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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

The "lens mask" option adds horizontal black bars to the image, which are adjustable up and down independent of one another. We found this feature to be most useful while watching broadcast material, specifically broadcast HDTV, since these signals occasionally have extraneous lines of "noise" at the top or bottom of the image. Using the "lens mask" feature, you can simply mask off the top and bottom noise artifacts without using overscan to scale your image and losing the benefits of native 720p. This is an interesting and attractive feature, and one that we've not seen on competitively priced alternatives.

The remote on the HDPJ52 is small, black, and ergonomically pleasing. There is a backlight activated with a button press, and the activation button glows in the dark - a nice touch. Aside from the usual direct access buttons for aspect ratio cycling, iris control, and source switching, Hitachi has included another nice feature. Rather than dedicate buttons to pulling up the menu items for brightness, contrast, and color, these are adjustable via +/- buttons on the remote control itself, bypassing the menu completely.

Instead of labeling by lamp modes, the HDPJ52's different operating modes are labeled by fan modes. "Whisper" mode runs at a very quiet 24dB of audible noise, which is bordering on inaudible. While "Normal" mode is noticeably louder, it is not loud enough to cause distraction in a theater environment. However, one important thing to note is that switching to "normal" mode only results in 15% more ANSI lumens, so if you need more light, it might be better to simply open up the iris further instead.

For normal viewing, the color temperature setting labeled 7500K on the HDPJ52 was actually within 100 degrees of perfect 6500K on out test unit from 40 IRE to 80 IRE. Despite the mis-labeling, this setting produced rich, well-balanced color that needed no adjustment for comfortable viewing. Likewise, hue and saturation were factory-set set at optimal levels. So despite the fact that color on the HDPJ52 highly adjustable, we found it to be at its peak right out of the box, and no recalibration was needed to get a very fine, well-balanced picture.

If you watch many black and white films, changing the precalibrated color temperature selection to 6500K nets an average color temperature closer to 5400K, which is actually ideal for the viewing of older black and white films.

Lamp life on the HDPJ52 is 2,000 hours, which may seem a bit low when compared to other projectors in this price range. However, Hitachi is selling the replacement lamp for only $250, while many home theater projectors' replacement lamps cost between $350 and $400. Lamp replacement is an issue that comes up in every projector's life, so knowing the replacement cost and planning ahead will make life easier.

The HDPJ52 is rated at 1200 ANSI; however, when set up for a darkened theater environment it produces about 300 ANSI lumens, as do many other home theater projectors on the market. The projector has a manual iris system that ranges from 1 (small opening) to 10 (large opening), and in video mode with the iris all the way open lumen output was around 350 ANSI. However, you lose a lot of contrast performance at this setting, so we would recommend leaving the iris between 4 and 7.

Contrast is rated at 7000:1, and the HDPJ52's performance with dark scenes on DVDs does not disappoint. We found that setting our test unit's iris to 6 created a nice balance between light output and black level, and at this setting shadow details showed very good separation. Black level is likewise quite solid, and better than several competing units in this price range. When using a video game console as a source, however, we preferred to open up the iris further, as the extra brightness is beneficial in this application. With the iris set to 9 or 10, playing video games on the HDPJ52 was an enthralling experience.

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