Mitsubishi HC4900


posted 6/9/2008 by Dan Keener
other articles by Dan Keener
One Page Platforms: AV
Unlike the previous projo we reviewed, we decided to go ahead and ceiling-mount the HC4900 and used a Sanus VMPR1S Universal mount. Unfortunately, the HC 4900 manual does not include any instruction relating to ceiling mounting. There are some illustrations scattered around that show an old-school ceiling mount with support arm, but nothing that shows specifically which holes on the chassis to use. After some trial and error, we located the three slots on the unit that matched the screw sizes that came with the universal ceiling mount. Although it wasn’t an exact fit (the Mitsubishi uses a three 3-hole mounting pattern) and the positioning was awkward, the universal mount allowed us to adjust the arms to accommodate the pattern. We were able to make the proper adjustments once the HC4900 was secured to the mounting plate.

While the HC4900 is being touted as a Home Theater projector by Mitsubishi, I found the collection of inputs on the back panel to be interesting. From my perspective, it is really lacking for today’s home theater setups. While the inputs include standard analog video, s-video, component, mini D-sub (15-pin VGA) and a single HDMI 1.2 (not the more current 1.3), the rest of them left me raising an eyebrow. The DVI-D with HDCP and serial (9-pin d-sub) seem to be taking up space that would have been better served adding another component and especially another HDMI. Unfortunately, a high end HDMI switching Home Theater receiver or HDMI switch may be a necessity for hooking up multiple HDMI devices when using this projector. Personally, I prefer having the choice of the most current inputs, and frankly, DVI hasn’t been found regularly in Home Theater for over two years. While I appreciate Mitsubishi’s attempt to allow the projector to be used for many purposes, if you bill it as a Home Theater projector, you should probably have that in mind when figuring out what people will, or will not, hook up to it. There are simply too many electronic devices to connect to the family home theater to not allow for the most robust connection options possible.

The lens cover was a bit clunky, as it is designed to cover the entire lens area instead of just affixing to the outer edges of the lens itself. It also has no physical means to stay attached to the projector (think a camera lens cover), and will have to be stored somewhere while the projector is in use. While this may not seem like a big issue, for those that have a ceiling mounted projector, or placed it in a hard to reach space, you may need to spend more time cleaning the lens than normal if you choose not to put the cap on after every use.

Normally, I like to have at it with a product to see how easy it is for someone with a basic understanding of a/v components to dig in without hitting the manual, but I did have to hit the HC4900 manual to figure out the location of some things in the on-screen menu. Once we found the options, we were good to go. While adjusting the screen/lens, the motor was noticeably loud. Although it starts with slow adjustment speed, it increases to a much quicker pace after a few seconds when the adjustment is significant. This extra speed is nice when the lens has to have a large adjustment made, which will almost assuredly occur during initial setup when the lens will need to be maximized to fill the desired screen size. I will point out that using the motorized zoom, focus and lens shift were very easy to get the screen to the size (92” wide) that we needed. An on-screen grid makes it extremely simple to line up everything so the image appears exactly where you want it. In a bit of irony, when we first turned up the HD off-air feed, it was a promo spot for Mitsubishi electronics during the golf tournament coverage that was being shown at the time.

One additional item of note is that while the HC4900 is rated at 1000 ANSI lumens, it does not suffer from a lack of brightness. I found it to be plenty bright from a ceiling mount and throw distance we used. Whether the lights were on, or the room completely dark, the image was bright and crisp. The Lamp life expectancy is rated at up to 5,000 hours (on low setting), but a realistic expectancy is probably closer to 3,000 depending on your usage habits and how often you switch between the standard and low bulb settings. The standard is very bright, but will cut the longevity of the lamp life to around 2,000 hours. The low setting will significantly increase the lamp life (to the rated 5,000 hours), but will cut the lumens by almost 25%. Another nice feature on the HC4900 is that the bulb is easily replaced by the owner due to the access door placement. Mitsubishi put it on the side of the projector, so whether it is ceiling or shelf mounted, it is a snap to get to and replace the lamp. The replacement bulb is listed as the VLT-HC5000LP, which has a MSRP of $459 and is clearly on the expensive side for replacement lamps. However, it appears most internet retailers have it listed anywhere from $330 - $399, so the cost should continue to decrease until a replacement is needed in a few years.

