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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I buried this shootout review at the end of an earlier thread, but another forum member suggested that I start a new one. So here goes.


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Last night, the Minnesota Home Theater Users Group had a meeting. We evaluated the following projectors and equipment in Steve Benson’s dedicated HT room:


NEC LT155 LCD (w/Skyworth prog. scan DVD)

NEC LT150 DLP (w/JVC S65GD prog. scan DVD)

G11 DILA (w/Geforce-based HTPC)

Electrohome CRT (w/Geforce-based HTPC)

Da-lite Hi-power 2.8 gain Model B pull-down screen, 92†wide

Matte 1.0 painted wall, 90†wide

Gladiator (16x9), Titanic (non-anamorphic)


I had purchased the LT150 from Dell during the $1700 fiasco a few weeks back and was eager to see how its picture compared to more expensive projectors. Until I got my LT150, I had never seen a DLP projector. Until last night, I had never seen a DILA. I have had poor experiences in the past with CRT (too dim) and LCD (screendoor and contrast). The shootout was a revelation!


LCD


First, we viewed the NEC LT155. When it was first projected onto the highpower, I was very pleased with the image. However I thought it had limited contrast, and I could sense the screendoor from 12’ away. The LCD put out a solid image, but no one seemed particularly impressed.


DLP


When we turned the NEC LT150 on, the improvement in contrast was dramatic. It wasn’t even close – compared to the LCD, this unit had some impressive blacks. Contrast and color saturation was better. Screendoor wasn’t an issue from 12’ back, but the limited XGA resolution was apparent to me in scenes with small objects (i.e., people from a distance). Because of the limitations inherent in the pixel structure, small objects did not have a lot of detail. However, even on a large 92†wide screen, the LT150 had a terrific picture with solid colors.


Until this point, I had been feeling a bit of buyer’s remorse. The LT155 has a 200 more lumens, a zoom, and seems a lot quieter. My LT150 had to be placed on the floor and positioned precisely to fill the screen. However, A/B comparisons with the LCD made me feel much, much better. There did not seem to be a noticeable difference in brightness.


I noticed that pans were a bit jittery with the LT150 until a chap kindly pointed out that my JVC was not outputting a progressive scan picture. Yikes! I found the appropriate button on my remote, and the picture improved immediately and dramatically.


Of course, no discussion of the LT150 would be complete without a discussion of the rainbow effect. With a little effort, almost everyone was able to see rainbows in high contrast scenes (candle in darkness, panning through dark rooms with sunlit windows, etc.). It didn’t bother me at all – I rarely noticed it without some effort. A couple attendees seemed sensitive to it.


If you have a LT150 and have no idea what I'm talking about, here's a surefire way to see rainbows: Put the lens cap on the LT150 while it is still on. Lots of light will be spilling around the cap. Move your eyes around the light, and the motion will cause rainbows.


The LT150 looked great on the hi-power screen. However, the angle at which you viewed the screen definetly affected the brightness of the picture. The closer your head was to the projector, the brighter the picture. From off-axis positions, the screen was was comoparable to the painted wall. From the floor, the screen was much brighter than the wall. I felt the screen improved the picturea little, even from off-axis positions, but not as much as I had anticipated.


CRT: Electrohome


Next, we turned on the CRT. This was a religious experience for me. While the picture was not particularly bright, it was bright enough that it wasn’t an issue. The colors and contrast were perfect. Also, the resolution (1300 x 720 @ 72 hz, or something close to that) gave small objects a lot of detail. Steve’s CRT was the most perfect HT picture I had ever seen, and the 480p Gladiator DVD was on par with the HD I’ve seen at retail stores on small (61") RP tellies.


Scott, the owner of the LCD, now wants a CRT. If not for the sheer size of these projectors, I’d want one too.


DILA: JVC G11


Rick was never able to get his DILA properly tweaked during the shootout, and he emphasized that the image it produced was not representative of a proper DILA setup. We did not have much time to play with the settings, and as a result it had relatively poor black levels. However, the color was superb. In addition, the increased resolution eliminated the pixel structure that was evident on the LCD and implied on the DLP. This thing had detail comparable to the CRT. In fact, if the black level could have been tweaked, it would have given the CRT a run for its money.


Make no mistake. Even an improperly tweaked DILA will maul anything limited to XGA resolution, including the LT150 and LT155.


Something interesting happened when we put in Titanic, a non-anamorphic DVD. The DILA/HTPC exhibited a smooth, sharp, watchable picture. I never would have know from that image that Titanic was not 16x9 enhanced. In contrast, the LT150/prog. scan JVC spewed a fuzzy picture that looked nothing like anamorphic discs (like Gladiator). It looked so bad that I did a thorough check to make sure the prog. scan was still working and the aspect ratio controls were set correctly. I think I need a HTPC.


