Mitsubishi HC3800 1080P DLP Projector
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  • Performance
  • 5
  • Features
  • Ease of Use
  • Value
Price
$1,995 MSRP Discontinued

The Mitsubishi HC3800 is a new DLP 1080p projector that bridges the gap between sub-$1000 1080p projectors that have very good but not leading edge image quality, and 1080p projectors at $2,000 and up which are more fully featured. Its bright picture and solid contrast make it ideal for large-screen use in a darkened theater, but it could easily serve secondary duty in a living room during football season. The HC3800's beautiful, film-like picture can be had for a mere $1,499. This review will cover its strengths and weaknesses, and discuss how it compares to the Epson 8100.

Advantages

Lumen output. Thanks to its high lumen output, the HC3800 is appropriate for either cave-like theaters or bright living rooms. The HC3800 does not have image modes, per se, but it does offer several gamma and color temperature settings which you can mix and match to get the brightness and color balance you need.

"Sports" gamma, coupled with the "High Brightness" color temperature preset, create the brightest possible picture, which measured 1346 lumens on our test sample. This is actually higher than the 1300 lumens claimed on the spec sheet. Contrast in this mode is not as high as in other modes, nor is color balance anything to brag about, as it leans heavily towards green. But in a room with ambient light, it will provide the raw lumen power you need to put a dynamic picture up on the wall or screen.

"Cinema" gamma, coupled with one of the "User" color temperature calibrations, yields 621 lumens on our test sample. Thus, Cinema mode puts out a bright picture that is more than competitive with comparable projectors. The use of a screen up to 150" diagonal is possible in a dark room with good light control.

In many situations, 621 lumens is too bright. One way to lower lumen output is to choose Low lamp mode, which reduces light output by 15%. This not only lowers fan noise, but it also has the huge benefit of increasing potential lamp life from 2,000 to 5,000 hours. We suspect most users will want to run in low lamp mode to extend lamp life and keep fan noise to a minimum.

BrilliantColor, which despite the name does not have much of an effect on color, is enabled by default in Sports mode; disabling it reduces lumen output by 22%. BrilliantColor is not enabled by default in Cinema mode, so it is useful when you need to increase lumen output in Cinema mode and don't mind creating excessive brightness in the highlights (better for ambient light conditions).

Contrast. When a projector is rated at only 4000:1 contrast, many people assume that it is going to look dull and flat. This is not the case. The HC3800's ANSI contrast exceeds 600:1, which matches or beats that of many projectors that carry extreme on/off contrast ratings. What this means is that HC3800's black levels cannot compare with those of more expensive competitors. However, in the vast majority of scenes found in film content, the HC3800 looks just as dynamic and three-dimensional as any other projector on the market, and sometimes more so. The only time the level of black makes a big difference is when the screen goes black--for a title screen or an image of deep space, for example. You will notice a difference if you watch material involving night-time shots, as heavy shadows and night skies will look better on a projector with higher on/off contrast. But in scenes made up of average light levels, the HC3800's image is wonderful, with plenty of pop. Black levels are sufficiently black so as not to look muddy.

Sharpness and Clarity. While high contrast can make a projector appear sharper, the HC3800 is also very sharp of its own accord, independent of contrast. Fine detail is displayed cleanly, even when in motion. In our review test the HC3800 passed the HQV Film Resolution Loss Test with flying colors. Furthermore, the projector has very little digital noise when compared to competing models. Areas of solid color with medium saturation, such as backgrounds and wallpaper, are clean and nearly noise-free on the HC3800.

Placement flexibility. The HC3800 has a 1.5:1 manual zoom lens, which is exceptional for a DLP projector in this category. What's more, only 18% of maximum light output is lost between the wide and telephoto ends of the zoom lens, which is slightly better than average (around 20%). This gives the HC3800 somewhat greater throw range flexibility than the 1080p DLP projectors available for $999, which offer 1.2x zooms.

The projector has no lens shift, which is not unusual for an inexpensive DLP projector. The image offset, or the difference between the center of the lens and the bottom edge of the image, is 29% of the picture height. So, for example, the bottom of a 100" diagonal image will appear 14" above the lens's centerline. This aggressive offset is useful for either ceiling mounting or placement on a low table, but it rules out rear shelf use. Since the HC3800 throws off a noticeable amount of heat, we would prefer to ceiling mount it to keep it away from the seating area.

