1080p DLP Home Theater Projector
December 15, 2010
Great picture. The HC4000 is an impressive projector, and in terms of sheer picture quality it punches above its price class. Even fresh out of the box, with no adjustments made, the HC4000 produces a bright, clear, three-dimensional image that practically jumps off the screen. Every detail in every shadow is reproduced cleanly. Colors are vibrant and accurate (we actually brought color saturation down a few pegs as it was slightly over-driven). The picture is balanced, smooth and natural-looking, without any 'digital' character or artificiality to it. This is no mean trick, since digital video is exactly what we're watching.
Lumen output. The HC4000 can be used in a variety of lighting situations, from a pitch-black cave to a typical living room. Maximum ANSI lumen output is rated at 1300, just like the HC3800. The brightest mode by far is Sports, combined with the High Brightness color temperature preset and the lamp at its full power setting. This combination of settings measured 1212 lumens, a slight decrease from last year's 1346 but still very bright. The Sports/High Brightness combination lacks the high contrast that makes the HC4000 look so good with film and video, and there is a noticeable green bias. However, when you need every lumen possible for a Sunday football game in the living room, Sports/High Brightness will do just fine. Combining Sports with the Medium color temperature preset gives better contrast and color accuracy, and drops brightness to 705 lumens.
For the best possible picture quality for film and video without calibration, here's how it's done: using Cinema mode, pick the Medium color temperature preset--that's it, you're done. This mode yields excellent contrast and very good color accuracy for a factory preset, along with 560 lumens with the lamp at full power. Dropping the lamp to its lower-powered setting reduces lumen output in this and every mode by 21% for a new reading of 442 lumens. That's still enough light for that 120" diagonal screen as long as you are careful about light control. For a more vibrant, punchy picture, consider a 100" diagonal instead. It's still bigger than any television you are likely to see in stores.
As you know, long zoom lenses transmit the most light when at their widest angle/shortest focal length setting and the least light at their longest focal length. This drop is often on the order of 25% for a 1.5:1 lens. The HC4000 performed much better than average in this regard, as our measurements revealed only an 11% drop in lumen output from the shortest to longest focal lengths of the lens. In other words, you can use the full range of the lens without stopping to consider the impact on lumen output, because such a subtle change is almost impossible to notice with the naked eye.
Regarding BrilliantColor: yes, the HC4000 has it. It is enabled by default in Sports mode, and turning it off will reduce lumen output in that mode by 20% while creating a more balanced picture. It is disabled in Cinema mode, but you can certainly turn it on if you so choose for a quick lumen boost. Just be aware that it will raise the brightness of highlights without affecting other areas of the picture, so that much vaunted "balanced, film-like picture" will lose some of its balance.
Contrast. The HC3800 had excellent contrast, but the HC4000 is even better. While the two have the same rating - 4000:1 - ratings never tell the whole story. While full on/off contrast remains the same, single frame contrast receives a significant bump in the HC4000. The result is a dynamic and three-dimensional picture that is the equal of much more expensive projectors. The HC4000 performs best with content that is neither all dark nor all light; night-time shots, for example, would look better on a projector with an auto-iris and higher on/off contrast. However the majority of scenes in movies are comprised of many levels of illumination. It is in scenes with average to above average light levels that the HC4000 truly shines.