Mitsubishi Diamond Series HC6800 LCD Projector Reviewed

Mitsubishi Diamond Series HC6800 LCD Projector Reviewed

Featuring Mitsubishi's most advanced technology the HC6800 LCD projector doesn't quite sit at the top of the Mitsubishi food chain though wouldn't be able to tell by its performance, which Adrienne Maxwell finds to be comprehensive and well above average.

mitsubishi-hc6800-projector-review.gifMitsubishi's new HC6800 LCD projector falls near the top of the company's Home Cinema lineup, just below the HC7000. Both models are part of the Diamond Series, which utilizes Mitsubishi's most advanced technologies. The HC6800 is a 1920 x 1080 projector that uses 3LCD technology; it has a rated dynamic contrast ratio of 30,000:1 and a rated light output of 1,500 ANSI lumens. (In comparison, the step-up HC7000 lists a 72,000:1 contrast ratio and 1,000 ANSI lumens.) The HC6800's list of features includes the Silicon Optix Reon-VX video processing chip, a high-speed automatic iris, motorized setup controls, and dual anamorphic modes for use with a 2.35:1 screen and add-on anamorphic lens.

Additional Resources

• Read more projector reviews from HomeTheaterReview.com's staff.

• Find the perfect screen for the HC6800.

• Read about an anamorphic lens system to help you get the most out of the HC6800.

In terms of price, the HC6800 lands in somewhat of grey area. Its MSRP is $3,495, which technically puts it in the mid-level class of 1080p projectors. However, its actual street price is much lower, under $2,500--which is closer to the entry-level 1080p category.

The Hookup
The HC6800 has a more attractive design than many of the boxy projectors on the market today, with a curvaceous cabinet and a glossy brushed-charcoal finish. The top-panel buttons--which includes buttons for power, menu, zoom/focus, lens shift, and navigation--are hidden beneath a flip-up panel. The connection panel includes all of the desirable inputs: two HDMI 1.3, one VGA, one component video, one S-video, and one composite video, as well as RS-232 and a 12-volt trigger port. The supplied remote control sports dedicated input buttons, as well as direct access to many common picture adjustments. The remote is also fully backlit; however, it lacks a button to turn on the backlighting. You must press any button to illuminate the remote, which kind of defeats the purpose of backlighting when you're searching for a certain button in the dark.

Mitsubishi has included a nice assortment of setup tools to make it as easy as possible to size and focus the image, but the specs aren't quite as thorough as the options on my reference Epson model. The HC6800 has generous vertical lens shift (+/-75 percent) to accommodate various ceiling/tabletop placements and screen heights; however, its horizontal lens shift is only +/-5 percent, so it has little flexibility to handle off-center projector placement. In my theater room, my projector sits atop a vertical equipment rack, which is located slightly off-center in the back of my room, 12.5 feet from the screen. The HC6800's horizontal lens shift was not substantial enough for me to center the image on my screen. Likewise, while the HC6800's 1.6x zoom is better than you'll find on a number of projectors, it didn't provide enough zoom to size the image down to my smaller 75-inch-diagonal screen. I had to physically move my equipment rack about a foot over and forward to perfectly position the image on the screen. On the plus side, the Mitsubishi's zoom, focus, and lens-shift controls are all motorized as opposed to manual, adjustable via the remote or the projector's top-panel buttons. Other setup features include two manually adjustable feet, keystone correction, an image-reverse function for a rear-projection setup, and an onscreen crosshatch pattern to aid with sizing and focus.

In terms of picture adjustments, the HC6800 has most of the important controls. Instead of preset picture modes, you get four preset gamma modes (auto, sports, video, and cinema), as well as an excellent advanced gamma menu in which you can individually adjust the level of red, green, and blue in low, mid, and high signals. The menu also includes four color-temperature settings (high brightness, cool, medium, and warm), with advanced white-balance controls to fine-tune the color temperature. I went with the cinema gamma mode and warm color temperature for a completely dark room; I also experimented with the high-brightness color temperature for a room with ambient light. The HC6800 lacks an advanced color-management system to precisely adjust all six color points, but I would soon discover that the feature isn't really necessary. In terms of image brightness, the projector has an iris that automatically adjusts light output to suit the onscreen content, and the setup menu includes the ability to turn the auto iris on or off and dictate its speed (from 1 to 5, with 3 as the default). There are also two lamp-mode settings: low and standard. Noise reduction is available for standard-definition sources only. With the HC6800, you can't set different image parameters for different resolutions within a specific input; however, you do get three AV memory settings for each input, so you can set up and store different parameters as desired.

