This year, Mitsubishi has released two new "Diamond Series" 1080p projectors at two different price points. Their flagship model, the HC7000, was reviewed earlier this month, and is a good choice for dedicated dark room home theater. Now, the HC6500 has arrived, and brings with it solid performance at a lower price. High lumen output, a very sharp picture, and great shadow detail make it a good performer with HD film and video, while quiet exhaust and a 5,000 hour lamp life make it a pleasure to use. The HC6500 is for sale through authorized dealers for $3,495 or less.
ANSI lumens: 1200
Contrast (full on/off): 15,000:1
Light Engine: 1920x1080, native 16:9, 0.7" three-panel inorganic LCD with 160W lamp.
Video Compatibility: 1080p/60/50/24, 1080i, 720p, 576p, 576i, 480p, 480i.
Connection Panel: Two HDMI 1.3 ports, one YPbPr component input, one VGA port, s-video, component video, one serial port, and a 12V trigger.
Lens and Throw Distance: 1.6x powered zoom/focus lens with powered vertical and horizontal lens shift. Throws a 100" diagonal 16:9 image from 10' 2" to 16' 6".
Lamp Life: 2,000 hours (5,000 hours in eco-mode)
Replacement lamp price: $450 retail. Street price closer to $330.
Warranty: Two years.
High Lumen Output. The HC6500 is rated for 1,200 ANSI lumens maximum light output. Our test unit measured 752 lumens maximum, using the "High Brightness" color temperature setting. This setting is perfect for times when a little ambient light is desired; it gives color a greenish cast but does not significantly distract from the image. In our video optimized mode, which used the "medium" color temperature as a starting point, we measured 518 lumens on our test unit.
Low lamp mode causes a 22% decrease in lumen output, so video optimized mode drops to 408 lumens. The key benefit to low lamp mode is a substantial boost in lamp life, from 2000 hours up to 5000 hours. Depending on your screen size and type, room reflectivity, and ambient light conditions, low lamp mode may be the ideal choice for many users.
The HC6500 has a 1.6:1 zoom lens, and using the telephoto end of the lens results in a further 20% drop in lumen output. If you use both low lamp mode and the telephoto end of the zoom lens, video optimized mode drops to roughly 330 lumens. In this situation, smaller screen sizes and strict light control are preferred to ensure you still have a vibrant, bright picture.
Razor Sharp Picture. When the first Mitsubishi 1080p projector, the HC5000, was released, we commented on how sharp it looked when compared to the competition. Several generations later, we find ourselves saying the same thing about the HC6500. While not drastic, the projector has a clear and noticeable advantage in image sharpness and clarity that is visible when placed head to head with its LCD competition.
Good Shadow Detail, Open Midtones. While the HC6500 lacks the inky blacks of some of its competitors, it has very good shadow detail and rich, open mid-tones. This contributes to a sense of three-dimensionality that you would not anticipate from its relatively low contrast.
Whisper-Quiet Operation. The HC6500 comes as close to silent operation as we've ever seen. When standing any more than two feet away, it's hard to tell if the projector is even turned on. Coupled with very little heat exhaust, the quiet fan makes the HC6500 a good choice for small spaces and rooms with poor ventilation. There's little chance that this projector would distract you with noise or heat during use.
Powered Zoom, Focus, and Lens Shift. All functions of the HC6500's lens are motorized. The projector has a 1.6:1 zoom lens, which will display a 100" diagonal 16:9 image from 10' 2" to 16' 6". Lens shift has a vertical range of two and a half picture heights and a horizontal range of 5% in either direction. This allows for a wide range of mounting options; ceiling mounts are fairly simple and should not require the use of a drop tube, while rear shelf mounts are a possibility thanks to the 1.6:1 zoom. Powered focus is helpful in any mounting situation, since you can simply walk up to the screen, remote in hand, and make sure that focus is perfect. Oftentimes, adjusting a projector with manual focus is a two-man operation.
Contrast. While shadow detail is very good, black level on the HC6500 is not quite as deep as the competition. This is evident when it is viewed side by side with a unit that has a deeper black, but when viewed alone, there is no sense that the HC6500 is lacking.
ANSI contrast on the HC6500 measured out to 304:1, which is better than a number of 1080p LCD projectors released last year which we measured at around 250:1. However, several of the new high contrast projectors coming to market this fall are generating higher ANSI contrast, including the Mitsubishi HC7000, which we measured at 409:1.
Color Requires Calibration. The HC6500 has easy-to-use color controls and is simple to calibrate. It does require calibration out of the box to reach its best possible performance. Our test unit required some fine-tuning to remove a green bias that was present with the factory default settings.
No Frame Interpolation. Several 1080p models coming to market this fall have frame interpolation capability on board. The HC6500 does not. We expect this to become a significant competitive issue in the months ahead.
Available from Select Dealers Only. The Mitsubishi is in restricted distribution, and is available through local authorized dealers and some retailers such as Best Buy. Restricted distribution means restricted discounting, so you probably won't be finding this model available for much less than the sticker price anytime soon.
The good news is that the HC6500's retail price of $3,395 is significantly less expensive than most other limited distribution products. If you're looking for the personalized service of a local dealer, installation assistance, easy return for service, etc., but don't want to break the bank, the HC6500 may be the perfect option.
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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