Projector Reviews

Mitsubishi HC9000D 3D Projector – First Look, from CES 2011

OK, I got my second look at the HC9000D (click for specs) at CES, although it was first revealed at CEDIA last September.

Mitsubishi’s new HC9000D 3D home theater projector

At that time, it was a first gen engineering sample, and had issues with the 3D.  While the sample displayed at CES last week was far better, I’m told that even that is old, compared to what is getting ready to ship.

That’s right, the Mitsubishi HC9000 projector’s first shipments are scheduled for February.  Hey, experience says, first shipments often slip.  Let’s just say my confidence that it will be “in the stores” this quarter, are very high, even if they don’t make their first half of February target.

What have we here in terms of the HC9000D?  Well, let’s start with the basics.  the HC9000 projector is an LCoS, specifically an SXRD LCoS, which means they are using Sony LCoS panels.  (I presume they are the same panels that are in the new Sony VPL-VW90ES, which is already shipping.)

Mitsubishi now tells me that the projector will be rated 1100 lumens bright, which is 100 lumens brighter than the announcement at CEDIA last year.  Contrast has also been improved to 150,000:1, but then, you regulars know that I don’t pay much mind to contrast specs for home theater projectors these days.  The reason is that the spec tells almost nothing, since manufacturers use “slight of hand” thanks to the dynamic iris.   When the review unit arrives, and I put it side by side, with others, then we’ll know how good the contrast/black level performance really is!  I’ve seen 250,000:1 contrast projectors that can’t match the black level performance of others claiming only 35,000:1… but, I digress

But let’s concentrate on the HC9000 since there’s a lot to cover:

As a 2D projector, it looks like it’s going to be a lot brighter than the lower cost HC7000, a very good, moderately priced, but not overly bright projector.  The HC9000 also has more placement flexibility.  It sports a new motorized 1.8:1 zoom, and more lens shift than previous Mitsubishi’s.  Mitsubishi says the lens shift vertically is 100%.  There are two ways of looking at the percentage.  Basically, the HC9000 can be placed anywhere in a range from 50% above the top of the screen surface, to 50% below the bottom of the screen surface.  With a 50 inch high screen (about 100″ diagonal in a 16:9 configuration), that means the center of the lens could be as high as 25 inches above the top or 25 below the bottom.  Together that’s 50 inches, or the same as the screen height – thus their 100% number.   Many reviewers instead, would say it has 50% range – 50% above and 50% below.  Don’t worry about the description, look at the actual amount of shift, to be sure.

Other highlights of the HC9000 home theater projector include a full color management system, a new physical black case that doesn’t look like previous Mitsubishi projectors.  There is also a physical color filter to refine the color accuracy when best color fidelity is called for.  I should also note the HC9000 uses Silicon Optix Reon VX image processing.  That’s the same family (newer) of processing that I have in my JVC RS20, and may other excellent projectors from the under $3K range to 10’s of thousands of dollars.

The projector offers creative frame interpolation, for both movies – 24fps, and traditional digital content at 60 fps.  What is not clear, from my conversations, questions, and the data sheets provided, is whether the projector can combine and do creative frame interpolation (motion smoothing), while doing 3D.

I’ll get back to that, when one arrives for review.

I’ve only seen one 3D projector that is at all targeted for home, in the under $20K range, that is claiming more than 1300 lumens.   That would be the 2x as expensive LG CF3D, at $15,000.  It’s more of a commercial projector, however, rather than home theater.  Also that LG uses 6 panels and passive glasses, while the Mitsubishi HC9000 3D projector uses active glasses.  The Mitsubishi 3D projector has HDMI 1.4a ports – a good thing, since Blu-Ray 3D calls for HDMI 1.4, which is still not widely used.

The HC9000 3D projector’s 1100 puts it 100 higher than the Sony, and two hundred below the JVCs.  Not much difference, and all are going to be underpowered with larger screens barring high gain screens (where they are even usable with 3D).  Considering that, the HC9000 is probably limited to looking good smaller screens – like all the  other 3D projectors.    (I do believe it will take another year, before the manufacturers realize that they need to offer at least 2400 lumens for 3D viewing by folks wanting at least 110″ diagonal screens.)

The HC9000 should prove to be an excellent projector for those wanting 3D projection, but it promises to be an even better 2D projector.   Since active glasses 3D solutions reduce brightness (typically) from 75% to almost 85%, in 3D mode, the HC9000 will be a smaller screen projector.

Don’t panic though!   Remember, 99% of all content is 2D.   If you have, say, a nice 110 inch, or 120 inch diagonal screen, and you try to fill it for 3D, I suspect you will come away feeling “dim”.   But, with most placements, you might fill your screen for 2D, and reduce it’s size from, say 120″ to 90″ on your screen.  That effectively gives you a boost in brightness.  In fact going from 120 to 90 inches works out to ending up with an image that is 75% brighter!

So, while I might watch my 2D filling my screen, Avatar, or Train your Dragon, or any other 3D content, while still not as bright in 3D on a 90 inch screen, it should get you to a reasonable brightness for viewing.

The HC9000 uses active shutter glasses.   Mitsubishi sees this time as early for 3D, and expects most buyers to buy this as a 2D projector most of the time that they might, on occasion want to check out 3D on.  That is, they believe the HC9000 is worth its price as a 2D projector, and therefore, while 3D is onboard and ready, they don’t provide any of those expensive LCD shutter glasses with the projector.  (Don’t worry, those prices will come down, but are still at least $100 a pair, usually more and several hundred for some very cool, feature laden ones.   If you are planning a superbowl party for 2012, in 3D, you are going to need a lot of active shutter glasses.   Hopefully some friends with their own 3D LCDTVs or 3D projectors will have compatible glasses that they can bring to your party.  Problem is, we’re just starting to see 3rd party universal glasses – think XPanD.  It’s going to be a real drag if the LCDTV manufacturers don’t opt for universals, as, of course, it means you won’t be able to borrow extra glasses except from those with the same, brand, and that means, you’ll have to buy as many as you have friends who want to watch… $$$

I’m looking forward to reviewing this one.  And with luck, I’ll have one right around end of January, if Mitsubishi is on target.   OK, that’s about it.  The Mitsubishi HC9000D, which I should note, most will probably call the HC9000, should be shipping within a month of this article’s publishing.  We can only hope.  I’ll be most pleased, if they can find me a good pre-production projector that I can have in, and get reviewed even before they ship the first ones to dealers.  -art

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