Mitsubishi announced three new LCD projectors back in August at IFA and the top model, the HC7000, has found its way into our review system for assessment. The company’s last high end machine was the excellent HC6000 which we thought was extremely good. So, can the HC7000 improve on what was a great model last year and does it bring anything new to the party?
There are a number of changes seen within the new range of projectors and the most obvious with the HC7000 is a new body design. The main lens remains at the right hand side of the unit, but this time the body has a slick, black, shapely exterior. It certainly looks more refined than the previous incumbent and measures (w x d x h) 427 x 440 x 271 mm with a weight of 7.5kg. The new adjustable feet for table mounting are also easier to use with an easy twist motion to get them level. For ceiling mounting the unit comes with the appropriate connections and the top of the unit is slightly longer than the bottom, meaning that cables connected at the rear are hidden when ceiling mounted.
Moving on to the connections and they are well laid out at the rear of the unit in the recessed area of the body. We get two HDMI v1.3 inputs. One D-sub PC input, one composite, one s-video and one component. You can also connect component signals through the D-sub connector should you require more than one input for those signals. Also available is a 12V trigger for automated screens and the power socket.
The remote control supplied with the projector does let the side down slightly. It is a grey plastic affair which just doesn’t quite fit with such a sleek looking projector. It does however have all the necessary features accessible from either dedicated button presses or via the main menu. Thankfully the remote also has a backlight for using in a dark room, where lets face it, your going to spend most of your time with this projector.
Other changes in the HC7000 include a new optical engine which boasts less light spillage and a better lens unit. The projector uses a 17 piece, 14 cluster optical system equipped with extra dispersion (ED) lenses. The new glass is claimed to almost eliminate chromatic aberration and improve the resolution across the entire screen and has a fixed aperture to help with shading and black performance. This is married to a new optics panel which features precise light focussing of the lamp power through a new optical compensation panel. This is situated between the liquid crystal panel and polarization filter and corrects the projection angle and prevents light leakage. This new set up is said to eliminate almost all the problems associated with such light leakage and increase the overall contrast performance.
The final optical tool utilised in this projector is a new dynamic iris control dubbed ‘Diamond black’. Again this technology includes a diamond cut shape to the iris section that prevents light refraction from the iris. So with all this new optical technology we are expecting a far improved black performance from the HC7000 over previous models.
Staying with the optics we can also report that the HC7000 has a motorised lens shift which allows a 75% shift vertically with 5% horizontally. The unit also has fully motorised zoom and focus controls. Also included is a new air purification filter which has a honeycomb design with microscopic filtering surface and electrostatic film. And finally in the optics stakes are a 160w UHP lamp which has a claimed 5,000 hours lifespan and an easy access port for maintenance and bulb changing.
Looking at the technology elsewhere on the projector and we find that the unit has a newly developed liquid crystal cooling system. This takes advantage of the larger chassis of the projector to add a new cooling duct design which features new and quieter fans. This is said to reduce noise from the projector down to an incredible 17db, and with the projector running in our review room, I can confidently state here, it’s the quietest projector we have ever used!
In terms of new picture quality technology featured on the HC7000 we have a HQV Reon VX chipset which boasts high precision I/P conversion of signal sources. The chip offers full 10 bit video processing technology for mixed source material and a new 14bit digital gamma correction process. It also includes 4:4:4 signal processing at 10 bit along with added noise reduction methods such as block reduction and chromatic up sampling errors. And for 24fps playback sources the HC700 also boasts a Blu-ray direct input mode which will output 24fps material at 48Hz.
So with all the new technology covered we move on to the menu system and are met with an old friend. Yes, the menu design from the old HC5000 two generations ago is still present and correct here in the HC7000. It is an easy to follow and very intuitive system with allows access to all the possible set up and picture tweaking controls. We sadly still do not have any kind of Colour management system (CMS), but are treated to a full colour temperature system along with an easy to follow Gamma correction table. Other features that are of interest are a new anamorphic scaling mode. This has two settings, the first works like any normal stretch mode where it vertically stretches the image prior to the use of an anamorphic lens which then horizontally stretches the image back to the correct ratio. The second mode allows the anamorphic lens to stay in place and scales the image back to 16:9 for that kind of material. So basically with these modes in place, you would not have to move the anamorphic lens in and out of the light path.
So with all the new features covered along with the menu systems, its time to warm up the HC7000 and do some testing of its image performance.
Out of the box and calibration
As always with our reviews, it is objective testing of the display that tells us exactly how good the unit is against industry standards. We employ repeatable and measurable tests to get the full story of how good the images on screen should be. A new test we have employed by request is a look at the spectral scan of the bulbs performance within the latest projectors.
