Mitsubishi HC3800 Home Theater Projector "First Look"

UPDATE: The Mitsubishi HC3800 projector review has been posted.

Oh, I like this one!

And I’ve been working with an engineering sample of the Mitsubishi HC3800.

Angle photo of Mitsubishi HC3800 home theater projector

With an engineering sample,  that means it’s so early, that many things don’t even work.  Case in point, only HDMI works on this projector, not composite video, component video, etc.  The color tables (while close), I’m told are also not quite finished.

That said, the one I had here (just shipped it back to Mitsubishi, yesterday) so those of you at CEDIA later this week can see it), is really impressive for the $$$.  Let me start with a comment relating to the Mitsubishi HC3800 compared to the just reviewed HD20 from Optoma.

OK, the HC3800 MAPs at $1499 (or is it $1495?), so it’s $500 more than the Optoma HD20. I gave the Optoma our Hot Product Award, afterall, a $999 1080p projector is something to celebrated, and all considered, the HD20 does a very nice job as an entry level projector.

The HC3800, by comparison, is simply better.  If you are shopping in the $1000 – $1500 price range, you’ll have to decide if it’s worth the difference, but my take is yes, it’s a step up, and worth every one of those extra $500.

Even before calibration, color handling was very good.  This unit doesn’t have proper default settings yet, so, for example film, is not the default gamma.   Forget all that, out of the box, it did very well, including skin tones.

I’m just now viewing it for the first time, on movies, since Mike brought it back from calibrating it a few hours ago.  I logged at least 15 hours though, before handing it off to Mike.

Black level performance is go0d, very good for a $1500 projector.  There is a noticeable improvement in black levels compared to the lower cost Optoma HD20, and for that matter, it did better, side by side, than the Samsung SP-A600 which is a few hundred dollars more.

I can tell you that I can’t count the HC3800 as an “ultra-high” contrast projector (such as the Epson “UB” or the Panasonic PT-AE3000, but it should prove to be better than most projectors under $2000, and definitely will be considered to have black levels a bit better than “entry-level”.  With a claimed contrast ratio of only 4000:1, you aren’t getting an impressive number, but then the HC3800 doesn’t have a dynamic iris.  Projectors with dynamic irises typically start with contrast ratios of about 15,000:1.  It should be interesting, though to see if the HC3800 can hold its own on blacks with, say, Epson’s Home Cinema 6100, a slightly more expensive 3LCD projector with dynamic iris.

The Mitsubishi HC3800 just looks really good.  In many ways it reminds me of the Sharp XV-Z15000 which is a $2000+ street priced DLP projector that does have even better black levels.  As a trade-off, the HC3800 is a significantly brighter projector… and a lot less money.  The Sharp has excellent color and the HC3800 (while I’ve just started to view it post calibration), could be just as good.  Sadly, I had to return the Sharp, because it would have made a great side-by-side comparison.

Despite being an engineering sample, this HC3800, which is coming back to me right after CEDIA, looks impressive enough to proceed with the full review, so look for it the week after CEDIA.  Because it is an early sample, though, I’ll be getting a full production one in, late October/early November, when they start shipping, so I can note any fixes and improvements.

Let’s back up a second, to define the Mitsubishi HC3800 projector:

Physically, the Mitsubishi HC3800 home theater projector is a small projector, finished in a shiny black case.  It’s basically a box, but with some minor sculpting so it’s a bit cuter than the most basic “boxes” out there.

As a small DLP, one can normally expect audible noise levels to be fairly high.  Well, that turns out to be the case.  Still, the HC3800’s fan noise isn’t that loud (definitely quieter, for example than the HD20), and is somewhat typical for lower cost DLP projectors (though there are quieter ones).

The image is nice and sharp, with perhaps a touch too much edge sharpening at the default setting.  Most should like it though.  You can turn down the sharpness if you prefer. While there was no substantial difference in sharpness between the HC3800 and the Optoma, I’ll give the HC3800 a very slight advantage.

On the downside, the HC3800 is pretty unique in that it only has one HDMI input, compared to almost all other projectors having two. Still, that shouldn’t be an issue for most folks, especially those with AV receivers with HDMI switching.  And  low cost (well under $100) HDMI switchers are available on the market.

The remote is nothing to write home about – it’s backlit – but not bright at all.  It works well enough, but I’d say, only average in range.  Let’s say that if it turns out that the remote is my biggest complaint, then the HC3800 should be a real crowd pleaser.

Color management.  While we at do not do a full CMS calibration – calibrating the individual colors – (we’ve only ever done that twice), it’s nice to report that the HC3800 does have a full CMS, allowing individual color adjustments for calibrating the primary and secondary colors.  That’s not something found on a fair number of lower cost home theater projectors.

Mitsubishi HC3800 projector:  The Bottom Line

$1499, really good color handling, and especially skin tones.  Good shadow detail, better than entry level black performance, a little noisy, but there are others louder, most will be fine.  Longer than average lamp life, and always very important in my book, good overall brightness, with over 600 lumens in best mode, and …

For your consideration, some images:

Image one: “Starship” from The Fifth Element: A look at black levels – HC3800 vs. HD20 (overexposed image, of course).  Optoma image on the left, HC3800 on the right.

