HC2000 High Definition HD2+ DLP™ Front Projector
Mitsubishi's new HC2000 Home Cinema Projector is designed to please videophiles looking for the latest HD2+ DLP chip in their home theater room. The design utilizes a two-speed (4x or 5x) selectable, 8-segment color wheel which produces very accurate colors while reducing the rainbow effect seen by some viewers. The 4x speed is said to reduce the color gradations while the 5x speed reduces color breaking noise. Contrast is touted at a whooping 3600:1 with 700 ANSI lumens of light output. The chassis design lacks the sexy curves found on some of the competing models, but looks aside, the HC2000 is a powerful projector capable of producing an excellent picture. The chassis size is larger than many of the portable units we've reviewed and weighs 17.2 pounds. The advantages of this chassis design includes ultra-quiet operation, power focus, power zoom, a lens shift adjustment and solid build quality. In addition, the all-glass lens produces a very sharp image on the screen and the relatively short-throw lens design accommodates a large picture even in our moderately sized room. A wide array of video inputs are supported including DVI with HDCP (High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection) for future compatibility with digital content.
The HC2000 is very similar to the Optoma H77, so like many others, we wanted to know what real difference exists between the two. Having just reviewed the H77 we were ready to take a look. The overall chassis design is similar and the video interface panel is basically the same. Mitsubishi informed us that the front-end video processing uses the same Trident chip, but the internal scaler benefits from both a proprietary Mitsubishi design for 1080i material and the PixelWorks 465 chip for other video modes. We were also told that the lamp cradle is a different design that has extra protection from glass shards in the case of a lamp explosion. For custom installations, Mitsubishi seems to have better defined their RS232 interface codes. The HC2000 also has carries the Double Diamond 2-year warranty, which provides an excellent free loan service with free shipping both ways in most cases. Finally, the Mitsubishi projector goes through an extensive QC (Quality Control) process to ensure the product meets their standards before being delivered. We will cover the performance issues below.
Fan noise on the HC2000 is incredibly low especially in the low power mode. The high power mode increases fan noise, but is still relatively quite compared with many of today's front projectors. The design uses baffles strategically located within the cooling tunnel to reduce air speeds and achieve ultra-quiet operation. This is especially important in smaller rooms such as ours where the projector is in close proximity to the viewers.
Controlling the picture is relatively simple with the HC2000 by using the dedicated buttons on the remote. We preferred using the Real mode whenever possible so that we could achieve a true 1:1 pixel mapping when feeding the projector a 720p signal. The HC2000 also offers Standard, 16:9 and Zoom modes. We used our outboard iScan HD video processor to convert and scale all our 480i and 480p video sources to 720p to match the projector's native resolution. We also spent a considerable amount of time having a Samsung SIR-T165 set-top box drive the HC2000 through our iScan HD unit. The SIR-T165 has the capability to provide a DVI signal from terrestrial high-definition broadcasts and also from our FireWire (iLink) based D-Theater VCR. Using this setup, we can play our D-VHS tapes and digitally link them to the projector without ever going to the analog domain. Long DVI cables can often be a problem, so we installed a Gefen HDTV Extender to extend our DVI signals to over 50 feet using a pair of CAT-5 cables. We also had good success using an AudioQuest 20m DV-1 DVI cable. The 100-foot analog cable (HQVGA) used with our Home Theater PC (HTPC) came from DirectConnect.
Dedicated buttons are provided for commonly used controls such as Brightness, Contrast, Hue and Format located on the left side. The Format button selects from Real, Window (4:3), 16:9 or Letterbox. The right side of the remote has Freeze, Re-Sync, Zoom and Menu/Exit buttons. The middle two buttons control the horizontal and vertical keystone corrections. The lower center buttons are used for navigation as well as power zoom and power focus controls. The remaining lower five buttons select video inputs which include Composite, S-Video, BNC, DVI and RCA. The projector automatically searches for a valid format and upon detecting one, will display the input, resolution and frame rate of the incoming signal.
