With DLP finally getting competitive with LCD in the budget HD Ready projection market, LCD really needs to be on top of its game to stay in contention. Hitachi seems to acknowledge this with its new, LCD-based PJ-TX300.
For starters, as well as costing a measly £1,300, the PJ-TX300 claims a startlingly high claimed contrast ratio of 10,000:1 to accompany its HD Ready inputs and 1280 x 720 native resolution.
As usual with LCD projectors, such a contrast figure is only achievable via an automatic iris system that reduces the projector's brightness considerably when it detects that a scene is dark. Still, we've seen this brightness-reduction/contrast-boosting technique work swimmingly for LCD projectors before, so hopefully it will here too.
Other key PJ-TX300 attributes include compatibility with 1080p sources and a 'Super ED' lens array comprising four ultra-low dispersion and aspherical lenses to boost colours and detailing, while also smoothing away LCD's 'chicken wire' problems, where the grid-like structure of the LCD panels appears in the picture.
First impressions of the picture while watching Revenge of the Sith (recorded in HD from Sky) are a touch disappointing. Colours look off-key, the chicken wire effect is gently visible, and black levels look shallow.
Thankfully, though, quality time with the image settings totally transforms things. With the lamp adjusted to 'whisper', the mode set to Cinema Low, the 'black' option put on Auto1, and the colour temperature at 6,500K, this Hitachi's picture suddenly springs to cinematic life.
Once these adjustments are made, black levels look very good, making outer space look suitably dark and convincing.
The PJ-TX300 also does a great job of rendering the fine detail in the impressive HD transfer, making the highly textured aerial shots look scintillatingly textured and crisp.
Colours snap into tone with the projector's settings right too, helping the projector handle the raft of different skin tones on show. Perhaps the single biggest boon of this projector's pictures, though, is the complete absence of the rainbow effect and motion dithering seen to some extent on practically all affordable DLP projectors.
Even after optimising the Hitachi PJ-TX300's settings, though, we still spotted very occasional chicken wire problems; sporadically felt the projector sacrificed too much brightness in its quest for deep blacks, and witnessed one or two 'jumps' in brightness as the automatic iris adjustment over-reacted.
But if you're one of those people who just can't ignore DLP's rainbow effect or motion noise, you'll likely find the TX300's flaws a small price to pay on a £1,300 projector.