InFocus ScreenPlay 7210 DLP Projector Page 2
Although the projector defaults to 16:9, the 7210 offers several aspect ratios for use with varying program material. In addition to the usual 4:3 and Letterbox modes, a Native mode bypasses the internal scaling of the projector, essentially mapping pixel for pixel. A 4:3 image from a computer with 800x600 resolution (SVGA) for example, will use just over half of the available pixels and result in a small picture centered on the screen. A final mode, Natural Wide, is only available when an interlaced signal is present, and then only when Faroudja "TrueLife" processing is active. The center of the image retains an correct proprotions but the sides stretch out, like a funhouse mirror. Natural Wide is what I'd call unnatural wide.
The 7210 employs the same Faroudja solution as the 7205 for all video processing, deinterlacing, and scaling of 480i sources. For 480p, 720p and 1080i component sources Faroudja processing can be defeated by unchecking the TrueLife box in the Advanced area of the Picture menu. When TrueLife is off, the projector reverts to the Pixelworks 265 chipset for deinterlacing and scaling. TrueLife is automatically defeated when the M1-DA input is used with HDMI/DVI sources.
Call it a vagary of digital video, but something in the digital chain between the source and the 7210 causes the projector to take a few seconds to relock onto an HDMI/DVI signal when navigating between motion and still video, such as when returning to the top menu of a DVD while it was playing. The several seconds of darkness is disconcerting the first few times it happens, but after that it becomes downright annoying. Double your pleasure if you any have any IR conflicts with your equipment. It's a brave new world we live in. At least it's not like the early days of digital audio processing when one misguided switchover from Dolby Digital to DTS could cost you a tweeter and an inner ear pad.
Swelltone Central, a.k.a. the Digital Video Essentials DVD, is always a good place to start when setting up a player or projector. I had no way to measure color temperature (see "Testing and Calibration"), so I merely selected the 6500K setting and delved into the realm of black (Brigthtness), white (Contrast) and Gamma settings. I also noted that the horizontally stepped gray scale test pattern showed excellent and linear differentiation between IRE settings and no visible color tint at either end of the scale.
Be aware too that I was most often bypassing all video processing and scaling in the projector by using the Native mode and sticking with 720p images via the HDMI output of the (review pending) Integra Research RDC 7.1 preamp / processor. It proved impractical and unnecessary to spend any time with the analog inputs to the projector as the RDC 7.1's video circuitry upconverted my single standard definition source (TiVo – which came in to the RDC 7.1 as an s-video source) to the single 720p HDMI stream that I fed the projector.
All of my video sources- the HDMI-equipped Integra Research RDV 1.1 universal player, the DVI-equipped V, Inc. Bravo D2 DVD player, and my Samsung SIR-TS360 DirecTV/OTA hi-def receiver - went into the RDC 7.1 and then up a single HDMI cable to the projector. While I am still working on my review of the Integra player, I can say the bargain basement Bravo D2 was as magnificent as ever through this projector.
From the Balcony
Before I discuss how the InFocus 7210 looked with reference quality video, I think it's important to see how well it worked with merely good video, such as that in Old Boy from Tartan Video. While overall the transfer of this bizarre but fascinating Korean film is quite good, it's not perfect. Does the InFocus's high-resolution image shine a glaring spotlight when flaws creep up? Actually, no, the entire viewing experience is consistently satisfying. In fact, with brightness and contrast are properly calibrated, the 7210 can be very film-like if the material demands it. That term, "film-like," developed by the enthusiast press during laserdiscs' glory days, means different things to different people. Besides natural believable colors and fully developed and detailed black levels, it also apologizes for a certain degree of image softness as well as the acceptability of a certain amount of "film grain" which, in the case of many laserdiscs was really just video noise.
One reference film, and a great example of what "film-like" should mean, is The Thomas Crown Affair (DVD, MGM video). In chapter 16, a race of D-class Catamarans off Long Island (complete with the World Trade Center towers 40 miles away and below the horizon, but still visible thanks to what the director refers to as a cold water mirage) juxtaposes the deep, timeless sea black of the ocean with splashes of bright red sail and yellow rain slicker. The InFocus was producing a gorgeous picture. By now I had switched back to my reference Bravo D2 player which, with its ability to pass blacker than black images, made it that much easier to fine tune the image. After readjusting the BRIGHTNESS down and using the CRT gamma curve, Dennis Leary's black jacket in the dark bowels of a parking garage (chapter 20) was still richly reproduced and revealing of much shadow detail.
