Posts Tagged ‘Mitsubishi’

It’s “Fade To Black” for Plasma and Projectors in Japan

Are we seeing the end of a golden era for display manufacturing in Japan? It sure seems so.

Earlier this month, Reuters published a story quoting sources inside Panasonic that state they are finally pulling the plug on plasma TV production. The exit is to be complete by the end of March 2014, otherwise known as the end of the company’s current fiscal year.

According to the Reuters story, Panasonic has been unable to stem the tide of red ink resulting from its television operations. In the past two fiscal years, Panasonic has lost $15 billion, with TV operations accounting for a $913 million hit in fiscal 2012.

I can’t say this decision was all that surprising. Ever since plasma TV shipments hit their peak in the mid-2000s, market demand has shifted rapidly to LCD technology. In fact, during FY 2012, there were more CRT TVs shipped worldwide (6.9% market share) than plasma (5.7% market share), according to NPD DisplaySearch.

Of course, LCD technology remains king of the hill with an 87.3% market share – an increase from last year, even though overall TV shipments dropped by 6% worldwide. And LCD still has plenty of legs – witness the advancements in TFT design (IGZO), backlights (quantum dots), and resolution (4K) that are now breaking into the market.

Panasonic is a strong player in LCD, and operates a Gen 8 fab that cranks out IPS-Alpha glass in Himeji, Japan. In fact, they shipped more TVs last year than Sharp and weren’t that far behind Sony.  But Panasonic had already idled a good portion of its plasma TV fab capacity by the start of 2013, including a brand-new facility in Shanghai and about 50% of its Osaka operations.

The departure of Panasonic may also result in Samsung and LG dropping plasma from their TV portfolios. For each company, plasma TVs remain the “value” product offering, with 60-inch LG 1080p plasma sets going recently for about $800 while equivalent 60-inch LCD sets with some bells and whistles command about 10% – 30% higher prices.

Still, the market for TVs is expected to continue a slow decline, thanks to shifting interest in tablets and smartphones for media consumption. There just isn’t any more time (or money) left to indulge small niche display technologies. It’s enough of a challenge for Japanese TV makers to approach profitability.

And things will only get worse. Japan can’t compete with Korea, and now has to deal with Chinese LCD TV manufacturers. In Q1, China was the only country to show an increase in LCD TV shipments Y-Y, while in the rest of the world, TV shipments fell by 4%.  The Chinese have enthusiastically embraced LCD manufacturing and are now cranking out big 4K panels, with the current world’s largest model (110 inches) coming from the CSOT fab in Shenzen. And they’re enjoying the strongest profit margins in the industry, too.

One result of this trend is super-cheap LCD TVs, often selling for less than $40 per diagonal inch. And the commercial AV channel has taken notice: Instead of specifying front projectors and screens, they’re putting in 70-inch, 80-inch, and 90-inch 1080p LCD screens instead. No more lamp changes, no ambient light issues, and “set it and forget it” operation – these are all strong selling points that financial and higher education markets have now embraced.

It’s hard to make a buck selling projectors – margins are very slim, and a great deal of product moves through distribution channels these days. Combine those thin margins with a trend away from front projection, and you have the “beginning of the end” for more than a few notable projector brands.

Consequently, Mitsubishi Electric Visual Solutions announced on October 11 that they were pulling out of the projector market for good, and also ceasing sales of large LCD monitors. Previously, the company had enjoyed good market share across a number of projector categories and even announced a new line of hybrid and “cloud” projectors at ISE and InfoComm.

Now, that’s all history. Mitsubishi will instead concentrate on tiled displays and videowalls, categories where they’re still profitable.  But they won’t be the last company to bid adieu to projectors: Sharp’s InfoComm and ISE booths have focused almost exclusively on large LCD displays, but they still list projectors on their Web site despite dwindling market share and continued struggles with red ink and underutilization of their huge Gen 10 Sakai LCD fab. How long before Sharp throws in the towel on projection?

These are not happy times for Japan Incorporated’s once-dominant TV industry, which is undergoing the same sort of painful downsizing the U.S. TV industry endured in the 1980s and 1990s.

Back in the day, Ernest Hemingway wrote a famous novel titled, “The Sun Also Rises.” If and when some future author records the last days of Japanese display manufacturing, that account could well be called, “The Sun Also Sets”…

Lamp? What Lamp?