Aspect-ratio options include auto, 16:9, 4:3, zoom 1, zoom 2, and stretch, as well as two anamorphic modes designed for use with a 2.35:1 screen and an optional anamorphic lens. Anamorphic lenses allow you to view CinemaScope/2.35:1 movies with no black bars at the top and bottom, so you're not wasting resolution to reproduce black bars. Mitsubishi includes two anamorphic modes so that you don't have to use a sliding anamorphic lens that must be moved out of the way when you return to standard 16:9 sources. Anamorphic mode 1 stretches the image vertically to suit the anamorphic lens, while anamorphic mode 2 squeezes it horizontally to correctly view 16:9 content with the lens still in place.

Finally, the HC6800's setup menu allows you to select different amounts of overscan (or none at all) for 480i, 720p, 1080i, and 1080p content. This is helpful because, while overscan is undesirable with 1080p sources, you may want it when viewing 480i, 720p, and 1080i television content to cut off noise around the edges of the broadcast signal.

Performance
For my initial go-round with the HC6800, I made only minimal changes to the projector's default settings. I simply switched to the most theater-friendly presets (the cinema gamma mode and warm color temperature) and checked out some HDTV and Blu-ray sources in a fully darkened theater room. Even with minimal adjustment, the HC6800 renders a pleasing image, with good overall contrast. What immediately struck me was how clean and natural the picture looked. It doesn't matter that the menu lacks noise-reduction options for HD content because the picture has little noise to worry about. Skintones looked neutral, and colors were rich without being oversaturated. Mated with my 75-inch-diagonal Elite screen, the HC6800 also had a nice amount of light output to infuse brighter HDTV images with pop and saturation, and its level of detail was great.

Read more about the performance of the HC6800 on Page 2.

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While the HC6800's default settings produce a nice image, there are a couple of areas where the projector benefits from basic adjustment using a test disc like Digital Video Essentials (DVD International). Out of the box, the projector suffers from a bit of edge enhancement, and it crushes fine black and white details. At the HC6800's default sharpness setting, some ringing is evident around hard edges; you can easily fix this by turning down the sharpness control. However, if you set the control too low, the picture grows soft, so you'll want to find a good balance. As for black detail, the HC6800 didn't show any of the black bars in the DVE "PLUGE with Gray Scale" test pattern that I use to adjust the brightness control. After some menu exploration, I discovered an option in the Feature menu called Setup, with auto, off, 3.75, and 7.5 black levels. The default "auto" setting shows black detail with HD content but crushes it with 480i/480p content; only the "off" setting displays the PLUGE pattern as it should look at every resolution. Likewise, the HC6800's default contrast setting slightly crushes fine white detail, so you'll want to turn down the contrast a few clicks.

After performing these basic adjustments, I settled in for some more demos with DVD, HDTV, and Blu-ray sources. I used my mid-priced Epson Pro Cinema 7500UB as a reference. (The Epson's MSRP is $4,199, only about $700 more than the Mitsubishi's MSRP. However, while the Epson sells for close to its MSRP, the Mitsubishi sells for much less.) In a number of areas, the HC6800's picture looks quite similar to that of the more expensive Epson: Both offer rich but generally natural color (the Mits' green was perhaps a shade more accurate), neutral skintones, and excellent detail. The Mitsubishi's warm color temperature was just a shade warmer with brighter signals and a bit cooler with dark signals, with a greener push. The difference was subtle, though. With each projector configured to suit a dark theater room, light output between the two was nearly identical, so bright scenes, be they from HDTV or Blu-ray, had comparable contrast.

Where the two projectors diverge is in the black-level department. The HC6800's black level is solid for a less expensive LCD model, but it was not as deep as that of the step-up Epson model. As a result, darker HDTV, DVD, and Blu-ray scenes looked a little flatter and more washed out, and black areas of the screen tended to look more grey. To achieve a decent black level, the HC6800 relies heavily on its auto iris. With the auto iris off, the black level rose noticeably. Unfortunately, with the iris engaged and set at its default speed of 3, I could clearly see fluctuations in the image brightness in the opening scene of The Bourne Supremacy (Universal Home Video). I turned the iris up to the highest speed setting (5), and that proved to be more effective. I could still see some fluctuations in especially tricky scenes, but overall the faster speed provided the needed improvement. On the plus side, the auto iris is quiet in its operation, so it won't distract.