The HC2000 has a detachable IEC input power socket next to the main power switch on the right side of the unit. Two small LEDs are used for Lamp and Temperature status. These indicators provide status to the user in the event of a lamp failure or over-temperature condition. The momentary power switch on the panel is used to turn on the projector as an alternative to the IR remote. The HC2000 power light illuminates an orange color while in standby mode. Once powered-on, the blue light begins to flash until the unit has warmed up, after which time the blue light stays on constantly. Once the unit is commanded to shut down, this indicator flashes orange until the lamp has cooled down, after which time the indicator goes back to a constant orange. Cool air is drawn from the bottom of the chassis through the user-replaceable air filter and exits the left side of the unit. All video cables are located on the back of the unit. A tethered lens cover connected to the bottom of the chassis is included to keep dust and scratches off the optics when not in use.
One of the nice features found in the HC2000 design is the Shutter, which allows the user to control the amount of masking on any of the four sides of the image. This is very useful on certain broadcasts that display garbage on the borders of the image. Rather than scale the image to produce a slight overscan, the HC2000 can use the Native mode for true 1:1 pixel mapping and still get rid of the annoying garbage in the borders with this feature. Having independent border control also ensures that the viewer doesn't lose too much of the picture with a more generic overscan setting.
The 16:9 mode is intended for source material that is "16:9 enhanced" or "enhanced for widescreen TVs" such as most of today's DVDs. The 4:3 mode places the video content in the center of the 16:9 screen leaving black bars on the left and right sides of the image. This will preserve the proper aspect ratio of 4:3 content on this 16:9 native display. Since this is a DLP product there is no need to worry about screen burn. The Letterbox mode is intended for those DVDs that come in a letterbox format. Unfortunately some of the early DVDs assumed users had a 4:3 display and conveniently displayed the image with the proper aspect ratio (top and bottom bars). This creates a problem when the same material is shown on a 16:9 display or projector such as this one. The Letterbox mode expands the image to fill the screen, but the downside to this format is the original source material from the DVD is limited in resolution. This is why all respectable DVDs are now "16:9 enhanced" or "Enhanced for Widescreen TVs", which is the same.
For most of our viewing we preferred running the HC2000 in the Normal (high) mode as this made it easier to achieve the SMPTE recommended 12 foot-Lamberts of light output for digital cinema on our Stewart FireHawk, while still fully tracking close to 6500K at all IRE levels. The calibrated picture on the H77 looked absolutely beautiful on our 100" screen. While some have recommended going to a lower gain screen (1.3x for the FireHawk), we have been quite satisfied with the performance of this material especially when some ambient light enters the room.
We primarily used the DVI input with 1080i material from our D-VHS tape collection. Our HD-Net collection includes recordings of War in Afghanistan, Over Ireland and Bikini Destinations all in 1080i played on our JVC HM-DH30000U D-VHS VCR. The picture quality was excellent with accurate skin tones and rich color saturation. D-Theater movies were a real treat to watch as well on the HC2000. We watched Master and Commander and were impressed with the shadow detail we saw with the projector. There was some noise that could be seen in deep blacks with occasional false-contouring under certain conditions, but it was rare and never really distracted us from the overall impressive picture produced by the HC2000.
Composite and s-video inputs were tested using our Sony DVP-NS900V as a source. The introduction scene in Star Trek's Insurrection resulted in some cross-color artifacts with the composite input, so would not recommend using this input unless absolutely necessary. The s-video input showed better performance with increased resolution and no color artifacts. Both of these interfaces exhibited excellent deinterlacing performance even though the resolution was somewhat limited. Interlaced video came from our Sony DVP-NS900V DVD player using the analog component inputs on the projector. Challenging material was handled well by the built-in video processing, but we still preferred using the iScan HD for our deinterlacing. Video performance on the composite, s-video and 480i/480p analog inputs looked virually identical to the H77.
The power focus and power zoom features on the HC2000 came in very handy during setup and are an added benefit to this projector design. Mitsubishi has done an outstanding job with the incremental improvements over the H77, many of which we enjoyed during the course of the review. Menu functions with the Shutter Control and a better remote control design are some of the improvements. In addition, the user's manual is much more comprehensive. It's refreshing to see a company take an already good design and make it even better. Even better, Mitsubishi has recently dropped the price of the HC2000 to $8995, making it even more attractive. Do we think the difference is worth it? Absolutely.
- Kevin Nakano
Stewart Filmscreen 100" FireHawk Screen on a Luxus Deluxe ScreenWall
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