Highly Recommended Award
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High-quality 3D at home is a reality, but what about all those 2D movies you own? The new Mitsubishi HC9000D brings 1080p active-shutter 3D into your home for $6,995, but that is not its only attraction. It also offers a great 2D picture that places it among the ranks of the finest 1080p home theater projectors available under $10,000. Complete with all of the bells and whistles one might expect from a premium projector, the HC9000D has something for everyone.
Applications / Best Uses
In a home theater setting, the HC9000D produces a bright, natural, film-like image. To make the projector look its best, one must consider the viewing environment as a whole and how it affects image quality. Curtains around the screen decrease reflections and thereby increase contrast. Non-reflective surfaces will do the same. Ambient light reduction is important, but there's more to it than just turning off the lights--you want to make sure that the projector's light stays on the screen, where you want it.
The reason for all of this work is, simply put, that the HC9000D is an excellent projector that deserves the best viewing environment you can create for it. The price tag of $6995 is downright affordable for this class of projector--especially with the added benefit of 3D.
The real story of the HC9000D is this: while there is a lot of buzz around 3D projection right now, the vast majority of content available, both SD and HD, is two-dimensional. The HC9000D is best described, in our estimation, as "a 2D projector with 3D capability," rather than a 3D projector. In other words, the projector's 2D performance comes first, and 3D is only an added bonus rather than the defining feature of the projector. If you're not terribly excited about 3D projection and are just looking for a great 2D machine, the HC9000D may be exactly what you want.
Picture quality. The HC9000D is Mitsubishi's first LCOS machine, but judging by its performance the new technology hasn't presented any problems. The projector has a natural, film-like image that's nearly free of noise. Every pixel is perfectly sharp and every detail is clearly resolved. Black level is deep enough to require stringent ambient light reduction, because any small amount of errant light is enough to raise the projector's otherwise inky black. Shadow detail is true to life, with natural-looking transitions from light to darkness and good preservation of detail in dark areas of the picture. A high dynamic range makes for a three-dimensional appearance--and this is using 2D, remember. The HC9000D has a clear, clean, high-contrast image highly reminiscent of the Optoma HD8600, an $8,000 projector that earned our Editor's Choice award for outstanding image quality and value.
On top of all this, the HC9000D's 3D capabilities are solid. Black level, already impressive in 2D, is only more so in 3D thanks to the shutter glasses, which act like a neutral-density filter. The glasses do not affect color accuracy significantly, though the lenses do have a very slight green tint to them. The projector has a pre-programmed 3D mode with built-in adjustment for this color tint, as well as a brightness boost to compensate for the loss in brightness. You are not required to use this 3D mode; you can continue using Cinema mode if you wish, though the picture will be much less bright. The impression of depth is clear without being overdone. Crosstalk can sometimes be seen in high-contrast areas, but the artifact never becomes overwhelming at default settings.
Variable Iris. The HC9000D has a variable iris that can be set to either manual or automatic depending on user preference. The User iris setting allows brightness to be decreased by up to 90% in 2-3% increments, giving the user a very precise tool for fine-tuning light output. Our preferred setting for 2D has the iris set to manual and partially closed, while 3D benefits most from automatic mode, as the iris function is nearly undetectable and boosts brightness in bright scenes.
Color. A projector in the HC9000D's price bracket is held to a higher standard when it comes to color accuracy and grayscale tracking, but this projector does not disappoint. Straight out of the box with zero adjustment, the grayscale in Cinema mode measures 6420K on average across the entire spectrum. While the ideal is 6500K, this is excellent for a factory calibration. As far as the color gamut is concerned, the HC9000D needs only minimal adjustments to bring it in line with the Rec.709 color space recommended for HD display. The bottom line? All this technobabble really means is that the HC9000D looks great even before you do any calibration.
