Highly Recommended Award
Our Highly Recommended designation is earned by products offering extraordinary value or performance in their price class.
Hitachi has been making quality LCD projection products for years. Until now their focus has been on business and commercial products. However with the Home-1, Hitachi makes its first step into LCD projection systems designed specifically for the consumer home theater market. After a close look at the Home-1 we are convinced that Hitachi product managers and engineers were well aware of their competition and designed accordingly. They have created a remarkable consumer product. It is beautifully executed, and will compete exceedingly well given the street prices at which it is currently being offered.
Specifications. 700 ANSI lumens, 800:1 contrast, native 16:9 widescreen format with 852x480 resolution LCD panels.
Compatibility. HDTV 1080i, 720p, 576i, 480p, 480i, and computer resolutions up to SXGA. NTSC, NTSC 4.43, PAL, PAL-N, PAL-M, PAL60, SECAM.
Lens and throw distance. Manual zoom and focus, moderate average throw distance with a very long 2.08x zoom range. Throws a 100" diagonal image from as little as 8.5 feet to as much as 17.5 feet--by far the longest zoom range we've yet seen on a portable projector.
Vertical and horizontal lens shift. With the lens in center position it throws an image with the centerline of the lens intersecting the center of the image. Vertical lens shift moves the image up or down on the screen such that at the extreme ends of the shift the image is either entirely above or entirely below the centerline of the lens. Horizontal lens shift moves the picture side to side up to a maximum of 50% of the picture width.
Lamp life. 2000 hours. There is no indication that the unit is programmed to extend lamp life when running in Whisper mode.
Connection panel. Located on the rear of the unit. Includes one computer 15-pin VGA port, one set of three RCA component inputs, one S-video, one composite video, one set of audio jacks, as well as a separate single audio port for computer audio to drive the single onboard speaker, one RS-232c control port. The connection panel also features a storage slot for the credit-card size remote control.
Installation options. Table mount, rear shelf mount, ceiling mount.
Fan noise and operating modes. Two operating modes include Normal and Whisper. In normal mode the audible noise from the fan is very low. In Whisper mode it is extremely quiet.
Warranty. One year.
The Hitachi Home-1 is a native widescreen 16:9 projector with 854x480 resolution. As noted in other reviews of native 480-line display products, video in the NTSC world comes with 480 lines per frame. That means no vertical scaling is required to map the video signal onto the display. The result is a cleaner image than you might get if it needed to compress or scale up the signal information to fit another physical format.
Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the Home-1 is its ease of installation, and its ability to be installed in a wide range of settings. The 2x zoom range is truly unique for this class of product. What it means is that you can throw a wide range of picture sizes from a short distance, say a coffee table sitting in front of you, or from a very long distance, say on the shelf on a rear wall behind you. No other projector we've seen has this variable range of throw distance.
Complementing the long zoom range is the horizontal and vertical lens shift. This feature lets you move the image around on the wall without introducing any rectangular distortion that would need to be offset with keystone adjustments. The combination of lens shift and zoom adjustments enable you to precisely match the projected image onto a fixed screen with no muss no fuss. It also lets you set it up so that the projector is not necessarily directly in line with the screen. If there is a post in the way, for example, you can offshift the projector to one side from the center of the screen and use the horizontal shift control to compensate for it. Keep in mind however that you want to avoid using the extreme ends of the lens shift range, as you end up sacrificing some of the optical efficiency of the lens which reduces lumen output. Moderate use of the lens shift feature is no problem.
Fan noise on the Home-1 is remarkably low even in Normal mode. It gets even quieter when you set it in Whisper mode, which reduces light output by about 15%. However, the use of Whisper mode does not necessarily extend lamp life. While the use of the Whisper mode may improve the odds of any individual lamp making it to 2000 hours without failing, the Home 1 is programmed to shut down the lamp after 2000 hours of use regardless of the mode of operation.
