For the last two or three years we at TPV have seen jawdropping demonstrations of D-ILA front projectors at industry shows and written reports anticipating D-ILA’s emergence as a force in the fixed-pixel market. If the quality is there, people will come. Right? Well, not so far. D-ILA, developed by JVC, has taken a back seat to DLP in front projection and been all but non-existent in the RPTV (bigscreen TV) market, while even LCD has managed a comeback of surprising proportions in front and rear projection.
Although the $40k+ Faroudja DILA1080pHD front-projection package you’re about to read about is too exotic and costly to make a dent in the mass market, it’s a statement product that, in my opinion, establishes a new benchmark in performance for fixedpixel front projectors. Over the last couple of years I’ve reviewed front projectors based on single-chip and three-chip DLP, LCD, and even SXRD light-engines. But this Faroudja D-ILA rig is the best fixed-pixel display I’ve seen to date. Period.
What Is D-ILA?
D-ILA is a “reflective” Liquid Crystal on Silicon (LCoS) technology, in which light is reflected off the pixel array on the D-ILA chip to create an image. (Sony’s SXRD is also a reflective LCoS technology.) LCD, another form of liquid crystal technology, is a so-called “transmissive” technology, because light shines through the LCD chips. Another thing D-ILA has in common with LCD is that it is a three-chip technology exclusively, which means that light from the projector’s bulb is split into its core red, green, and blue components by dichroic mirrors and then sent to a D-ILA chip dedicated to each primary color before being recombined and output from the projector’s lens. This results in seamless, continuous color. All but the priciest DLP projectors use a color wheel in front of a single DLP chip to emulate continuous color from sequentially projected colors—a process that causes color separation artifacts in the form of on-screen “rainbows” and, sometimes, produces viewing fatigue. Another critical advantage D-ILA has claimed since its inception is a tighter “fill factor,” which means less “dead space” around and between the pixels on screen. More dead space means the pixel structure tends to become more visible, resulting in an image that looks digital in the worst way. Early LCDs were plagued by this. D-ILA has a very high fill factor which produces higher contrast and a more natural, seamless picture.
A Turnkey D-ILA Solution From Faroudja
The DILA1080pHD package reviewed here is a two-piece job, consisting of a D-ILA projector with a 1920x1080 pixel count and a Faroudja DVP4000 video processor with integral DVD drive (and DVD-A and SACD playback if you need it). The scaler is HDCPcompatible with a single DVI input and output (the latter must always be used between the projector and processor). The scaler scales all incoming signals (including 720p and 1080i) to the 1080pHD’s native 1080p.
But perhaps the most compelling piece of this package is the invisible man, William Phelps. Phelps has been known in the A/V community for some time as the D-ILA guru. He uses proprietary software and techniques to optimize the grayscale, colorimetry, and gamma curves (the projector comes loaded with two Phelps-optimized gamma curves—one for HD material and the other for standard-def) of every Faroudja D-ILA projector sold. So, for your $40k and change, you get a 1080p display that has already been calibrated and optimized for theater viewing and simply needs to be installed in front of a screen.
This package is made to be sold through experienced dealer/installers as a turnkey package, so I won’t go into setup beyond noting that the installer has little wiggle room in placement, as there is no vertical lens shift on the projector. The top of the lens has to be aligned with the top of the screen. I think even the most crackerjack installers would prefer to have a little play, but Faroudja told me that the added expense would be considerable. The projector and the DVP4000 come in a handsomely finished aluminum chassis, both of which were designed by Neal Fay. (Like just about everything else that looks super-cool these days!) It’s not the Mother Ship that the Sony Qualia 004 is, but it has fine fit ’n’ finish by any standard.
Ins And Outs and Functionality
As mentioned, the DVP4000 has a single DVI input and output, which isn’t a hindrance since it also has an integral DVD drive that eliminates all analog- to-digital and digital-to-analog conversions for playback of DVDs. There is a single analog component/ RGBHV input, one composite and one S-video input, and an RGB passthrough. Very straightforward, but perhaps lacking in inputs for those who are loaded up on video sources. Two remotes come with the package— a small one for the projector and a larger learning job with an LCD front panel that comes pre-programmed for the DVP4000 and the projector. I used the small remote to turn on the projector and switch between the HD and SD gamma curves, primarily because I disliked the LCD learning remote so much. One often gets used to even a difficult remote over time, but it’s a special one (in all the worst way) that’s just as much of a pain on Day 35 as it is on Day 1. I’m sad to say the Faroudja LCD touchscreen remote is one of this pathetic group. Faroudja believes most customers will use an AMX or Crestron system, and since I wouldn’t wish this remote on a sworn enemy, I hope it’s right!