Home Theater Shootout:
Mitsubishi HC6000 vs. Panasonic PT-AE2000U

Evan Powell, November 9, 2007

Two impressive 1080p projectors released this fall are the Mitsubishi HC6000 and the Panasonic PT-AE2000U. Initially, the HC6000 was released with a contrast rating of 13,000:1, but the specification was subsequently revised to 15,000:1. We wanted to see the final production unit side by side against the Panasonic AE2000, which has been edging several competing units in the 1080p field in terms of contrast. The following notes are the results of the test.

Brightness: Oddly enough, comparing the brightness of these two models results in somewhat of a toss up. In video optimized cinema modes, the AE2000 delivers 340 to 390 ANSI lumens, whereas the HC6000 is notably brighter, in the range of 450 to 500 lumens. However, the AE2000 has a much brighter operating mode, Normal, which measures up to 930 lumens without sacrificing too much in the way of color balance and contrast. Though you can drive the HC6000 up to about 900 lumens also, but you give up more picture quality. The bottom line is that in dark theater cinema modes, the HC6000 has a brightness advantage, but the AE2000 has better picture quality performance over a wider range of calibration options. Under these circumstances it is impossible to say which one is the winner in terms of brightness, because it depends entirely upon how the owner plans to use it.

Advantage: Toss up.

Contrast: The HC6000 stands up nicely against the formidable contrast and black level capability of the AE2000. Though they are now rated at 15,000:1 and 16,000:1 respectively, they both operate with dynamic irises. The action of the irises appears to be slightly different on each model depending on the average light level of any given scene. The result is that in some cases the AE2000 appears to have a slight advantage over the HC6000, and in some cases it is the reverse. Slight changes in calibration can tip the apparent contrast advantage toward one or the other. Preferred operating modes also make a difference-for example, if you run the AE2000 in Normal mode for the extra lumen output, you sacrifice some black level and contrast, but you get a more brilliant picture overall. When they are equally calibrated, there is no inherent advantage of one over the other in terms of how the eye perceives the average contrast in the images. We'd say this is a draw.

Advantage: Toss up.

HD Image Sharpness/Clarity: Both of these projectors deliver exceptionally sharp, clean HD images. The only way to tell any difference at all between them is to study them closely side by side. In this type of examination, the HC6000 has a very slight edge in sharpness, but it is so subtle as to not be worth worrying about. At normal images sizes and viewing distances, they look equally sharp.

Advantage: Toss up.

Deinterlacing: Both models show comparable and precise deinterlacing of 1080i signals. However, the HC6000 has more comprehensive processing of standard definition 480i. Using the SD HQV test disc, the AE2000 shows quite a few deinterlacing artifacts in the waving flag, whereas on the HC6000 it is smooth as silk. The rotating bar is reasonably clean on the AE2000, but is perfectly clean on the HC6000.

Advantage: Mitsubishi HC6000.

Digital Noise: Here we have a mixed bag. With HD material, noise artifacts are extremely low on the AE2000, and just a bit more evident on the HC6000. Neither one has enough noise to rise to the level of annoyance or distraction. With standard definition signals, it is the reverse-the HC6000 is comparatively low in noise, and the AE2000 shows more. The result is that the HC6000 has a slightly cleaner SD image. The difference between the two models is more noticeable in SD than it is in HD, but neither one has a serious problem with noise.

Advantage: Mitsubishi HC6000.

Visible Pixelation: The AE2000 has absolutely no pixelation whatsoever, due to the SmoothScreen filter. You can watch the image from any distance without ever experiencing any screendoor effect or noticeable pixel structure. On the HC6000, pixel structure is distinct, but subtle. Once you are viewing at a distance of about one screen width, the pixel structure disappears and becomes a non-issue.


Advantage: Panasonic AE2000

Zoom range and lens shift: The AE2000 has more range than the HC6000 in both zoom and lens shift. The AE2000's zoom is 2.0x, compared to 1.6x on the HC6000. And the AE2000 has three full picture heights of vertical lens shift, while the HC6000 has about 2.5 picture heights. In some installations, the extra range of the AE2000 could be beneficial, and might on occasion be a deciding factor in choosing between the two. Both models have powered zoom and focus. The HC6000 has powered lens shift as well, while the AE2000 has manual lens shift.

Advantage: Panasonic AE2000

Connectivity: The AE2000 has three HDMI ports and two component video ports. The HC6000 has two HDMI ports and one component video port. Both have a single VGA port, as well as composite and S-video. The only feature on the HC6000's connection panel that is missing from the AE2000 is a 12-volt screen trigger.

Advantage: Panasonic AE2000

Casework: The AE2000 comes in a dark gray case, while the HC6000 will soon be available in either black or white, as was its predecessor, the HC5000. For those who want to ceiling mount against a white ceiling, a white case is often preferred so the projector blends in with the ceiling. Mitsubishi gives you the color option, and Panasonic does not. The HC6000 is somewhat more compact as well, although the difference in physical size is not likely to be a big issue for most buyers.

Advantage: Mitsubishi HC6000

Extra Features: No comparison of these two projectors is complete without noting several unusual or extra features that come with the AE2000. The AE2000 has a learning remote that can be used to control several devices in your theater, whereas the HC6000's remote is conventional. The AE2000 has a split-screen calibration feature that lets you see the effects of your changes as you make them (see review for details). The AE2000 allows you to program up to 16 user calibrations, and to name them for easy reference. The HC6000 has three user programmable memories. The AE2000 has an on-board waveform monitor to aid in calibration. If these extras are features you'd use, they may be relevant in your selection.

Advantage: Panasonic AE2000

Audible noise/heat exhaust: As far as fan noise is concerned, both projectors are very quiet, even with the lamps operating in full power modes. The HC6000 is slightly quieter, but we don't see the difference as being a relevant factor in selecting between the two. The HC6000 has a 160 watt lamp, and the AE2000 uses a 165 watt lamp, so there is no practical difference in how much heat they throw off.

Advantage: Toss up.

Price and warranty: Prices are volatile and subject to change over time. However, at this writing, the official street price of the AE2000 is $2,699, and the HC6000 is $3,999. The HC6000 comes with a two year warranty, and the AE2000 is just one year-but at the moment a free additional year is being offered.

Advantage: Panasonic AE2000.


CONCLUSION

In a side by side comparison, the Mitsubishi HC6000 and the Panasonic AE2000 come up about equal in overall picture quality when they are calibrated for optimal video performance. That is to say, they are both outstanding 1080p projectors. In terms of contrast, black levels, color saturation, and image sharpness, they are extremely close. They each have advantages over the other, some subtle and some more noteworthy, that could sway a buyer toward one or the other.

The primary differences between the HC6000 and the AE2000 are in features not directly related to picture quality. The AE2000 has a wider array of extras than the HC6000. Furthermore, there is a sizable price gap between the two models that will be hard for the consumer to ignore. The AE2000's price advantage, should it be maintained into the future, will be a competitive edge that will enable it to capture a greater market share in the 1080p marketplace than the HC6000.