Mitsubishi HC3 £1269
1st Mar 2005 | 00:00
Let there be light...
Cute as a button, here is a projector whose selling pitch is summed up on the manufacturer's website in the following terms: '1300 ANSI lumens means that you can leave the lights on'.
Perhaps slightly exaggerated, this remains a projector with a much higher light output than most budget projectors, even LCD models, which tend to be brighter than their DLP counterparts.
You don't get a lot of inputs, though. The only video inputs are composite and S-Video and a computer style D-Sub. However, a belt and braces component or RGB input is available via an adaptor lead.
Aside from that, the HC3 appears to be aimed at the 'let's keep it simple' market. The projector itself is small and light and easy to stow away when not in use. It can be placed almost anywhere - on the ceiling or off to one side of the room, thanks to a keystone adjust feature that works in both planes to square the picture up to the screen.
It's also simple to use, with very straightforward graphic menus. The remote control also comes into this. Unlike the projector itself, which has a rather flimsy feel, the remote feels chunky and solid. Better yet, it is backlit automatically when any button is pressed and it can be programmed to control your DVD player by flicking a switch.
Perhaps because the projector is so small and light in weight, the fan has its work cut out to keep it cool and this is all too obvious in the rather aggressive fan noise. There is some light spill too, but not much, and none pointing towards the screen.
Above all, practicality is what it's all about. Aside from simple operation and a cuddly remote, the HC3 has a moderately short focal length lens and can throw a 2m wide picture from a range of around 3m - 3.5m.
Being an LCD projector, there is the usual danger of chicken-wire grid being obvious at a normal viewing distance but fortunately, the HC3 boasts a higher than normal resolution for a model at this price. From a distance of around twice the screen width, the grid structure almost disappears on static images. All that remains is a modest residue of noise-like artefacts on large areas of static colour and some moiré-like distortion of moving images.
The weakest area of the HC3's performance is its ability to reproduce near and full blacks. It is simply not very good at this but few LCDs are much better and DLPs, which are, mostly cost much more. Motion artefacts are not too cleverly handled, either.
On the plus side, the HC3 can cope with a low level of room lighting in a way that DLP certainly can't. This is partly because it is so much brighter and also because a limited amount of light spill can't damage the near blacks which the HC3 isn't producing properly anyway.
One rather pleasing strength is good colour performance. The picture is eminently adjustable, with separate sports and film modes offering punch and subtlety by turn. The midrange colours - skin tones especially - are particularly well formed and varied but colour performance is strong all round.
Like all budget projectors, it is easy to pick holes but the bottom line is that this is an engaging performer. It has a less daunting interface than some and plenty of picture adjustment possibilities.
Above all though, it has enough resolving power and light output to cope with less than ideal surroundings. In its modest way, it's a bit of a star.