Image two: Another look at the same Starship image and black levels, this time, compared to the Samsung SP-A600 (recently reviewed, $1795 when it ships in October 09).  Samsung image is on the left!

Image three: Color handling – skin tones and more.  This time, Leeloo from The Fifth Element, HD20 (left) vs. HC3800.

Image four:  Side by side, color handling – HC3800 vs. the new Sony LCoS projector (at twice the price),.  This image from Quantum of Solace.  (Sony on the left)

I could also show you a black level image compared to the Sony, but, hey, the Sony does have better blacks, it is an “ultra-high” contrast projector,  and as I said, one that should sell for twice the price, but I’ll save it for the full review!

Bottom line, for under $1500, with 1080p resolution, the Mitsubishi HC3800 looks to be a performance leader, with better than entry level blacks, very good color, and, I should note, a 2 year warranty.  You’ll want to check this one out when it ships in late October.

Folks – that’s it for now!  -art

News and Comments

  • Ryan

    Sounds great. Were rainbows an issue?


  • Great projector. It is simple to use and user friendly which makes it my first choice.

  • Steve Atkinson

    Looking forward to the full review on this projector as well.

    I use a Mits HD1000U in a townhouse and it has proven to be a great little projector. Plenty of lumens to deal with a little ambient light with good colors and POP.

    Hopefully this one will be even better and take over as the value leader in the segment.

  • ac388

    Hi Art,

    I wonder if you have seen the Mit. HC3100. If yes, do you think it is a upgrade or downgrade to get the HC3800 now, excluding the 720P vs 1080P factor.

    • Never reviewed it. Did it’s predecessor the HC3000. If I recall, it was still a Darkchip2, but I could be wrong about that. My money is on the HC3800. I figure you’ll get better blacks, have a quieter projector, and in general, probably a richer image by virtue of better processing, improved dynamic range, etc. And of course, it is 1080p.

      I just quickly scanned my old HC3000 review over 3 years ago. It was an interesting refresher course. The “standards” of performance were so much lower back then. There really weren’t products that came close to current projectors like the JVCs, Sonys, Epsons, etc. with their black levels. In general, erformance of older projectors where attributes are described as excellent, or “one of the best”, by today’s standards would probably be described today, as acceptable or maybe “reasonably good”, decent, etc., depending on whether it’s an area of technology that has improved a lot. (For example, most lower cost DLP projectors today still have the same “limited placement flexibility as the DLP’s of 3-6 years ago. -a

  • Travis

    Thanks for the preview! I am new to projectors and was going to make the HD20 my first one… but I think this Mitsu is going to steal my heart… and my money, haha.

  • ac388

    Hi Art,

    Thanks for your detailed explanation n comparison between the old n the new Mit.. FYI, the HC3100 was an 720P unit using a 0.65 Darkchip 3, that was never import to U.S.. The Black level was as good as some of the expensive Marantz unit at the time n much better than those current 1080P Mit. LCD, like HC5500 n 6500.

    Anyway, we are all looking forward to your full review on the HC3800.

  • Terry

    Hi, Art……
    Does the 3800 have lens shift?
    Also, I have a 106″ diag. screen (92 x 52) and my mount is approx. 16′-17′ back from the screen.
    Will the 3800 work for me?

    • No, or rather, to be precise, all projectors have lens shift – just some of them aren’t adjustable. We normally call the fixed lens shift, the lens offset. But, to answer your question properly: No, there is no adjustable lens shift, which means rear shelf mounting up high can’t be done (unless you mount the projector under the shelf). The HC3800 has a lot of lens offset, which can be a problem for larger screens in rooms with lower height ceilings. -art

  • trevis

    Well that bit about the noise level is discouraging. Their site is claiming a 25db noise level.

    I do NOT want another loud projector. I’d sacrifice some image quality to have a unit that has a quieter fan.


    • HI Tevis,

      The HC3800 is definitely not quiet. It is a little quieter than the Optoma HD20, but the Epson Home Cinema 8100 is far quieter. I think the Epson claims 22 db in low power, and the Mits, someone said, claims 25 in low power. The difference is certainly greater than 3db. In fact I would guess that the Epson at full power may well be 3 db quieter than the HC3800 in low power.

      Bottom line, definitely the HC3800 is not a quiet projector. That will be a deal breaker for some. The bright spot is that, for best movie mode, the HC3800 is still far brighter than the epson, when the HC3800 is running in low power. Few will need full power on the HC3800 for movie viewing, though almost everyone will want full power for sports, general HDTV and TV, etc. Fortunately, for sports and general TV, audible noise is not considered as important an issue. -art

  • How do you compare black levels of HC3800 with Viewsonic pro8100 after iris firmware fix? What will be the difference in brightness for 120″ diagonal screen?

    • Very good question – no answer since I haven’t seen the Viewsonic since the original review. I understand though, that prices on the Viewsonic are down around the HC3800. I’ll rethink the Viewsonic and see if I can come up with some positioning based on its new price. Most likely I’ll address that in the competitors section of the Mits.

  • Christian Reimann Germany

    my next projector is the HC 3800

  • Thanks Art. I would also appreciate if you can please compare pro8100 with Epson(s), especially after Viewsonic seems started producing more units with new price tag on their web-site.

