Mitsubishi HC6800 LCD Projector Review

With so many great new projectors hitting the market, the HC6800 feels like the old statesman

by Phil Hinton
Home AV Review

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Mitsubishi HC6800 LCD Projector Review
SRP: £2,400.00

Introduction

Following our review of the budget priced HC3800 (we were suitably impressed with its performance for the price), today we look at the mid-range 3LCD HC6800 from Mitsubishi.

The HC6800 is designed to sit between the HC3800 at the budget end and the top of the range HC7000 we reviewed last year. If the HC7000 is slightly out of your price range, then the HC6800 could be the one for you.

Design and Features

The one thing that does hit you on unpacking the unit is the design of the chassis. The HC6800 employs a sculpted box with rounded edges and the lens to the right side of the face plate looking from the front. This gives the projector an expensive appearance, more acceptable in a living room system. Vents for air intake and exhaust are well hidden from view to the sides of the unit and overall the HC6800 is a lot quieter than its budget HC3800 brother. Overall the design and layout looks sleek and there are no distracting buttons or lights in places where they would likely annoy in a darkened room.

The remote control lets the side down slightly with a very plastic feel, but the control buttons are well laid out and intuitive to use, with a welcomed backlit for use in the dark. Users with a cinema room will likely turn to a universal remote in a full system so perhaps my negative comments on the remote's build quality are not that important to some users.

Mitsubishi HC6800

Moving to the rear of the chassis we find the video inputs and like other Mitsubishi projectors the top plate extends a certain way to try and hide cables when ceiling mounted. Here we find the now common 2 HDMI v1.3 inputs, Component, RGB/PC and legacy s-video and composite slots. Also included here are a 12v trigger for use with an electric screen and an RS232C control port for use in an automated custom installation.

Looking at the lens and we move up from the budget glass used in the HC3800 to a more substantial looking 1.6x zoom lens unit. And unlike its budget brother we are also given fully motorised lens shift along with zoom and focus controls. The range of the lens zoom is such that at our viewing angle of 40 degrees for 16:9 material and 50 degrees for 2.39:1 the projector was around 12 foot from the 8ft 16:9 section of the screen. The unit offers some further flexibility with placement with 10ft the likely cut off for getting too close, but allowing a good 20ft of maximum throw. Obviously with full lens shift capabilities on offer here, placement of the projector is easier than the fixed shift of the HC3800. I found that aiming for around the middle of the lens zoom to offer easier focusing.

Menus

Taking on the similar menu system used in all the Mitsubishi projectors we are given a good deal of control over the picture and set up options. One area that surprised me in its absence was a 3D CMS (Colour Management System). Despite repeated feedback to Mitsubishi and a cheap (and honestly useless) one in the HC3800, this is the feature that would make the Mitsubishi units even more desirable and offer even better performance. However, although correcting the colour gamut to the HD standard would be nice, the most important picture element to set up correctly is the Greyscale and thankfully we have full controls for a two point correction.

Getting the greyscale correct is what makes up the rest of the picture elements and produces the depth and naturalness of the image.

We get all the other expected front panel controls (Brightness, Contrast etc) along with basic gamma selections.

Next up we have the Features Menu which has some interesting tools for use with the image set up. The first of these is the Aspect control which has a couple of surprises for such a budget unit. There are the usual Auto, 16:9 and 4:3 settings, but, we also get two anamorphic options. Anamorphic 1 is the usual image stretch feature which takes 2.35:1 material and vertically stretches this to fill the entire panel of the projector and gets rid of the black bars. This is done by the video processor in the projector. You then add an outboard (third party) Anamorphic lens to the front of the projector and this then stretches the image Horizontally so the image is then back to its original aspect ratio and shape. You obviously use this function with a 2.35:1 ratio projection screen.

