Priced at under $1,500, Mitsubishi’s HC3800 delivers a picture that’s comparable to more expensive models, and is a great choice for a starter home theater system. As you would expect at this price point, you’ll have to give up some features, including horizontal and vertical lens shift, which will hamper installation flexibility for some.
On the test bench with HD (1080i and 1080p) patterns and clips, the HC3800 delivered a very good score. It only came up short when upconverting standard definition (480i) sources, stumbling on SD deinterlacing test patterns.
Consider this projector if: you’d like a very good performing projector at a most reasonable price. The value quotient is even higher at the moment, as Mitsubishi is running a rebate program that provides purchasers with a spare lamp for free (the MSRP on the replacement lamp is $299), that runs through the end of March 2010.
Look elsewhere if:you plan on tabletop or shelf mounting, as the lack of lens shift and the projector’s generous vertical offset really make it useful for ceiling mounting only.
Ratings (relative to comparably priced projectors)
As mentioned earlier, the lack of horizontal and/or vertical lens shift needs to be taken into consideration for users who don’t plan on ceiling mounting the unit. There’s a fair amount of built-in vertical offset, which allows closer-to-the-ceiling mounting, but that same fixed vertical offset works against you if you want to put the unit on a shelf or table further back in the room (unless it’s positioned quite low to the floor).
Equipped with a 230 watt lamp, the HC3800 puts out sufficient brightness in the standard lamp mode to fill a generously-sized screen, and Mitsubishi spec’s the lamp life in that mode at 3,000 hours, a fair bit more than the usual. In the low lamp mode (which cuts light output down about 25% or so), the lamp life is extended to 5,000 hours, and the projector runs more quietly as well.
For those considering going the widescreen (2.40:1 aspect ratio) route with an external anamorphic lens such as the Panamorph, the HC3800 features not one, but two anamorphic screen modes. Mode 1 scaling provides the requisite vertical stretch, and is appropriate for setups that feature a movable external anamorphic lens. Mode 2 scaling provides horizontal squeeze, which is needed for setups where the external anamorphic lens is fixed in place in front of the projector’s lens. Having both modes (most projectors only provide Mode 1 scaling) adds to installation flexibility for both movable and fixed widescreen anamorphic lens setups.
With the wide availability of affordably priced A/V receivers that feature HDMI switching and upconversion, the HC3800’s single HDMI input will probably be sufficient for most, and the same is true for the composite and S-video inputs. An RGB PC input is provided, but it can only handle resolutions up to 1600 by 1200 (UXGA), which might be of concern to PC gamers. A 12V trigger output can accommodate a motorized screen control (or external anamorphic motorized lens sled).