I have now had the opportunity to look at production units of the HC7000 and the HC5500, and compare them side by side against StudioTek 130 in a pretty dark light controlled room.
Watched some 1080p material and I could compare the HC7000 against a D65 calibrated Samsung SP-A800B. The model from Mitsubishi just got out of the box and was not perfectly calibrated, just by the eye as instrument.
My impressions was that the new models has improved in every aspect, and especially the colours as they seemed to be better than the previous models. Both was incredible sharp, almost unreal (maybe artificial but still).
HC7000 has really, really good black levels. The HC5500 (which is supposed to be at least as good as last years HC6000 in that regard and to me last year was very good in that department) seemed not so good anymore…The difference in black levels was BIG. But on the other hand, that was the only big difference I could see yesterday. In brighter scenes the picture of both seemed pretty equal to me.
When I compared the SP-A800B to the HC7000 it was obvious that the Samsung had much more accurate colours, something that may or may not be better when HC7000 is seriously calibrated. But I did find the picture put up by HC7000 satisfying, it was absolutely sharper then SP-A800B. However if I had to choose I would prefer the SP-A800B, in that particular shoot-out.
The design is very classy on the HC7000, the HC5500 has the same chassie that HC6000 had last year. The fan is supposed to be a few dB lower this year, I could not here it as some Epson on the shelf above where much louder…
All in all, is seems like the development has done good picture a lot more affordable this year. How the HC7000 is going to compare against the new competition of TW5000/TW5800 and AE3000 is still the question most will ask, my guess is that you can take your impression of last years models, TW2000, AE2000 and HC6000 and apply them to this years top LCD-projectors, but with the change that everything is a bit better, the black levels 2 bits.