    • Hey, I’ll try to get to it. Since I wasn’t blow away with the Viewsonic when reviewed, it has been off my radar, and hard to remember the finer points. I’ll have to re-read the review, some notes, and look at some images before I can comment intelligently. Problem is, right now, I just don’t have the time. You guys are killing me. For every blog comment, I get 4-5 emails and I manage to answer at least half, but, reviews must come first, and the more research I have to do, the less likely that I can get to it quickly, if at all. -a

  • Jeff

    How is the 3800’s noise in comparison to the HC1500? The HC1500 sound level is perfectly fine to me, but the less noise the better.

    • My money would be to bet that the HC3800 is slightly quieter than the HC1500, so you should be fine! -a

  • Kane

    Hi there Art

    I currently own a Panasonic PT-AE2000 and was considering the Mitsubishi HC3800. Would you consider this a sideways move or does the mits provide a significant increase in image overall quality?


    • Kane, I have to consider that a sideways move. You’ll be giving up features, and flexibility, won’t see any substantial change in black levels, etc. Primarily you’ll be getting a lot more lumens in “best” mode. Better to hold off. The move to a PT-AE4000, the Epson UB, or say a BenQ W6000 would be a more positive (and more expensive) move, but one that would make more sense to me. (or even an old JVC RS1 or RS2, if you can find one. -art

  • Tim C

    It seems the now discontinued HC5500 can be had for $1500 also. And while the 5500 is not DLP it does have the HQV processor and a dynamic iris. How do these models compare in overall picture quality?

    • Hi Tim,

      I think the HC3800 has a better looking picture. The HC5500 wasn’t bad at all, but the HC3800 has a more dynamic look overall. the HC5500 in particular would tend to look relatively flat on dark scenes! Of course it’s been more than a year since I’ve seen the HC5500, which at the time, I felt was one of a very few “entry level” projectors, and did pretty well. I do believe, however, that the HC3800 is a step up, from this year’s most entry level 1080p projectors, and also the HC5500. Personally, I’d love to see the two side by side, as time does take it’s toll on memory. Consider this opinion, “my best guess”.

  • Bob Caplan


    Any word on when Mitsubishi will market this projector?

    And the other less expensive models in waiting?


    • It should be shipping this week, last I heard. -art

      The only other less expensive models are the Optoma HD20 (I find the HC3800 superior), and the Vivitek H1080FD (review unit arriving in a couple of weeks (one with the new settled firmware), and the BenQ W1000 (which I’m trying to get my hands on). No idea how the Viv or the BenQ will stack up to the HC3800, but if any of them prove superior to the HC3800, I’ll be pretty surprised. -art

  • Greg

    Any idea when you’ll be receiving a production version to review?

    • Hi Greg,

      I’m watching it now. The color tables (firmware) have been updated since I reviewed the pre-production sample. Overall, slightly better grayscale tracking, and, I’d say, a hair better color (will vary depending on how good a calibrator…)

      I will be posting the new firmware in the existing review, along with updates/comments, and there will be a blog letting everyone know. Should be all up sometime tomorrow night. -art

  • John Sokalski

    Shutdown problem

    The AVS Forums Unofficial HC3800 thread has a dozen pages about the random shutdown problem. Basically, after 5, 10, 60, 90 minutes (seemingly random) the projector will either shutdown entirely (like power cord pulled) or shutdown lamp leaving fans running. Speculation is this happens more often with longer HDMI cables or 24/48p mode – but not exclusively. Many, many people having the problem around the world – all have firmware version 1.00 – press up, down, enter simultaneously on the projector panel (not remote) to show firmware.

    Mitsubishi Singapore acknowledged the problem with North American units – requires new firmware installed by Mits – user cant do it.

    Mitsubihi Finland dealer also acknowledge problem – mentioned something about “heatsister” (thermister?) – new units shipping won’t have the problem.

    At least a couple of calls to Mits service in USA 1st, 2nd, and “engineers” tech support result in “we haven’t heard of the problem” – obviously a absolute falsehood (details of a call on that thread) !

    Many on the AVS thread have decided on a different projector because of the problem. Others are waiting until problem is acknowledged and fixed by Mits USA.

    Hopefully you can address this serious issue that is clearly hampering sales of the HC3800 !

    • Hi,

      I’m just coming up to speed. I have already placed emails to my primary product contacts at Mitsubishi, over the weekend. I’ll start following up tomorrow (Monday). -art

      PS. The HC3800 I just got in last week so far is fine. I have about 6-7 hours on it so far in only 2 sessionsl

  • Papagus

    Hello Art,

    I have an HC3800 projecting onto an 100″ white Elite VMAX2 screen, via HDMI, using a PS3 and XBOX, about 12′ away.

    The projector is too bright even at low lamp mode (approx. 10 hrs of lamp time logged). I tried darkening the image using the brightness and contrast controls and realised that neither setting (min to max) has a big impact on the picture brightness i.e, marginal dynamic range for brightness and contrast controls. This leaves the image appearing as washed out.

    My PS3 game has a built-in Gamma adjustment that gives better brightness control (allowing me to go from a complete black image to very bright one). However, I have no means for adjustment on the PS3 or the projector when viewing movies.

