Where some pre-HD2+ models I’d seen with high light output failed to deliver the kind of blacks necessary for a convincing movie-watching experience, the ScreenPlay 7205 has the balance right. It didn’t deliver the inkiest blacks I’ve seen, but it performed well enough that blacks and contrast even in very dark scenes easily satisfied a critical movie watcher like me. I’ve seen film prints in theaters that weren’t any better, and, hey, those are lamp-driven displays, too. Hmm….
The other thing that typically happens when projectors emphasize light output over blacks is that the image takes on a more brilliant, but flatter appearance, making movies look more like video. The image lacks the natural depth that makes film so alluring. Well, that’s another pitfall the 7205 deftly sidesteps. The blacks in the 7205 provide a solid enough foundation that this just doesn’t happen, especially when either the FILM or CRT gamma curve is selected (the latter being my choice.) The recently released DVDs of the first season of HBO’s hot western series Deadwood demonstrate these strengths emphatically. The saloon interiors of Deadwood are dimly and naturally lit—to recreate the lamp- and candle-lighting of the 1870s. The 7205 maintained terrific contrast and revealed enough details in the dark areas of the image that I could follow every shady deal and every nuance of expression from Deadwood’s fabulous cast, no matter how subtle. But what was more amazing is what happened when the action moved out into the bright daylight. Projectors with this kind of light output add immense realism to outdoor daylight sequences, where the blacks anchor the image with depth. No matter how bright the scene was, the 7205 maintained excellent contrast with some of the best overall image impact I’ve seen from any projector in brighter sequences.
The combination of attributes described above also made for spectacular images with HD material, especially bright, vibrant, videobased material like sporting events. DirecTV’s broadcasts of the NBA playoffs were amazing and not just for the resolution of the gnat-like details that knock people out at first glance (some relatives visiting during the playoffs were flabbergasted by seeing clearly the mesh patterns in the player uniforms). The blazing light output made the court and the players look three-dimensional and larger than life, which is pretty tough with the NBA’s 7-footers! This sensation of being there, in that space, was practically the best you can get without forking out for courtside seats! And let me remind you that this projector has this kind of light output without engaging the HIGH POWER lamp setting.
Now, in spite of my favorable, and even enthusiastic reaction to the HD image quality I saw with this projector, it did not resolve the highest frequency information in 720p test signals via component video or DVI, and at 1080i there were noticeable artifacts at high frequencies. The 1080i program material from my Samsung STB had more detail and pop than 720p, even when the signal was 720p native, although that came at the expense of some excess noise, grain, and edginess. Still, the choice of 1080i was a nobrainer for me. I liked the extra detail and dimension and so set my Samsung STB to 1080i output for the remainder of my viewing.
There are some other potential fixed-pixel bugaboos the InFocus avoids, but let me address the way I’ve approached this review. The reason I keep referring to issues I’ve seen with other projectors is that I kept expecting to bump up against areas in which this projector fell short of the performance I’m used to with the $10k-and-up DLPs I’ve reviewed. I eventually found them, and that’s the real story: I had to go looking. They didn’t jump out at me and none of them distracted me enough to be a deal-breaker. This is a long-winded way of saying this thing kicks rear end for a projector that’s supposed to be something of a bargain product. You read a lot about colors in these pages, and here too the InFocus gets over. I saw very natural looking reds—the interior of the Moulin Rouge was just that, not Moulin Orange. Occasionally I saw greens that were just slightly limey, but such instances were few and far between. I was impressed with the natural color palette of this projector, another area in which digital projectors at even higher price points have fallen short.
Grayscale tracking was similarly terrific right out of the box, with only the very top and bottom tinting toward blue, which was imperceptible to me with program material. I confess that I fiddled with calibrating the 7205 but didn’t manage to improve the picture any. InFocus did grayscale and colors right.
As to the imperfections, there are little areas of refinement that the more expensive rigs like my reference SIM2 HT300 E exhibit. Dark areas of the 7205’s image, while respectably black, showed more noise than my reference rig. I occasionally was aware of some edginess and digitallooking grain that the SIM2 is devoid of, especially with 1080i HD. Also, Faroudja deinterlacing is included, but 480i standard-definition signals are noticeably softer than 480p, which is an unpleasant dilemma. Sharper image or better deinterlacing? And, I’ve seen projectors that do more to make lower-quality feeds from DirecTV’s bit-rate-challenged stations look palatable.