Summary


If I had to rank the projectors, it would be (1) CRT, (2) DILA, (3) DLP, and (4) LCD. The CRT and DILA were a close 1-2, with DLP a solid third and LCD a distant fourth.


Overall, I’m very pleased with the picture from my $1700 LT150, and I now have no buyers remorse whatsoever. If I had an additional $6k lying under a matress, I’d probably sell the LT150 and buy the 16x9 Sharp 9000 DLP unit when it comes out.


The CRT and DILA both produce superb images but are complicated to install. For a non-techie, a CRT installation will require a heavy crane, building permits, and professional installers that bill by the hour. The DILA, while DILA much smaller than a CRT, still requires an auxiliary cooling system, a hush box, and lots of tweaking. (During the shootout, the DILA was like a space heater.) Being a rather lazy fellow who moves around a lot, I'd better stick to small digital projectors.


Despite the generally favorable opinions of everyone at the shootout, I am returning the hi-power screen. UPS dented the casing a bit during transit, and it will have to be replaced anyway. But instead of replacing it with another hi-power, I’m upgrading to a “Fast-fold†screen that uses the 1.3 gain Cinema Vision fabric. As I intend to ceiling mount the LT150, the most dramatic benefits of the hi-power will be wasted on me. The fast-fold has a foldable aluminum screen and is designed to be portable. I hope this will make moving the screen around a bit easier. Also, the hi-power pull-down had some noticable waviness that distorted the picture around the edges. The fast-fold system comes with a screen that snaps onto a rigid frame. I hope this will eliminate the waves.


My HT Plans


I am close to having a HT setup that I like. But first I need to return the crappy JVC player and buy a HTPC. While anamorphic discs looked fine, non-anamorphic was horrible. And too much of my collection is non-anamorphic. Also, I am very interested in the panamorph, which I hope will reduce the LT150’s pixel structure a bit and punch up the brightness a little. Most importantly, I need a house! My real estate nightmares are another story entirely…


It was great to meet everyone. As soon as I move, I’d love to host a meeting to test out a Dish HDTV setup. Thanks again to Steve Benson for hosting this shootout!


Linwood Smith

aka Lurker #25




[This message has been edited by Lurker #25 (edited 08-15-2001).]
 

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I'm glad that you are thinking of going the HTPC route. The LT150 looks many times better with an HTPC source due to it's poor scaling hardware.
 

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Excellent post.


I had noticed the detail level in the LT-150, as well as the other items in your description of it. It'll do for awhile, though.


Out of curiosity, have you tried the HiPower with the LT150 in a ceiling mount position???


I agree that you may (and maybe even would probably) see a decrease in brightness, but you never really know until you try it. It may be that the light just gets directed down???


I know it is a longshot, but I think others have reported little change in brightness when holding the LT-150 up near the ceiling mounted height.


I am interested, and can't check this out personally yet, since my Hipower was shanghi-ed by some business partners who forgot to order a screen for the new training room. I haven't even seen one picture on it. :<(


PS(Sorry if you addressed this in the review, but you talked about how to see rainbows. I skipped that part the first time, and am avoiding going back over the post, like the plague. http://www.avsforum.com/ubb/smile.gif )


Doug




[This message has been edited by shodoug (edited 08-16-2001).]
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
We didn't ceiling mount the LT150 - it was stacked on top of the DVD player, which was on directly the floor. Most of us stood during the shootout, which is a good approximation of where a viewer would be in relation to the screen and projector in a ceiling mount situation. Everything looked great from this position. However, eveyone agreed that there was an increase in brightness when moving from a standing position to a sitting position. This occurred without any noticeable compromise to the black level.


In sum, the hi-power works best when the LT150 is at the same height as your head. Unfortunately, on a 120" screen centered on a standard 8' wall, this means your head would have to be on the floor!
 

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Just want to add one more thing - if you used a HTPC with the D-ILA and CRT you should have used it with the other projectors as well in order to get a fair comparison. The scaler in the LT150 for instance is known for not being able to produce the best results - and I can't imagine the LT155 being any different.


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/frode
 

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Good point, Frode. Native resolution does make a difference.


In fact, now that I am being fair to the LT150 and feeding it native rez. (instead of D-ILA rez.), I like it a whole lot more!
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
We didn't have enough HTPCs to run all four projectors. However, we momentarily ran the HTPC through the LT150 while setting things up, and the improvement was dramatic.


I got so excited about this that I ordered a PC last night from NuTrend:


Athlon T-bird, 1Ghz

512MB DDR SDRAM

20GB WD 7200 RPM ATA100HD

A-Open 16X DVD-ROM

Lite-On 12x10x32 CD-RW

32MB ATI Radeon VE Dual Display AGP w/TV-out

Sound Blaster Live Value

Windows Millenium Edition

Total: $883
 

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David,


Well the HTPC is known for delivering better colors than most standalone progressive players so I think that does matter in this case. It's not just scaling artifacts that change when going from standalone to HTPC.


