1080p Home Theater Projector Review
September 21, 2009
The Mitsubishi HC6800 (MSRP, $3,495, official street price $2,495) is one of the two new 1080p models being released this month by Mitsubishi, the other being the entry level HC3800 ($1,495). The HC6800 delivers a beautiful, sharp, natural video image with very little digital noise. It is not leading edge in terms of contrast, and it lacks frame interpolation, which several 1080p models in its price range now have. But it has a 1.6x powered zoom and focus lens that several competing units don't have. That feature can help eliminate the need for an anamorphic lens for those who want to set up a 2.40 widescreen system. The HC6800 also has almost zero fan noise, extensive calibration controls, and a better than average warranty.
Natural, filmlike picture. The single most striking attribute of the HC6800 is its natural looking image. For the videophile, the most desirable digital projectors are those that don't look digital. The HC6800 accomplishes this with flying colors. There is very little digital noise, virtually no pixelation, no overdriven sharpness, no overly brilliant or blown out highlights. The image is simply natural and filmlike, and a genuine pleasure to watch.
Excellent Cinema Brightness. For dark room home theater, the maximum lumen rating on a projector is generally irrelevant. The real question is how bright the picture is after calibration for ideal cinema viewing. This measurement almost never appears on a spec sheet. In its factory default Cinema mode, our test sample measured 703 lumens, which is brighter than most other home theater projectors in Cinema mode (measured with lens at wide angle setting, and lamp on full power).
However, the factory defaults in Cinema mode rendered an excessive green in the image. After boosting red and blue, and substantially reducing green, we were able to obtain a beautifully color-balanced picture. Those calibration adjustments reduced overall lumen output to 649 lumens.
And there is more good news--the position you choose to set the HC6800's 1.6x zoom lens has surprisingly little effect on lumen output. Remarkably, moving the lens to its maximum long throw position reduced brightness by just 13% from its reading at maximum wide angle. For a lens of 1.6x zoom range, we normally expect a 25% to 30% loss of light.
The Mitsubishi HC6800
Thus, you can plan your throw distance without much concern for light loss. For this projector, we'd recommend placing it such that the zoom lens is in the middle of its range. If you want a 120" diagonal 16:9 image, the zoom range will allow you to place the projector at a minimum of 12.3 feet, and a maximum of almost 20 feet from the screen. The ideal throw distance of about 16 feet would let you use the optical sweetspot of the lens, with only a very minor loss of light compared to wide angle. Furthermore, if you want to sit at a viewing distance of 1.2x to 1.5x the screen width (which is a comfortable range for many), you'd be sitting 10.5 to 13 feet from the screen. Thus, the projector can be placed comfortably behind the seating area on a rear shelf or free-standing rack, and the cost and effort to ceiling mount it is avoided.
Low lamp mode. Dropping the HC6800 into low lamp mode reduces lumen output by 28%. The advantage is that it is expected to double lamp life from 2000 to 4000 hours. On some projectors, low lamp mode also reduces fan noise, but the fan noise on this model is so low already, that it is not likely to be a factor in your choice of lamp setting.
The bottom line is that after video calibration, if you place the unit at mid-zoom range and put it into low lamp mode, you still get about 435 lumens. This is just about ideal for a 120" image on a low gain screen in a dark viewing room. If you want to go with a larger screen, there is plenty of headroom available by putting the lamp into full power.
Contrast. The rating on this unit is 30,000:1. That doesn't sound like much compared to the Sony VW85 at 120,000:1, or the Epson 8500 at up to 200,000:1. But on the other hand, the new Samsung A900, priced at a whopping $13,000, is only rated at 12,000:1, and that projector produces a picture some videophiles salivate over. The HC6800 has plenty of contrast to produce a brilliant, sparking image with solid blacks, good shadow detail, and excellent color saturation, even when taken to a 120" image size or larger.
Powered zoom, focus, and lens shift. This is an important feature if you want to use the zoom capability to accommodate a 2.40 format widescreen installation. Simply zoom to a wider angle setting to fill the 2.40 screen when you are viewing a movie in that format, and zoom forward to view standard 16:9 material in the center of that screen. The advantage is that you avoid the cost and bother of an anamorphic lens, and you retain the native resolution one-to-one pixel match between the 1080p display and 1080p source material when viewing 2.40 material. Several of the competing 1080p projectors in this price range lack a powered lens, so this may be a key factor in your decision.
The lens shift range is a total of 2.6 picture heights vertical, and a mere 5% of the picture width in either direction side to side. So there is not much leeway to place the projector off of dead center horizontally.
Two anamorphic modes. If you wish to set up a 2.40 rig using an A-lens (I am weary of typing out the phrase "anamorphic lens" so henceforth it shall be A-lens, or simply lens if the context is clear), the HC6800 has the capability of switching back and forth between 2.40 format movies or 16:9 material without moving the A-lens. Thus it can be installed permanently without the extra cost and hassle of the motorized track.
Fan noise. Nothing to worry about here. Mitsubishi has led the way in audible noise reduction, and this one is as quiet as they come. It is almost silent in low power mode, and not much louder in full lamp mode.
Extended lamp warranty. The projector itself has a two-year warranty, which is good but not exceptional in the industry. But the lamp has a one-year or 500 hour (which ever comes first) warranty that is quite unusual. Most vendors offer only 90-day warranties on lamps.