1080p DLP Home Theater Projector
Epson Home Cinema 8700 UB
Last year, we compared the HC3800 to Epson's Home Cinema 8100, a 1080p LCD projector with a similar price. This year, Epson has released the Home Cinema 8350, an incremental upgrade to the 8100 that sells for $1,299. If we had an 8350 here to do a side by side, we'd do it. But we don't. Instead, we have the higher priced 8700 UB. So we decided to set the HC4000 up against this $2200 1080p LCD projector.
With a $900 price difference between the two, it is clear that the Home Cinema 8700 UB must have something the HC4000 does not. Indeed, the Home Cinema 8700 UB is comparatively feature-laden. It has a 2.1:1 zoom lens, horizontal and vertical lens shift, a frame interpolation system to reduce motion judder, super resolution to improve detail definition, two HDMI ports instead of one, and a free lamp and ceiling mount included in the purchase price. When it comes to features, there is no question which projector has the edge.
But things get really interesting when we look at picture quality. In a comparable theater mode, the 8700 UB is a little brighter - perhaps 20% - and has deeper black levels in dark scenes, such as a night sky. But in most scenes containing more typical average light levels, the HC4000 has better dynamic range. Whites are brighter, blacks are deeper, and the picture as a whole just "pops" better than that of the 8700 UB. Strange to say, but this unassuming HC4000 rated at a mere 4000:1 contrast often looks higher in contrast, with more three-dimensional picture depth, than the 8700 UB with its 200,000:1 rating. From an aesthetic perspective, the HC4000 has a slightly more natural-looking film-like image. With the 8700 UB's frame interpolation turned off, the HC4000 has less judder, which is of interest to those who do not enjoy the appearance of frame interpolation and want the best video image they can get without it.
This is not to say that the 8700 UB does not have advantages--it most certainly does. It has a higher maximum lumen output (1830 lumens versus 1212), a modestly brighter cinema mode (660 versus 560 lumens), and an auto-iris system that really does make dark scenes look incredible. With the 2.1x zoom and lens shift it is easier to install on those rear shelves and bookcases. Fan noise is slightly quieter, though neither is objectionable.
So the bottom line is this: which style of projector fits your needs the best? If you have the cash and you need or want all the extra features, the 8700 UB is a solid option for the money. If you are on a tighter budget, or simply don't want to spend money for features you won't use, the HC4000 is an outstanding value in image quality.
The Mitsubishi HC4000 is an impressive home theater projector. For a modest $1,299, you get a high quality cinema image that rivals that of much more expensive models. What you give up is a lot of the extra features you find on pricier units. It is a great projector for the budget videophile, the one who wants pure image performance but doesn't want to empty his or her wallet to get it. The Mitsubishi HC4000 is a remarkably vibrant projector that will give you a double "wow" factor: one for the sparkling, three-dimensional image you see when you light it up, and another when you tell your friends how little you paid for it.