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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
At least, I hope it's fascinating!


Sorry it took so long to get this out. Probably some of this info has been hashed out to death here on this forum, but I haven't had time to read everyone else's comments (but I will!). What follows are the subjective opinions of one man, who suffered through endless days of walking, blisters, and Vegas sleaze to get this report here for you:


WHAT I SAW AT CES!!!


Not a whole lot new and exciting, but some cool stuff nonetheless. Most of what I saw in projectors was the same stuff I saw at CEDIA, some just a little further along.


First:


CONVERSATIONS WITH TEXAS INSTRUMENTS (makers of DLP)


TI showed their new XHD chip, the 1920 x 1080 (in other words, 1080p) DLP chip that everyone has been waiting for. Actually, what everyone is waiting for is probably the NEXT generation of this chip. First of all, this chip is being designed for the rear projection market only. Secondly, the two front projector designers I talked to don’t want it – yet. The say the mirror control system used for the XHD is actually the same as that for the HD2/HD2+. Problem is, the XHD has A LOT more mirrors to control. The two engineers I spoke to say that the lag and other problems that this chip would create would be painfully obvious on a front projection system, with the large screen sizes typically used with FP.


As soon as the XHD chip has a better control system in place (probably a year or so away), we may see this work its way into front projection.


The HD3 chip, on the other hand, is simply a cheaper, smaller version of the HD2. It was not designed as a leap forward in picture quality, but as a leap forward in manufacturing ease and cost. Again, this chip is designed for rear projection sets and not FP.


INTEL


Yes, Intel made an announcement that they will be supporting and developing LCOS/DILA technology, but that’s about it. Some thought that this would be a major threat to DLP and TI, but it’s too early to tell, as Intel had nothing else to say other than they were working on it…


Now, on to the respective manufacturers:


SHARP


Well, I finally got another look at the Sharp XVZ12000U, and I must say it looked MUCH better this time. They were running it in high contrast mode, so it wasn’t very bright even in the totally blacked out theater room they had it in, but it had a smoothness and solidity that was impressive. It still had the “orangey reds†that Sharp is infamous for, but the greens looked improved over the fluorescent/lime greens I have seen on previous Sharp models. Blacks were impressively deep.


One has got to wonder, though, at what some of the marketing types are thinking when they show off their new Matterhorn XV-Z200 projector with a 4:3 music video STRETCHED out to fill the 16:9 screen. Not only that, the video was highly processed with blown out whites, over-emphasized blacks and garish colors, and ultra-rapid cutting. It wasn’t the projector that was making the picture look crappy, it was the source – the music video was SUPPOSED to look this way. Why choose it as demo material? Needless to say, I couldn’t really tell a thing from this presentation of the Z200, and will have to reserve judgement until I can get my hands on one.


INFOCUS


The Screenplay 7205 was there, but it was actually out on the show floor and not displayed in a theater room. This allowed Infocus to brag about how well it did with ambient light – very well, but we all know that – and to discuss how most of these projectors go into people’s HOMES, not necessarily dedicated home theaters. A good point, but it made it hard for me to subjectively evaluate the picture compared to the 7200 I am so familiar with..


When will the 7205 be available? It looks like March, at the earliest. I have people asking me about this all of the time, so I spent almost 45 minutes talking Infocus about this piece (thanks, Bob!). Right now they are waiting for the new Zeiss optics to ship, and then the units have to be assembled. It looks like end of February for the optics, so I can’t imagine the actual projector will ship before March. Asked about how much better it is than the HD2/7200, they said yes, it’s better, but not night and day. You have to look for the improvements – less dithering noise in dark scenes, improved contrast – as they will not leap off the screen at you. I would have to agree with this assessment, based upon other HD2+ projectors I saw at the show (like the BenQ PE8710) – they looked great, but so do the HD2s.


How is this for a vague (but I believe to be telling, statement): The HD2 + units looked almost exactly like the HD2s, only “better.†Not a lot better, but better.


Soon, I hope to be able to do a direct shootout between an HD2 and 2+, utilizing two projectors from the same manufacturer. Maybe a BenQ 8700 vs. an 8710?


A real treat was getting an exclusive viewing of the new Infocus 3-chip DLP. The image was outstanding – clean, no rainbows, bright yet with excellent blacks – and the case was by far the sexiest of all the 3-chip models I have seen, sleek and attractive. This may be hard to believe, but the Infocus 3-chipper had deeper blacks than the Sim equivalent. Even the Infocus rep I was talking to was surprised at this, stating that just about any of the 3-chip models should be roughly equivalent in picture quality. By the way, the Infocus 3-chipper is based on the HD2+ chip.


