Mitsubishi HC5000 Three-chip LCD projector Page 2
The default for Over Scan seems to be 97%, which is more than enough to induce artifacts. Changing this to 100% disengages Over Scan and eliminates the issue. Note that while many of the memorized AV Memory settings remain the same when different resolutions are sent through the same source input, Over Scan isn't one of them. So, if you use an HD set-top box that outputs 720p and 1080i for example, you'll need to set the Over Scan to 100% separately for each of those incoming resolutions.
If you need to cut off some image to get rid of some stuff the broadcasters don't want you to see, try the "Shutter" adjustment located in the User section of the Signal menu. This seems to function more like a traditional blanking adjustment adding black to any of the four sides of the image without the artifacts caused by the Over Scan function.
The remote is an excellent one with direct access to source inputs and virtually every important adjustment you'll want to make in typical viewing. On top of that, it backlights as soon as a button is pushed. Winner!
The only peculiarity with the remote is that unlike virtually every projector I've used, aiming the remote at the screen, which is often more convenient, didn't bounce a strong enough signal back toward the projector to engage the menus or make changes. I had to point the remote directly at the projector. No big deal, just odd.
I used a wide variety of source components when the HC5000 was in house. In addition to my stalwart DirecTV HD TiVo, the Toshiba HD-XA1 HD DVD player was here along with a plethora of Blu-ray players parading through: Sony's PlayStation3 and (briefly) BDP-S1, Samsung's firmware updated BD-P1000, and Pioneer's BDP-HD1. Yes, it's been a fun month or two with HD sources!
The HC5000 produces a highly detailed, punchy and dynamic image that is breathtaking in overall sharpness and clarity with the best HD material (again noting to make sure Over Scan is set to 100%). In terms of overall detail, subjective and measured, it can compete with the best 1080p displays I've yet seen, which are much more expensive. It clearly outperforms Sony's Pearl in this regard, as the Sony is noticeably softer, and it's not hyperbole to say that of the 1080p displays I've had in-house only the Marantz VP-11S1 at $20K is noticeably sharper and more dimensional, and even then it's not night and day. That's heady company for a $4,500 projector to keep!
This is LCD front projector performance that several years ago I would not have dreamed of as being possible. The pixel structure is suitably invisible, and the blacks with the dynamic iris engaged are rich and deep. Of course, compared to DLP, color separation artifacts are non-existent as there is no color wheel required with this three-chip technology. In most regards the HC5000's image quality is quite simply world class, and astonishing for the price even after having reviewed Sony's $5K Pearl. The resolution is such that minor qualitative differences among HD programs are readily visible, and the HC5000's processing is good enough that spectacular quality DVDs still earn their keep as we transition to the next-gen HD formats.
But while the HC5000's dynamic iris giveth dark blacks and contrast, it also taketh away. The HC5000's dynamic iris operation is extremely transparent, and I don't mean to the source material; I mean it's easy to see its operation, which made it a constant distraction during movies. As scenes shift from light to dark you can easily see the overall light output of the projector ramping up and down. As scenes change, it's not as annoying, but what is annoying is when it occurs during the same scene. It's very common during movies to switch camera angles from character to character with dialog, as each person's turn to speak is captured. If one character is standing close to the window with light coming in and the other person isn't, the HC5000 ratchets the light output up or down with each edit, which I found a constant irritant.
In my review of Sony's Pearl, I commented that I didn't understand why anyone would want a dynamic iris to operate "slow." Now I know. The HC5000's three Auto Iris settings, labeled 1-3, range from fast to slow, in order. Going to the slowest settings made the artifacts described above less noticeable, but I was never entirely satisfied with any of the three Auto Iris settings, and also wasn't as impressed with the Auto Iris disengaged (the "Open" setting).
Also, the HC5000's iris is very aggressive when scenes are predominantly dark. In black space with stars in the background, for example, the stars get very dim, and don't appear as brilliantly white as they should. Selecting the Open setting turns the auto-iris off, but also raises the black levels. There's no getting around the feeling that a major selling point of this projector doesn't perform as advertised.
In addition, an oddity of the HC5000's dynamic iris is that the measured color temperature shifts dramatically (thousands of degrees Kelvin) at low-to-mid levels between white window patterns and full-screen white patterns of the same brightness. (See "Measurements" for more on this.) Window patterns are rectangular windows of gray or white in the middle of the screen surrounded by black. This is challenging to a dynamic iris system as the large amounts of black force it into operation. This color shift on window patterns could be an indicator of why stars on a black background would no longer appear as white with the dynamic iris operating.
Let me contrast (pun intended!) this projector's dynamic iris functionality and performance with Sony's Pearl, which at $5K is in the same price range as the Mitsubishi. The Pearl offers more settings for its dynamic iris system, including more obvious steps in its overall operation, and allows you to choose the speed with which its dynamic changes are engaged. Its operation is completely invisible during normal program material, and scarcely more so if you know what to look for and purposefully try and trip it up (rolling credits are your best bet, but who cares?). In addition, if you elect for some reason to not use the dynamic iris, the Pearl's iris can be set for fixed operation within a wide range.
In the Pearl there is virtually no color shift when the dynamic iris engaged. Whether window patterns or full field patterns are used for the measurements, the Pearl tracks a stellar grayscale from pitch black to the brightest white. The Mitsubishi's dynamic iris does increase contrast and makes its blacks excellent, but unfortunately its implementation is far from the polished package that Sony offers.
Still, the HC5000's considerable strengths didn't completely turn me off, and in fact, with much material it continued to draw me in. Video based HD programs, and sports in particular, were outstanding in detail, smoothness and refinement. It was football season during this review, and this projector had me absolutely immersed in the action on the field. Greens were a little more yellow than I'd ultimately like, and reds a hair more orange, but this is an observation common to many of today's digital displays and it's not something that prevented me from connecting emotionally with this display.
Also a plus, the TV watchers among you will be pleased with this set's ability to make even poor standard def feeds look quite acceptable. Many of DirecTV's poorer looking channels are beyond anything other than damage control from even the best processing solutions. But I'm pleased to report that this projector is in the rarified camp that can and does make it look as palatable as possible, which isn't easy on large front projection screens.
This is a somewhat difficult conclusion to draw because while the HC5000's foibles clearly crossed my frustration tolerance threshold by being distracting enough to remind me of the technology while watching movies, it is also priced very attractively for what it offers and does many things in an absolutely righteous fashion.
In particular, the HC5000 offers the best resolution and pop I've seen from a display anywhere near its price, and if the iris' artifacts don't bother you as much they did me, or if your viewing habits are different, well, I'd not blame you for falling in love with the Mits and living happily ever after. But, in the end, for me the HC5000's considerable strengths were offset by its quirks enough that I'm waiting eagerly for Mits' next generation and calling this one a very near miss.
Outstanding, eye-popping resolution to HD limits
Seamless, dimensional three-chip image
Excellent deinterlacing and processing
Dynamic iris clunky and obvious in operation