Hitachi PJ-TX100 LCD Projector

Hot on the heels of the five-star Panasonic AE700 projector comes yet another low-priced, quality LCD-based model, the Hitachi PJ-TX100. In fact the circa $5,000 home theatre market is burgeoning and if you've been holding off making that big-screen purchase while you wait for prices to drop and quality to improve, now could be the time to pull out the plastic. At just $3,999 the PJ-TX100 offers one of the best price/performance ratios around.

And it looks good too. A stylishly sloping fascia gives the projector a modern appearance that should suit just about any lounge room. The design is practical as well: the ventilation grills expel hot air out the front of the projector so it can be placed on a shelf without suffocating it and turning it into a few thousand dollars' worth of molten plastic. A large lens is a visual clue to the rather decent 1.6x optical zoom the PJ-TX100 sports. This means it'll suit most room sizes and will happily throw a 100-inch, 16:9 diagonal picture on-screen from as close as 2.8 metres or as far as 4.6 metres. Optical lens shift is also incorporated, allowing the user to move the entire lens barrel horizontally and vertically to attain perfect image alignment without resorting to man-handling the projector. It's a welcome feature that when coupled with the superb zoom capability makes positioning the PJ-TX100 a hassle-free affair.

Hitachi touts the brightness of the projector as being 1,200 ANSI Lumens and the contrast ratio as 1,200:1. We didn't measure either but the 150w lamp pumped out more than enough light for most viewing situations, including those where it may be impossible to completely darken a room.

Contrast is excellent for an LCD projector, though still not as good as a comparatively priced DLP unit. A motorised, ten-step iris cuts down on unwanted light that may otherwise end up turning the colour black into grey. It does a great job, but like the Panasonic before it, it also decreases detail in darker areas of the picture. Sure it's a trade-off but only a small one, and colour reproduction and overall detail more than make up for the black level quandary. This is, after all, a high-definition projector capable of producing a 720p image thanks to three 0.7-inch 1,280 x 720 LCD panels. Even standard definition DVDs will take advantage of the high resolution. Old favourites such as Ice Age and Solaris (two vastly different films in just about every way imaginable) looked great. Finely detailed fur and the vividly blue sky in Ice Age was nigh on faultless, while the shadowy but impressively detailed world of Solaris looked great, even if there was a distinct loss of detail in dark portions of the screen. Skin tones were excellent and the film was eminently watchable. Motion lag was evident in fast-paced scenes, which proved a slight distraction, but there was no sign of the screen door effect unless you sat ridiculously close to the screen.

On the whole, the pros far outweigh the cons and we think this is a great little projector. The menu system is a breeze to operate (so is the entire projector for that matter), the remote is simple yet fully featured, image quality is very good and placement is supremely easy, thanks to features like lens shift and the 1.6x zoom, short-throw lens. And at just $3,999 it's an absolute bargain.

Price: $3,999; Phone: 1800 032 689; Vendor: Hitachi; URL: www.hitachi.com.au

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