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Mitsubishi's latest Full HD home cinema projector arrives at a potentially inopportune moment. For with a price tag of around £1,200, it's in the same entry-level ball park as a couple of other, really outstanding projectors we've seen in recent times: the £1,300 InFocus IN80 DLP model, and the £1,500 or so Sony VPL-HW10 SXRD model. Can this newcomer from one of the projector world's more reclusive brands really compete with such high-profile Full HD competition?
If we were to commit the cardinal reviewing sin of judging a book by its cover, we would have to say that the HC5500 certainly does not compete with the best of its rivals. It's not exactly ugly, but its fairly conventional black rectangular design and distinctive but not especially likeable square lens surround don't put it in the same design league as the IN80 or HW10. Especially as it also feels rather flimsily built.
There's nothing much to complain about when it comes to the HC5500's connections, though. Two HDMIs built to the v1.3 standard join forces with a component video input; a D-Sub PC port; a trigger output for activating an optional electric screen; a Serial port so that the projector can be controlled by a computer in a networked environment; and the usual composite and S-Video fallbacks.
The HC5500 also boasts more features than you have a right to expect for south of £1,200. For instance, video processing comes courtesy of a ‘Hollywood Quality Video' (HQV) chipset from Silicon Optix. Based on previous experience, this should come in particularly handy when watching standard definition images upscaled to the HC5500's Full HD native resolution.
The tidily presented onscreen menus also include some very respectable image adjustment flexibility, kicking off with an excellent suite of gamma controls, complete with thematic presets plus two user modes where you can adjust the gamma levels separately for the high, mid and low portions of the gamma curve.
Then there's the facility to adjust the contrast and brightness levels individually for the red, green and blue parts of the image, and an option for adjusting - over five stages - the extremity with which the projector's automatic iris system does its work. In other words, you can adjust how much light the iris takes out of the image during dark scenes.
You can also turn the auto iris off completely, but given the damage this does to the projector's black level response it's hard to see why you'd ever bother, unless perhaps you were running a PC presentation.
The HC5500 is seemingly almost obsessive about keeping video noise out of its pictures, providing separate noise reduction options for block noise, mosquito noise, and general other video noise, as well as a colour transient improvement tool for correcting smeared edges.
Nice though it is to have such noise reduction tools at your disposal when watching standard definition, I was very pleased to note that the HC5500 automatically deactivates everything bar the Colour Transient Improvement when watching HD. After all, accidentally leaving noise reduction tools on when watching HD can lead to seriously compromised HD image quality.