At the 2005 CEDIA Expo, Texas Instruments made a huge splash with the introduction of 1080p DLP front projection. Aside from TI, the only other company demonstrating a working prototype of the new technology was projectiondesign. It took quite a while, but the Action! model three 1080 is finally available. At $24,500, it’s among the most expensive 1080p front projectors available. Was it worth the wait?
The Action! model three 1080 is a two-piece system with a separate processor called the Crystalio II from Pixel Magic, which is based on the well-respected Gennum VXP chipset. All sources are connected to the processor, which sends its output to the projector via HDMI. The Crystalio II has plenty of inputs, all of which (except HDMI) use pro-grade BNC connectors. The component inputs do multiple duty as RGBHV, S-video, and composite inputs, which can be a bit confusing.
The projector sports a huge lens, much larger than any home-theater projector I’ve seen before. Six lens options are available, from one designed for rear-projection to a super-zoom. Motorized horizontal and vertical lens shift, zoom, and focus make setup a snap.
Also unique is the use of two lamps and two color wheels. This allows the projector to produce plenty of light for very large screens.
In addition to the Gennum VXP video processing, the Crystalio II also includes Faroudja DCDi deinterlacing for standard- def sources. All in all, this processor has more controls than you can shake a remote at. The only thing missing is a phase control, which might have helped reduce the high-frequency noise evident with a component input signal.
Most of the projector’s parameters are normally controlled from the processor. However, some of these parameters can also be adjusted in the projector itself, leading to potential confusion.
The processor’s remote is fairly well-organized, and it’s fully illuminated. However, the text labels for each button are dark blue on black, making them essentially invisible if the backlight is not on. The buttons themselves have icon labels that are visible without the backlight, but some of them are pretty cryptic.
The processor’s menu system is quite well-organized. Some of the menus, such as the input and output lists, basic picture controls, aspect ratio, and deinterlacing, can be called up directly from a button on the remote. However, it often takes way too many button pushes to do anything. The menu-navigation process could be significantly streamlined.
Using an 87-inch-wide Stewart Firehawk SST screen, I wanted to see how much light the projector could throw with both lamps at 100 percent; after setting brightness and contrast, the light output was indeed formidable for a front projector. To obtain the best-looking picture in a dark room, I turned one lamp off, set the other one to 90 percent, and closed the iris a bit to get the deepest possible blacks, which weren’t quite as deep as some projectors I’ve seen, but still good.
I just got a beta version of the new HQV Benchmark HD DVD from Silicon Optix, so I was eager to try it out. The Crystalio’s noise-reduction control softened the picture significantly, even at its Low setting, so I left it off. The moving-di-jaggies at sharp diagonal edges in motion. The processor also compensated for the conversion from film’s 24 frames per second to video’s 30fps instantly.
Turning to DVDs, The Fifth Element looked sharp and detailed, with clearly visible texture in the stone walls of the temple and the Baroque decor of Fhloston Paradise. The black of space was fairly deep, and the black letterbox bars were unobtrusive. Human skin tones were natural, and diva Plava Laguna’s blue countenance was vivid without being overbearing.
Detail was even better in Batman Begins on HD DVD, with sharply defined shots of downtown Gotham—reflections in glass-walled skyscrapers were crisp with a nice sense of three-dimensionality. The colors of foliage, skin, and blue glacier ice were all very natural. The dim details in the hole where the bats come flying out and in the Tibetan prison were not easily seen at first, but adjusting the Gammmma control fixed that nicely.
Overall, the Action! model three 1080 produces a beautiful picture, sharp yet smooth with a depth not seen on many projectors. Detail and color are great, blacks are reasonably deep, and the processing is first-rate (except for the noise reduction, which softens the picture way too much). With both lamps firing, it can light up a much larger screen than most. My only reservation is the noise I saw with a component signal, which a projectiondesign rep could not explain or correct. Still, if you’ve got the dough and you stick to HDMI sources, you won’t be disappointed. TPV