One of the most difficult tradeoffs in projector design is between light output and colour accuracy. As can be seen from the scan above, the designers at Mitsubishi have decided to allow quite a lot of energy from the yellow-green part of the spectrum to be displayed on screen. This results in a brighter image but sacrifices some colour accuracy, unsurprisingly in the green and yellow!
|Colour temperature out of the box||RGB out of the box||Luminance out of the box|
Certainly the results of the scan can also been seen with our first measurements of the projectors primary and secondary colour points on the CIE chart. Contrasting these measures against those obtained from the outgoing HC6000, we can see that the design of the HC7000 is certainly more faithful towards the HD standards. However, as mentioned you can see that the green point is certainly biased towards yellow and this would also suggest that brightness is what was being aimed at. The other points are also not exactly correct, with red and blue looking slightly over saturated along with Cyan and Magenta towards blue suggesting that images will have a blue look to them. White temperature is also above our standards with the greyscale mix showing that blue is a good 30% higher than it should be, backing up what we have seen so far. However, the greyscale is pretty flat across the board and would suggest that we can calibrate it quite accurately.
So, with a lack of a full CMS (colour management system) there is no fine tuning possible of the primary and secondary colour points, but a greyscale calibration may help us to get things looking better. And, as you can see below, that’s exactly what has happened.
|Colour temperature calibrated||RGB calibrated||Luminance calibrated|
With the greyscale now tracking correctly from 20IRE to 100IRE with DeltaE errors below 2 across the range, our secondary points are now back towards where they should be, rather than having a blue bias. There is nothing we can do to correct the other points, but as you can see there shouldn’t be any discernable problems of colours being over saturated, unlike the outgoing HC6000 which certainly had problems in that regard. If anything it looks like our greens will suffer a little from an under saturated but bright look. As you can also see we managed to improve the gamma with the included tools and certainly got it back towards the desired 2.2 result.
So how does the HC7000 perform with actual film material?
As always we will look at material in out of the box settings (as most people will use these) and then calibrated.
And the first thing to hit you about this new Mitsubishi is the black levels and just how they have improved over last year’s model. Indeed this is something that looks like it will be a trait with most of the new LCDs this year. I was so taken by the black performance I thought I would do a little side by side with the Pioneer KRP 9000 (basically a JVC HD100). The results of this non-scientific test was that the HC7000 certainly has black levels that get very close to what many have considered a reference point in the market for a while now. Indeed it looks like the contrast has been raised with the HC7000 and in our environment it measured a reasonable 1975:1. So with that out of the way, I sat back with some very familiar material to test with.
Starting with DVD at 576i and its clear to see that the HQV processing is doing a fabulous job with the images. There are no signs of jaggies, image noise or moiré effects in the image which looks nice and sharp. The sharpness of the HC7000 is again a big improvement over last years model and certainly captures detail faithfully. Colours are also very good with no obvious inaccuracies seen with the majority of material. There are slight problems now and again where certainly greens look a little lost and lime in appearance, but with most material this will not be an overly obvious issue. Another downside which can be seen, especially in a side by side, is a yellow tinge to images and this was most obvious in the desert scene from Gladiator.
Moving to HD pictures and the sharpness of the HC7000 comes into its own, with the pyramids of 10,000 BC looking incredibly detailed. Again there is that slight yellowness of the image and whites do look far to blue, results seen in the CIE & greyscale results above, but overall I was mightily impressed with the out of the box performance but would still recommend a greyscale calibration to see it at its best.
Switching to the calibrated settings certainly improves things a great deal. The white snow capped mountains now look accurate without any blue highlights and the yellow tinge seems less obvious. But again it’s the black levels that really impress here. With the dynamic iris things do look impressive and I didn’t really notice that many instances of forced changes within mixed scenes. However, I actually found that with it switched off the image appeared to have more depth and shadow detail available, something I have noticed with every projector that uses the technology. For me, the iris should always be left off to get the very best from the HC7000, and that doesn’t mean you are sacrificing any black level performance.
Again the HQV processing works very well and it’s when you get fast moving objects that you really notice what its doing. Rather than having detail loss in such scenes (a trait of LCD machines) the processing helps reduce this effect without adding in any artefacts in its place. And 24fps playback from blu-ray also looks very smooth with no issues revealing themselves during my marathon movie viewing. The HC7000 takes 24fps material and outputs at 48Hz and it works very well indeed.
It’s a shame that Mitsubishi are not a name one suddenly associates with quality home cinema projection, because for the last three years they have produced some stunning machines. This year’s top of the range HC7000 is a real star in my eyes, with stunningly good black levels and excellent picture processing. It has lots of new technology that many – especially the custom install market – will be very happy to see and its overall performance is certainly positive. The slight colour issues will not affect everyone who demos this projector, but a greyscale calibration is certainly recommended to get the best performance out of the machine. And that performance has certainly set the bar for the next wave of LCD machines we expect to see over the next few weeks here at AVForums reviews.
Price wise the HC7000 will compete well with the mid level market such as the new Panasonic, and should be considered for demonstration against such. From a sleek new design to stunningly good black levels and picture processing that hits the spot without being noticed, this new projector from Mitsubishi gets our highest recommendation. Go see one!
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