The HC900 is Mitsubishi Electric's entry level projector, although its AU$3999 price makes it practically mid-level thanks to the quickly falling prices of projectors out there. The build of the HC900 befits its entry level status, which while solid is rather uninspiring. The grills flanking the lens at the front of the unit feel flimsy and plasticky, as does the provided lens cap which is attached to the unit via a thin shoe-lace like rope. The adjustable feet of the HC900 are particularly disappointing, being only screw feet with rounded rubber bottoms. The rest of the unit, however, is quite neat and functional, with only about half a dozen buttons on its top side to control various functions. The HC900 certainly isn't going to turn heads in your living room, but it is still rather compact at 310x100x245mm (WxHxD). It's also very light at only 2.9kgs, so moving it from room to room or mounting it in the ceiling shouldn't be a hassle.
The HC900's specifications, just like its design, are functional rather than impressive and for the most part won't blow you away with an overabundance of features. At its heart is a DLP chip that projects in a native 16:9 aspect ratio. At 1024x576 resolution, it won't give you true high definition signals, but will suffice for DVDs and standard definition television. Probably the HC900's biggest boasting points are its high brightness and contrast -- Mitsubishi Electric claims a brightness of 1500 ANSI lumens and a whopping 4000:1 contrast ratio. The HC900 also utilises a seven segment colour wheel which supposedly reduces the 'rainbow' effect some people see on DLP projected images.
Connectivity isn't the HC900's strong point. While similarly priced projectors boast some impressive inputs and outputs (such as the Panasonic PT-AE700E, which has HDMI), the best the HC900 has is a DVI input. But you could argue that there's no real need to transfer digital audio to the HC900 (which HDMI would allow), so DVI should more than suffice. The HC900 does have a 2W mono speaker built-in, though we can't see anyone using that as their main sound system when playing a DVD. Other video inputs include a component and an S-Video/composite. The projector's lamp life is rated at 4000 hours, but that drops down to 2000 if it's not used in low light mode.
Kudos to Mitsubishi Electric for making the HC900 so simple to set-up -- we think even projector novices will have no problem in quickly hooking up and running this projector. It's as simple as plugging the HC900 into power, connecting your DVD (or set top box or TV) to the back of the unit, turning it on, selecting the appropriate input from the top of the HC900 and you're away. Screen size and focus are easily manually adjusted via two rings located above the lens of the unit, with the HC900 having an impressively short throw distance (about three metres away for 100"). Keystone adjustments are made via the control buttons on the unit itself, and are once again extremely easy to configure.
The HC900 throws up a pleasing picture that has plenty of detail. Colours are warm and natural, with skin tones particularly looking impressive. Contrast is decent -- we found the HC900 could pick up plenty of subtleties in high contrast scenes, although it's by no means as jaw dropping as the claimed 4000:1 ratio would imply. What was more impressive was the HC900's high brightness, which allowed the unit to produce an image that could still be easily viewed under high ambient light conditions. We set up the Mitsubishi projector in a well lit room and were able to watch episodes of Family Guy without too much trouble. As with any projector, of course, darkness still rules, but it's nice to know you don't always have to be in a pitch black room to enjoy vision from the HC900. The projector does feature a dedicated CineFocus button on the remote that can adjust brightness and contrast depending on lighting conditions, but we found the default setting good enough for our tests.
Extended viewings, however, showed up a few holes in the HC900's otherwise positive picture story. On-screen images would sometimes pixelate quite seriously, particularly in fast moving high, contrast scenes such as the asteroid chase in Star Wars Episode II: Attack Of The Clones. This was not limited to movement, however, as it was once again evident in practically still scenes from the DVD release of Star Wars Episode VI: Return Of The Jedi (such as with C3PO's gold plating during the Endor sequences). These picture glitches didn't happen all the time, but often enough to be noticeable. And while we're on negatives, we found the HC900 to be fairly loud -- it's rated at 30dB in low lamp mode, making it one of the noisier models out there.
With passable performance, the HC900 finds itself in a tough spot against lower priced competitors that offer better specs. The AU$3899 Panasonic PT-AE700E, for example, offers a higher resolution of 1280x720 plus HDMI (although its brightness is only rated at 1000 ANSI lumens). Ditto for the AU$3699 Sanyo Z3. The Mitsubishi Electric HC900 is a decent entry level projector, but it's outshined by cheaper and more impressively specced rivals.