Like an out of control limbo contest, I was now dying to see just how low she would go. Ah-ha! Dark City, the crme-de-la-crme of shadow detail tests. Most of the film looked excellent, with all the punch you'd expect from a top CRT projector, but it still wasn't perfect. Chapter 14 reveals very dark grays, but also some loss of detail. But this minor deficiency is quite unlike the blandness of gray exhibited by many DLP and LCD projectors just a few years old. I could easily believe for 99% if the movie that I was watching a well-calibrated CRT. For the other 1%, it was a not-so-well-calibrated CRT!
The color palette of the 7210 was wonderful. The fear of electric green lawns, orangey reds or other cartoon effects was totally unfounded. Colors were full bodied and had a sense of purity that really brought them to life. Like the yellows and reds in The Thomas Crown Affair, there were breathtaking moments in many DVDs where colors jumped out at you. More importantly, they didn't jump out at you when they shouldn't.
I also spent a considerable amount of time getting reacquainted with HDTV, both the over-the-air variety and the "I beat them down to a reasonable price" DirecTV variety. The InFocus projector only made me wish that I had a hi-def TiVo so I could record even more hi-def programming. The InFocus wasn't just a great projector for enjoying HDTV, it was a great tool for dissecting the production quality of different shows. The season premiere of Bones on CBS, for instance, was phenomenal, with beautiful detail, real dynamic punch and a camera man that knew how to keep things sharp and, well, in focus. The series Prison Break on Fox, however (both shows were locally broadcast), looked bad enough to be upconverted SD, at least coming off my Connecticut affiliate's antenna. HBO's new drama series about the Roman Empire, Rome, or as I like to refer to it, The Sopranos: The Early Years, was just better than middling when it comes to video quality, but perhaps that was by artistic design. The point is, there's hi-def, and then there's hi-def. Spend a few minutes watching the U.S. Open on the excellent HDNet channel (or anything on the other Mark Cuban controlled high definition stations) and you'll see why the InFocus is a perfect tool for separating the wheat from the chaff.
Roll the Credits
The InFocus ScreenPlay 7210 is a fantastic projector where it counts, in picture quality. The menu is easy to understand and setup is a breeze, which is a plus. If you could reclaim all the heat, light, and noise it spews out you could power a small tricycle as well, but that's a minus. Stick it on the ceiling and you've got something for which fans of CRT projectors would have gladly paid three times the price a decade ago.
I loved watching movies and hi-def, but even standard definition broadcasts caught on my TiVo were fun to watch on a big screen. That's something I would never do with my DWIN projector for fear of running out the clock on the expensive and discontinued cathode ray tubes. With a DLP projector, we're talking a fancy light bulb.
As for that annoying issue that plagues all single chip DLP projectors, the "rainbow" effect caused by the spinning color wheel – well, let's just say that it's been downgraded from plague to seasonal allergy. I see it occasionally, perhaps just a tad more here than I did with the SIM2 HT300 E-LINK, but I'd be lying if I said it ever actually annoyed me.
How does the InFocus stack up against the competition? I've only had one other DLP projector here before, the aforementioned SIM2 HT300 E-LINK. The two-box design of the SIM2 might have made it my first choice had it not been for the excellent switching and video processing of the Integra Research RDC 7.1, which allowed me to run a single cable to the 7210. The InFocus is brighter (almost twice as bright based on lamp specifications) and the black level, though not subjectively as deep as that from the SIM2, was more detailed if memory serves. I wouldn't kick either projector off my ceiling.
Having returned from CEDIA in Indianapolis last week, where I saw lots of single-chip and three-chip projectors at all price points, I can only say that the InFocus ScreenPlay 7210 is up there with the best I've seen. Even though TI's 1080p chips are on the horizon, this projector is right here, right now and not to be trifled with. When feed a proper diet of digital video, this projector is simply amazing! Highly recommended.
Highs and Lows
• Bright, sharp image
• Fine color: well calibrated out of the box (in 6500K)
• Excellent remote control
• No lens shift
• Noisier than average
• Light leakage from the ventilation ducts