Light output. In Cinema mode, with the lens at its widest angle and the lamp set to High, the HC9000D produces 807 ANSI lumens after color calibration. The Normal lamp setting, which is the default for Cinema mode, decreases output to 621 lumens; this is a reduction of 23%. The other notable reduction in light output comes from the zoom lens, which causes a 26% drop when using the telephoto end of the range. Lumen fall-off and lens setting are roughly linear, so using the middle position of the zoom range causes a drop of roughly 13%. Someone using Cinema mode, Normal lamp mode, and the middle of the zoom will see roughly 540 lumens, easily enough for a 120" diagonal screen even with mild ambient light.
There are two occasions where high light output on a home theater projector is especially useful. The first is very large screen size; the second is 3D projection. While Cinema mode shows the best adherence to color and grayscale standards, its 800-lumen maximum output limits image size when viewing 3D content. The HC9000D includes an image preset called 3D, designed to boost light output without sacrificing too much in the way of color accuracy. 3D mode measured 936 lumens with the lamp set to High. For even more brightness, the HC9000D's Cinema Filter has a setting called Brightness; this boosts light output by approximately 20% while decreasing the saturation of green and cyan. The net result is a brighter picture (1170 lumens in 3D mode) with less accurate color, decreased saturation, and a slight decrease in contrast. Still, if you want to display a 3D movie on your 120" screen, the extra brightness helps.
Placement Flexibility. A long zoom range, extensive lens shift, and powered lens adjustments make the HC9000D one of the more versatile projectors in its price range. The 1.8:1 zoom lens allows you to display a 120" diagonal image from 13' 7" to 24' 9". The vertical lens shift range encompasses two full screen heights, allowing you to place the image entirely above or below the centerline of the lens or anywhere in between. This may allow the projector to be ceiling mounted without the use of an extension tube, and is just about perfect for most rear shelf mounts. Horizontal range allows 44% shift in either direction for a total range of almost two picture widths. There is a slight stripe of overlap between the two extremes; on a 120" diagonal image all but 13" of the image's width can be placed to one side of the lens' centerline. Once you have your adjustments perfected, a menu option allows the user to "lock" zoom, focus, and shift in place to prevent accidentally nudging them out of alignment.
Standard-Definition Performance. 3D and HD are wonderful, but most people still own more standard-definition DVDs than either of those two formats combined. The HC9000D is a great projector for standard-definition display, displaying a clean, detailed image with very little noise. The projector uses the Silicon Optix Reon VX chipset to reduce scaling and deinterlacing artifacts to the point where they are more or less invisible. Additional features such as Detail Enhancement, Frame Interpolation, and noise reduction make DVDs look their absolute best. These increase detail clarity, reduce judder, and cut noise to such an extent that it's like watching a whole new movie, giving your DVD library just a little bit more life.
Anamorphic stretch mode. If you want to use an anamorphic lens and a cinemascope ultra-wide screen, you're in luck. Not only will the HC9000D play nice with your lens, it'll do it in 3D as well. A pair of 12V triggers can be used for a motorized lens sled and screen masking system, just to name a few possibilities. If you don't have an anamorphic lens but still want to use a 2.39:1 screen, you can use the projector's powered zoom lens to increase the image size for such movies, then zoom it back down for 16:9 content. This solution is perhaps less elegant, but definitely more budget-friendly.
Frame Interpolation. The HC9000D's frame interpolation system has two settings, called True Film and True Video. True Film is a more subtle approach, reducing judder in panning sequences and certain types of motion without adding any trace of the digital video effect. True Video is more aggressive. All judder is eliminated in the True Video setting, more so than we have seen on other projectors, giving the image a remarkably smooth appearance. This comes with some trade-offs, including some digital video effect and haloing around objects moving horizontally across the frame. Sports and animation benefit greatly from the True Video setting, while True Film is more appropriate for movies. Frame Interpolation is currently available only in 2D, though a firmware update that extends the capability to 3D is forthcoming. We will review this capability when it is made available.
