3D DLP 1080p Home Theater Projector
December 16, 2011
The long-awaited Mitsubishi HC7800D is finally here. This 1080p DLP projector caught our attention back in August, when we were able to get a sneak peek of an early sample. Since then, a lot has happened. We've seen most of the projectors introduced at CEDIA 2011, and the projector market has gotten very competitive right around the $3000 mark.
If you're just going by the spec sheet, the HC7800D doesn't look like much. Its 1500 lumens and 100,000:1 contrast are not as impressive when competitors are boasting 2400 lumens or 300,000:1 contrast -- on paper, those differences look big. Its 1.5:1 zoom and small vertical lens shift range aren't as extensive as the flexibility of the latest LCD projectors. It has comparatively few bells and whistles. The HC7800D loses the numbers game handily, and that's all the proof anyone should need that it's time to throw away the spec sheets.
The competition this year is extremely close, but the HC7800D is definitely among this year's top performers in its price bracket. It produces a detailed, natural image that edges its competition in contrast and clarity. For those videophiles out there who want a great picture first and foremost and are willing to sacrifice some conveniences to get it, the HC7800D is the projector to buy. It is not a perfect projector, though. Black level does not match the competition, and some aspects of its interface and design can be frustrating at times. But when it comes down to doing what a home theater projector is supposed to do -- putting a great, natural image on the screen -- the HC7800D excels.
The Viewing Experience
To get the most out of the HC7800D, you'll need a dark room. While the projector's 1,500 lumen maximum output is certainly bright enough for a space with some ambient light, most of the projector's image modes fall under 800 lumens. We did most of our viewing using a setting based off of the projector's Cinema preset, and our test unit produced about 600 lumens using those settings. This is the perfect brightness for a 120" diagonal image, provided you don't have ambient light to contend with. On a 1.3-gain screen, you'll net 18 foot-Lamberts, while our 1.0-gain screen measured 13.9 fL. Depending on your tastes, this is just about ideal.
You will need to plan your installation of the HC7800D carefully. The projector has good placement flexibility for a DLP projector, with a 1.5:1 zoom lens and a small 35% vertical lens shift, but the lens shift does not allow for the dead-center placement required for a rear shelf mount. In other words, you can't just place the HC7800D on a rear shelf and figure out the details as you go. A ceiling mount is ideal, but a coffee table or other low placement in front of the audience is also easy to set up. The projector is whisper-quiet, so you don't need to worry about where to place the projector in relation to your audience. They won't be able to hear it.
Firing up the projector for the first time, we were most impressed with the sheer amount of detail that we could see, as well as the smooth, film-like character of the image. It is a clean, refined image that will certainly appeal to videophiles. After spending some more time with the projector and making some small adjustments, this impression has only been strengthened.