Monday, September 15, 2008

InFocus X9

by Hugo Jobling
Price as Reviewed $1,099.00

InFocus already wowed us with the launch of the X10 a short while ago, offering a great 1080p DLP projector at a fantastic price and it look set to do the same thing with the X9. The x9 sacrifices a Full HD resolution, being merely 720p (a.k.a. HD Ready), but by doing so comes in at a fantastic low price, and doesn't skimp much elsewhere, either.

The 1,280 x 720 resolution is provided by a Texas Instruments DLP chip and is backed up by a 6-segment colour wheel. InFocus claims the X9 has a 2,300:1 native contrast ratio and can produce a 1,800 ANSI lumens brightness, which is about in line with the X10 - so image quality should, resolution aside, be pretty similar.

Connectivity isn't a particular strong point of the X9, with a single HDMI port, Component connector, composite input and S-video in, as well as a VGA port. However, with a projector using an HDMI switch box and having a single cable running to the device is almost certainly a preferable option anyway, so the lack on inputs isn't exactly a problem.

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3M Pocket Projector MPro110

by Daniel O
Price as Reviewed $359

Pack your pico projector and your netbook and go deliver that keynotes wherever you want. When it comes to choosing a netbook you have lots of options. They are all similar pieces of hardware under different brands. But choosing a pico projector is actually more difficult as there aren’t that many on the market.

3M have announced their newest product, the MPro110 (pocket projector) and the guys at have got their hands on one. Basically it’s a mini projector that plugs into most DVD players via a VGA cable and allows your movie to be projected nearly anywhere! In a dark room this could possibly replace your flashy home cinema system. It doesn’t come with speakers though, so keep the flashy ones for that. The MPro110 also comes with a composite jack cable to allow you to plug in and receive output from things like your PSP or iPhone. Priced at only $359 it goes on sale September 30th and 3M say they may incorporate it into cellphones next year too.

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Monday, September 8, 2008

Toshiba TDP-XP1U

by Rich Malloy
Price as Reviewed $555.00 - $779.00

Toshiba’s TDP-XP1U looks rather pedestrian. And why shouldn’t it? With a suggested list price of only $779, it is clearly a budget model. The good news is that this value-priced projector is bright, boasts XGA resolution, and generates sharp and steady images.

At 4.8 pounds, the TDP-XP1U is not featherweight, yet it remains easily portable. And its easy-to-use features are limited to recognizing the current input (video or computer) automatically and adjusting accordingly.

The array of connectors on the back panel is rather sumptuous by bargain-projector standards. In addition to the standard input ports (VGA, S-Video, composite video, and mini audio), there are also output ports for a second display (useful for desktop users) and audio. There’s even an old-fashioned serial port.

The worst feature of the TDP-XP1U is its remote control, a tiny credit card–size device whose membrane-style keys had to be pressed repeatedly in order to get any response. Fortunately, only one key is highly useful (the On button) and that is repeated in a much more responsive way on the top panel of the projector.

On our lab tests, the TDP-XP1U performed quite well. It was the brightest XGA budget model we have tested, scoring 2155 lumens—almost 3 lumens per dollar. Other numbers were not so complimentary, however. Its contrast ratio was acceptable at 322:1. Its image size (37 inches diagonal at a 60-inch distance) was one of the smallest we have seen in recent months. Its warm-up and cooldown times were decidedly leisurely, particularly the latter at no less than 2 minutes.

The TDP-XP1U did much better in our qualitative tests, though, where it displayed very sharp and steady images. (Its main ease-of-use feature may be its ability to be easy on the eyes.) We were particularly impressed by its ability to resolve very dark and light grays. And, best of all, we appreciated its exceptionally quiet cooling fan. Indeed, in low-power mode, we could hardly hear it.

With an outlay of only $779, you can’t go wrong with the Toshiba TDP-XP1U. But consider that you will probably want to throw away the remote and replace it with a $60 laser pointer.

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by Rich Malloy
Price as Reviewed $999

In contrast to the sleek Casio XJ-S57, the new NEC NP41 is a white, utilitarian box. There’s no fancy lens cap here; an ordinary translucent plastic disk pops onto the lens aperture the way such items have always done. And, at 3.6 pounds, this model is the lightest projector in this roundup, but certainly not the lightest we have seen recently.