Cinema Filter. Designed to improve color, the HC9000D's Cinema Filter gives green and cyan a boost at the expense of brightness. Enabled by default in Cinema mode, the filter works as advertised, giving the projected image better color saturation and making the image look more natural overall. Disabling the filter increases light output by nearly 20%, though color saturation is weakened by doing so. Disabling it in 3D mode can help increase brightness, though the effect on color is still readily apparent. We prefer to leave the Cinema Filter engaged whenever possible.
3D Glasses Optional. The 3D kit for the HC9000D is an optional accessory rather than an in-box inclusion. The glasses cost $139 per pair while the emitter and its cable cost $189. A quick bit of math tells us that a family of two is looking at an additional $467 plus tax to bring the 3D experience home. The glasses take a CR2032 battery, last for 150 hours of use, and are lightweight enough not to be annoying. The nose piece sometimes falls off, though. The 3D glasses fit nicely over prescription glasses. The total range of the IR emitter is roughly 10 meters. Keep in mind that bouncing the IR signal off of your screen means you should count the distance from emitter to screen as well as the distance from screen to viewers, so someone with a very long theater might want to mount the emitter on the screen itself and point it directly at the audience. When bounced, total emitter range varies slightly with screen gain, since infrared is just another form of light. A higher screen gain means slightly more distance, while those with screens less than 1.0 gain may find they do not get the full 10 meters before the signal falls off.
Connectivity. The HC9000D has two HDMI 1.4 ports, one VGA input, a set of YPbPr component plugs, composite video, s-video, a pair of 12V triggers, a 9-pin serial port, and a special port to connect the 3D IR emitter cable. The emitter itself can be mounted either on the front of the projector or anywhere in the room within reach of its 15-meter cable.
Shutter Timing Adjustment. The projector incorporates a novel solution to the dual issues of brightness and crosstalk, two problems peculiar to 3D projection. Lack of brightness, caused by the action of the shutter glasses, is inversely proportional to crosstalk, caused by the shutters being open for too much time and accidentally picking up the image intended for the other eye. Fixing one problem tends to increase the other, in other words. The HC9000D provides an option called 3D Brightness which includes a number of options for shutter timing, ranging from 2.0 to 5.5 milliseconds per eye at half-millisecond intervals. Faster timing decreases both brightness and crosstalk. Slower timing increases brightness, but does the same to crosstalk. The default setting of 4.5 strikes a good balance, though those sensitive to crosstalk might prefer a smaller interval. Crosstalk was visibly increased at the 5.5 setting, though some may prefer it regardless due to the increased brightness involved. My own preferred setting is either 3.5 or 4.0, which reduces brightness in exchange for a more stable picture.
Image Fine-Tuning. In an ideal world, no one would ever use keystone correction on a home theater projector; however, we do not live in an ideal world. The HC9000D includes two options that make fitting the picture to your screen easier. The first, called "Anyplace" projection, allows you to set the position of the screen corners independently of one another, essentially setting keystone for each individually. The other feature is an adjustment to compensate for pincushion or barrel distortion, which occurs when one uses a curved projection screen surface. While both Anyplace Projection and Pincushion/Barrel Adjustment use scaling and therefore cause a slight loss in resolution, the end result is still very clean. When the alternative is a screen that is not properly filled, these are attractive options.
Lamp life. The HC9000D uses a 230W UHP lamp that's expected to last 4,000 hours in Normal mode and 2,000 hours in High mode. The projector defaults to Normal mode, giving users the maximum possible lamp life by default. Replacement lamps are $459 direct from Mitsubishi. The actual process of lamp replacement is a snap; the lamp change door is on the back of the projector, so it can be accessed even if the projector is ceiling mounted. A small air filter must also be cleaned regularly; it can be found on the front bottom of the projector and slides out without tools. This too can be accessed while the projector is ceiling mounted.
Direct wiring for 3D. A limitation of 3D projectors is that the video signal can only pass through 3D compatible devices. Even if you have a 3D Blu-ray player and a 3D projector, using an A/V receiver without 3D support will prevent you from viewing 3D unless you wire the Blu-ray player to the projector directly. As 3D support is built into HDMI 1.4, these 3D compatible devices are becoming more widely available. If you have not upgraded already, you might want to consider your wiring options in advance. 2D works with any HDMI version, of course.