Limitations

Color temperature presets. Factory color temperature default settings need additional calibration for the projector to perform at its best. There are four defaults, labeled "High," "Medium," "Low," and "High Brightness," as well as a "User" setting which can be customized to your liking. The "High Brightness" setting shows the typical green bias trade-off one gets from pushing lumen output to maximum. Since it is intended to boost brightness for use in ambient light situations, color accuracy is not its highest priority. For Cinema mode, the "High" color temperature preset is bluish, and the "Medium" preset is a bit green. The "Low" preset is a warm sepia tone, which is ideal for viewing black and white films. The "Medium" preset was the closest to 6500K. The HC3800 has a setting that allows the "User" setting to use one of the presets as a baseline, so we started from "Medium" and adjusted from there. After some fine-tuning, the HC3800 is capable of delivering excellent color that is quite competitive with much more expensive home theater projectors.

HDMI signal strength. Some HDMI devices output stronger signals than others, and some projectors are more likely to drop weak signals than others. In our testing, the HC3800 was unable to synch with with a weakly-transmitting Blu-ray player and a 15-meter cable. This same combination of Blu-ray player and long cable functions well on all other projectors we've tested. This problem would not even be worth mentioning were it not for the fact that the HC3800 is best suited for ceiling mounting, where use of a longer cables is normally required. If you encounter a problem with signal strength, you can solve it by using an inexpensive HDMI signal repeater and two shorter cables instead of one long cable. However, odds are with a cable run of 30 feet or less, you will never encounter this problem at all.

Shootout:
Mitsubishi HC3800 vs Epson Home Cinema 8100

From a price perspective, the HC3800's most direct competitor is the Epson Home Cinema 8100, currently priced at $1599 with a $100 MIR. The Home Cinema 8100 boasts a much higher on/off contrast ratio than the HC3800. It also has lens shift and a longer 2.0:1 zoom lens.

Brightness. The Home Cinema 8100 is rated at 1800 lumens, and its Dynamic mode produces 1749 lumens at default settings. These same default settings also provide remarkably good color for such a high brightness image mode. The HC3800, on the other hand, has Sports mode, which produces 1349 lumens and is biased towards green.

In modes better suited to home theater, the HC3800's 621 lumens is comparable to the Home Cinema 8100's Natural mode at 598 lumens. The 8100's Theater and Theater Black modes, at 525 and 442 lumens respectively, were even less bright. So, while the Home Cinema 8100 has an edge for use in high ambient light situations, the HC3800 has the edge in a darkened theater.

Contrast. The HC3800 has incrementally higher contrast than the Home Cinema 8100 in almost every instance, save one: nighttime scenes with some highlights. In these scenes, the Home Cinema 8100 gave the impression not just of deeper black levels, but also higher contrast. These deep blacks disappear if there are too many highlights on the screen. For example, the credits at the end of a movie put the two projectors back on an even footing in this regard. If you watch a lot of movies with nighttime or space scenes, the Home Cinema 8100 may be a better choice for you; its deeper black levels and auto-iris are most effective in these scenes. However, all other scenes will be rendered with slightly more pop on the HC3800.

Color. At their defaults, the Home Cinema 8100 has better color accuracy and balance than the HC3800, and its color temperature presets are reasonable, if not completely accurate. Even Living Room mode, which produces over 1600 lumens, is reasonably balanced. Meanwhile, the HC3800's color temperature presets need some tune ups to look their best. Either projector could benefit from some fine-tuning to get the best possible picture, but the Home Cinema 8100 Cinema mode is closer to the 6500K standard out-of-the-box.

Sharpness and Clarity. In terms of overall image sharpness, the two projectors looked roughly equal. Neither showed any loss of fine detail. At factory defaults of zero, the sharpness controls add some edge enhancement, but for most viewers it is not objectionable. On both projectors you can turn down this effect if it is not desired.

Placement Flexibility. The HC3800's 1.5:1 zoom lens is impressive for a DLP projector in this class of product, but the 8100's 2.0:1 zoom and lens shift provides more latitude for placing it in a wider array of locations relative to the screen. The Home Cinema 8100 provides the option of a rear shelf placement, which is more problematic with the HC3800.

However, it is important to keep in mind that using the long end of the 8100's 2.0:1 zoom lens will cause a loss of up to 41% of its potential lumen output. Since it is already less bright than the HC3800 in its cinema modes, ceiling mounting the HC3800 at a throw distance which uses the wide angle end of its zoom can end up producing a video-optimized image that is much brighter than a rear shelf mounted 8100.

Picture Quality. Which of these two projectors has superior picture quality? It depends on the nature of the scene being viewed. In most scenes with average light level and moderate to high dynamic range, the HC3800 beats the 8100 in contrast and picture depth. Skin tones have a smoothness that is not quite there on the 8100, and overall the picture is more compelling. However, in dark scenes with low dynamic range, the 8100 clearly surpasses the HC3800 in contrast and black levels. With an image like a black screen with a white title, the 8100 is the hands down winner in both black level and contrast.

