Those of you who are about to invest in DLP front projection are gonna love this review, and those of you who bought in six months ago are gonna hate it. We all know technology marches relentlessly forward, but even the computer industry thinks what’s happening in the front-projection market is over the top. In Issue 55, I reviewed what was then a “bargain” HD2+ DLP projector—and it was priced at $8000. Here we are a year later, and I’ve got two projectors on hand—both using the same Texas Instruments advanced HD2+ digital light processing (DLP) chip—that retail for under $5000! O.K., the InFocus ScreenPlay 7205 is only a buck under at $4999, but BenQ’s PE7700 is only $3000. These projectors aren’t equipped with the very latest HD2+ chip, the DarkChip3, but these are still price points we’re not used to seeing with premium chipsets.
The ScreenPlay 7205 isn’t going to win any awards for design aesthetics. It’s pretty much a silver rectangle, with vents on the sides for cooling and a handy carrying handle in case you go mobile. Zoom and focus are adjusted manually on the barrel of the lens as opposed to electronically by remote, but, really, the only feature found on more expensive DLP projectors that I missed during setup was vertical lens shift, the lack of which means you have to more carefully align the lens with the top or bottom of the screen—or prop the projector up with something. (An elevator foot is included to prop up the front of the projector if the unit is situated below the screen, but since nothing is provided to prop up the rear of the projector if it’s located above the bottom of the screen, I got literary and used a book.) Keystone correction can be applied, but since this can result in picture artifacts, you should try to minimize or eliminate its use.
For connectivity the 7205 is well equipped, with two HD-capable component inputs and a DVI input. I’d like to see an HDMI input or another DVI, but since DLPs costing a lot more money don’t have multiple DVI/HDMI inputs, I can’t complain too much. InFocus has stuck with the M1-DA DVI connector, which works with analog or digital signals, over the typical DVI-D connector. InFocus, Dell, HP, and Hitachi are among the very few manufacturers using this connector, and InFocus supplies a pigtail adapter on request. (Maybe there are some boardroom guys who are really stoked on the M1-DA out there somewhere.For home-theater apps, I don’t get it.)
The 7205 features Faroudja’s outstanding deinterlacing with 3-2 pulldown for film-based sources and Faroudja’s DCDi technology for video-based ones,. Another nifty feature allows users to choose a 48Hz deinterlacing mode for film-based sources instead of the traditional 60Hz rate. A 48Hz rate translates to 48 frames per second—a perfect multiple of film’s 24 frames per second. This potentially offers more fluid motion by eliminating the temporal distortion created by repeating frames in a 3-2 sequence, as is required to display 24 fps film at 60 frames per second.
Another interesting option in the menus was the ability to choose a gamma curve patterned after CRT displays. While the FILM gamma curve looked very good, I actually found the CRT curve to be more filmlike than the FILM setting! Also in the gamma menu is a setting called WHITE PEAKING that cranks up the bright whites. I zeroed that sucker out—even with the HIGH POWER lamp setting turned off this projector was plenty bright.
Three user presets are provided for storing and recalling picture adjustments, which should be adequate. Using the 7205 on a day-to-day basis is an absolute joy, thanks to a well-designed remote and one of the most refreshingly straightforward and intuitive on-screen menus systems I’ve encountered. The remote is very compact with backlit buttons. In addition to four menu navigation buttons, it includes BRIGHTNESS and CONTRAST controls and four numbered buttons that can be programmed for direct access to sources. A RESIZE button cycles through aspect ratios, which are intuitively named for once: 16:9, 4:3, Letterbox. It’s amazing how easy a component can be to use when the manufacturer makes intelligent use of terminology! This remote is a marvelous marriage of economy and function.
I used the Arcam FMJ DV29 DVD player and a Samsung SIR-TS160 DirecTV high-def set-top box (STB) with both the InFocus and BenQ projectors (via HDMI and component video). The InFocus 7205 has a very bright, high-contrast picture that does little to give away the fact that it is a “budget” HD2+ projector. While some aspects of its images aren’t quite as refined as the better $10k-and-up projectors, the truth is I almost had too much fun watching the damned thing to worry about finding the few nits that could be picked! When projectors have greater light output at the top end, they invariably have brighter blacks, too. With displays, there’s no free lunch— if high light output is your goal, you’re going to pay for it in lighter, washed-out blacks. But I’ve also noticed that the HD2+ chip set from TI seems to have been a watershed for DLPs projectors, improving blacks and contrast ratio to a degree that surprised me.