The connectors on the projector’s rear panel cover just the bare minimum: VGA (which doubles as the component video input with an optional cable), S-Video, composite video, and a mini audio socket. There is also a PS2-style round “control” port.

Although relatively large, the remote control has only a few useful controls. These include the somewhat standard but infrequently used digital-zoom buttons.

The best part of this projector is something that is missing: a focus ring around the lens. The reason? The focusing is done automatically and rather skillfully by the projector itself. The projector also automatically compensates for any trapezoidal or keystone image effects, but because such compensation usually degrades image quality, we turned this feature off via NP41’s on-screen menu.

On our tests, this projector scored quite well. Its brightness of 2210 lumens was just a tad shy of the advertised mark of 2300. In our checkerboard contrast test—a more realistic analysis than the industry-standard full-on/full-off test—the NEC scored a ratio of 534:1, which is one of the higher marks we have seen, and the highest in this roundup.

We really appreciated the speedy warm-up and cooldown times, the latter being an impressively short 14 seconds. Subjectively, we like the color capabilities, especially some nice bright yellows, which is rare for DLP projectors. The cooling fan was a bit noisy, however, even in low-power Eco mode.

With a price tag of $999, including a two-year warranty, the NEC NP41 is one of the lower-priced XGA projectors capable of more than 2000 lumens of brightness. Add in the automatic focusing feature, and it becomes a real bargain.

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Saturday, September 6, 2008

Panasonic PT LB60U

Price as Reviewed $1,195.00 - $1,383.99

This small LCD projector's Daylight View 2 feature caught my eye - literally. The projector has a built-in sensor that measures the ambient light, and then adjusts the halftone colors and brightness level accordingly, giving sharp "true colour" images no matter what the light conditions. Combined with XGA (1024 x 768) resolution, 3200 lumens, a 400 to 1 contrast ratio and a weight of 5.5 pounds, this LCD projector makes giving worry free presentations in a variety of venues easy.

Understanding Front-projection TVs - LCD

LCD and DLP are very close in terms of performance, and even LCD's ability to produce good blacks has improved quite a bit. DLP still enjoys a slight edge in contrast ratio, however, mainly because its projectors can get a bit brighter than those of LCDs. The screen-door effect, which appears as a fine grid of pixels overlaying the screen, is also more noticeable on most LCD projectors. As we mentioned above, however, 720p LCD projectors still enjoy more features than their budget 720p DLP competition, including highly desirable items such as horizontal and vertical lens shift. No consumer-priced 1080p LCD projectors are currently available.

Can get extremely bright; decent uniformity; generally better black-level performance than LCD.

More expensive than similar-resolution LCD models; rainbow effect.

Already the most popular technology for home-theater projection, new less-expensive 720p versions will make DLP even more desirable.

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BenQ PB6200

Price as Reviewed $1106 - $1795

At 5.6 pounds, this DLP projector is not an ultralight, but it has the combination of features and price to make up for the extra weight. XGA resolution (1024 x 768) and 1700 lumens brightness provide images clear and bright enough to be seen in a normally lit conference room. A 2000:1 contrast ratio makes the images crisp. Add a lamp life of 2000 hours and you have a portable projector that's a true road warrior for mobile presenters.

* 12" DDR DMD DLP™
* Native Resolution - 1024 x 768
* Compatible up to 1280 x 1024
* Brightness - 1700 ANSI Lumen (maximum)
* Contrast Ratio - 2000:1 (peak)
* HDTV compatible supporting up to 1080i
* 8 Preset modes

Pros: I chose this specifically for showing DVD's and HD TV. I have it set up on my ceiling and I have a 110" screen (2.4m wide) at a throw distance of 4.5 metres. To tell you how good it is, my visitors mouths drop open in amazement the moment they see the screen image. Noone is prepared for what they see. When I evaluated DLP projectors I realised that they probably source their DLP engines and the lenses because most projectors in a price range have identical output specifications. The only thing that seems to be unique to projector manufacturers are the input processors. I like my Benq because it has a simple and intelligent input processor. The picture is bright and sharp when using Component Input. The machine can be used on most voltages and automatically senses PAL 50Hz or NTSC 60 Hz so I can play DVD's purchased from other countries (using my miltizone Toshiba DVD player). I found the differences in picture quality using S-video (soft images) and composite (colour bleeding) reported by other reviewers to be confirmed - except that using Cable TV on Cartoon programs gives excellent results. I see no evidence of the dreaded rainbow effect often attributed to DLP projectors. I used it to watch the Athens Olympics using my Set top box in Standard Definition mode. The Lord of the Rings is specacular, as is Cher, The Coors and U2. It is such compelling viewing that walk in visitors just drop to the chairs when they see the shows of larger than life people on the screen.

