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Review: Hitachi Ultravision HDPJ52Home Theater Projector

Review Contents
Best Home Theater Projector
Ease of Use
Hitachi UltraVision HDPJ52 Projector Hitachi UltraVision HDPJ52
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7000:1 Contrast Ratio
1200 Lumens
Street Price: n/a

Comparative Performance

These days, there are very few "bad" projectors. Many new home theater projectors produce rich, three dimensional images, and without a basis for comparison it can be hard to tell them apart. It often takes a side-by-side comparison to reveal the subtle differences between the latest crop of projectors, so we put the HDPJ52 heads-up with both an updated sample of the BenQ PE7700 (old review here) and the Epson PowerLite Cinema 550 (review here).

The BenQ PE7700 is marginally brighter than the HDPJ52; at comparable settings it measures 400 ANSI lumens to the HDPJ52's 300 ANSI. While the extra 100 lumens is nice, it is a relatively small difference.

When viewed individually, both the PE7700 and the HDPJ52 have excellent contrast and black level, while shadow details are clearly visible. However, once seen head to head, the superior performance of the HDPJ52 becomes clear. While black levels are comparable, the HDPJ52 holds a clear edge in shadow separation and overall contrast performance.

With regards to color, the HDPJ52 clearly overtakes the PE7700. Color is rich and natural, with better saturation. Whether watching animated material or live actors, scenes seemed to pop off of the screen, and objects looked vibrant and life-like.

The Hitachi HDPJ52 has significantly less fan noise than the PE7700, and "Whisper" mode lives up to its name. There was no noticeable screendoor effect on the HDPJ52 from normal viewing distances. The lens shift and superior zoom range of the HDPJ52 give it an edge in mounting options, while the PE7700's lack of lens shift may make installation more difficult for some users.

The BenQ PE7700 is a good, solid home theater projector. When we reviewed it eight months ago, we gave it a very good rating. However, when compared to the HDPJ52, it becomes clear just how much better the new LCD projectors are as compared to their predecessors. The industry continues to move forward rapidly, with ever-improving price/performance.

The bigger competitive challenge for the HDPJ52 is the Epson Cinema 550. The Cinema 550 is a much brighter projector, measuring in at up to 950 ANSI lumens, while the maximum we were able to squeeze from the Hitachi HDPJ52 was around 500 ANSI. However, at settings optimized for dark room home theater, the HDPJ52's 300 ANSI lumens are an easy match for the Cinema 550's 240 ANSI lumens.

Black level on the Cinema 550 is slightly superior to that on the HDPJ52, and the HDPJ52 cannot quite match the Cinema 550's performance on shadow detail either, though it does come very close. Detail in dark scenes on either projector is excellent, but the Cinema 550 maintains an edge in this regard.

On our test units, the HDPJ52 had a more natural color balance, but we need to reserve comment at this point due to the panel alignment problem on our Cinema 550 that we noted in the review that affected both color and sharpness in portions of the image.

The Cinema 550 and HDPJ52 have similar zoom and lens shift capabilities, with the Cinema 550 having greater lens shift latitude and the HDPJ52 having a slightly longer zoom range. The feature sets on these projectors are similar, and offer many customization options for fine-tuning your image.

The HDPJ52 and Cinema 550 are both impressive projectors at the leading edge in terms of price/performance. The Cinema 550 can put out more light at the sacrifice of some image quality, which makes it more suitable for multipurpose home entertainment. However, the HDPJ52 offers home theater performance that rivals the 550 and incorporates some features the 550 does not have. Depending upon your needs, either one of these projectors is capable of making you extremely happy with your selection.

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