Pixelation (visible pixel texture in the image) is an issue with all lower resolution projectors. The closer you sit to the screen the more visible it becomes. On the other hand, as you back up from the screen all pixelation eventually disappears. On the Home-1 the point at which pixel texture disappears is about 2.1x the screen width, or about 15 feet from a 100" diagonal screen.
Onboard video processing on this unit is not as comprehensive as it is on more expensive projectors. As with other products in this price class, with an interlaced input you will get some deinterlacing artifacts, and with film sources you will see some instability related to 3:2 pulldown. It is easy to avoid this problem by using a good progressive scan DVD player with effective 3:2 pulldown compensation (the process by which a 24 frame-per-second film source is converted to 30 fps video). With a progressive scan input the Home-1 produces an extremely stable image.
As one would expect the best possible image on the Home-1 is achieved with a good HDTV signal. While the picture is great for the money, one should not expect the resolution of an HDTV image to be as pristine on a product like the Home-1 as it is on a higher resolution projector. There is only so much that can be done when compressing a 1080-line signal into 480 physical lines. Those who are primarily interested in obtaining the best possible HDTV images should consider projectors with 960x540 or 1280x720 displays, depending upon budget constraints.
The ANSI lumen rating of 700 is a theoretical rating that you will not achieve in normal operation. After calibration and with typical video sources you should expect to net out about 450-500 lumens. In a dark viewing environment this is plenty of light to produce a very engaging image. This is not a projector you'd want to use in a room with high ambient light levels, as contrast will quickly diminish in the presence of other light sources.
Contrast performance is typical for LCD products in the entry level price category. Black levels are adequate to render black as black rather than dark gray. There is some weakness in the separation of shadow details that is to be expected, and should be considered normal.
Color saturation on the Home-1 is comparable to other LCD products in its price class, which is to say it is good but you could benefit from a bit more. Color accuracy is acceptable but average, and overall this is probably this unit's weakest performance attribute.
In general the natural limitations which exist in this projector's contrast and color saturation are aggravated by going too large with the screen image. By concentrating its light output on a smaller screen surface you get much better actual contrast and color saturation. Regular readers of this site will know that this is true of any front projector, but it is particularly true of any projector in the lower range of light output and contrast capability. Video quality is always a trade-off with image size. Thus for those interested in optimum image quality from the Home-1, we recommend keeping the image size to no more than 90" diagonal (16:9).
As a final observation, out of the box calibration on the Home-1 is not ideal. To get the best picture from this unit we recommend acquiring a calibration disc such as the AVIA Guide to Home Theater DVD. At minimum it will help you zero in on the ideal settings for the five basic picture controls--brightness, contrast, color, tint, and sharpness--all of which we found needed to be pushed quite a way from the factory presets to obtain the best picture the projector was capable of. However, this calibration is easy to do, and once the unit is tuned up you get a very satisfying image for the money.
Hitachi's Home-1 is a formidable entry level projector that has a combination of features unusual in the price class. No other entry-level product we know of (and few at any price) can beat it in terms of ease of set up, as well as its adaptability to a variety of different viewing room layouts. The native 480-line format renders especially clean images from 480-line sources, and HDTV images are exceptionally good considering its price.
Overall, this is an impressive product selling for street prices under $1500 (at this writing) that should be considered by anyone starting out to experiment with big screen entertainment in the home. You can simply set it on the coffee table and produce a dramatic large screen picture without bothering with a permanent ceiling mount or fixed rear shelf mounting. So for those who want to make a tentative first step toward a formal home theater, or for those who want to take advantage of its portability and move it from venue to venue, the Home-1 gives you superb flexibility for set up and a very impressive picture for the investment. Based upon its unique features and exceptional overall value for the money it earns our rating as a Highly Recommended home theater projector.
(Note: For availability and current street prices, consult Hitachi Home 1 dealers on the spec page.)
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our Hitachi Home-1 projector page.