What about the other 1080p bad boy on the market, Sony’s SXRD-powered Qualia 004? The Qualia costs less and offers vertical lens shift, a lot of connectivity (including multiple digital video inputs) and ease of use that’s clearly superior. But when it comes to picture quality, as delivered the Faroudja D-ILA rig rules, particularly with DVDs. While the blacks were about equal, and HD looked almost equally spectacular on both, the Faroudja makes DVDs look more like high-def DVDs, and I didn’t see it wash out and lose contrast in some scenes as the Qualia did. Plus the Faroudja’s custom gamma curves for standard-def and HD and its custom color palette were more involving to my eye.
The Sony comes with a CD that allows customization of its gamma curve, which I didn’t have time to explore during my review. But even if I had, I doubt I’d be as adept at dialing it in as Phelps is, with his vast experience and superior laboratory-grade calibration tools. The included Phelps calibration is a major boon. And I don’t even know for sure that the color point adjustments in the Sony’s service menus are as extensive as those in the Faroudja.
Interestingly I think the single-chip DLPs powered by TI’s latest iteration of the HD2+, the so-called Dark- Chip3, offer the Faroudja rig its stiffest competition. Although a 1280x720 single-chip design is far less desirable than a three-chip 1080p design in numerous ways, these latest single-chip DLPs have several advantages— they unequivocally have deeper, inkier blacks and noticeably superior contrast ratios, and they cost way less than the Faroudja. Personally, as hardcore as I am on blacks and contrast ratio, I’d buy one of these Faroudja rigs if I could afford it (which unfortunately I can’t) in a heartbeat! Frankly, nothing else in fixed-pixel front projection I’ve seen can best the 1080pHD.
Is this thing perfect? No. A subculture of D-ILA enthusiasts have been building sealed acrylic “hush boxes” around D-ILA projectors for years. Five seconds with the 1080pHD showed me why. It’s really loud! Like having a fan boat in your theater. And the remote is bad enough to gong twice.
This three-chip 1080p design goes far beyond technical superiority and the elimination of artifacts. For me it provided the most natural and sensationally engaging experience watching movies I’ve had from a fixed-pixel projector—indeed, from any projector in my system. While this projector was in my theater room, I didn’t care so much about testing it or probing its limits or picking its nits—I just couldn’t wait to watch more movies! While it’s certainly expensive, there are other rigs selling for more that offer far less. If I could afford one of these babies, I’d be telling you that I bought the review sample. If you can afford it, treat yourself!