The machine is very fragile so it is not a good idea to have it on a coffee table if kids are around. They have no idea. It is also not a good idea to position it where people could look into the lens - there are strenuous warnings about the dangers of staring at the light source. You can't just turn it on and off to watch the news. You need to structure your viewing to have a block of time set aside. Be prepared for late nights! The fans are slsightly audible during quiet movie sequences. The complexity of formatting the picture when switching inputs is disruptive if I am trying to put on a show for my friends: The 16 by 9 format is automatic for HD TV from my DG-TECH 2000A+ receiver. Most music DVDs are 4 x 3 Most DVD movies are in Letterbox format. My VCR and Cable TV are in 4 x 3 format via composite input only. The only way to set the screen format is via a menu using the remote control. Since the PB-6200 automatically senses the input source and the input signal, it would help if it also could sense the input screen format. It was very fiddly to set up. I found that matching equipment is the biggest challenge - and that applies to all systems it is not just a problem with this machine. But for example, I have a Denon amp which only switches S-Video. So I had to buy a game switch to be able to switch the component outputs. When buying a new DVD player to get component output, I did not realise until later that I could have bought one with progressive scan - which would have improved my picture. While the Benq can play NTSC, my TV cannot, so I have to retain my old DVD player which converts NTSC to PAL for the TV. I chose a 10 metre S-Video, and a composite cable from my Benq supplier. But I spent weeks figuring out which cables to choose to run to the ceiling. I found Jaycar electronics the most helpful and best priced people for cabling. In the end I used a 10m VGA cable, a male to female adaptor, a VGA to RGB BNC plug with RCA converters - which doubles as the component plugs for the Benq. Sound ridiculously complicated? Well - it was a choice to do this, or pay 3 times as much for an integrated system and for a professional to set it up.

It is absolutely fantastic value for money and brilliant for people who don't want to pay for workplace features which they don't need (such as laser pointers, multi input processing, speakers, timers etc). I compared the specifications with similar machines from Electroboard, Optoma, Panasonic etc. The Benq 6200 has a 200w bulb which I think makes it brighter. I would need to spend more than twice as much to get a better projector. My family and friends love it! And best of all, I am the only person who knows how to operate it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We don't use it during the week but from Friday night to Sunday night we run it extensively.

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Price as Reviewed $1,181.57 - $1,191.99

It's easy to save time and money on presentations with NEC's NP50 multimedia projector. Almost fully automatic, this projector starts up, focuses, corrects keystone, and shuts down on its own. All you really have to do is plug it in and get down to business. The eye-catching design, small footprint, and light weight of the NP50 is complemented by its incredible functionality. The NP50 also comes with integrated features to improve color accuracy, white/black levels, provide wall color correction for projection on non-white surfaces, image magnification, and lamp protection with direct power off.

Dimensions (HxWxD) 246 x 72 x 177 mm
Weight 1.6 kg
Projection technology DLP
Contrast Ratio 1600 : 1
Max. resolution 1024 x 768
Brightness (lumens) 2600 ANSI lumens
Projection distance 1.4 to 13.4m
Projection image size 33- to 300-inch
Aspect Ratio 4:3
Estimated lamp life 3000 hours

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Friday, September 5, 2008

Epson EMP 765

By Brian Nadel
Price as Reviewed £ 1649

Packed with features and able to blast more than 2,000 lumens of light in a large conference room, the Epson EMP 765 is worth the money if you want big projector power in a small package...

It's far from the lightest or smallest business projector on the market, but the Epson EMP 765 squeezes the abilities of a conference-room projector into a remarkably portable case. With more than 2,000 lumens of light, it's bright enough for a lights-on presentation or a digital classroom lesson, and it's packed with features, including wireless networking, the ability to run a show from a memory card and LAN management for IT administrators. The 765's £1,649 (ex. VAT) price tag is a bit steep, but it's worth it if you need the power of a large projector in a small package.