One of the draw backs of anamorphic projection is that the lens has to be moved in and out of the light path depending on what aspect ratio material you are watching. For example with 1.85:1 material on your 2.35:1 screen will be full height of the screen but with black bars at the sides of the image and the lens needs to be out of the light path. Then when you switch to 2.35:1 material the Vertical stretch in Anamorphic 1 does its thing and the Lens needs to then swing or move into the light path and the image is the same height again but this time wider than 1.85:1 image and fills the 2.35:1 screen. When this type of system is well designed and set up it can provide the same immersive experience of a high end cinema, but a sled to move the lens in and out of the light path can be extremely expensive.

So, this is where the Anamorphic 2 setting comes in handy. In this mode, instead of removing the lens from the light path when you switch back to 1.85:1 aspect films, you leave it in place and the video processing in the projector rescales the image back to the correct ratio for 1.85:1 with the lens still in place. Bang goes the need for an expensive sled assembly and this feature actually works extremely well and doesn’t add in any unwanted scaling artefacts either.

Other elements of the menu system help with initial set up parameters and there are no fancy features to play with such as interpolation systems. That is no bad thing to be honest, the menus may be simple, but apart from a CMS missing, I couldn’t see anything else that needed to be added. So with our sources connected and the projector positioned correctly it was time to measure performance.

Out of the Box Measurements

We start as always with a spectral scan of the UHP lamp used in the HC6800 to see what wavelengths are available and if any filtering has been introduced by the engineers when designing the projector.

Mitsubishi HC6800

What we have with the UHP lamp is a typical design to push as much brightness as possible. Green energy follows the standard for LCD designs by being pushed more into the yellow wavelengths to push lumens, and red energy is low. The design points to the probable use of two filters between Blue and Green and Yellow and Red wavelengths. With a low energy Red wavelength that is normally the case with LCDs the calibrated output will likely have to pull back on the green and blue wavelengths and reduce lumens output.

So moving to the out of the box measurements we did a brief front panel controls set up. This means that Brightness, Contrast and other controls were set by eye (like an end user would most likely do) and then measured the important image parameters such as colour accuracy and greyscale performance. We do this by also selecting the cinema picture mode and normal colour temperature setting.

Mitsubishi HC6800

Turning to the most important areas first, we look at the greyscale level tracking and colour balance charts. Here we can see that in all likelihood the 50% area of the greyscale had been set in the factory, but strangely Blue starts high and dips with red and green going the opposite way. Delta E errors also get steadily higher as blue energy disappears towards the top end of the image brightness. This is strange and the first time I have encountered such an awkward looking tracking chart. As none of the points seem to run in a uniform manner this will likely mean some major work is needed to get the Greyscale to track correctly.

Mitsubishi HC6800

Moving to the colour gamut measurements and we also see that the HC6800 follows a typical trend of over saturation and major hue error of the green point which, in turn with a wide red primary, pulls yellow over. As we do not have any Colour Management System on board we have to look at how we can tame some of these errors as best we can, but we will not be able to correct the points back to the industry standards for content playback (which is mastered at Rec 709).

Calibration

With the out of the box setting measured the only thing we could do with the HC6800 given the controls available in the menus was try and correct the greyscale tracking to at least get the image free from colour casting and add in some fine detailing to the image. This proved to be hard work as hinted at above.

Mitsubishi HC6800

After a couple of hours of going back and forth with the colour temperature controls and measuring I managed to get the greyscale steady and tracking uniformly from 20% through to 100% with Delta E errors well under 2. This should mean that most normal viewers would not see any slight errors produced. Gamma also tracked well with just a little work being done with the gamma controls available, we managed to get a sensible track around the desired 2.2 mark. Overall the hard work was worth the effort as the results improved the on screen performance no end. Remember you cannot set the greyscale by eye; this needs to be done with the correct equipment.

Mitsubishi HC6800

Sadly the same couldn’t be said for the colour gamut that is still well wide of the Rec.709 standard and will mean that colour errors will be visible. By correcting the greyscale we were able to at least get the secondary points slightly better although magenta is still towards blue in hue, and yellow is still oversaturated widely. There is nothing we can do about the Green and Red errors which again will present themselves in the final image. The one good point however is that luminance (brightness) of the primary and secondary colours are well controlled which means although the saturation and hue errors will be visible, they wont appear too bright and add in further errors like banding or blooming on screen.

