Technology Showcase: Home Theater Projectors
Aug 1, 2007 12:00 PM, By Jay Ankeney
With shorter throws and 1080p, the alternative to flatpanel TVs enters its golden age.
There is a mania among home theater fans to quest after the biggest screens possible, regardless of whether they fit into a domicile's décor or provide a more pleasing image to the average viewer's eye. Fortunately, these are boom days for the “bigger is better” crowd, which wants to leap over the constraints of flatpanel displays directly into a home theater projection system because as technologies with greater image density come onto the scene, much of yesterday's “new” is becoming today's “old.”
We've come a long way since the monstrous Eidophor video projector first cast a 5ft. electronic image onto a screen in 1939, during a time when experimental home TV sets were measured in single-digit inches. Developed by professor Fritz Fischer at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, the Eidophor projector used a thin layer of transparent oil on an aluminium mirror as its light valve to create images. By 1950, Fischer's friend, Dr. Edgar Gretener, had added a color wheel and was testing Eidophor projectors for Twentieth Century Fox using a field sequential color system.
During the nascent days of high definition in the early '90s, the Eidophor was the brightest electronic projector system available because it could use a xenon arc lamp as its light source. Gretag sold 650 Eidophor projectors worldwide, and at the 1992 World's Fair in Seville, Spain, two Gretag Eidophor projectors threw a 7,266-square-foot video picture across the front wall of the Spanish pavilion. But more advanced crystal and mirror-based technologies were proving to be more efficient light valves, and the era of Gretag Eidophor projectors came to a final end during the summer of 2000.
Still, during its day, the Eidophor projector was to video imagery what the Wurlitzer organ was to music. But while the mighty Wurlitzer gloried in playing music worthy of its output power, most of the Eidophor's history was limited by source material incapable of living up to its output. Ironically, today's home theater projectors are facing a similar dilemma.
High-definition production and distribution has been comfortably nesting in 1080i and 720p resolutions for the last decade. Although the display of these projectors was considered cutting edge just a few years ago, today we are seeing them replaced by 1080p systems whose progressive images are being dubbed “True HD” as 1080p is anointed as being the ultimate goal for HD presentations. The problem is, outside of some gaming systems and the competing high-definition Blu-ray Discs or HD DVDs, there is currently precious little source material available for 1080p displays.
Still, some consumers will settle for nothing less than the best, and for the rest of us, that is pushing the cost of some “old-fashioned” 1080i and 720p projectors below the level of high-end extra-large flatpanel displays. Like any system based on shining light onto a distant screen, these home projectors are vulnerable to ambient light and work best in darkened rooms. And the truth is, even if you want to rival the local drive-in with your home theater's screen size, it is difficult for anyone except a golden-eyed expert to tell the difference between a 1080i and 1080p image. Just as a point of reference, consider how many people are perfectly happy with conventional DVDs. Despite their widescreen format, they are staunchly standard-definition sources. Beauty, as ever, is in the eye of the beholder.
So if you want to fill your wall with giant pictures, a home theater projector is a viable alternative to flatpanel TVs. Add to this the recent inclusion of true CinemaScope 2.35:1 very widescreen aspect ratios in high-end models, along with the option of projectors with an extremely short throw for small-room performance, sophisticated cooling systems that permit around-the-clock operation, and even onboard standard-definition DVD players, and today's world of home theater projectors is experiencing a golden age.
In fact, the high-tech marketing firm Pacific Media Associates, which specializes in researching the large-screen display market, predicts that sales of 1080p home theater systems alone will triple from $41 million in 2006 to $129 million in 2007.
So here is a look at the latest home theater projectors from major manufacturers. Not all are 1080p or even boast native high-definition output, but they will all make your home theater installation a brilliant beacon of entertainment.
Although it's designed for budget-conscious entertainment enthusiasts, the Acer America XD1170D multipurpose digital projector delivers bright, SVGA (800×600), colorful DLP images and offers easy connectivity by way of a versatile DVI-I port, which supports High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP). The 6.6lb. XD1170D puts out 2300 ANSI lumens in standard mode with a 2200:1 contrast ratio. Ceiling-mountable, the unit's replacement lamp module has a 2,000-hour life expectancy in standard mode, and 3,000 hours in economy mode.
The W10000 from BenQ USA uses the new DLP DarkChip3 by Texas Instruments to produce native 1920×1080p resolution at a 10,000:1 contrast ratio with Senseye Projector Engine Contrast enhancement. Using Hollywood Quality Video (HQV) processors, the W10000 supports the full 1080p/24fps standard for True HD video at 24fps — the same as is used in Blu-ray Disc players. Setup is easy with BenQ's Imaging Science Foundation (ISF) calibration service. The W10000 is compatible with Panamorph lenses that allow you to show 2.35:1 aspect format video in its original widescreen format.
