when the glasses are comfortable).  I love 3D, because even with a mediocre movie like the new 3 Musketeers, 3D makes it more alive, more believable, because you are more immersed – way more!   Of course if your only 3D viewing experience is on some tiny (50″ perhaps) LCDTV, then you have no real grasp of the immersion.  Immersion is why people pay for Imax over standard cineplex theaters.

I deemed – in my mind – that the HC7900DW is a really excellent (place in your) theater projector, and it can also double as a projector that can be excellent in a living room / family room world (as long as the screen isn’t too large, or the demand for bright 3D  isn’t a major issue).    Now I’ll remind you about what it takes to earn one of our Hot Product Awards:  A projector has to be so well done, that it should be either the best or close to the best choice for at least a small, but significant portion of the folks out there looking for projectors.   I’m not sure that would be true if we considered this first and foremost a family room projector, but once we seriously consider it in the theater, it has to be.  It becomes an excellent, and perhaps, best choice among the DLP projectors competing in the home theater / cave space.  Further, it’s pricing – even though it’s a “local dealer only” distribution, puts it as less expensive than two top competitors – the PT-AE8000 and the VPL-HW50ES, and not much more expensive than the Epson 5020 (which is also white, but great in a theater).

So, there you have it.  Mindset shift.  Home Entertainment projector?   The HC7900′s not bad.  As a home theater projector, it’s rather a fine one.  In both cases, color and especially skin tones, are excellent.  -art

PS.  for you gamers – impressive, though not exceptional lag times to report.  See the Special Features on the first page of the review:

 

News And Comments

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    Good projector with informative description of this
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  • Tim Jones

    Hey Art, what happened to the review of the HC8000?

    • http://www.projectorreviews.com/members/lisasonfeier/ Lisa Feierman

      Mitsubishi said the one that was expected back from someone else was late. I leave for CES Monday, back Sunday night. They just said it was just back and being checked out, so I should have it shortly after the show. I may have to flip a coin to see which I do first – the HC8000 or the JVC X75R. -art