Built around three 0.7-inch LCD panels, the silver-and-grey Epson EMP 765 has an XGA native resolution and weighs a light 1.8kg. Its 27.6cm by 19.3cm by 7cm dimensions are typical for the portable-projector class, and with the included padded case, remote control and key cables, the 765 hits the road at a total weight of 3.2kg. The Epson EMP 765 can fill a screen as large as 12.1m and can project a surprisingly big image from a short distance away; we filled a 30in. screen from just a metre away. We really like the automatic keystone correction, which displays a perfectly square image regardless of the angle you're projecting from. With the ability to support both 4:3 (the PC standard) and 16:9 (the DVD standard) pixel arrangements, the 765 can handle standard and high-definition video formats.

Although it lacks an HDMI connector, the Epson EMP 765 is a well-connected projector. It features both USB A and USB B ports, so you can plug in a notebook or pull images and video from a camera, a flash key or an external drive. There are also ports for VGA, audio, S-Video and composite video.

The Epson EMP 765's control panel is on top of the projector, and the buttons are large and intuitive. There are dedicated controls for manual keystone correction, volume and menu navigation, as well as status lights for lamp life and overheating. Atop the projector are controls for manually adjusting the focus and zooming up to 1.2X -- both easy adjustments, thanks to protruding knobs. The included remote lets you adjust volume, input selection and digital zoom, among other things; however, it lacks a laser pointer.

It's the 765's Type I/II PC Card slot that sets it apart from the crowd. You can use it with the included Wi-Fi card to monitor the projector over a LAN or to show images stored on a network drive or a nearby notebook -- no Ethernet cables needed. The downside is that before displaying slides or digital images over the network, you first need to convert them with Epson's EMP SlideMaker 2. In our tests, the projector worked like a charm with a variety of flash cards and USB memory drives but balked at a 2GB PC Card hard drive. When connected to a network, you can take advantage of the 765's EMP Monitor software, which can change the image source, make minor image adjustments from afar, and even send email when the lamp burns out or is in danger of overheating.

Make no mistake: with the ability to deliver 2,148 lumens of light in Presentation mode, the 765 is among the brightest projectors in the portable XGA class, although it's slightly off Epson's advertised 2,500 lumen rating. Theatre mode reduces the brightness level by 25 percent; the low-brightness setting delivers 1,616 lumens, which is the equivalent output of the BenQ PB6110 at its high-brightness setting. With all this brightness comes a downside, however: when maxed out, the 765's fan is among the loudest we've encountered, even if it's not quite overwhelming. The low-brightness setting reduces the noise to an acceptable level. The Epson EMP 765 has an average brightness uniformity of 75 percent, although we noticed a hot spot in the centre. Unfortunately, the projector's colour temperature shifts from one side to the other, giving the image a pink cast on the right and a blue one on the left.

Like those of other LCD projectors, the Epson EMP 765's measured 204:1 contrast ratio can't match the 500:1 ratio that's common on DLP projectors today. On the plus side, its images were rock solid, without any ghosting and with only occasional flicker. It displayed some of the sharpest type and images we've seen, making it great for text-heavy presentations.

Firing up the Epson EMP 765 and putting an image on-screen takes only 23 seconds -- just long enough to make sure your notebook is powered up and connected. The 765 shuts down, cools off and is ready to be packed up in a miraculous 4 seconds. Most projectors, such as the Hitachi Performa CP-RS55, take more than a minute.

Maintenance for the Epson EMP 765 is easy: we love the pull-out air filter and the ability to quickly cool down the 170-watt lamp and change it with a screwdriver. Bulbs are rated for 3,000 hours in low-brightness mode, which is about 500 more hours than we typically see, but replacements cost a princely £349 (ex. VAT) each.

Epson's on-site warranty for the EMP 765 covers parts and labour for three years. Epson's Web site features troubleshooting advice, software downloads, detailed FAQs and manuals. If you need personal attention, you can use the dedicated email link, chat online with an Epson support expert or talk to a tech-support representative by phone. Epson's support line, which is charged at national rate, is open on weekdays between 9am and 5.30pm (9am to 6pm on Saturdays and 10am to 5pm on Sundays).