Canon has incorporated the latest generation of its proprietary Aspectual Illumination System (AISYS) optical system in its Realis SX60 multimedia projector, which uses a Liquid Crystal on Silicon (LCoS) light engine to produce 2500 ANSI lumens. This SXGA+ resolution projector with lattice-free properties includes a Home Cinema Mode, which provides a contrast ratio of 2000:1 for display of crisp blacks through its 1.7X ultra-wide powered-zoom lens with autofocus.
The dVision 30-1080p and Titan 1080p are the most popular home cinema projectors from Digital Projection. Using a .95in. DarkChip3 DMD chip for native 1920×1080p resolution, the dVision 30-1080p has dual seven-segment color wheels that produce a user-adjustable 500 ANSI lumens to 5500 ANSI lumens, and a 7500:1 contrast ratio. Seen for the first time at InfoComm 07, Digital Projection's moderately priced Titan 600 series projectors are based on dual 300W lamp systems and deliver 8000 or more lumens in a 3-chip DLP implementation. BrilliantColor technology expands the color gamut through the addition of cyan, magenta, and yellow color points with advanced DMD formatters.
Dwin Electronics' new projector system, the TransVision 4, incorporates two complementary components: a 720p high-definition DLP projector and an outboard digital video processor accepting 10 digital or analog inputs, including six HD sources. The processor delivers native resolution digital signals to the projector via a single DVI cable. The TransVision 4 system offers comprehensive digital home theater features, including an eight-device preprogrammed/learning IR/RF remote with backlit keypad, intuitive control menus, and an RS-232 interface for home automation systems.
The Eiki International EIP-1600T 720p home theater projector provides the film-like imaging of DLP technology in a quiet, bright, high-definition video projector. The EIP-1600T also boasts up to a 6500:1 contrast ratio at 1200 ANSI lumens (960 ANSI lumens in Eco mode), a Powered Optical Iris system that adjusts contrast and brightness for peak performance, and a 5X-speed, six-segment Air Bearing color wheel ensures quiet operation at only 30dBA in Eco mode.
Epson is introducing the Epson PowerLite Pro Cinema 1080, a 3LCD 1080p projector featuring C2Fine technology. The Pro Cinema 1080 offers flawless high-speed video while its polarized liquid crystal molecular technology presents precise color registration without any rainbow effects or color breakdown at a 12,000:1 contrast ratio through OptiCinema lens technology. The Pro Cinema 1080 boasts Epson's proprietary Twin Optimized Reflective Lamp (E-TORL) technology and 1080Perfect video processing to display “True HD” 1080p progressive-scan video with full, 10-bit color processing and HDMI 1.3 connectivity.
In the Ferrari-class of video displays, the DILA1080pHD digital projector package from Faroudja combines its DVP1080 Direct Drive Image Light Amplifier (D-ILA) video projector and HD digital video processor. Its video technology is built around JVC's latest 2K D-ILA projector (2048×1080) with patented Directional Correlational Deinterlacing (DCDi) enhancement developed by Faroudja, and the company's own 3:2 pulldown technology. Each Faroudja projector system is individually calibrated by William Phelps, one of the most highly respected projector setup men in the business. Like all D-ILA projectors, the DILA1080pHD is a 3-chip device with separate imaging chips for red, green, and blue.
Although it was first released at CES 2005, Fujitsu General America is still selling its LPF-D711, one of the first 1080p LCD projectors on the market and still Fujitsu's top model. The LPF-D711 features Fujitsu's new patented Advanced Video Movement (AVM-II) digital video processor and features a true high-definition LCD with 1920×1080 resolution. The projector also comes with a separate selector unit (model LPF-QSD1WB), which houses the projector's powerful array of connectivity options, including HDMI and component video for easy installation.
The InFocus IN72 DLP home entertainment projector delivers more performance than a plasma TV at a lower cost. The IN72's five user-selectable video inputs enable a full range of connectivity with VCRs, DVDs, component and RGB HDTVs, and even your game console. To improve the quality of its Texas Instruments DLP DarkChip2-generated imagery by combining multiple enhancement techniques, the IN72 from InFocus uses Pixelworks DNX video-processing technology.