Video Performance
The HC4900 hadn’t arrived by the time the Super Bowl kicked off, but I was able to put it through its HD paces while watching HD-DVD, Blu Ray and some Network shows via off-air antenna.

I initially popped in the HD-DVD version of King Kong in order to get a gauge on the black levels and again went straight to the ending sequence. The projector flawlessly reproduced the New York street scene both in the dark and lighted areas. The details were rendered so impressively, I could clearly see individual strands of Kong’s fur flowing as he chased Adrien Brody’s taxi down the darkened streets. As the scene changed from nighttime to daylight, the climactic Kong vs airplane battle atop the building was rendered without any issues. The CGI of Kong looked great and the entire movie sequence looked as good as I had hoped for.

With the HC4900 capable of 1080p playback, I hooked up a Playstation 3 to test not only the gaming, but the Blu-Ray video playback. I chose Ratatouille as my test film and hoped that is would really show off the qualities of the projector’s 1080p playback. Unfortunately, there were some issues in the opening scenes. As the image vertically descended down the screen, noticeable choppiness made it hard to follow with my eyes. I replayed the sequence again to make sure, and it did the exact same thing. Now this could be a result of different techniques in generating the opening sequences in the movie versus the rest of the film, or it could have been an issue with how the projector handled it. Regardless, it was a subtle issue that occurred only a handful of times during the film. Despite this, Ratatouille looked utterly amazing. Animated films simply bring out the best in Blu-Ray and when coupled to the HC4900, it displayed every strand of fur on Remy and his pals in the finest of detail. Where the projector really shined was allowing the more subtle details of the background images (such as wood grain, water texture and others) to seem almost real. The human eye tends to focus on the main on-screen action, but the subtleties are what makes image its best. Having seen Ratatouille in a TXH Certified digital theater with my kids, and then in the lab with the HC4900, I can say I (and my kids) were more impressed with the image the Mitsubishi gave us than the larger theater.

[NOTE: I tested the Ratatouille Blu-Ray on my 56” DLP and the choppiness was still there. I am categorizing this as a flaw in the movie, not with the HC4900]

As for Network television, one of the best looking shows in HD is CSI: Miami. The spectacular aerial shots and vividness of the Miami skyline provide a great viewing opportunity. I was most interested in these aerials as the show opens and comes back from commercial. I knew how great they looked on my primary set, but the HC4900 helped blow me away at how gorgeous these scenes were at 92”. The water, buildings and foliage were so detailed it felt like I was riding in a helicopter over the area. Of course the cast looked fantastic in HD, as we all know that CSI labs all over the U.S. are staffed with buff and buxom employees (except you Horatio Cain!) I also was able to see some hot action that was just a bit farther north of Miami, and that was the Daytona 500. Live sporting events rule the day for HD, and the bright colors and heavily adorned vehicles allow NASCAR races to provide some fantastic visual. My main concern was how the HC4900 would handle the background as the cameras were following cars around the track. As I have come to expect, it did a tremendous job and probably provided me with the best viewing of a NASCAR race I have seen on a TV. Like I mentioned several times above, this projector and a large screen allow the viewer to become immersed in what they are watching. Smaller projectors and flat-panel televisions simply cannot deliver the experience the HC4900 did, and I was extremely impressed.

After watching many hours of video on the Mitsubishi HC4900, there wasn’t a single instance where I thought the projector wasn’t able to produce top end quality. Its video performance is among the best I have ever seen for a Home Theater projector.
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