Can you spend more and buy better, sure. Can you spend the same amount and buy better? I don't think so, not from the list of new projectors so far, this fall. Yes, a couple of similarly priced 1080p projectors may offer different strengths than the HC3800, but I doubt any would prove to be superior, overall.
Don't forget some of the hidden strengths of the HC3800 projector either. If you recall, the lamp life is an exceptionally long 3000 hours at full power, and 5000 hours in low power (eco-mode). Combine this with a $299 replacement lamp cost, (and an extra year of warranty) and it only takes a couple of years or so, before users find that the HC3800 didn't really cost them any more, long term, than the typical $999 projector. You simply spend more now, spend less later.
The Very Bottom Line on the HC3800 projector
The Mitsubishi HC3800 already looks great to me, and that's with working with an engineering sample. I have to believe that the full production units will be at least a little better in several areas. Update: The new full production HC3800 calibrated even better than the sample, and produces a slightly superior image with color accuracy and skin tones being a touch better than the original sample, and that was already very good. -art
If the Mitsubishi HC3800 will work in your room, physically, then you will be hard pressed to find a better overall solution for the money. OK, it lacks a dynamic iris, doesn't offer CFI (creative frame interpolation) although most folks aren't even familiar with CFI, and few projectors offer it, and an occasional other bell and whistle, but, when it comes to the picture, the HC3800 is a major contender.
Rich, saturated and natural looking colors, film-like appearance, and almost 1000 lumens in best mode, make this a dream projector for the bucks for hard core movie fans. Yes, more money will buy you better black level performance, but not much else without spending a ton more money. The HC3800 has ample brightness for watching HDTV sports and general TV viewing with some ambient light, but other projectors can go brighter. I just can't think of one under $2000, that can provide more lumens, and a comparable or better picture. The HC3800 is a virtual light cannon among lower cost projectors for serious movie viewing, often with 50 to 150% more lumens than the competition when comparing "best" movie modes.
Our 1080p comparison report for 2010 won't get started until end of January, as there are a number of new projectors I just haven't seen/reviewed yet. That said, the HC3800 certainly seems to be in a contender for our Best in Class award for Entry Level 1080p projectors. It will have to slug it out with several less expensive projectors and others that cost a bit more.
As of right now, if I had to choose one from all the lower cost projectors out there (let's say under $1800 street price), for my own use, the HC3800 would likely be my first choice, so far, with the Epson 8100 not far behind. I think that pretty much says it all. And that comment automaticaly comes with our Hot Product award.