I would love to have the 3-chip model in my home, but it’s hard to justify a $25,000 + price when the single chip units look so good! Still, if you want to have the best…


Also on display was the Screenplay 4805, an upgraded X1/4800. It still has the 800 x 600 chip, but it features a newer faster colorwheel, which should go a long way toward reducing the number one complaint about the X1/4800 – RAINBOWS!!! The 4805 also includes a DVI input as well as component video, now making it a much more viable home theater piece over the X1 (or new X2). The 4805 is supposed to ship 2nd quarter.


BENQ


I did see the PE8710 in action, the HD2+ replacement for the PE8700. As I said above, it looked great. They had it on a smaller (I think 92â€) Firehawk, and it looked nice and punchy. Colors looked a little oversaturated, but I think this was (as usual) adjustment. Conversations with BenQ marketing revealed that they aren’t thinking about releasing the 8710 to market until all of the 8700s are gone.


I did also see the new Matterhorn (the model # escapes me) and it looked very good. It was hard to judge too critically since there was quite a bit of ambient light spilling onto the screen. MSRP, I was told, will be $4995.


Another BenQ tidbit – BenQ is going to be much more selective in which dealers they sell to, a la Infocus.


OPTOMA


Yup, the H76 was there, just like it was at CEDIA. It looked comparable to other HD2 machines, but even if they get this thing to market in the next month, they’ll be old news.


Picture looked fine to me, along the lines of the BenQ in terms of brightness/contrast. I didn’t spend a lot of time with it, as who knows when we’ll see it?


SIM/SELECO


Spending time in the SIM suite was a welcome respite from the noise and bustle of the convention hall floor. I got a good look at the Domino 20 – nice, smooth, deep picture – and the HT300 Link, one of the most refined HD2+ pictures out there. I think SIM has a great idea with the Link and having the inputs in a separate, upgradeable box. As they went to great lengths to point out, the standards for digital inputs are always evolving, and the Link is a great way of staying ahead of the technology. The Link is also very quiet, and has a smooth, deep picture that looks almost three dimensional.


I also saw their new 3 chipper, which still needed a little tweaking (as they admitted). It was stunningly bright (brighter than the Infocus, if that can be believed!) and of course, had no rainbow artifacts. There were some issues with the picture source (MPEG artifacts, banding) that some of us thought were the fault of the projector, but disappeared when we went to different clips.


STUDIO EXPERIENCE


Another quiet suite to relax in! We spent some time with the 20HD (nice and bright, and reviewed by me before) and even more time with the 50HD. The 50HD is an HD2 DLP projector that threw a very smooth image with great, restrained colors. I say restrained only because, after spending all day looking at FINDING NEMO on every other display, the natural skin tones displayed by the 50HD looked restrained in comparison. Picture was excellent, and the e-warp technology worked better than I expected. Placing the projector at even 45 degrees from the screen still resulted in a picture with no visible scaling artifacts, other than the loss of resolution that such keystoning/cornerstoning will result in.


We walked down the hall to see the prototype of the 30HD, but we couldn’t really evaluate it since the sun was streaming into the suite by that time, totally washing out the picture. The 30HD (a Matterhorn based DLP) did boast a very attractive case, plus it had picture tweaking controls second to none.


SAMSUNG


Joe Kane was there, again showing off the HD2+ projector he co-designed with the Samsung engineers. It looked very, very smooth, but the colors (of all things!) looked off to me. Everything seemed too “red†and leaned toward the warm end of the spectrum. Joe was using his favorite white screen (the StudioTek 130), so blacks did not appear particularly deep. Overall, I thought the image looked soft – but there are many who think that that type of image is one that can be called film-like (I’m getting to hate that term!).


NO SHOWS AT CES


NEC, JVC, SONY – Can’t talk much about these guys, as I didn’t see any presence at the show (other than a major Sony display in car audio).


OTHER STUFF


I was really impressed with VOOM’s satellite programming and their multi-room PVR system – it looks like something that I personally would love to own. Speaking of multi-room, it also looks like Microsoft’s Media Center PC concept is poised ready to make a big splash in the market over the next year. I am a big proponent of the Home Theater PC concept, and the Media Center PC seems to be that concept taken to an impressive next level.


OVERALL IMPRESSIONS, RE: PROJECTORS AND THE INDUSTRY IN GENERAL


I think too many of us have fallen prey to the marketing hype and hyperbole that is so prevalent in this hobby (and many others). No one projector “blows away†another projector, and I did not see any projector that was markedly inferior. It was interesting to listen to some of the engineers, most of whom would tell you that just about any of the HD2 projectors could be calibrated to give almost identical results to one another, and then listen to the marketing guys, who of course make a living telling you how their product is the best and how everything else is crap.