Lurker,


Nice setup - maybe a bit overkill if it's just for DVD playback. For games however it should be just perfect in a price/performance perspective http://www.avsforum.com/ubb/smile.gif .


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/frode
 

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I am finding a "huge" difference between DVD players and the quality of image I am seeing. My old Toshiba 5109 seems to mate well with the LT150 - I have no idea why! If possibe I would try several DVD players with the LT150 so you can see for yourself, before buying.


The scaler in the LT150 isn't that bad - I actually think it is pretty good - not great, but pretty good! With the Toshiba the image is close to the HTPC.


Sure the HTPC has the best image, but for some its too expensive or impractical. Check out a few proscan DVD players and you will find one that gives you an amazing picture!


Cheers,


Grant


P.S. Somehow I think a new Kenwood will find its way into my HT - that will be interesting.

 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
The JVC I'm currently using is much better than the Sony prog. scan I bought and returned shortly after I first got the LT150. However, the JVC is a scrawny girlyman when compared to the awesome might of a HTPC. It too goes back to Best Buy (they're going to hate me).


I tossed around the idea of more expensive prog. scan DVD players (Panasonic, Toshiba), but at the $500+ price point, I thought I should just get a HTPC instead. I needed a new computer anyway!


[This message has been edited by Lurker #25 (edited 08-16-2001).]
 

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I have to agree with Grant about using a Toshiba 5109 with the LT 150. I watched some of Titanic on my new 6'x8' Da-Lite HI Power and it looked very good. The wife even agrees that the 150, the 5109, and Hi power make a winning c

combination.

Badgerfan
 

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lurker,


Nice HTPC setup. Which motherboaard did you get for the AMD T-bird? Also why the VE over the LE? Can you do custom resolutions w/ Powerstrip on the VE.

 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
The motherboard is a Gigabyte AMD 761 GA-7DX. I don't know squat about motherboards, but one of my office geeks looked over the HTPC specs and gave it his seal of approval.


Is there any benefit to the LE over the VE? I read a few threads in the HTPC forum that said the VE had the same DVD playback performance as the other Radeons, but could also be hooked up to a second monitor. It is supposed to be inferior to the other Radeons for gaming, which I really don't do anyways. However, I also plan to use a video capture card and dScaler, or a HDTV card. If the VE is not suited for this, please let me know!


I didn't think custom resolutions would be needed with the LT150. Do I need powerstrip? I read in other threads that I only needed to set the resolution to XGA and the refresh to 60hz.


I plan to use the ATI player or WinDVD for DVD playback and dScaler for television.



[This message has been edited by Lurker #25 (edited 08-17-2001).]
 

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Quote:
The scaler in the LT150 isn't that bad - I actually think it is pretty good - not great
It's every bit as good as what I remember my LP340 being able to do. And that thing was supposed to have the cat's meow of internal scalers.

This is the first projector I've had any desire to use with interlaced video. It's because I picked up a portable DVD player to go with it that's about the size of a box of matches (well, almost).

The combination of this little projector and that thing is just too cool for words. I also found a pair of ultraminature powered PC speakers to complete the package. I can almost fit the whole mess in my pockets (well, almost). Now if I can just find a screen that folds up like a little umbrella. http://www.avsforum.com/ubb/biggrin.gif


Bob


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~ The Sultan of Cheap ~




[This message has been edited by RobertWood (edited 08-17-2001).]
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by Lurker #25:
The motherboard is a Gigabyte AMD 761 GA-7DX. I don't know squat about motherboards, but one of my office geeks looked over the HTPC specs and gave it his seal of approval.


Is there any benefit to the LE over the VE? I read a few threads in the HTPC forum that said the VE had the same DVD playback performance as the other Radeons, but could also be hooked up to a second monitor. It is supposed to be inferior to the other Radeons for gaming, which I really don't do anyways. However, I also plan to use a video capture card and dScaler, or a HDTV card. If the VE is not suited for this, please let me know!


I didn't think custom resolutions would be needed with the LT150. Do I need powerstrip? I read in other threads that I only needed to set the resolution to XGA and the refresh to 60hz.


I plan to use the ATI player or WinDVD for DVD playback and dScaler for television.



[This message has been edited by Lurker #25 (edited 08-17-2001).]
Lurker,

The Radeon VE & LE are identical except for the dual-monitor support on the VE. Funny thing is, they both go for around the same price so I'd get the VE with the extra bonus (around $70 on Pricewatch). The lower end Radeons will still generate good frame rates on most games unless you like to play Quake III at 120 FPS at 1600X1200. 32MB & DDR RAM keep it competitive. I don't own a Radeon but I'm sure it has the needed resolutions without the use of Powerstrip.


Pete
 
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