Lamp-free projection isn’t a new idea. After all, that term precisely describes cathode-ray tube (CRT) projectors, which were the only way to project electronic color images for almost two decades. (A CRT-engined light valve projector was demonstrated in England prior to World War II!)

With the advent of LCD and then DLP projectors in the early to mid-1990s, the writing was on the wall for CRTs. The microdisplay projector category grew explosively in just fifteen years from a handful of video-resolution boxes at InfoComm 1993 to total domination of the category at all resolutions and brightness levels by 2008.

Indeed; it seemed like the good times would just roll on forever. But we all know that’s not usually the case (composite video and VGA notwithstanding). And in 2011, the specter of super-sized, inexpensive LCD TVs and monitors suddenly loomed over what once was the most energetic, anarchaic, and exhilarating AV thrill ride ever.

Two years later, projector manufacturers are watching with increasing concern as the traditional “hang and bang” conference room and classroom market yields to the siren song of Big LCDs. “No need to change lamps!” they cry out. “No need to dim lights! No need for a screen! Instant on and off! Set it and forget it!” The message is seductive, and for the most part, true.

A change is coming. Some manufacturers, refusing to become paralyzed with inaction, are speeding up development of lamp-free projectors, turning to light-emitting diodes, lasers, and a combination of the two in an attempt to slow the tides of change. You’ve no doubt seen some of these projectors at earlier InfoComm, CES, and SID get-togethers. Well, you’re about to see a lot more.

At the January Integrated Systems Europe show, BenQ, Sony, Mitsubishi, NEC, and Casio all exhibited lamp-free projectors with brightness levels ranging from a few hundred lumens to 2,000 lumens. Sony’s demo attracted great interest, as it was the first 3LCD-based imaging system and uses lasers. BenQ’s offerings are also 100% laser-engined, with the rest of the crowd using various combinations of LEDs and lasers.

Going lamp-free is seen as a successful parry against Big LCDs. First off, the lamp replacement issue goes away, once and for all. Lamp-free projectors are also essentially maintenance-free, just like today’s LCD TVs: Simply turn them on and use them for 15,000 to 20,000 hours. And they also offer instant on/off operation, something that’s been a challenge for designers of conventional short-arc lamp designs.

At present, lamp-free projectors can span three levels of brightness. The 100%-LED designs are usually good for a maximum of 1100 lumens, with 500 lumens being the norm. Above 1100 lumens and up to 4,000 lumens, the laser/LED hybrids take over. A gap then follows from 4,000 to 10,000 lumens, at which point the high-power laser light engines rule the roost, soaring as high as 70,000 lumens for digital cinema and large venue projection.

Christie Digital (owners of NECSEL), Laser Light Engines, Kodak, and NEC are all active in the large venue laser space. LLE’s innovative remote laser light heads with armored fiber optic bundles may be the key to wider adoption of the technology. Christie, who recently sponsored a two-week showcase run of GI JOE:RETALIATION in Burbank CA, using their 60,000+ lumens laser DLP Cinema projector, is now pondering the technical and financial logistics of offering more laser cinema screenings to kick up interest.

Make no mistake about it; this is a crucial time for projector manufacturers, of which there are still too many in my opinion. Super-sized 4K LCD panels are coming, 2K LCD glass cuts are going to get bigger and cheaper (Sharp’s 90-inch behemoth can be purchased by dealers for nearly $2,000 below the stated SRP from InfoComm 2013), and the only realistic way for projectors to hold any ground is to drop the lamp, once and for all.

At InfoComm, we’ll see just how many manufacturers have gotten the message – and how many are still waiting to hop on the bandwagon…

ISE 2013: Oh, It’s ON!

ISE-Outdoor-Sign-WEB

ISE is a joint venture between InfoComm and CEDIA – and drew a sizable crowd, even with cold, wet weather.

Much has been made of the rapid price drops in the LCD TV market; specifically, LCD TVs that measure 65 inches and up. Ever since Sharp rolled out its 70-inch and 80-inch 1080p LCD TV products in 2011, consultants and systems integrators have been switching over to these projection screen-sized displays instead of traditional front projectors and separate screens.

There are many reasons for this trend, not the least of which is the low prices on the 70-inch, 80-inch, and 90-inch Sharp products – about $2,000, $3700, and $8000, respectively. When compared to a ceiling-mounted projector and motorized screen, it’s just not a fair fight. Add in the additional labor and wiring of power and class 2 control and video signals, and the big LCDs come out clearly ahead.