Video Processing

Feeding the HC6800 with standard definition material didn’t highlight any major issues with scaling and de-interlacing. Using the Pal HQV disc the projector managed an acceptable performance with differing cadences like 2:2 and 3:2 film mode correctly and managing to pass the jaggies test with just slight jaggies seen on the third bar. Certainly with normal material there were no obvious signs of artefacts in the image from normal seating distances.

The HC6800 managed to play HD material back at double 24p rates (48fps) that didn’t add any unintentional judder to the image. And scaling in the anamorphic modes was clean and artefact free.

Picture Performance

The one thing that did disappoint out of the box was a lack of overall contrast and dynamic range in the image. Black levels are average at best and shadow detailing seemed like a struggle because of this lack of range. The lack of depth means that black become washed out and where we should have depth and detail, here we have just blocks of black. Even adjusting to a lower gamma level failed to pull out any further shadow detailing as the contrast range is lacking. I suppose we were expecting a lot for such a level of projector to manage silky black levels, but the HC6800 does struggle to reach the levels managed by the new PT-AE4000 from Panasonic. It becomes clear why the Panny contrast plate set up works so well when you put it against the HC6800 design. Even calibration cannot add in black levels that are not there, so the lacking performance here is a disappointment. Even engaging the projectors dynamic iris at a fast setting didn't really improve matters. Yes the black level seemed to get slightly better, but against this the iris (even in fast mode) was noticeably moving image luminance and was clearly visible.

Out of the box the HC6800 manages a bright and punchy image but its one that ultimately lacks the type of natural colour balance we have become used to with the new generation of projectors at this price point. However, some users may prefer this punchy colour palette which over saturates the primary and secondary colours. But videophiles and those looking for image accuracy (and importantly a detailed and deep image) will feel disappointed with the out of the box image. This can be seen on our measurements above. So can calibration improve matters?

Well moving to our calibrated settings does bring out slightly more depth where needed to the image, but the ultimate lack of overall dynamic range and contrast performance hinders things somewhat. However, the corrected greyscale does improve the image balance and adds in some finer detail otherwise hidden. But again it’s the colour performance that sticks out like a sore thumb with greens, yellows and reds looking odd at times. The good luminance levels of the colour points do help matters by not adding in further errors to the colour performance. As stated some users – probably gamers, will not find the colour errors to be a hindrance, but for ultimate movie and TV playback those who want a cinema performance on a big screen with accuracy, will find better at this price point.

Sadly for Mitsubishi here, the competition has moved on and listened to the market in terms of decent black levels and colour accuracy while here we have a projector that seems out of place and time in the market. It feels like the HC6800 design and engineering is about two years old in performance terms when put up against what others are now doing at this price point. It’s not all bad news and for some the punchy colours and slightly green skin tones will not be an issue, especially if gaming on a big screen is what you are after.

Verdict

5
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

Mitsubishi HC6800 LCD Projector Review

So, we round up feeling slightly disappointed with the overall image quality on offer with the HC6800. It’s not that it’s a bad projector overall, it is just out of its depth at this level of the market and the engineering and image quality hasn’t kept up with its competition. Two years ago at this price we would have been happy with the black levels and would maybe have accepted the colour issues in context.

However, with so many great new units now coming to market where image accuracy and improved black levels are the selling points, the HC6800 is found lacking. Had it been aimed at the £1k market place I am sure I would have been more enthusiastic with the performance levels, but sadly here at an RRP of £2.5k (and online pricing around £1.9k) it’s just out of its depth.

The HC6800 will appeal to gamers looking for the big screen image with the over saturated colour palette - but the lack of black level, dynamic range and inaccurate colours will probably rule it out for those looking for home cinema accuracy.

Scores

Features

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5

Ease Of Use

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5

Build Quality

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5

Value For Money

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.
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.
.
5

Verdict

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5

2D Picture Quality

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.
.
6

Video Processing

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.
.
6

Image Uniformity

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6

Greyscale Accuracy

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5

Colour Accuracy

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5

Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black levels

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5
5
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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