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Wednesday, September 3, 2008

InFocus X10

By John Archer
Latest Price £907.68

Once in a while a product comes out of nowhere and blows out of the water any preconceptions we might have of the AV market. Cue the InFocus X10 projector...

This is a pretty bold start to a review, I guess. But I promise I'm not being sensationalist just to keep you reading. The X10 really does rewrite the rulebook, completely shifting our established frame of reference when it comes to evaluating other projectors in the future.
The key to our excitement about the X10 lies in the following, simple facts: it's a Full HD DLP projector selling for under £900.

This totally demolishes the previous lowest price point of any other Full HD DLP projector we've seen; even Optoma's ‘cheapo' HD80 still costs you around £1,750 new.

Our searches did uncover another Optoma DLP model, the 8000X, going for around £1,000 - but we've seen absolutely zero marketing for this product, and it also seems to be available through extremely limited distribution channels. So it hardly seems poised to make the same sort of waves we're predicting the X10 will. Having said that, rest assured we're already doing our best to get hold of an 8000X for review.

Anyway, getting back to the X10, its price also seriously upsets the Full HD LCD applecart. For instance, we struggled to find Panasonic's good Full HD PT-AE2000 or Epson's disappointing Full HD EMP-TW1000 going for less than £1900 as we put this article together.

In fact, from what I can gather from InFocus representatives, one of the reasons InFocus has been so aggressive with the X10's pricing is that it really wants the model to boot LCD out of the home cinema projector market altogether.

But you know, it's hard to resist the thought that its price is so low it might be in danger of making it tough for any projector maker - including InFocus itself! - to make any sort of margins going forward. Time will tell, I guess.

Still, in the short term at least these sorts of concerns aren't really our problem as punters at all. In fact, such price-slashing madness is amazingly good news for the reams of people out there who'd love to indulge in home cinema in its most large-scale form but never thought they'd be able to afford the necessary high-spec projector.

And believe us, the X10 really is high spec, despite its lowly price. For starters, as well as that key Full HD pixel count, it's got all the connections you'd expect of a projector costing many times more, including two Deep Color-compatible v1.3 digital inputs (one HDMI, and one all-purpose M1-DA input for which the necessary HDMI adaptor is provided).

The X10 also claims a very respectable 2,500:1 ‘native' contrast ratio - as in, a contrast ratio which, unlike the figures quoted by most LCD projectors, does not depend on a brightness-reducing dynamic iris system to achieve its full extent.

Even better, though, the X10 does have OPTIONAL manual iris adjustment that you can select from its onscreen menus, complete with various settings. With this you can expand the projector's claimed contrast ratio to 7,500:1 - a really outstanding figure for the sub-£1k market.

Also rather remarkable for the X10's price is its claimed maximum brightness of 1,200 ANSI Lumens, making it bright enough to deliver the key ‘D65' colour standard calculated to produce the most natural results when watching video footage.

There's a much wider selection of video adjustments at your disposal with the X10 than you might expect too, including multiple gamma presets; optional overscan removal (an essential item on a Full HD projector); colour space, temperature, gamut and control tweaks; a flesh-tone adjustment; the software part of Texas Instruments' BrilliantColor system; and even, incredibly, all the facilities you need to have the projector professionally calibrated to suit your particular living room conditions by a certified Imaging Science Foundation engineer. This latter feature was once deemed as a premium trick for only the most discerning of buyers. Not any more, it would seem.

So far the X10 has done nothing but massively surpass the expectations raised by its price point. And for the most part this continues into its ease of use, too.

To help you set it up, for instance, its unusually large, matt black body is positioned on a swivelling, tilting foot mount, making it a doddle to get the image in the right place on your screen. Further assistance comes from digital vertical image shifting and keystone correction, and there's a passable amount of optical zoom, too. Though I do have a bit of a gripe here, for oddly the lens is a slightly long-throw affair, meaning it requires quite a large room to deliver a really big picture - not, perhaps, an ideal situation for a budget model.

Before we get into seeing how the X10 delivers on its seemingly remarkable specification level, it does have one potential Achilles' Heel lurking among all the facts and figures: a DarkChip 1 (DC1) DLP chipset.