There are other reasons why investment banks and universities are making the switch away from projection. One in particular is the need to replace lamps every few thousand hours (if they last that long). Another is the need with certain projectors to clean dust out and replace air filters. Neither of these maintenance issues are factors with large LCD TVs, which also come with extended warranties if installed by an authorized dealer/integrator.

And of course, there’s the ambient lighting issue. Clients can legitimately ask, “What is the point of a nice conference room with plenty of windows if you have to keep closing them every time you make a presentation?” With LCD displays, you don’t need to, unless you have a glare problem.

From my perspective, the market for 2000- to 3000-lumens projectors that are ceiling-mounted in classrooms and meeting rooms has turned irreversibly towards self-contained flat screen displays. This trend will only accelerate as these screens continue to drop in price and more competitors jostle for a share of the pie.

But projector manufacturers aren’t ready to fold up shop and cry, “uncle!” At ISE 2013, more than a few “lampless” projectors made their debut, and they’re aimed at stemming the tide of mongo LCDs.

sony laser

I can’t tell what’s more amazing: That Sony harnessed a laser light engine to a 3LCD projector, or that they started with 4000 lumens and 1920×1200 resolution.

Perhaps the most intriguing product was found in the Sony booth, where an installation-sized 3LCD chassis was up and running. This product, which doesn’t have a model number or price yet, uses a 100% laser light illumination engine to project Wide UXGA (1920×1200) images.

It wasn’t a static demo, either. The projector was sequencing through a series of full-color graphics and photos (no video, though) and the color was impressive. What was even more impressive was the use of WUXGA 3LCD panels (not LCoS or DLP). This is the first publicly-shown 3LCD projector to use lasers – even Epson, who is the dominant player in HTPS LCD fabrication and one of the top brands of LCD projectors – hasn’t shown one yet.

Sony’s prototype, which will be officially launched at InfoComm this coming June, is rated at 4000 lumens of brightness, both in white and color light output. It has interchangeable lenses and supports image warping and soft-edge blending.

When it came to discuss the workings of the laser light engine, “mum” was the word. I suspect the laser light engine is being used to stimulate phosphors to get red, green, and blue light. The only thing that has me wondering is the light output, which is on the high side for a laser/phosphor system. Well, all will be revealed in about five months…

mitsubishi

Mitsubishi’s also mixing it up with three models of LaserVue projectors.

Not far away, Mitsubishi took the wraps off a new line of LaserVue DLP projectors. These “hybrid” models build on the same projection technology that Mits developed for its erstwhile LaserVUE rear projection TV sets; employing a red LED, numerous blue laser diodes, and a single-segment green phosphor color wheel.

Unlike Sony, Mits opted to go with three different models for its coming-out party. The NW31U-EST WXGA (1280 x 800 resolution, 2500 lumens) extreme short throw model will arrive in April, followed shortly by two standard throw models: the NW30U WXGA (1280 x 800, 3000 lumens) and the NF32U (1920×1080, 3000 lumens).

The Mits projectors are also notable in that they are part of the new “cloud” lineup – these projectors can connect quickly and easily to the Internet to download and stream files. (We’ve come a long way from those slow, tedious and unreliable “wireless projector” demos of the late 1990s!) And they can mirror any Android or iOS tablet that would be used to control that remote computer or server.

So – how long are the lasers supposed to last in these new projectors? The stock response is 20,000 to 30,000 hours. In reality, it’s the power supply that often craps out before the lasers, a problem that popped up more than a few times with the LaserVUE TVs. I’d assume that both Sony and Mitsubishi have since gathered much useful data on power supply lifetimes and de-rating to ensure reliable service.

benq

BenQ expanded their line of laser DLP projectors…

panasonic hybird

…while Panasonic made their hybrids the centerpiece of a nice energy conservation demo.

BenQ also showed laser-engined DLP projectors at the show, while nearby, Casio had a full line of LED/laser hybrids. The color on most models I saw was considerably better than the first crop that came out in 2010 and 2011 – obviously, engineers are taming the excessively-saturated shades of red and blue that LEDs and lasers create. (BenQ uses lasers exclusively; Casio uses both lasers and LEDs.)

Although Epson didn’t show a laser 3LCD product, I’m quite sure one is in the works at the Matsumoto labs. And you can be sure that other projector manufacturers will have lampless models of their own to show in Orlando later this year.

laser led

Samsung’s got a 95-inch LCD (and a 75-inch version, too) to make the projector guys uncomfortable.