    Is that typical behavior for this projector (or most new projectors for that matter) or is my projector in need of a firmware/hardware update? (S/N 35XX)


    • Ok a couple of things.

      What about the picture makes you say too bright? And, are you rainbow sensitive? Regarding rainbows, it does seem the brighter the overall image, the more apparent rainbows are to at least some of us who are rainbow sensitive.

      Assuming that is not the case, we’re back to why, too bright? With Brilliant Color off, and lamp on low, you should have mid 500 lumens brightness. Our unit measured 565 lumens. While definitely the image is on the bright side compared to many projectors, it’s well within the normal range of acceptable.

      For a 100″ screen, with 1.1 gain.. If you go by the SMPTE standards that everyone quotes (the movie theater brightness), 16 ft – lamberts seems to be about the standard, and 12 ft-lamberts, the lowest acceptable. 30, I believe is the high end, but I doubt you’d find any theaters that bright. 30 is probably about the way you want to watch general sports and TV, not movies.

      your 100 inch screen is just a hair over 30 sq feet. screen gain is 1.1
      (Measured lumens x gain)/sq feet of screen = ft-lamberts

      (565 *1.1)/30.2 = 20.5 ft-lamberts – about 25% brighter than what should be the average movie theater, and as the difference of 25% isn’t that much different than between the projector’s low and high power lamp modes, you can appreciate it that 25% just isn’t that huge an increase.

      A further 20% drop in lumens would have you down to the industry standard, so you should be there in a few hundred hours of use.

      Still, it doesn’t really matter why you think it’s too bright, since you do, it becomes a question of how to fix.
      You are correct, brightness contrast and other settings won’t do it, and the HC3800 lacks a manual iris.

      Your solution would be to get a neutral density filter. You can probably find advice in general about using them with projectors on any of the major forums. Bottom line, theoretically placing an ND in front of your lens should lower the brightness without changing the characteristics of the image.

      There is also another way to approach. You will see over the next year or so, a lot of screens coming out that will actually have a backlight option for around the edges, to put a little light in the room that won’t affect the picture since almost none will bounce back to the screen. Stewart already has screens like that, and I’ve talked to two others that are working on it. With a (very) little light on the wall, that is steady, your eye’s iris won’t close down quite as far on dark scenes, so the “shock of going from dark to light” which tends to be fatiguing is to some degree, mitigated. You might want to consider a run of dim red (not sure which color is best), lighting tucked behind the top of your screen, casting a small amount of light just above the screen.

      I’ve never tried such a thing, but if fatigue is your issue, that should help. If not fatigue, I don’t know what would make a projector too bright.


  • Barry

    Hi Art,

    After reading your review (and others) comparing the 3800 to the Epson 8100, I eventually decided that on balance the Epson would probably be a slightly better tool for me. Then I tried to order one. Not possible for now in the US. Not being the overly patient type, I decided to go ahead and get the Mitsubishi. I’m expecting it either today or tomorrow. In one review which I saw on this projector, the reviewer noted that the 3800 didn’t like long HDMI cable runs. Do you have an opinion on that? My situation puts the projector a little less than 25 ft from the HDMI source.

    • Barry, I had no problem with cables with the HC3800. When I’m in my testing room, the cables are short (2 meter from PS3 to switcher, 3 meter from switcher to projector), and in my big theater, I’m using a 10 meter cable, and I had no problem with it, either. On the other hand, I do buy and use premium cables, as just about everyone should.

      Afterall every year, there’s something or other demanding more bandwidth. For example, 3D looks to demand a minimum of 13.8Ghz throughput, and that’s without Deep Color. Depending on the level of Deep Color that could get you up past 30 Ghz bandwidth, which certainly is more than the vast marjority of 30 foot cables on the market can handle, although there are a number of cables that can do it. -art

      BTW, talking with one of the larger dealers while at CES, they had mentioned that they were expecting a large batch of Epsons at the end of this week, or, at latest, early next. -a

  • Barry

    Just saw another statement which made me wince. You’ve said that one of these projectors shouldn’t be set up on a shelf at the back of a room. Guess where I just put my new 3800? And in order to put it there, I built the shelf out so the projector wouldn’t be up against the wall. However, it’s still not two feet away from the wall. The 3800 has its air intake and outlets on the sides of the unit, so what is the problem with the shelf location?

    • Hi Barry,

      One one repeats the same points, over and over, for many projectors, there’s a tendency to stop fully explaining. Probably somewhere in the review it clarifies the statement. The logic, however, relates to lens shift.

      The general presumption, is that, if one were to rear shelf mount a home theater projector, that it would be mounted up high, otherwise people moving around, would be walking through the image, and if low enough, even seating can be in the way. So, when I say rear shelf mounted I’m referring to mounting up high.

      Because of no variable lens shift (all projectors have some fixed lens shift), the projector, when right side up, needs to be below the bottom of the screen surface to properly fill the screen. If you mount it up high, you would have to mount it above the top of the screen surface, and mount it inverted. Basically that would be mounting on the bottom of the shelf, in which case your mounting is really a ceiling mount type of mounting, and you would likely be using a ceiling mount to attach to your rear shelf. If that’s the case, (upside down, high up, bolted to the bottom of the shelf) then no problem.