IR emitter interferes with remote. One of the downsides of using infrared light to control the action of the active-shutter glasses is that it floods the viewing environment with IR signals. Since most remote controls, including the remote for the HC9000D, use infrared to communicate, this can result in decreased remote range and more frequent missed commands. Sitting closer to the emitter increases the severity of this problem, though it is present to some degree even when bouncing the IR signal off of the screen and sitting almost 20' back.
Excessive 3D flicker if seated too close. Similar to 2D judder, 3D flicker causes motion to appear jerky and discontinuous. The HC9000D does not show an abnormal or excessive amount of this particular artifact unless we are sitting very close to the screen, at which point it seems overwhelming. Using the same relative image size at a larger distance, such that it filled the same portion of our field of view, reduces the effect. To minimize flicker, try to sit no closer than 1.2 times the screen width.
30-second non-adjustable menu timeout. The menu system for the HC9000D is necessarily complicated, with lots of options to adjust and plenty of controls to consider. It is unfortunate, then, that the menu closes itself after 30 seconds of inactivity. This seems like a trivial complaint until one tries to make any meaningful color or contrast adjustments, at which point it becomes intensely frustrating. While some projectors have a menu option to extend this timer, the HC9000D does not.
Mitsubishi HC9000D versus Sharp XV-Z17000
The Sharp XV-Z17000 and the Mitsubishi HC9000D are the first two 3D 1080p home theater projectors under $10,000 to reach our offices, so a shootout was inevitable. The Z17000 (read our Z17000 review here) is a 1080p DLP model that retails for slightly less than $5,000. How does the HC9000D's LCOS engine and $7000 price tag look in comparison?
Starting with image quality, the Z17000 has the advantage in 3D projection. The Z17000 gives a greater impression of depth, higher dynamic range, and increased sharpness when compared to the HC9000D. The Z17000's Natural mode and the HC9000D's 3D mode are roughly equivalent in light output, at 959 lumens in Natural mode versus 936 for 3D mode, but the Z17000 has better color accuracy and saturation using this setting. The HC9000D's Cinema Filter can be switched into Brightness mode to boost output, but this compromises color accuracy and saturation significantly.
In 2D, the opposite is true. The HC9000D has a clear advantage in black level, dynamic range, color accuracy, overall three-dimensionality, and it presents a more natural image than the Z17000. The HC9000D's standard-definition image is likewise superior, especially when the frame interpolation system is engaged.
In terms of features, there is little contest between the two projectors. The HC9000D has a powered 1.8:1 lens with powered H/V shift while the Z17000 has a 1.15:1 manual lens with a fixed throw angle offset. The HC9000D is easier to mount, quieter during operation, and has a longer lamp life (4,000 hours versus 3,000). It is, in short, a more well-rounded projector for the typical home theater consumer.
Is the HC9000D worth an extra $2000 over the Z17000? If you are looking for pure 3D performance and nothing else, the Z17000 offers a better picture than the HC9000D for less money. However, if you plan to watch mostly 2D content, or simply want an excellent home theater projector that also happens to do 3D, then the answer is yes. The two projectors represent different design philosophies, in a way; the Z17000 is a bare-bones 3D projector that does 3D very well, while the HC9000D has well-rounded performance in multiple categories but lacks the stand-out 3D capabilities of the Z17000.
Mitsubishi's HC9000D has all of the hallmarks of a great home theater projector: high contrast, impeccable color, and the versatility to adapt to almost any theater environment and thrive there. The fact that it is a 3D projector just adds to the allure. The HC9000D is as future-proof as projectors are likely to get in the near future, and is capable of doing justice to any and all content you want to watch. We are pleased to give it our highest recommendation.
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our Mitsubishi HC9000D projector page.