Is the use of a laser, LED, or hybrid light engine enough to stem the tide to big LCDs? Only a handful of projector marketing guys I spoke to at the show were optimistic that the onrush of LCDs could be stopped or delayed.

While lasers and LEDs make replacement lamps go away, the issues with ambient light and the costs of installing a separate screen and projector mount remain. And the soon-to-be-available crop of 4K LCD displays in sizes from 50 to 100 inches will just raise the stakes even higher.

Still; it’s good to see that projector manufacturers are fighting back and innovating some cool designs along the way. (And if they still need motivation, all they had to do was check out the 75-inch and 95-inch edge-lit LCD displays in the Samsung booth…)

End of the Road for RPTV

Mitsubishi has decided to end all production of rear-projection DLP televisions, effective November 30, according to a story reported by CE Pro last week,.

The information came from a letter sent to Mitsubishi’s authorized service centers, and indicated that the 73-inch, 82-inch, and 92-inch models would be discontinued immediately. In addition, there would be “…a corresponding restructuring of the MEVSA organization.” (MEVSA stands for Mitsubishi Electrical Visual Solutions America.)

CE Pro editor Julie Jacobsen interviewed MEVSA executive Max Wasinger, who stated that the company was “…in the midst of an orderly exit from the DLP TV business” and would concentrate on commercial AV display products and home theater projection, going forward. (I’ve heard that several dozen people have already been let go from the Irvine, CA offices of MEVSA.)

Mitsubishi’s 92-inch DLP rear projector, introduced at CES 2011, was the largest RPTV ever made.

Rear-projection TV has actually been around for about 60 years, but the first big-screen sets with adequate brightness didn’t make an appearance until the 1980s. Pioneer was a leader in this space, but eventually withdrew from consumer markets to concentrate on videowall projection cubes in the 1990s.

Mitsubishi got into rear-projection TV in the 1990s and competed with Sony, Zenith, Panasonic, Hitachi, and Toshiba for market share for over a decade. The company was quite successful in that regard with its “Diamond” line of RPTVs, some of which retailed for well over $10,000 not that many years ago.

When DLP technology came along, Mitsubishi was quick to adopt it and continued to push the limit of screen sizes well over 70 diagonal inches. There simply wasn’t any other way to get a TV picture that large in a self-contained display, and at one time, the company had dozens of skews of DLP and CRT rear-projection sets in its product line.

Mits was the first company to mass-produce a laser-powered DLP RPTV (LaserVUE), which had a splashy coming-out party at CES a few years back. But the early models had power supply issues and were quite costly at a time when large plasma and then LCD prices began to plummet.

The coup de grace was large, inexpensive LCD TVs with 1080p resolution, such as Sharp’s 70-inch Aquos. This set has been priced several times for less than $2,000, and the 80-inch Aquos is now widely available for under $4,000. And of course, neither set requires a lamp to be replaced.

The drop in sales for rear-pro sets has been breathtaking: In the fourth quarter of 2010, about 65,000 rear-projection TVs were shipped worldwide, according to NPD DisplaySearch. A year later in Q4 2011, that number fell by 50% to 32,000 sets. And for Q3 2012, the total was just 9,000 sets – nearly a 75% decline.

Samsung, Mitsubishi’s last competitor in RPTV, exited the market a few years back to concentrate on LCD and plasma TVs. Mitsubishi also tried its hand at selling LCD TVs to the home theater market only, but pricing pressures, mass distribution, and competition from the likes of Vizio made that strategy untenable. Meanwhile, Samsung now dominates the LCD TV business, capturing over 28% of the worldwide market this year.

Is this bad news for Mitsubishi? Not really. The television business has become a drag on the bottom line of every Japanese consumer electronics manufacturer, and Mits was smart enough (albeit somewhat late in the game) to finally recognize that and do something about it.

The good news? Mitsubishi consistently scores highly in the pro AV market with their front projectors, tiled displays, and digital signage products, and there are a lot of clever engineers working at the Kyoto plant working on things like laser and LED light engines to keep things interesting for several years to come.

Their actions mirror that of industrial powerhouse Hitachi, which also chose to “get out while the getting’s good!” from consumer television earlier this year; choosing instead to concentrate on industrial computer and power products that are actually profitable.