      If shelf mounting down low, right side up, again, no problem, other than people walking between projector and screen. The HC3800 should be pretty OK from a ventilation standpoint with vents on the side. Still, give it what air in the back you can. All projectors tend to rely on their cases themselves as partial heat radiators. You will notice that the HC3800 gets pretty warm at certain points when running… that’s the case radiating heat. Very close to a rear wall, without any ventilation is likely to raise the operating temp slightly, but with side vents, even 4 inches is likely adequate.

      Now, technically you could be mounting high, right side up, using Keystone correction to correct for the horribly trapazoidal shape, but we home theater folks all hate keystone correction because it softens and very slightly distorts the image.

      Good luck! – hope that clarifies. -a

  • Barry

    Hi again, thanks for the excellent explanation of the rear shelf mounting location and possible problems. Since I’m in a situation where I probably am not going to have a roomful of people very often, if at all, having the projector sit pretty much at center-screen height should be OK. I had also asked about premium cables and have a feeling you’re talking about fiber optics. That gets very pricey very fast. Is there such a thing as an (how can I say this delicately?) inexpensive line amplifier, which I could use with two shorter, regular quality cables, that would accomplish pretty similar quality to fiber optic without the larger cash layout? Just getting the projector was a bit of a stretch for my budget…

    • Hi Barry, Ahh, none of my HDMI cables are fibre-optic, but there’s varying quality with all types. If you want to delve in to cables try perhaps There are probably several threads discussing various hdmi cable designs, and practical aspects, etc. Without lens shift, though, unless you use keystone adjustments, your projector shelf will need to be below the bottom of the screen. If you can mount mid height and are willing to take on the softness of using keystone correction, then you are fine. We all tend to say “NO! Dont touch keystone correction” but, if that’s the only choice… Don’t worry, your single chip DLP 1080p projector will still be sharper than a 720p without keystone correction, but, it will no longer, for example, be sharper than the typical 1080p LCD or LCoS projectors – all of which have their own “albatross” in the form of misconvergence of their three color panels into one image. -art Hey, if it works, don’t sweat it. I’m sure even with keystone correction on, you’ll love it.
      Yes there are line amplifiers, out there, I’m pretty sure, for HDMI runs. can’t comment, haven’t used any. We just ran new carpet 3 weeks ago. I’ve now got a 15 meter “high quality” but no where near their top of the line (their top are HDMI 1.4 approved cables) from Gefen, running under the carpet, and it pops out in the back of the room, and feeds HDMI to what ever projectors are sitting on the table in my main theater, for viewing them. It’s working just fine. Not sure what I spent, but it wasn’t outrageous. It was probably a $100+ cable, but for that length, not too bad…
      Thing is, get as good as you can. today, we’re mostly sending 1080p 60 or 24, at 8 bit per channel. Sooner or later, we’re going to get content in Deep Color – 10, 12, or 16 bit per channel. Each increase (getting to 10, though is the big improvement) want’s more bandwidth (aka better cabling). The move to true 10 bit, will basically provide enough extra colors so face textures should be very smooth with plenty of shades, instead of flat in places, where it can’t generate enough shades from 16.7 milion colors (10bit gets you a billion). -a

      Again, I use up to 15

  • Alex


    Congratulations for your web! It is amazing!
    Now my question… I’ve read a lot of things about Brilliant color feature and I’m more confused than ever.

    So far, I ‘believe’ that I’ve understand this:

    1) Brilliant color improves the overall brightness of the picture
    2) Brilliant color is not specially suited for cinema because it yields an unnatural colour and can generate extra noise.
    3) Therefore, BC is more suitable for sports than for movies where it can spoil the film-like appearance.

    I plan to buy a HC3800 mainly devoted to cinema. Are these statements valid for its Brilliant color processing?

    In your review, you ‘ve calibrated it with BC on, getting very close to the 6500K (which I assume that is a nice point). However you mention a value with BC off and it is far from this 6500K.

    To be more specific :
    Lumen Output for various Gamma modes at 100 IRE, color temp on Medium:
    Cinema= 968 @ 6590, 726 @ 6238 w/BC off

    What does this mean? Is the HC3800 optimized for BC activated even for cinema use? Is there a way to get 6500K starting from a BC off or it doesn’t make sense?

    I’d really apreciate any help about these considerations…

    Thanks so much.


    • Hi Alex,

      Brilliant Color (in its many forms – and not always called that) is TI’s core “engine” for enhancing performance. It likely affects many features, and seems, in most cases to behave dynamically. Thus turn brilliant color on, and you might see more color saturation, higher contrast, possibly dynamic contrast, etc.

      Some projectors have a single off/on option on Brilliant Color, others offer as many as off, plus 10 steps of Brilliant Color.

