Yamaha DPX-1100 DLP Projector
As a reviewer, my life is hard. I have to sit in air-conditioned rooms watching movies all day long. It's a tough job, but I labor through it just for you, our fearless reader. A bad day could be one where the product is cranky, doesn't calibrate well, or, even after a fair amount of tinkering, still only looks OK (or worse). Writing those reviews is "fun." Then there are the days when I get to sit down with a product like this one. This means day after day of coming to work, enjoying a few movies and TV, all on a display that, out of the box, looks fantastic.
The DPX-1100 is the latest iteration of Yamaha's DLP projector line. We reviewed the first one, the DPX-1, in the October 2001 issue. While we were skeptical at first about a video product from a predominately audio company (not to mention one that makes everything from trombones to motorcycles), its picture quality won us over. What's impressive about the DPX-1100 is how the minds at Yamaha have taken the same DMD chip that many companies use and not fallen into the traps that most of those companies fall into.
Let There Be Light
At this price point, an iris is a must. Some people want a huge screen and lots of light, while others want a small screen and great black level. Neither is easy, and few projectors deliver either well, never mind both. The Sharp XV-Z12000 (reviewed in the July 2004 issue) had similar success with an iris, delivering incredibly low blacks or tons of light. Its contrast ratio was excellent; but, at the setting that achieved the best contrast ratio, it wasn't very bright.
The DPX-1100 has the same black level as the Sharp and a whopping 37 percent more light output on a full-white field. The contrast ratio of 4676:1 is nothing short of outstanding. Dark portions of a scene actually appear dark on the DPX-1100, while light portions appear, you guessed it, bright. With most material, the letterbox bars blend into the background. With some material, it looks even, dare I say it, CRT-like.
Well, some material does. Master and Commander is our go-to for a difficult dark scene. In one specific shot (the opening of chapter 2), I'd say that more than 95 percent of the screen is black. The Yamaha made this scene look better than any DLP I've seen so far, but that's the caveat: better than any DLP. Blacks, as good as they are, are still not the absence of light but merely a projected black. If what you're watching has a higher average picture level (like most TV and movies), you'll be totally blown away.
Every product has compromises: to reach a price point, to reach an "ideal" that the market dictates (the inherent blueness of the picture on cheap TVs, for example), or for any number of other reasons unknown to anyone outside the company. One of the first compromises in the projector market is accurate color. This is most often in an attempt to get a greater light output.
While the DPX-1100's color points are a little off, it's how they're off that's important. Each point is slightly oversaturated but doesn't drift toward a different color. The green on most DLPs is way off, either undersaturated or drifting toward yellow or blue. Even an oversaturated color point can make all of the colors look off, but that wasn't the case with the Yamaha. In fact, the DPX-1100 never looked anything but accurate. For example, chapter 5 of The Fifth Element (you knew that DVD was going to show up in this review somewhere, didn't you?) has some vibrant colors (like the fish) and some muted colors (like the walls). Each looked that way. The fish weren't muted, and the walls weren't vibrant. If you're thinking to yourself, this is how it's supposed to be done, you're right.
And No Jaggies
Another aspect of a display's picture quality is its processing. Few projectors in this price range do a bad job, but even an OK job can look pretty bad when it's blown up on a 100-inch screen. The DPX-1100 takes a second to lock onto the 3:2 sequence, but, as soon as it does, it looks great. Scenes like chapter 12 of Gladiator and the Snell & Wilcox Zone Test Plate from Video Essentials were both deinterlaced well and almost completely artifact-free. There were some slight jaggies with Gladiator, about as much as the best DVD players have done. Video processing was equally good. On the waving-flag portion of "Montage of Images" on Video Essentials, the flag looked better than it has on just about every product I've played it on. Again, there were ever-so-slight jaggies, but they were almost unnoticeable. Other video material occasionally tripped up the DPX-1100, but only slightly and far less than most projectors.
Just for kicks, I threw in our DVD-player torture disc, the DTS Demo Disc #3. Few DVD players can handle this disc, so it goes without saying that most displays make the Apollo 13 selection unwatchable. I was floored by how well the DPX-1100 handled this scene. Again, there were the barest of jaggies, but, compared with the huge stairstepping and combing that most displays exhibit on this scene, the DPX-1100 breezed through it like it was nothing. I can only think of a handful of products that do as good a job on this test, and it's a very small hand.
Setup to Movies
When you first turn on the projector, it sounds like a huge flashbulb warming up. Berruuuuuuuieeep! It scares small animals. After that, you'll find a lot of setup options. The fully motorized focus and zoom are a little touchy, but they're capable of fine control. There's a fair amount of play to move the image up and down. To get the right amount of light on the screen, in addition to the iris, the lamp has five steps to vary its light output. There is also a slightly confusing but detailed color-temperature control. The remote isn't fully backlit, but the lit buttons cast enough light so that you can find the button you're looking for.
DVD and HD material both looked great. Test patterns revealed a very smooth gray ramp (transition from black to white), with a slight amount of noise. If you get close to the screen, you can occasionally see this noise on actual video material. However, from a normal viewing distance, you can't. Fleshtones looked remarkably lifelike. I'm probably picking nits by wanting a little more detail from DVDs, but they looked good regardless. On the opening of Digital Video Essentials, there are shots taken in HD from the Shuttle. The color and contrast within the shot, between the blackness of space and the blue planet we all live on (most of us, anyway), were stunning.
I don't usually like gushing about products, but, when something so well done comes through our lab, it's worth giving all the praise it deserves. In trying to find drawbacks to this product, I can only think of one major one: the price. There's no doubt that $12,495 is perfectly reasonable for a projector in this class and of this caliber. However, that means that I, and probably many of you, can't afford it. That, perhaps, is the worst aspect of my job: the torture of having to return good products once I finish the review. Anyone want to send a poor reviewer $12,495 (plus tax)?
• Contrast ratio galore
• Beautiful color
• Solid processing