Now, the question is – who’s next to throw in the towel? Of the major Japanese TV brands; only Toshiba, Panasonic, Sharp, and Sony are left. The latter three are looking at some pretty steep financial losses when their collective fiscal years wrap up next March, with the pain largely caused by underperforming television operations and expensive plasma and LCD fabs that are underutilized and in some cases even mothballed.

Hmmm…maybe we’re not quite at the end of the road just yet…

 

Useful Gadgets: Mitsubishi HC7800 3D DLP Home Theater Projector – Pete Putman

Shopped for a home theater projector lately? With all of the attention that new, low-cost LCD and plasma displays are getting, it might be easy to write off the home theater projector market’s future.

 

Yet, front projection is still the cheapest way to get a big image – for the immediate future, at least. And there are some really good deals out there to be found, particularly in multi-function (2D / 3D) projectors.

 

Mitsubishi has been turning out some really impressive and affordable home theater projectors for the past six years, starting with the ground-breaking HC5000 and continuing with the high-end 3D HC9000. At last year’s Cedia Expo, the HC7800 made its debut, and I finally got ahold of one to play with. I wasn’t disappointed.

 

Figure 1. Mitsubishi's HC7800 shares a lot in common with the HC9000 3D projector.

 

OUT OF THE BOX

 

The HC7800 resembles its bigger brother HC9000 in more than one way. The cabinet has that same high-gloss black finish with an aerodynamic appearance, and a silvery-gray trim around the top panel controls, as well as around the front of the lens, which is offset slightly to the left of center.

 

Directly behind the lens is a pop-up cover that reveals a knob adjustment for vertical lens offset. As it comes from the factory, the lens offset is pretty high, putting the bottom of the image at the optical centerline. The theory behind this decision is that the projector would most likely be ceiling mounted. However, you can dial the image down quite a bit, although you may see some degradation of brightness uniformity at the extremes.

 

Figure 2. The vertical lens offset knob is hidden behind this door.


 

Figure 3. Here's the connector line-up for the HC7800.


 

The standard connector complement includes a single component video input, a 15-pin VGA connector for computers, and a pair of HDMI v1.4a jacks, compatible with frame-packed 3D program formats. Mits has also included an RS-232 port and Ethernet jack for remote control, a pair of 12V triggers for electric screens and anamorphic lens adapters, and a DIN connector that drives the infrared 3D sync emitter.

 

The supplied remote control should be familiar to Mitsubishi projector users – it’s been standard for several years and provides direct access to inputs, three picture memories, and a bunch of useful tools including color management, frame rate conversion, three iris settings, and the usual brightness / contrast / sharpness / color settings. Brilliant Color mode is also supported.

 

Figure 4. Same old remote, but some new buttons!


 

INSIDE THE CHASSIS

 

The HC7800 is a single-chip DLP design that uses the latest .65” 1920×1080 DMD imager harnessed to a six-segment color wheel. You may be surprised to see mechanical lens offset married to a single chip DLP light engine, but it has become easier to achieve and essentially de rigueur for home theater projectors – especially when the preferred imaging systems make extensive use of lens shift.

 

The illumination system revolves around a 240 watt short-arc lamp that can be throttled back to 190 watts in low power mode. In theory, this should provide a pretty bright image – Mitsubishi’s spec for full-throttle operation with no image correction is 1500 lumens – but in practice, you’ll see a much dimmer image after calibration, and may require a gain screen to watch 3D content as a result.

 

Like other Mits projectors, the HC7800 is equipped with an irising system. It should provide an almost infinite black when activated, but also does some screwy things to gamma performance. My preference is to leave it off and use a low-gain screen to take care of low gray levels. However, that approach doesn’t work so well with 3D content as you will see shortly.

 

MENUS AND ADJUSTMENTS

 

Menu adjustments abound. Mits provides three User presets to store your settings, and you can tweak everything from brightness and contrast to color temperature (six presets plus RGB high and low), gamma (five settings from 2.0 to 2.4 and 3D, plus two user-defined gamma menus), and five picture modes including ISD Day and Night.

 

The frame rate conversion menu works on multiples of 24 Hz, so when switched off, you are viewing movies at 96 Hz. Want to clean up all the judder and blurred motion while (and I quote) “…retaining the clicking sensation unique to film?” Select True Film mode. There’s also a True Video mode for 30 Hz / 60 Hz content that ups the rate to 120Hz.