In case you're not familiar with the DarkChip story, some of the very latest projectors, including InFocus's own IN83, are starting to use DarkChip4 technology, and we've been through DarkChip2 and Darkchip 3 along the way. So you can get a sense of how relatively ‘over the hill' the X10's core DLP engine is, at least on paper.

Which just goes to show how pointless it is to judge something ‘on paper'. For in reality, the X10 doesn't perform like a DC1 projector at all. In fact, remarkably, its pictures have more in common with a few DC3 models we've seen.

Also nothing short of remarkable is how bright the picture looks. DLP projectors at the X10's sort of price point traditionally struggle to give images any real dynamism, but there's dynamism aplenty on show here, even during the dark scenes that make up National Treasure 2's final half hour in the Olmec caverns.

Of course, brightness alone does not a great video picture make. But don't worry; while the best picture quality on the X10 is achieved with the iris slightly closed (I personally set it to between 64 and 73), the resulting loss of brightness isn't at all severe in the context of the benefits you reap in terms of black level improvement.

With the iris slightly closed the black levels you can achieve are simply in a different world to anything - repeat, ANYTHING - else we've seen anywhere at anything like the X10's price.

And still we're not even close to being done with the good news, for the X10 is also streets ahead of its price point with its colour saturations. They're both radiantly rich - as is spectacularly apparent during the HD Disney logo that precedes the National Treasure 2 presentation - and, even more remarkably, terrifically natural in tone. For instance, all the faces on show in the lecture theatre where Ed Harris's character drops his historical ‘bombshell' are rendered with emphatically authentic toning, even though this scene is, by its nature, rather dark. There's not a PC-biased colour tone in sight.

For starters, the X10's picture is almost unbelievably sharp. While watching the nice-picture-shame-about-the-movie Blu-ray of National Treasure 2, the definition in the actors' faces during the bright White House egg hunt sequence is little short of jaw-dropping. There's exceptional fine detailing, total crispness, and a complete absence of video noise. What's more, the outstanding detail levels also help generate a terrific sense of depth to the image, revealing every last subtlety of focus as the image trails into the distance.

Actually, the detailing here is so cute that it slightly reveals the shots of the White House for what they actually are: a special effects addition achieved through the miracle of blue-screen…

I'd really doubted that a projector as cheap as this one could deliver the full benefit a 1,920 x 1,080 pixel count can bring to an HD movie. But as well as the detail and lack of noise already noted, I was also struck by the purity of colour blends, as the X10's extra pixel density does away with the vast majority of the ‘colour banding' problem that can afflict budget projectors.

Finding any explanation at all for how InFocus has managed to make the X10 so cheap is a monumental effort. In fact, I couldn't find one. The bottom line is simply that if the X10 were £500 more, it would still look like a bargain.

This is not meant to imply, of course, that the projector is perfect. Thankfully for the rest of the projection market there are two or three areas where you can get improvements if you spend more.

Potentially the biggest problem is the X10's susceptibility to DLP's rainbow effect. This refers to stripes of pure red, green and blue that can flit about for a split second in your peripheral vision, or over very bright parts of the image, as a result of the machinations of DLP's colour wheel mechanism.

I was definitely slightly aware of this happening on a few occasions while watching National Treasure 2, especially during the dark scenes toward the film's end, where bright points of light stand out against predominantly dark backgrounds.

You can reduce the rainbow effect's impact on the X10 by closing the iris to limit the image's brightness, and personally I consider the issue a small price to pay for all the remarkable things the X10 gets right. But I know some people are more susceptible to the rainbow effect than others, so it's definitely something you need to be aware of. Maybe you should try and get a demo of the unit before you buy, just to see if the rainbow effect is particularly bothersome for you.

A far less troubling issue is some extremely low-level grey pixel noise over very dark parts of the picture, though this is seldom if ever distracting. In fact, you might not even see it at all if you don't go looking for it. Which of course you will now that I've mentioned it here. Sorry…

A final point would be that motion doesn't look quite as fluid or crisp as we'd ideally like. But again, this is seldom a distracting issue, and I'm almost embarrassed I mentioned it at all given that we're talking about a Full HD DLP projector costing under £900.

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