Believe it or not, the AU$4,000 Mitsubishi HC4900 projector is a budget model. Yeah, you're probably thinking that this reviewer has finally cracked, or laughably that they're paying him way too much, but it's nonetheless true -- within its context. That context being fully 1080p compliant projectors. Asking prices for these babies normally start at $10,000 and go northwards -- if you're feeling particularly flush, the Sim2 CSX1080 will cost you a neat forty five grand, for example. So at $4,000, the HC4900 is a bargain basement baby. Surprisingly, then, for such a cheap model, the physical design doesn't entirely suck. Yes, it's a bit barren, bland and above all black, but that's not a bad thing per se; black projectors at least hide in the gloom of the average home movie session. There are some obvious signs that the HC4900 isn't primo material when you come to the lens cover, however. It's completely removable, quite probably very easy to lose, and when removed looks rather too much like an ashtray for our liking.
The remote control is likewise a very ordinary bit of kit, and frankly it looks like Mitsubishi's inadvertently grabbed the design for a business projector remote and stuck with it despite the HC4900's home credentials. It's certainly not too tough to use, and very few users will need it that much once you've set your display up, and at least aesthetically speaking that's a good thing.
The HC4900 is an LCD projector with a top resolution of 1920x1080, AKA 1080p. Projection size ranges from a tiddly 50 inches up to a meatier 300 inches, with a rated brightness of 1000 ANSI Lumens and a contrast ration of 7500:1. Inputs are provided for component, composite, S-Video, DVI-D and HDMI. All zoom and focus controls are motorised and controlled via the remote or from the top-mounted controls on the projector body itself.
Evaluating the HC4900 struck us with an interesting problem to have. The HC4900 is a true 1080p projector, and as such, it would be fair to compare it against other full 1080p units. Except that almost everything else in this kind of range comes with price tags that only begin at around twice what the HC4900 will cost you. Mind you, many of those units come with better video chips than the HC4900 provides. The alternative is to compare the HC4900 against lesser units; after all, it wasn't that long ago that you'd struggle to get much better than SVGA out of a four thousand dollar projector. Taking the view from the cheaper end of the spectrum, the HC4900 is pricey -- if all you want is big pictures, there are any number of cheap projectors out there. If you want big pictures that happen to look good, however, the HC4900 starts to make sense for its asking price -- and quite a bit of sense.
Testing with the Blu-Ray version of 300 revealed a great range of colour reproduction, especially at this asking price; the Persian armies looked excellent in their thousands, and the deliberately gritty feel of the movie gave us plenty of opportunities to catch the HC4900 napping. Likewise, it handled the fast action of Spider-Man 3 on Blu-Ray well, although sadly it couldn't do anything for Kirsten Dunst's appalling singing.
Gaming with the HC4900 also ran smoothly, with Uncharted: Drake's Fortune looking as good as we've ever seen it. Dropping down to DVD quality material -- for testing we used the DVD release of Star Wars: Episode III -- we did start to notice some issues with visual degredation, although how much of this has to do with not feeding the HC4900 prime source material is up for debate.
Mitsubishi rates the lamp in the HC4900 as being good for up to 5,000 hours of operation, although that's in a low power mode that'll shave nearly a quarter off the brightness of the lamp, which is less than ideal. With bulbs available online at just over AU$500, it's still a moderately economical projector to run.
It's great to see a downwards trend in the price of 1080p projectors; at the time of writing it was possible with a little online snooping to score the HC4900 for nearly a thousand dollars less than the RRP. Similar units such as Sanyo's PLV-Z2000 and Panasonic's PT-AE2000E also offer lower-cost 1080p thrills, and competition for this entry-level space will hopefully see prices tumble even lower in the near future. In the meantime, Mitsubishi's HC4900 is a great way to get into real 1080p projection without having to remortgage the family house along the way.