 

Mits has also given you five steps of motion interpolation to minimize 24 Hz blur and make film look more like video. Play with it; you’ll probably find a setting you like. And all of this stuff also works with 3D movies and video, too.

 

The iris mentioned earlier has four speed settings, plus OFF. That last one is my preference! As I said earlier, variable iris settings can dive deeper into black than James Cameron in the Marianas Trench, but the display gamma is subsequently compromised and inconsistent. Better to use a lower-gain screen and stick with a fixed gamma curve to get the best results.

 

The HDMI inputs can also be configured for different color modes and black levels settings. In RGB mode, black will be deeper than in video mode, and whatever HDMI output mode your DVD or Blu-ray player is set to should be matched on the HC7800. In theory, the projector should make this adjustment on its own, based on the signal detected from the player. You can also change video setup for every input on the projector, again with black at 0, 3.5, or 7.5 IRE.

 

The color management tools are intriguing and should only be used with some sort of colorimeter to either read out the x,y coordinates for each color adjustment, or a graphical display of where the red, green, blue, cyan, magenta, and yellow wind up as you change saturation and hue. Don’t try this adjustment unless you can measure the results accurately!

 

The HC7800 also has a color space adjustment. In Wide mode, the full gamut of the projector is used, regardless of the signal source. In Normal, the color gamut is truncated and closer to that of the Adobe sRGB color space (also closer to ITU REC.709 HDTV). Between this setting and the color management tools, you’ll get well within the ballpark.

 

Figures 5a-b: The HC7800's 'full' color gamut is so wide...


...that it covers most of the DCI P3 digital cinema color space.

 

There are so many aspect ratios supported by the HC7800 that I can’t even list them. The owner’s manual shows 38 different possibilities, including anamorphic (two settings), 4:3, 16:9, two zoom modes, and a stretch mode. Leave this control set to Auto and it will generally figure things out on its own! The dual anamorphic modes are used with an accessory lens, with Mode 1 for video playback and mode 2 for sync with computers.

 

Yep, I almost forgot – this is a 3D projector, too. The HC7800 is compatible with all 3D formats, with frame-packing detected automatically. However, for side-by-side and top + bottom frame-compatible 3D viewing, you’ll have to change the 3D menu setting manually as there is no way for the projector to know what kind of frame it is showing.

 

The 3D menu lets you reverse the sync on the 3D glasses if the images aren’t rendering correctly. I’ve never had this happen to me, but it’s nice to know you can reverse the problem. There is also a 2D-to-3D processor which results in ‘fake’ 3D imagery by interpolating relative distances of objects in a scene and creating parallax information on the fly. I have never felt any need to watch 2D content in 3D, but I can tell you that the process works – sort of. Stick to native 3D content and you’ll be happier with the results.

 

The 3D IR emitter is a compact little gadget with a swivel base that you can mount near the projector, or on top of it. The supplied 3D sync cable isn’t very long, and a super-long 3D sync cable like the one supplied with the HC9000 wasn’t included. But this emitter supposedly has a line-of-sight range of about 30 feet.

 

ON THE TEST BENCH

 

One thing I like about the Mitsubishi home theater projectors is that they come from the factory requiring little in the way of calibration. The HC7800 was no exception; all I had to do was switch to a deeper gamma setting for Blu-ray discs and fiddle a little bit with RGB contrast and gain.

 

Brightness after calibration was measured at 388 ANSI lumens in Low lamp mode, jumping to 466 ANSI lumens in High (normal?) lamp mode. That is a lot lower than 1500 lumens, but in general, you’ll see at least a 50% reduction in brightness when calibrating a projector, and maybe more if you use a steep gamma. With the lights off and my Da-Lite Affinity 92” screen, I was quite satisfied with the results.

 

Brightness uniformity is a challenge for DLP projectors and the HC7800 measured about 80% to the average corner, with the worst corner coming in at around 55%. Color temperature uniformity was within 515 degrees across the screen – not quite as ‘tight’ as I’d like to see, but for a $3,000 projector, better than average.

 

Contrast numbers were pretty good, but reveal why Mitsubishi wanted to use an irising system. Using a sixteen-square checkerboard, I calculated ANSI (average) contrast at 477:1 and peak (highest/lowest) contrast at 772:1 – nothing to sneeze at! Sequential white/black contrast registered 1048:1, while a 50/50 white/black test pattern yielded a figure of 663:1.

Figure 6a. Here's the gamma curve for 2.4 Cinema mode. Sweet!

