Mitsubishi HC6500 versus Panasonic PT-AE3000
Panasonic's AE3000, reviewed earlier this month, is the newest of their 1080p projectors. While the two projectors are both 1080p LCD models and sell in the same general price bracket, they are very different animals.
Lumen output. Panasonic's AE3000 has operating modes that are brighter than the HC6500. Our AE3000 test unit measured 1273 ANSI lumens maximum, while our HC6500 measured 752 lumens. The AE3000 also has "normal" mode, which has better color balance than its brightest mode but measured 792 lumens, putting it slightly above the HC6500's maximum output. If you plan to use your projector primarily in a room with some ambient light, the AE3000's higher lumen output might make it a more attractive option. However, the HC6500 puts out 518 lumens in video optimized mode, which is on par with the AE3000 in its Cinema modes.
Contrast. Panasonic's AE3000 had deeper black levels than the HC6500 in every scene we watched. This was expected, since the AE3000 is rated at 60,000:1 compared to 15,000:1 on the HC6500. ANSI contrast was visibly higher as well - the AE3000 measured 446:1 while the HC6500 measured 304:1. While this is not poor performance from the HC6500, it is on a level with last year's AE2000 rather than this year's model.
Sharpness. The HC6500 has an edge over the AE3000 in image sharpness and clarity of detail. Skin texture and fabric details are slightly better defined on the HC6500. This is not to say that the AE3000 is soft--it is sharp enough and equal in sharpness to other new 1080p models such as the Sony VPL-HW10. However, the HC6500 and the HC7000 stand out above the crowd as being particularly razor sharp.
Placement Flexibility. The HC6500 has a 1.6:1 zoom lens, and all functions are powered. The AE3000 has a 2.0:1 zoom lens, and only lens shift is not powered. However, the AE3000's lens shift has a vertical range of three picture heights to the HC6500's two and a half, and it has a horizontal range of 50% in either direction rather than 5% on the HC6500.
Cost. The AE3000 sells for $2,499 from various internet resellers, while the HC6500 sells for $3,495 from selected authorized dealers and retailers. This is kind of an apples-to-oranges comparison, as each distribution channel has its perks and downsides.
When all is said and done, Mitsubishi's HC6500 turns in a solid performance. Sharpness and detail are crystal clear, and high definition content looks stellar. The projector has the lumen power to light up a very large screen in a light-controlled room, or a smaller screen with some ambient light. The projector is stone quiet, has a long life lamp, and has a powered lens to make it easier to use. If you can live with not having leading edge contrast performance, or just want to buy a great projector from your local big box retailer, the HC6500 is a solid bet.
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