Mitsubishi HC4900 Summary
It's going to be a tough call, if you are shopping for an under $3000 1080p projector. Here's how they stack up:
The HC4900 has the brightness advantage for movie watching over the other two LCD projectors, and, most likely, also against the Optoma HD80 (DLP) that we haven't reviewed yet. Most notably it is dramatically brighter than the Panasonic PT-AE1000U, which as the most film-like image of the 3 LCD based home theater projectors.
While the Panasonic might be more film like, the Mitsubishi is not only much brighter, but also much sharper, and it does it without the slightly "hard" image that I have used to describe the Epson Home Cinema 1080.
If you need maximum horsepower (lumens) in brightest mode, the Epson has the real advantage, but, overall, I favor the Mitsubishi in terms of picture quality.
What bothers me is the black levels. If they were better, (yes, if they were better, they would be the HC5000 and be $1500 more), I'd have to pick the HC4900 as the best of the sub-$3000 models. But since black levels leave much to be desired, the HC4900 simply remains a very good choice.
You, the buyer will have to make the call. If you choose the right type of screen (see my comments in the General Performance page), and especially if it is a 110" or larger, the blacks can be well controlled, and the HC4900 may well be the best choice for many.
I have a hard time, on the other hand, with using the HC4900 for movie watching on a screen under 100" diagonal, even with a high contrast gray surface. The problem is, the projector is bright enough, that on smaller screen sizes, you won't be able to get black levels to be dark enough.
It will be interesting to see how the 4th under $3000 projector compares. Optoma's HD80 has extremely limited placement flexibility, but should have a very good image. It won't shelf mount (which the HC4900 has no problem with), and even ceiling mounting, only as a 2-3 foot placement range, so a great many buyers can't use the HD80. The question is, which is preferred, if placement is not an issue.
We hope to have the HD80 in for review, and review posted within a month of this writing. Meantime, as you can see from the above, the HC4900 is a serious contender, with much brighter capability than the Panasonic, and, in my opinion, a more perfect picture quality than the Epson.
I must repeat this. If you choose the HC4900, pay great attention to your screen choice. To get the most out of this fine, yet affordable, Mitsubishi projector, you do need the right projector screen.
Congratulations to Mitsubishi, on the HC4900, and its earning of our Hot Product Award.
That said, life would have been better still, if Mitsubishi didn't build the HC4900, and instead brought the HC5000 within a few hundred of the HC4900's price. Of course, life isn't normally that convenient.