      On almost all projectors, engaging BC ends up providing brighter lumen measurements. In many cases, though, Brilliant Color, is over the top, especially at higher settings. In almost all cases BC off, is more “natural” but, with some projectors, BC on is still a rather excellent looking image, more than suitable for movie watching. When Mike measures and calibrates, in most cases he’s got the freedom to decide whether to calibrate BC on or off. If he finds it over the top, he’ll calibrate with it off. If not, he’ll normally leave it on.
      It is often said that DLPs are more filmlike than 3LCD projectors. That may well be the case, with BC off, but often not, with it on. The HC3800 is an example of a very good watchable image with BC on. You may still like it better with BC off, but it is pretty darn good.
      We have only so much time and resource. Most projectors have an almost infinite number of settings options, and a large number of very good ones. As such we do one calibration, for a best mode, and a second “quick-cal” for a brightest mode, that is supposed to be a compromise between that mode’s out of the box color, and the ideal color, but, with a focus on getting the best color possible – WITHOUT significantly reducing lumens.

      As to the example, you have to first understand that 6500K is the target for movies and much other material. So that’s what you want. However, the 362 degree color difference between BC on and Off, is very slight. Side by side you would notice only that with BC off, reds would be just a touch stronger than with BC On. So, the important point is, that it’s a small difference not a large one. And, of course, had Mike felt BC off made more sense for this projector, he would have calibrated the projector with BC off, to hit the 6500K target. And, if he did that, then turning BC on would probably result in a color temp in the 6800-6900 range. Still pretty good. For the bucks the HC3800 does a particularly good job on movies, with it’s very good for the price, but no match for more expensive projector black level performance. Unless you move up to something like the BenQ W6000 (in a DLP) or Epson, or Panasonic ultra high contrast LCD projectors, the lower cost HC3800 is a very good choice. -a

  • Alex M

    Another question.

    I plan to use it in a 82 inches diagonal screen so I guess that i’ll have too much lumens even in low-low mode (29 fL according to my calculations)

    Furthermore it will be placed in a bright painted room so even with no lights i’ll have some reflections in the screen.

    Do you recommend a high contrast gray such da-mat from Da lite? This would be 0.8 gain.

    Or is it better a nd filter as said before?


    • Hi Alex M.

      Screen, or Neutral Density filter? Hmm, I’ve never worked with ND’s with projectors, though they were popular with enthusiasts 5+ years ago, mostly to limit brightness, for the purpose of having passable black levels. I would suggest, bringing in the projector first. Try it on the wall (hang a sheet if your wall is colored, etc. Get a feel before you decide on a screen, etc. Remember, your mix of types of content you watch are a big factor. I’d kill to have my JVC RS20 be capable of anything even resembling 29 ft.-lamberts on my 128″ screen, for sports viewing, but I appreciate that you might find it too bright for movie watching. As to the gray surface, yes they are inherently darker – a .8 gain screen immediately takes you from your 29 lumens to about 23, for example. And that’s still probably dimmer than any current model LCDTV.
      But, we’re not talking LCDTV here. Before you decide – is the HC3800 a long term purchase, or do you “have the bug” and it’s only a projector you plan to have a year or two. (I’m thinking in terms of screen commitment). Obviously using an ND filter poses no real issues beyond the cost of the filter and mounting it. A screen decision based on brightness, makes sense, if you plan on keeping the projector a good while, or are willing to commit that it’s replacement will also have to be pretty bright. -art

  • Alex M

    Thanks a lot!
    I really enjoy with all your explanations.
    Simply amazing!

  • Edward R

    Does the Mitsubishi 3800 have image shift? I know it has a fixed lens offset. I have a projector screen so I would like to move the picture up when viewing very widescreen movies and move the screen up to compensate.

    • Edward R! Fixed lens offset is what you have, when there’s no adjustable lens shift. The answer is no. I can’t remember off hand, but I think though that the HC3800 may have some digital image shift. In that case you can partially move the image up on the screen, allowing you to raise the bottom above what would have been the letterbox area. Some projectors with this feature let you move a 2.35:1 all the way up to the very top (upper letter box off the screen), Not sure what the HC3800 does though. It should be in the manual. -art

  • JOHN

    Lately the Epson Home Cinema 1080 model is being offered at roughly the same cost as the Mitsubishi HC3800 and a little less than the Epson 8100. Any benefit to buying the older Epson model instead of one of these newer units

    • John, greetings, is that the original 1080, or the 1080ub? I’d grab a 1080ub ahead of the HC3800, for sure, for the blacks but the earlier 1080 – uh uh. The Mits will best in on blacks, and much except for placement flexibility and warranty. I’d grab an 1080UB or 6500UB over any of the current under $1500 projectors if you can find them. -a

  • JOHN

    Thanks. It was the 1080 I was referring too. I appreciate your candor.

  • DanO

    Hey Art!

    Thanks for the effort you put into all of this! I ended up buying an HC3800 based on your review of that and of the HD20 – I haven’t had a chance to mount it yet (theater still under construction) but I’m looking forward to it.

    One thing I hadn’t thought of when I bought it though (Avatar wasn’t out yet heh), do you know if the HC3800 is 3D capable? I’ll be keeping it either way for at least a few years at this point, just curious what I have to work with really.

    Do you know of any 3D projectors that are starting to come out if this one isn’t 3D capable?

    Thanks again!

    • Ahh, 3D, Sorry DanO, it’s very unlikely that any of the current handful of 3D ready projectors will handle Avatar, and other movies. It’s hard to say for sure, but Blu-ray has their standards out, and, to my knowledge, the only consumer chipset for graphics for TI’s DLPs are 720p. the 1080 version is in the works. It also may be, that at least for the 3D scheme for the movies, they want to use HDMI 1.4, which, you may notice, isn’t exactly out on the streets yet.

