We called attention to Mitsubishi's impressive XD300U last January. Later in the second quarter, the company released a brighter edition of the same projector, the XD350U. The only difference between these two models is the XD350's brighter lamp that generates an additional 400 lumens of light output. We were enthused about the XD300U when we first saw it. However, with recent drops in average street prices, has become an outstanding value in today's market. Given it's exceptional video performance and 4000-hour lamp life, it is hard to beat its current price/performance. Thus we are adding the XD300U to our Highly Recommended list for home theater.
The XD350 is every bit as good a performer, but the incremental brightness and shorter lamp life is better suited to business applications where the highest light output from a portable projector is required. However due to its high 2000:1 contrast ratio and exceptional on-board deinterlacing and scaling, it can double nicely as a home entertainment projector as well.
The XD300 is a native 4:3 format DLP projector featuring the 0.7" XGA resolution (1024x768) DLP chip and a 2x speed, four-segment (RGBW) color wheel. It is rated at a bright 2100 ANSI lumens with 2000:1 contrast. It weighs 6.6 lbs and though it has no built-in handle, it comes with a carrying case that makes it convenient for road, office, and home use. The XD350U is the same projector with a brighter lamp, rated at 2500 ANSI lumens. The native XGA DLP chip in these projectors delivers 16:9 format video in a 1024x576 pixel matrix, which is the same physical resolution as that on projectors featuring the new Matterhorn chip.
Signal compatibility: Computer from VGA up to UXGA (1600x1200). Video includes composite, S-video, component video 480i, 525p (480p), 625p, and HDTV 720p and 1080i. NTSC, NTSC 4.43, PAL, PAL-M, PAL-N, PAL-60 and SECAM.
Connector panel: Located on right side when viewed from rear. Includes two composite jacks, two S-video ports, and two VGA 15-pin Dsub connectors for computer/component video input, RS-232C, single audio jack, one 15-pin VGA output for monitor loopthrough. Both VGA connectors will take HDTV and component video. However Faroudja deinterlacing and 3:2 pulldown is available only on the second port, which is specifically labeled "Computer/component."
(Note: There are no RCA jacks for component input. To input a component video signal from a DVD player with three RCA jacks for component output, use a cable with three RCAs on one end and a 15-pin VGA connector on the other. This does not come with the XD300U. However, most of the professional AV dealers carry them in various lengths, so if you need it make sure to order one with your projector.)
Lens and throw distance: Manual 1.15x zoom and focus lens. Throw distance is about average for this class of product. A 100" diagonal 4:3 picture can be achieved from a distance of 12.2 to 15 feet lens to screen. Heat is exhausted out the rear of the unit, so you must maintain a clearance between the rear of the projector and a back wall of at least 20" to allow for adequate heat dissipation.
A noteworthy advantage for many users is that the projection angle is a bit greater than most projectors. When table mounted for a 100" diagonal 4:3 image, the bottom edge of the image is 15" higher than the centerline of the lens, so the entire image is higher on the wall than it would be for most projectors (or lower on the wall if ceiling mounted) For many users this eliminates the need to tilt the projector and subsequently correct the alignment with keystone correction.
Keystone correction: Horizontal and vertical keystone adjustment allows placement of unit off-axis from the screen. The rescaling to achieve this adjustment is remarkably clean. It works extremely well for PowerPoint type presentations, graphics, and video. However, as with all projectors, for dedicated home theater it is best not to use keystone adjustments if you don't have to.
Image calibration: In addition to standard image controls on contrast, brightness, color, tint, and sharpness, it offers either an sRGB option, or an extensive color calibration controls. With sRGB off, you have a user programmable memory with independent controls of red, yellow, green, cyan, blue, magenta, saturation, and RGB-tint. Color temperature can also be adjusted with contrast and brightness controls on red and blue. There are three preprogrammed gamma settings--dynamic, standard, and theater.
The XD300 is an outstanding value for dedicated home theater, or for combination business and home entertainment use. If you are on the road making sales presentations, color temperature and light output can be raised to deliver a brilliant crisp image. Then when you bring it home you can drop color temperature and lamp output to optimize for superb home theater performance. As such it is one of the most successful dual-purpose machines we've seen.
The XD350 is the right choice for those who want this same combination of versatile performance features, but whose business applications demand maximum light output for which you are willing to sacrifice lamp life.
In terms of video performance, these units produce a smooth and easy-to-watch image from both DVD and HDTV. When using the computer/component port, we found that an interlaced signal which takes advantage of the on board Faroudja video processing produced a smoother, more stable, and more film-like image than did a progressive signal that bypasses the Faroudja subsytem. The progressive signal appeared to have edge enhancement artifacts that could not be reduced via the sharpness control which is active for 480i but not 480p.
Meanwhile, though the XD300 performs quite well with HDTV, the image from HDTV is a slight bit softer than that from competing units. However, it will certainly look sharp and clean to anyone without a comparative frame of reference.
Among the competitive strengths of the XD300 is its bright, high contrast image in dynamic mode that delivers dazzling presentations and graphics. With about 50 hours life on the lamp we measured actual ANSI lumen output at 1755. Quite a few portables under 7 lbs can now pump out this much light, but none can do it with a 4000 hour lamp.
The XD350U measured at 2230 ANSI lumens. However lamp life in high light mode drops to 1500 hours. There are some who will prefer to have maximum light output to make it as versatile as possible in varying presentation situations. However the reduced 1500-hour lamp life is a cost consideration for those who plan to put a lot of hours on the unit.
Both the XD300U and the XD350U come with an extended three-year Express Replacement Assistance (ERA) program that guarantees free replacement product shipped overnight for next business day delivery (check availability in your area). Overnight service is certainly advantageous but not necessarily mission-critical for home theater users. However when you rely on your projector for business use, the unique 3-year overnight replacement service offered by Mitsubishi can be a vitally important factor in selecting a projector.
Given the recent drop in street prices, the exceptional video performance, and the 4000-hour lamp, we are pleased to add the Mitsubishi XD300U to the elite collection of superb price/performers for home theater. For those who need the extra brightness, the XD350U is a great alternative to consider.