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Hitachi CP-X345 Multimedia LCD Projector

Low price, bright and sharp, but blacks are nowhere near black By Charlie White

The price of good projectors continues to plummet, where you can get your hands on a unit that might have cost $5,000 just a few years ago for well under $2000 today. In the category of LCD projectors, Hitachi offers an exceptional LCD model that we reviewed recently here at the Midwest Test Facility. But it was much more expensive than the lower-cost Hitachi CP-X345 Multimedia LCD Projector ($1550 street). We hooked it up to our test equipment and light metering devices, and heres what we saw.

The CP-X345 is a 3-LCD projector thats small enough and light enough to carry around. Weighing in at 5.5 pounds, only 9.2 inches wide and just under 12 inches long, the unit comes with a rather flimsy carrying case that would let you take it on the road with you for presentations. I would recommend a more sturdy case if you really want to protect your investment, though. A native XGA projector, it features a 1024x768 pixel grid. The unit offers a standard amount of connectivity, with component video, composite video, and VGA, but no DVI inputs or HDMI.

There are plenty of inputs in the back of this unit, but no DVI or HDMI.

When putting this unit through its paces, the first thing I noticed was its sharp output. Booting up our test notebook, the Windows XP desktop appeared on the screen looking almost as crisp as if it were on a computer monitor. In fact, the sharpness of this projectors output along with its excellent brightness are its two best attributes. As soon as I turned in on, though, I noticed that it was noisier than most projectors weve tested here. Rated at 37dB in its standard mode, thats just way too noisy for me. Even so, my first impression was highly favorable, especially for a projector that only costs $1500. 

Next it was time to get out the precision light metering equipment and our DisplayMate Multimedia Edition software to see what this projector could really do. It became evident early on that the major weakness of this projector was its inability to show us anything near black. The best black this projector was capable of could only be called dark gray if we were being exceedingly generous. It was the lightest black weve seen on any projector so far. This non-black characteristic marred its performance while we tested the unit using a high quality HDTV source via its component inputs, a number of DVD movies, and also our computer display. But on the plus side, as is characteristic with LCD technology, the overall sharpness of this projectors image, and the purity and uniformity of its colors were excellent.

Picking up the included remote control, I noticed it was nice and powerful, and I didnt have to point it directly at the projector for its signals to be received. A quirk of the remote is that there is one button labeled Video and another label RGB. Why not just have one button called Source that toggles through all of the various inputs? Another problem is the non-illuminated buttons. Since the units are commonly used in the dark, I believe backlighted remote buttons should be a requirement for every projector. How difficult can that be? Perhaps this projector, because its so bright, was intended to be used in a room with the lights fully on. In our test theater, when looking at the projector with all the lights up full, it looked quite good. There it is again, the apparent brightness of this projector is a significant attribute.

So how bright is it? Well, we brought out our precision metering equipment and discovered that the brightest part of the screen was dead center in our nine-segment ANSI grid. The reading in the center was 1155 Lumens. Even though our measurements fell far short of Hitachis quoted 2000 ANSI lumens, we noticed that its brightness uniformity across the screen was the best weve tested on any projector. Unlike what we usually see on projectors coming through here, there was only about a 15% variation in brightness across the nine-square ANSI grid.  

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