The JVC DLA-RS1 is a home theater projector that achieves a breakthrough 15,000:1 native contrast ratio without the need for dynamic iris or other artificial means of contrast enhancement. This allows the viewer to enjoy full 1920×1080p through 3-chip D-ILA display technology, JVC's version of LCoS. Sold in retail stores as the model DLA-HD1, the JVC DLA-RS1 features a wide lens shift range (V: 80 percent, H: 34 percent) and low fan noise at only 27dB. In addition to component and analog inputs, the DLA-RS1 is equipped with an HDMI input and accepts full HD 1080p signals provided by Blu-ray Disc and HD-DVD players.
After five years in development, the VP11S1BL 1080p single-chip DLP projector from Marantz America has debuted with HDMI 1.3 inputs and Deep Color capability at a 6500:1 contrast ratio. Recently equipped with a LN9101M motorized anamorphic lens option, the VP11S1BL projector from Marantz includes the latest in custom, fully sealed, 13-element, all-glass optics from Konica-Minolta, with customized color filters optimized to match the spectral characteristics of the industry's only 200W DC SuperHighPressure lamp assembly. The color wheel spins at 10,800 RPM (a color frame rate of 6X) on a silent Fluid Dynamic Bearing motor.
Mitsubishi introduced its new HC1500 and HC4900 at InfoComm this year. The HC1500 is an economical native 720p home theater projector selling for the price of a large flatscreen TV (less than $1,000), using DDP 3020 DarkChip2 DLP technology that produces a brightness of 1600 ANSI lumens at 2500:1 contrast. The HC4900 is a True HD (1920×1080p) resolution LCD model outputting 1000 ANSI lumens brightness with 7500:1 contrast at a hushed 25dBA (low mode) noise level. It includes a computer input port and RS-232 connection for remote projector control.
Also at InfoComm, Optoma debuted its new HD80 featuring the 1080p DLP DMD chipset from Texas Instruments (TI) and a 10,000:1 contrast ratio with Optoma ImageAI-II technology. The HD80 also features TI BrilliantColor color processing technology for higher brightness and more vibrant colors. Optoma's latest two-piece 1080p system, the HD81-LV, includes a native 1080p projector and studio-grade video processor that supports upscaling to 1080p with de-interlacing.
The new PT-AE1000U from Panasonic is a full HD-compatible home cinema LCD projector that achieves a remarkable 11,000:1 contrast ratio. Panasonic's “Hollywood picture quality” tuning process, which takes place at the Panasonic Hollywood Lab (PHL), produces images uniquely faithful to the director's artistic vision and intent. Panasonic's PT-AE1000U features a HD-compatible, 16-element lens unit — a “Clear Prism” to process the three primary colors (red, green, and blue) — Panasonic's new digital image-processing engine Cinema Works Pro, and Cinema Color Management technology with seven preset picture modes.
Norway's Projectiondesign has come out with its stylish Action! M25, a DLP design featuring 1080p Faroudja video processing. This small full-HD projector (the size of an A4 sheet of paper) boasts 10-bit digital and analog processing. With HDMI 1.3 input and a seven-segment, 5X color wheel, the Action! M25 takes full advantage of Projectiondesign's exclusive RealColor color management suite to reproduce true D65 video calibration when first switched on.
The VX-22d, VX-44d, and VX-55d, part of the Runco International Video Xtreme line of new 1080p DLP projectors, combine Runco's 3-chip projector engineering with THX video certification standards developed by LucasFilm. They are available with Runco's exclusive CineWide and CineWide with AutoScope technology, reproducing 2.35:1 CinemaScope movies. With 16:9 SuperOnyx DMDs combined with Runco's award-winning Vivix II video processing, all Video Xtreme projectors are paired with the Runco DHD controller, now featuring HDMI connectivity.
The new Samsung SP-H800BE is one of the first examples of Samsung's 720p DLP projectors intended to rival the natural colors and distortion-free images of a CRT by accurately reproducing NTSC and ATSC broadcast standard colors. The Samsung SP-H800BE uses Texas Instruments' DLP panel, the HD2+ DarkChip3 DMD, to achieve a 3800:1 contrast ratio in Theater mode with quiet 28dBA operation. The SP-H800BE includes multiple input terminals including DVD-D (HDCP), component 1, component 2, S-Video, composite, and a PC input.
The new Twin Iris of the Sanyo PLV-Z5 home theater projector yields a contrast ratio of 10,000:1 for vivid 720p images though a HDMI 1.2 interface and two sets of component video inputs. It features the Sanyo 3D Color Management system, allowing for changes to both color phase and color level while Sanyo Wireless Imager technology enables realtime capture, compression, and transfer of image data from a PC to a projector through a wireless LAN card. The PLV-Z5 boasts 2X zoom, lens shift, and a near-silent fan design humming at only 22dBA.