Thus, when they are set up side by side with equal lumen output and equal image sizes, one's perception of which projector has better picture quality will alternate back and forth as scenes change. If the movie has a lot of dark scenes, especially dark scenes that are low in contrast, the 8100 shines. As the movie moves to brighter scenes and/or scenes with higher dynamic range, the HC3800 kicks into high gear and outperforms the 8100. Neither projector is better than the other in all circumstances.

Conclusion

The Mitsubishi HC3800 is a solid and competitive new entry in low priced 1080p home theater projectors. It couples a bright video-optimized picture with excellent contrast and a 1.5:1 zoom lens. The 5,000 hour lamp will reduce maintenance costs down the line. It requires calibration, but pretty much every projector we review can benefit from calibration. Overall it is an outstanding value for the money.

For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our Mitsubishi HC3800 projector page.

Comments (21) Post a Comment
Alan Posted Nov 15, 2009 12:31 AM PST
Will this cost now not very competitive since the Panasonic is now less than USD2K ?
Cory Posted Nov 15, 2009 7:26 AM PST
I noticed the HC3800 throw info is not up on your throw calulator, Evan, can you tell is the throw range for a 110" image?
Mike Posted Nov 15, 2009 10:01 AM PST
I'm wondering how this compares to the PT-AE4000. Is there an appreciable picture quality difference between the two. The Panasonic is LCD, has a lot of features, but is the PQ better, disregarding price?
Rick Wilbert Posted Nov 20, 2009 6:00 PM PST
Ok. I am a little confused, but I am pretty new to the projector scene. I want a ceiling mount about 10.5 ft from a 106'' screen. I could put up the Mitz or the 8100. I am wondering tho, you keep mentioning the ceiling mount you should use the Mitz. Why is that? My room is a dual use so during the day there will be a little ambient light, but it will mostly be used at night. Which one do you recommend? Also I will be using this to play my Xbox 360 as well as movies. Thanks for your help. Rick
xuangewen Posted Nov 23, 2009 3:53 AM PST
I ask who has a deeper black HC6800 HC3800 Thanks
William Posted Nov 24, 2009 10:22 AM PST
I buy one and I'm satisfied for a 1080p projo under 1800 $ CAD. I use 106" screen and the projector is about 11 feet from the screen.
sean Posted Dec 4, 2009 1:21 PM PST
I am interested in using a tv projector can you have your digital cable ran through it. Do u need a special screen or can you use a blank wall?
Pavel Posted Dec 21, 2009 8:44 AM PST
Hello,

i have problem with the projector Mitsubishi HC3800. It´s probably a hardware error. I found during the projection, that the color homogeneity, especially with white color, goes from right to left side by 35% down with brightnes, respectively goes to the pink color. Projection is ceiling. When projection is front, you can see brightness in the opposite side. Brightness artefact is stable, without moving. Projector is new one, 2 hours in use, ambient temperature=22°C.

I tried to solve problem by:

- Use of other sources (HDMI, VGA from 3 different computers)

- Use the white test pattern without source

- exchange HDMI cable (length 1.5m)

- Using 3 different points of projection (to eliminate the possibility of

colored reflections from objects in the interior)

- projection from short / long distance

- zoom moving (without moving of artefacts)

- projection to white wall / projection screen

- front projection and ceiling projection

- reset settings to default

- Turn off the automatic correction of video modes

- calibrated settings from this forum vs default settings

- Switching mode Cinema / Sport / user

- Switching of color temperature

- Change eco lamp mode - normal mode

- use of other sources of power supply

- check the clarity of front lens

{edited}

So, with contrast frame is best example, how person shows color difference in reality. I never met with this issue by DLP projector that I bought (Benq MP720p, Benq 7700, Optoma HD65). Yes it´s possible, than difference of uniformity was maximum approax 10 % global by projectors, but 35 %? What do you think? Do you met with this issue too?

Thanks for your opinion,

Pavel.
Xavier Posted Dec 24, 2009 12:45 PM PST
Hi Pavel.

I have exactly the same problem as you !!!. White in the right side of the screen looks a bit blue and in the left side a bit yellow. I'm going to call my seller to know if is a hardware defect, and change it for another one ? Anybody else have the same problem ??? Help

Xavier (from Barcelona, Spain)
Edgar_in_Indy Posted Jan 7, 2010 3:53 PM PST
I bought the 8100, and noticed that it had a little less "pop" than my old Sony VPL-AW15 (720p) projector. I am now interested in the HC3800, but I'm concerned about placement.

My Panasonic, Sony, and Epson projectors have all been mounted in the same place on the ceiling, probably about 16' from the wall throwing an image onto a 108" screen. I would like to move to a screen size between 135" and 150". With the previously mentioned (LCD) projectors, all I would have to do to is twist the lens and make some shift adjustments and, presto, 150" screen exactly where I want it.