As I mentioned in the opener, the HC6800 uses Silicon Optix's Reon-VX processing chip, and the result is a projector that performs well in both the deinterlacing and upconversion departments. With 1080i content, it passed all of the processing tests on my HD HQV Benchmark Blu-ray disc (Silicon Optix), as well as my real-world demos from the Mission Impossible III (Paramount Home Video) and Ghost Rider (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment) Blu-ray discs. In the 480i realm, it again passed my deinterlacing tests, both with test discs and real-world scenes. Jaggies and other digital artifacts were not an issue, and the HC6800 actually did a better job than the Epson in its upconversion of SD content, producing an image that looked more detailed. When feeding this projector a true 24p signal from a Blu-ray player, the HC6800 outputs the signal at 48Hz, meaning it shows each frame twice. This results in slightly smoother motion and less judder than you get with the traditional 3:2 process used to output film content at 60Hz.

One clear advantage the HC6800 has over the Epson is in its noise level. The Epson's fan is somewhat loud--and becomes even more so in its high-altitude mode, which I have to use at 5,000 feet to keep the projector from overheating. In contrast, the HC6800 is very quiet, even in its brighter modes, which makes it a good choice for someone who needs to place the projector close to the seating area. It's worth noting that this model does not have a high-altitude mode, but I had no problems with overheating. If you live at a much higher altitude, though, it could be a concern.

Low Points
The HC6800 performs very well for a projector in the sub-$2,500 price class, but it lacks the performance range you can find when you move to the next price level. As I mentioned above, with darker sources, the HC6800's black level and resulting contrast are solid but not exceptional. In general, when you move up the price chain, you get a better black level that results in higher contrast and a richer, more theater-worthy image for movie watching. The step-up HC7000, for instance, has a higher contrast ratio and less light output to create deeper blacks for a dedicated theater environment.

On the other end of the spectrum, when configured for its highest light output (standard lamp mode, high-brightness color temperature), the HC6800 produces a watchable image, but it isn't as bright or as accurate as some other models that are specifically designed for use in a brighter viewing space. The high-brightness mode has a fairly cool color temperature to boost whites, and the overall image has a noticeably bluish-green cast; you can't use the advanced white-balance controls with this mode to address these issues. Let me stress that I'm talking specifically about the projector set in its brightest mode for viewing content in a well-lit room; as I said above, the HC6800's light output in its cinema-friendly configuration is quite good. But, if you plan to do a lot of viewing in a room with a fair amount of ambient light, there are other projectors that may be better suited to the task.

Motion blur can be a concern with LCD projectors, and the issue does present itself with the HC6800. With my FPD Software Group Blu-ray disc, the Mitsubishi displayed a fair amount of blur in all of the resolution test patterns. Likewise, some blur was evident with faster-moving sports content. Furthermore, the HC6800 doesn't offer a 120Hz mode, which is starting to appear in more projectors. Beyond the 48Hz output of 24p signals, the HC6800 lacks any type of "smooth" mode that uses motion interpolation to eliminate judder in film-based sources. I personally don't find this to be a drawback, since I'm not a fan of motion interpolation (especially with large-screen images from a projector), but some people may consider its absence to be a drawback.

In the ergonomic department, the limited horizontal lens-shift function means less flexibility to accommodate situations where the projector must be placed off-center. Finally, the HC6800 flashes a "No S
ignal" message on the screen whenever you switch resolutions or cue up a disc, which can be distracting. Also, when you turn off the unit, it flashes a quick, bright all-white screen that startles, to say the least.

Conclusion
The Mitsubishi HC6800 is a good performer that serves up a pleasingly clean, natural, and detailed image with all different source types. This projector is especially well suited to someone who plans to watch a lot of HDTV content in their theater room, but it's also a reasonably priced option for the movie lover on a budget who wants to mate it with a 2.35:1 screen and anamorphic lens. It offers a nice set of connections, picture adjustments, and motorized setup tools, and it's very quiet. For a street price of under $2,500, the HC6800 represents an excellent combination of performance, features, and value and is definitely worth a look.

Additional Resources

• Read more projector reviews from HomeTheaterReview.com's staff.

• Find the perfect screen for the HC6800.

• Read about an anamorphic lens system to help you get the most out of the HC6800.

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