The flagship SharpVision DLP home theater front projector from Sharp Electronics, the XV-Z20000, uses a single 1080p DMD chip from Texas Instruments. The XV-Z20000 has true 16:9 widescreen movie viewing, a full-HD native resolution of 1920×1080, and leverages Sharp's proprietary CV-IC System III video scaling circuitry to upconvert standard-resolution signals to the native resolution of the projector. DVI/HDCP and two HDMI terminals ensure a secure digital connection with compatible high-definition set-top boxes, and a 1:1.35 manual zoom lens with vertical lens shift function simplifies installation.
Sim2 USA's premier D80 projector features Texas Instruments' .95in. 1080p DLP chipset for a true, uncompressed 1920×1080 HDTV resolution. Coupled with full 10-bit video processing, Sim2's patented Alpha Path folded-light-path light engine results in a new level of cinematic realism in single-chip projection. Its 720p Grand Cinema C3X-E projector employs a compact 3-chip DLP-based light engine by Sim2, producing a contrast ratio of 6800:1. The Sim2 Grand Cinema line includes three models: C3X, C3X Link, and C3X Lite.
Sony's new VPL-VW50 projector, based on the company's exclusive Silicon X-tal Reflective Display (SXRD) technology, offers native 1920×1080 lines of resolution. Also new is the VPL-VW50's 1-chip video processing engine, which enables the projector to use a fully digital chassis, eliminating signal noise caused by analog-to-digital or digital-to-analog conversion. The VPL-VW50 is equipped with Advanced Iris 2, which produces accurate blacks and helps to deliver a dynamic contrast ratio of up to 15,000:1 when “auto” Iris mode is selected, and dual HDMI inputs, which support both 1080p/60 and 24p frame rates.
The Toshiba America TDP-ET20U multimedia DVD projector gives you super-close projection with all-in-one multimedia features. The TDP-ET20U can project up to a 100in. screen image from just 3.9ft. away (screen sold separately). With an integrated DVD player, an audio/video receiver, and 5.1-channel Dolby Pro Logic surround sound for true cinema sound quality, Toshiba's TDP-ET20U has 1100 lumens brightness, 2000:1 contrast ratio, and widescreen format with adjustable aspect ratio from 16:9 to 4:3.
Vidikron's new top-of-the-line 3-chip DLP home theater video display, the Vision Model 150 Xenon LightAmp projector, leads the company's home theater lineup with native 1920×1080 (1080p) resolution and THX Video Display Certification. The Vision Model 150 uses a 1.2kW Xenon lamp to produce Vidikron's brightest 1080p picture ever, and is available with four high-precision optics choices — each zoom lens features broad motorized horizontal and vertical lens shift capability, power zoom, and power focus. Its CineWide technology fills the entire vertical height of the screen for true 2.35:1 widescreen movie enjoyment.
The ViewSonic Cine5000 delivers a real HD home theater entertainment experience combining state-of-the-art DarkChip2 DLP and Faroudja DCDI technologies with 1000 lumens and 2000:1 contrast ratio with support for 720p and 1080P HD signals. The ViewSonic Cine5000's six-segment color wheel delivers true colors for a lifelike visual experience. With multiple OptiSync inputs, including HDMI with HDCP, you can connect your DVD player, game console, and more to the Cine5000 for complete home entertainment.
But if you really want something that notches into a Gen-X lifestyle, ViewSonic also makes the PJ258D ViewDock DLP projector that includes an iPod dock. With the PJ258D, you can put video stored on an iPod directly onto your projection screen with 2000 lumens and a 2000:1 contrast ratio in 1024×768 resolution. The PJ258D ViewDock even comes with a remote control that controls your iPod with laser pointer.
Incorporating the most advanced video technology and numerous convenience features, the 720p DPX-1300 projector from Yamaha delivers a 5,000:1 contrast ratio and 800 ANSI lumen brightness. With Yamaha Natural Black, high contrast, HD compatibility, full 10-bit processing, and HDMI connections, the video signal processing circuitry in Yamaha's DPX-1300 maintains 10-bit processing from input to DMD. In addition, programmable per-pixel processing and other performance enhancements keep the DPX-1300 to the standards of the newest HQV technology from Silicon Optix. The DPX-1300 also features motorized iris control, Cinema Zoom, the Natural Color Adjustment system, horizontal/vertical keystone correction, and custom installation compatibility.
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