If my calculations are correct, for a 150" screen the offset between the center of the lens and the top edge of the screen would be 43.5 inches. Add 6 to 8 inches for the drop of the projector mounted on the ceiling, and it looks like the top if the image would be more than 4 feet below the lens. In my basement, that has 8 foot ceilings, it seems like it would just be impossible to go with a very large image from this projector.

If I'm figuring correctly, it looks like once I go much over 100", the HC3800 starts to require a ridiculous amount of space between the top of the screen and the ceiling. To do even a 120" screen with the HC3800 mounted flush on my 8' ceiling, the bottom of the screen would have to be sitting with the bottom edge right on the floor, and would have 40 inches of space above it! Why do they make these things without any vertical lens shift???
Doug Posted Jan 14, 2010 12:13 PM PST
For the person concerned about the lack of vertical lens shift, can't you just tilt the projector slightly upward and then keystone correct it?
Todzilla Posted Jan 21, 2010 2:25 PM PST
Edgar and others,

You are calculating the offset incorrectly. The offset between the center of the lens and the image is 29% of the VERTICAL height of the image, NOT the diagonal size of the image. For a 150 inch diagonal screen, the height of the screen is 74 inches, which translates to a 21.5 inch offset. But trying to put a 150" screen in a room with 8 foot ceilings would require a projector with a zero offset anyways. You only have 96 inches of space from floor to ceiling and 74 of that would be covered with screen, which would only leave 11 inches above and below the screen.
nabil Ammari Posted Jan 22, 2010 4:57 AM PST
hi guys ;

thinking of buying this and have it shipped to the middle east "qatar specifically" , but am wondering are there any defective units still in circulation, coz its darn too difficult to ship back for a replacement
midloman Posted Mar 2, 2010 2:24 PM PST
Overall I am happy with the picture the HC3800 produces. My last projector was the Optoma HD70, it did a good job, but was under powered for my setup. The one physical complaint I have with the HC3800 is the placement of the IR receiver on the projector. There are 2, one the front and one on the back. Having it ceiling mounted,so the IR needs to be on the top. I sit underneath the projector but I have to stand in front of it to activate the remote. I guess I could rig some kind of mirror for the rear sensor, but that's missing the point. I have the HC3800 projecting on a 17.5 foot diagonal screen(wall) in my garage( converted to my home theater and light controlled). Even at that size the picture looks great and is plenty bright. I still might return it and wait for a 3d model.
Michael Posted Apr 20, 2010 7:21 AM PST
Can anyone help a newbie adjusted the Medium color range to get to the 6500K as best as possible? What adjustements were made to make it better?
David Posted Feb 13, 2011 10:26 AM PST
Would this projector be better than the Mitsubishi HD4000 from a few years ago?
Michael Posted Dec 23, 2013 10:11 AM PST
Hi i have bought the mitsubishi hc 3800 projektor and its the best buy i ever did. It has a good sharp picture and a long lamp time if you use the low lamp mode. I only have one problem now. Because of apartment rennovation my projektor has been securely packed away but now as i have remounted it in my ceiling again getting ready to use it again. It wont show any picture. Only the black and white ant war and it says no signal sometimes. My projektor is mounted in the ceiling with a proper projektor hanger. For cable i am using a 10 meter long highspeed hdmi cable 1, 4 from my blu-ray to the projektor. I have used this combination for 2 years now and it has worked perfectly until after the rennovation. Still using the original lamp. Think it might be a setting on the projektor that im missing but not shure. Would shurely appreciate any help to get it working again if you know what to do. Regards Michael
Bryan Posted Nov 9, 2014 3:57 PM PST
I have a question about my HC 3800. After turning on Power then all fans running for about 10 seconds and bulb starts. It goes into a fault of red\green on power and blinking green on status button. Any ideas???
Peter Posted Nov 18, 2014 4:49 PM PST
Same problem as Bryan posted Nov 9 2014 I had installed a new bulb 2 weeks before problem stated
Peter Posted Nov 29, 2014 6:42 AM PST
Bryan it told me that when I installed new lamp that if the lamp cover was not on properly I would get the blinking lights. took off put back on same problem 2weeks later did it again a little more forceful with cover 1 week so far so ggod
Robin Posted Jan 29, 2020 9:55 PM PST
What a great purchase my HC3800 was—still going strong on the first bulb after 2800 hours with no signs of letting up - still a nice bright sturdy picture. Compact, lightweight projector with well above average image quality. I heard that Mitsu have stopped making projectors. More's the pity, as they knew how to make a good one in the HC3800/4000 models.

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