 

Figure 6b. And here's the gamma curve in 3D mode - consistent, but shallow.

 

The HC7800’s gamma curves are seen in figures 6a and 6b. 6a shows the final gamma for 2D mode with a 2.4 curve selected, while 6b shows the projector after being switched into 3D mode. Many 3D TVs I’ve tested do very strange things to gamma performance when running in 3D mode, and that’s because the brightness and contrast are pumped up to overcome light lost in the glasses.

 

Fortunately, the HC7800 is a bit more disciplined and doesn’t jump too far off the tracks, resulting in a 1.94 gamma when showing 3D content. That’s not as steep as I’d like, but at least the curve doesn’t clip or flat-top at the high end, and the grayscale ramp out of black looks a lot like the 2D 2.4 gamma when you are wearing active shutter glasses.

 

After trying to match up the projector’s color gamut to the REC.709 color space, I came up with the plot shown in figure 7. The user controls can get you very close with red and blue, but the green hue adjustment either wasn’t working or doesn’t have enough range – I couldn’t add enough yellow to the mix to line up with the desired 709 locus. But it was close.

Figure 76. I got oh-so-close to matching the REC.709 color space. Oh well, still an improvement...

 

IMAGE QUALITY TESTS

 

For my viewing tests, I cued up 2D and 3D versions of How to Train Your Dragon, one of the better 3D movies I’ve seen. And of course, I pulled out my 3D copy of Avatar to see how it showed. For screens, I used the Affinity for both 2D and 3D viewing, and for some extra ‘punch’ set up a Vutec Silver Star 6.0 gain screen to help overcome the losses in the 3D glasses.

 

As a 2D projector, the HC7800 is a peach. I’m not a big fan of DLP for the home, preferring full-time RGB imaging found in 3LCD and LCoS projectors. But this box performed much better than I expected, and in fact comes close to the performance of the discontinued $12K Samsung SP-A900B in many ways. Its color gamut may not be as accurate, but the HC7800’s color temperature tracking is exceptionally tight and gamma performance is remarkably consistent in any mode.

 

After spending as much time as I needed on color management and getting the gamma right (between 2.3 – 2.4), I leaned back and enjoyed Dragon in good ol’ flat 2D. I also watched a few CBS and NBC prime time TV shows, caught some NCAA men’s basketball, and also a few cartoons; all the while looking for problems with black levels and color saturation. Didn’t see ‘em!

 

Viewing 3D required me to put on the ‘newly designed’ Mits eyewear, and wow – were they heavy and uncomfortable! I kinda felt like a Navy Seal on a night ops mission wearing these glasses, which supposedly have faster switching times and reduced crosstalk. But they are big and bulky, and not what I expected after using the latest lightweight 3D specs from Samsung and Panasonic. Even the HC9000 specs aren’t as clunky.

 

Figure 8. No, they're not night vision goggles. But they feel like it.


 

Despite their weight and discomfort, the glasses worked very well. Indeed; I saw very little crosstalk as I tilted my head back and forth. But I definitely needed to use the gain screen during the nighttime scenes in Dragon and Avatar – 400 lumens just doesn’t cut it with a low-gain or even zero-gain screen. I could have used 2x or even 3x that level of brightness!

 

So there’s your puzzler: The HC 7800 is a great all-around projector in 2D mode, but challenged to put enough photons on a low-gain screen in 3D mode after calibration. Aside from using two different screens to watch 3D – or a dual-mode screen, like Stewart now offers – you may want to just crank up the brightness and contrast when watching 3D content and not obsess over the gamma performance, or even the color temperature.

 

CONCLUSION

 

Amazing what $2,999 (or less) buys you these days. I couldn’t help but compare the HC7800’s 2D performance to the Samsung SP-A900B as I was calibrating it…such a deal! Even if you never watch a single minute of 3D content on this projector, you’d be very happy with it matched to a .85 – .9 gain screen. But 3D mode will require some help from the screen, or a lot brighter lamp setting. And I’m sorry, but Mitsubishi has to re-think the glasses – they are just too bulky and uncomfortable for my taste.

 

Mitsubishi HC7800 3D DLP Home Theater Projector

SRP: $2,999

 

Available from:

 

Mitsubishi Electric Visual Solutions America, Inc.

9351 Jeronimo Road

Irvine, California 92618

Phone: (949) 465-6000

Fax:      (949) 465-6013

www.mevsa.com