Which perspective do you think is more accurate?


What it comes down to is this – ANY of the HD2/HD2 + projectors will give you a great image, and you’ll be thrilled to have it in your home. The differences come down to brightness, throw ratio, ease of use, etc, but for those who want to know which one is “best†and “blows the competition away,†I don’t think there is one. It’s more a matter of matching up a projector to your personal needs, preferences, and requirements.


Of course, there are definite qualitative differences between the different technologies – DLP, LCD, LCOS/DILA – and those can be more realistically hashed out. There are easily discernable differences in picture quality between these different approaches to front projection, but I think that too much time, effort, and breath is wasted claiming that one technology is intrinsically better than another. I have my perceptions and preferences, but I think it would be wrong for me to claim my perceptions are somehow better than yours.


Feel free to pelt me with questions, comments, and the odd insult…


JOHN
 

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Thanks John. Great report.
Quote:
Originally posted by angilasaurus
Also on display was the Screenplay 4805, an upgraded X1/4800. It still has the 800 x 600 chip
I talked to Bob Williams on the way down to CES and he said the 4805 will use a new 854x480 chip from TI. I believe the X2 will still be 800x600, though.


--Darin
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
darinp -


OK, that explains something I was unclear on. I was also told that the 4805 was going to be using a new 16:9 chip by one of the marketing guys, just like what you said. Upon looking at the preliminary brochure for the 4805 (which I hold in my hand right now), it says "SVGA 800 x 600 480p 12 degree DDR DMD."


The next day, I spoke to someone else at the Infocus booth and they said that the 4805, like the 4800, simply boots into 16:9 mode rather than 4:3.


Obviously, Bob Williams is going to be the one with the correct answer, and that is much better news than I reported. I spent a long time talking to Bob but didn't get to the 4805 - we spent most of our time talking the 7205 and the 3-chip.


Thanks for setting the record straight, and I'm glad you are right and not me!!!


JOHN
 

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nice work!
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Quote:
Originally posted by patrickwebb
John, thanks for taking the time to write your report. Any word on the new Matterhorn Benq and throw distance? Thanks!
Nope, other than that I saw it and it was unfortunately washed out by floor lighting.


Thanks for asking!


JOHN
 

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I got to meet John and his partner at the show. They are both good guys especially since they gave me a ride from the convention center to my hotel run. I even appreciate the fact that we got lost on our way to the hotel.


It was nice meeting you guys and hopefully we can meet at Cedia
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
LOL!!!


Daniel, we had a blast hanging out with you at the show, even getting lost trying to get you to your hotel room! We really appreciated your droll, dry, sarcastic sense of humor that lined up just about exactly with ours. We'll definitely seek you out at CEDIA!


Now, if we could only get the Sharp guy to host our next Colorado Shootout! (inside joke)


THANKS!!!


JOHN


P.S. That's partner as in "business" partner, lest anyone get the wrong idea...(not that there's anything WRONG with that!)
 

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John, great report and fascinating too, thanks!


So I take it the Infocus 3 chipper is going to be priced at $25K or thereabouts?


Did you see the DWIN 3 chipper? How about the Marantz or Faroudja?


Dan
 

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Very interesting that the Infocus 3-chipper is based on the HD2+ and not the HD2, because that would be the first and only one for which this is the case.
 

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Sony has -- at almost every CES -- one of the 2-3 largest booths of anyone. It's too bad you missed it. While the projector demos were rare / not that great, everything else was terrific.


Mark
 

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Comforting that I don't have to gnash my teeth that the HD2+ units might have "blown away" my HD2, although those 3 chippers.......


htomei
 

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John, very nice read. Thanks!


By your reference to the 50HD as being very smooth, does that infer that you thought it was soft like the Samsung too? I'm currently trying to decide between it and the BenQ 8700.


Chad
 

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Since we have all but concluded that the xHD3 is not in fact 1920x1080 and the HD3 is not in fact 1280x720, I'd be curious about what you were told directly by TI. I was told they might find their way into FP, but the initial focus was on RPTV.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Quote:
Originally posted by Michael Grant
Very interesting that the Infocus 3-chipper is based on the HD2+ and not the HD2, because that would be the first and only one for which this is the case.
I know this is a point of controversy, but that is what I was told.


Maybe Mr. Williams could chime in and confirm or deny?


JOHN
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Quote:
Originally posted by rogo
Sony has -- at almost every CES -- one of the 2-3 largest booths of anyone. It's too bad you missed it. While the projector demos were rare / not that great, everything else was terrific.


Mark
Where the hell was it?!?!?! I wanted specifically to see the HS20, since so many people ask me about it.


JOHN
 
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