      No, I think today’s few 3D ready projectors will be able to handle NVidia 3D for games, etc. And some other protocols. I’ve got some 3D content that uses S-Video, and it works. Not real high quality, but…

      Naw, perhaps at CEDIA we’ll see some “safe” 3D capable projectors. And we have to see what the LCD and LCoS folks do about it. The “3 chip” devices rely on polarization for a lot of things, whereas single chip DLP’s do not. You may see LCD projectors that are really two projectors in one (two each R,G,B), firing alternately. We shall see.

      The good news – think what a great little “second projector” the HC3800 will be in a couple of years. Got another room? -art

  • Norman


    Just bought a hc3800. Nice machine.

    I’d like to ask something about black level.

    I project on a pure white screen (no gray contrast screen at all), eco mode, no ambient light but white walls.

    When i project a whole black screen (windows black desktop i.e.) I notice that the black is not as black as I expected especially if I compare it to the black velvet frame that surrounds it.

    To picture it we can take this blog colour layout. Black delivered would be similar to the very dark gray where the text is on, and black velevet is similar to the border of your blog.

    I’ve read a lot of reviews saying that the black levels are quite good, and now I’m not sure that ‘this’ black level is good or on the contrary my unit could be defective. Is this possible?

    How can I check this? The photos in your review are much more blacker than I have. Any clue?

    Thanks Art

  • norman


    I’ve just seen your blog in another (better) PC monitor and I realize that i went too far saying it was this same gray.

    The black screen would be darker than this gray but noticeable different from the velvet , we could say.,

    Sorry about this unaccurate comparision..

  • keith

    I’ve got the same year long dilema….I don’t know which projector to buy, the 8100 or the HC3800. I’m coming off a downed ae900u and was perfectly happy with that set up. We use our projector as our main TV/DVD in our basement with minimal light. Suggestions would be appreciated.

  • Gabriel

    Hi Art,

    I’m looking for a replacement for an aging HC3000 720p prj, and with the HC3800 going for less than $1300 plus an extra lamp it is very tempting.

    Question is should I expect the HC300 to be big improvement over the HC3000 except for the obvious 1080p and the brightness?

    Both projectors claim the same 4000:1 contrast ratio and both got 4x 6 segment wheel.
    Does it mean I should expect similar blacks performance?

    What about other aspects like colors/sharpness?

    HC3000 is using the darkchip2 chip, but I could not find which chip is being used in the HC3800.
    Do you know the answer to this?


    • Despite the contrast ratings, expect the HC3800 to be better at blacks. Since the HC3000 relies on a dynamic iris to get to it’s 4000:1 and the HC3800 claims it without a dynamic iris, just that should mean that the HC3000 might be able to match the blacks of the HC3800 on an all really dark scene with nothing bright at all, but in a mixed scene, mostly very dark with some small bright areas, the HC3000’s iris can’t close down as far, and therefore “blacks” would be lighter grays, than the HC3800 on similar scenes. As to darkchips – it’s getting murky out there, apparently some of which chips are which is just quality control. At any rate, whereas 3-6 years ago, just about everyone indicated which Darkchip, today, many projectors no longer state which one is inside, and when I ask, they normally don’t come back with an answer.

      Hey, ain’t it great that I spend more time yakking about black level performance than anything else. And that’s the bottom line, not which chip, but final results. BTW, higher numbers do not promise blacker blacks. The old IN83 – a favorite projector of mine, lacked a dynamic iris, and used the Darkchip 4, yet it had mediocre black level performance, probably no better than the HC3800, but at $5000, not $1000+ What’s mediocre around $5000 is still pretty darn good around $1500. -a

  • Art,

    I’m at a loss as to what to get.

    Originally I was going to get the epson 8100, then I found out about the Pannasonic AE4000, but then got worried that a 120″ screen would be too big, and wasn’t sure it could handle some ambient light during the day. Most recently I’ve been leaning towards the HC3800 but I’m a little concerned with the talk about light leakage and a little concerned w/ audible noise from the projector.

    What I like about what I’m hearing about the 3800 is that it s bright and very sharp(very high on my list). Also am not sure about black levels, I’ve read some things that say it has really good black levels and then others that say they are not so good, so, I’m not sure what to believe on that one

    I plan on buying a 120″ dalite perm wall w/ high contrast cinema perf(1.1 gain – same as their hc cinema vision but is AT)

    My primary use is for movies, and blu ray television(lost), I also watch soccer but am a bit less concerned about that being perfect as I am movies and tv, though I don’t want motion blur either.

    Do you have any advice for me?



    • Well, I’ll weigh in with my two cents – here goes.

      1. Personally I don’t think the panny or the epson in best mode can fill a 120″ 1.1 gain screen. Run the numbers – even with new lamps, you’ll probably find the ft-lamberts down around 12-14. per the movie theater folks at smpte 12 should be the minimum, for a theater, and 16 is probably where they should be. By the time your lamp has run half of its life, you can probably figure a drop of 25-30% of your brightness. And remember, technically, the “life” of a lamp is the number of hours until its brightness has dropped to 50%. With my 128″ firehawk G3, (a 1.25% relative gain), the Epson still comes out thin. (btw, your screen would be brighter than mine, relative isn’t the same as real gain, if the screen you are looking at is quoting real gain (brighter than white paper?).

      Of course you could go with brighter modes, but that changes some of the things that are attractive about it, with the Epson or Panny. The HC3800, on the other hand has the “best” mode lumens to handle the screen no problem.

      Bright best mode projectors are hard to find. You want significantly better black levels – than the HC3800, you have to look to the Panny, the Epson 8500UB, and the BenQ W6000. The more expensive Epson, and the Panny still are thin on “best” mode lumens.

      The BenQ W6000 gives you the brightness and the black levels, but is probably out of your price range. I know of nothing typically under $2000 other than the HC3800 with a great picture, and lots of “bright”, and while its black levels are good for what it is, it is not what I call an “ultra-high contrast” projector. (typically thanks to a dynamic iris). Oh, there are a couple of possibles, but with sloppy iris action that makes watching them almost painful once in a while, on the “wrong” kind of scenes.

      Rock and a hard place? Best of luck! -art

  • richard

    My room is 21L X 15W X 12H The room has no windows and only two doors that let in little light. I would like to mount a shelf or an PARAMOUNT wall/ceiling mount on the back wall or 14 to 17ft from the back wall on the ceiling and install a MITSUBISHI HC3800. The mount will extend 22″ from the back wall but I don’t know how far down
    I should install the mount?
    The screens I think will work is a 133″ X 65 X 116 or a 123″x 60 x 107
    VUTEC ELEGANTE FIXED FRAME and the screen will be about 19 to 20ft from the wall or 14 to 17ft on the ceiling mount. HC3800.The screen will be mounted above the a fire place mantel that is 55″ from the floor to the mantel & from the mantel to the ceiling is 90″.please help from the

    • I’ll let you work the math. Pull the lens shift numbers off the review, or better, from the manual. The numbers I provide are slightly rounded and based on numbers published by the manufacturers, who all say, “approximate” or similar. But, other than quibbling about a half inch here or there, if you use numbers for a 100″ diagonal screen, then, for a 133″ diagonal screen just multiply the offset by 1.33, to get the corrrect distance above the top of the screen surface… That’s about it. -art
      You will be mounting the projector inverted.

  • Gus Burneau

    I have had an HC3800 running since March 2010, with no random shutdown issues in the first 3-4 months. Recently, I did start to have this problem, and have discovered just how bad a purchase this unit was. Mitsubishi does not restrict resellers selling product internationally, but being in Canada and having purchased online from a US reseller, I can’t get any support from MITS at all. Because I am in Canada, it is “grey market” product, and therefore, they can not help me. I must have a US address, with an invoice for the purchase from a US address, to get any support at all. I WILL NOT EVER BE BUYING ANOTHER MITSUBISHI PRODUCT. BUYER BEWARE. Great projector, terrible support.

    • Hi Gus,

      Any number of companies do the same thing. Epson’s another, for one, and I can count at least 2 other Japanese companies with separate operations in US and Canada, and won’t I was of the In other words, Mits in Canada, is a separate company than Mits in the US. Yes, they both buy their projectors from Japan, as do the operations in other continents. The China and Taiwan manufacturers don’t seem to be as organized, being relatively late to the game and much smaller in market share.

      I think they all discourage, or forbid such sales, and normally their big online dealers obey such things, but, when you also sell to distributors, who in turn supply the 2nd tier and the smaller dealers, there will always be a problem (not to say all the big direct dealers always behave).
      Now that you have brought this up, when I get a chance, I’ll try to do a blog specific to the issue… Of course most companies (manufacturers) are clear in their warranty pages, on their sites, about this whole thing, but then who reads warranty stuff.

      ON my site, the warranty page is by far the shortest, but gets only read by about 1 in 9 people who visit the first page of a review, 1 in seven vs. the image quality and summary pages. No other page in a review gets less than 2x the page views (even calibration).

      When I was a dealer, we probably sold a couple hundred home theater projectors to Canadians, but would only ship in the US. Those folks all knew the story, had a friend or relative in the states, and knew they would have to ship it back to their friend, etc. to handle the warranty issue. The invoice almost certainly would have to show a shipping address in the US, but, the owner, probably could be anywhere (and that shown on the invoice). Dealers aren’t “allowed” to sell to (ship to) canada, they are not to my knowledge prohibited from selling to someone there. ie you might want to buy a fancy projector for your parents in the states… and that should be fine, as long as it ships to the US..

      This was standard stuff when I was an online dealer – hasn’t changed since the late nineties…

      best of luck -a

  • Gus Burneau

    Art, any thoughts on the random shutdown issue. Since I can’t get support from MITS I am out of luck I guess. I did try adjusting the HDMI cable length in the service menu, since my projector is FW 3.0 not 1.0, and it seems that it may have in fact fixed the problem, but if it comes back, have you heard of any other fixes that might work?

    • Hi Gus,

      No, I haven’t… Yours is the first comment in quite a while about it. Let’s hope your fix works If not, try – there’s a lot of regular traffic for most projectors, and they love to beat on manufacturers for problems, and try to solve them themselves too.