Cinetron HD700 Projector Review
Welcome to our in-depth projector review of the Cinetron HD700 1080p home theater projector.
As usual, we rushed this to you, because we know you are waiting! Enjoy -art
January 2009 - Art Feierman
Cinetron HD700 Projector Overview
Where to start? Hmm, best to start with how this review came to pass. Certainly Cinetron is an obscure name. Best I can tell, they offered up one other projector in the US, for consumption, a couple of years ago.
I do recall seeing them a couple of times at trade shows, in other companies' booths.
Which brings us to this past December. I got a call from one of my contacts at Elite screens, telling me about the HD700 (Chinese made, like Elite's screens), and asking if I would review it. Well, there are plenty of projectors I haven't reviewed yet that I would like to, and all of them better known than Cinetron. Still, they said, this projector would start being sold shortly, in one of the "big box houses" - a group that comprises companies like Best Buy, Costco, Wal-Mart, Fryes, etc.
Bottom line: I said, OK, I'll take a look, no promises. If I find it "worthy", I'll do a full review. If I am relatively unimpressed, by comparison, though, I'd just do a blog, point out its strengths, weaknesses, and who might buy it, but basically, the plan was to be done with it quickly, unless really impressive. I have no shortage of important projectors that still need to be reviewed, so I need to be a bit selective.
Once it arrived, I spent a few hours watching it (no calibration or measurements) in my main theater. It was immediately obvious that the Cinetron HD700 has these attributes: Mediocre black level performance, above average brightness, good (not spectacular) placement flexibility, a lot of "wow" factor, and, obviously, that it was both big, and heavy. (Due to its weight, I've been referring to it, with people like Mike, as "the Cine'-TON")
At that point I told the folks at Elite, that I wasn't particularly impressed, so, I wouldn't do our usual calibration (color was already respectable), but would have Mike do all the measurements, and I would just blog on it. But...
A funny thing happened when Mike brought it back. I took a look at the numbers. I was not only right that it was brighter than average, but it turns out it is the brightest non-DLP home theater projector we've measured, in terms of "best" modes. Since I had only watched it a few hours, and not in conjunction with any other projectors, I knew its "best" mode was pretty bright, but I didn't realize how bright.
And those of you who frequent my reviews all know, two capabilities in particular get my attention: Black level performance, and Brightness. (It's my belief that at least half of the folks out there with home theater projectors are short on lumens. Maybe not when the lamps are new, but definitely when they have dimmed significantly).
I looked at the numbers, called Mike back after he returned the HD700, and I told him, "come on back," let's do the usual calibration - I'm going to do a full review.
Which brings us current.
Let's get started with a brief overview, followed by our usual bullet-point highlights, and key specs. We'll finish off this page with some info on special features of the Cinetron HD700.
As stated, it's a pretty large projector. It uses LCoS technology. According to the manual, they use Sony SXRD LCoS panels. Roughly it's the size of most of the other LCoS projectors but larger than most others. It's definitely more massive than the Panasonic PT-AE4000 or the Epson Home Cinema 8500UB or 8100.
Rather uncommon, its case is metal, probably mostly steel. It is heavy! The unit is styled with lots of heat sinking, and thanks to the metal case and lots of surface area, it barely gets warm, even in the warmest corner of the projector. Since most projector cases are plastic, they aren't much good for dissipating heat, but this Cinetron projector stays cool. It's has a very dark gray, flat - almost black finish, with a shiny large plastic piece on the top center as the trim for the control panel.
It's got a zoom lens about 1.42:1, so more limited zoom range than most projectors today (except the low cost DLPs). And, it does offer lens shift so it can be shelf mounted in the rear of your room, if the zoom range works, as well as ceiling mounting.
The Cinetron HD700 sports a fairly typical set of inputs, the menu system is pretty nice, the remote is well laid out, but limited in range.
Perhaps most importantly, though, it is capable of rather impressive color.
Price is a bit of an unknown. My understanding is that MSRP is $2999, but that it's likely to sell for under $3000, bundled with an Elite screen. I don't have details, but I imagine that translates to an under $2500 selling price, and perhaps lower still.
That means that the Cinetron HD700 is priced right in the thick of things. It's about the same price or slightly higher than, say, the Panasonic PT-AE4000 or the Epson 8500UB, or about the same, or slightly less expensive than the BenQ W6000, Sony VPL-HW15, the new LG (which I'm still trying to find, in order to review), etc.
And that means some really tough competition.
As I stated, lots of lumens is a real plus for the Cinetron HD700, and that's ultimately what made me decide to review it, while black level performance, is the weakness, (a key reason why, earlier, I figured I'd just blog it.)
In short, here are those highlights (good and bad):
DLA-HD700 Projector Highlights
- One of the brightest home projectors in "best mode"
- Strictly "entry-level" black level performance
- Solidly built
- Runs cool, and fairly quiet
- "Out of the box" picture/color is pretty good
- Very good post calibration color accuracy, excellent skin tones...
- Good, not exceptional placement flexibility
- About average brightness in brightest mode
- Manual iris, but no dynamic one limits black level performance
- Final pricing will determine the overall value proposition. Most likely a selling price below $2000 needed for a good value proposition
Projector Specs for the Cinetron HD700
MSRP: $2999. MAP: $2499 or lower?
Technology: LCoS - (Liquid Crystal on Silicon) 3 panels
Native Resolution: 1080p (1920x1080)
Brightness: 1000 lumens
Zoom Lens ratio: 1.45:1 (manual)
Lens shift: Vertical and Horizontal (manual)
Lamp life: 2000 hours (full power), 3000 in low power
Weight: 35.8 lbs. (16 Kg)
Warranty: 2 Year Parts and Labor
Click for or more complete specs and brochure
Above image from Star Trek (Blu-ray disc)
DLA-HD700 Projector - Special Features
The HD700 for all its size and weight, is not a projector with a ton of features to discuss. Unlike a good percentage of projectors selling in the $2000 - $3000 range, it does not have a lot of options, for example, there's no CFI (creative frame interpolation), nor a number of other things like dynamic contrast. On the other hand, it's got some pretty complete sets of controls for color, gamma, and other items.
Color Management System (CMS)
The Cinetron HD700 does provide a full CMS system for managing and tweaking color. In addition to the usual red green and blue adjustments for balancing color temp, the color management system allows adjustment of hue and saturation for each of the primary and secondary colors.
There is also an extensive set of controls for gamma, for customizing, in addition to the 4 pre-set gammas provided. You can save 3 different custom gammas. On that note, I'll cover a touch more about gamma settings here. Normally, I mention on the Image Quality page, but this time there's more necessary commentary:
First, I try to avoid getting tecnhical on the first page. For those of you out there, new to projectors, and terms like IRE, you need to know what IRE is. The short version, for our purposes, is IRE is a measure of grayscale brightness. 100 IRE is white. 50 IRE would be medium gray. 0 IRE (which today's fixed panel projectors can only achieve when powered off) is black. 20 IRE would be a very dark gray, and 80 IRE a light gray, etc. OK. When it comes to gamma, 2.2 is the desired result, especially for movies, but I, and probably most people, prefer a lower gamma 1.8 - 2.1 for things like sports viewing and a lot of that gorgeous HD content out there on science, travel and other such HD channels.
With four pre-set gamma settings Gamma 1 - 4, all turn out to measure too low, which means all settings are overly bright in the mid IRE (brightness) ranges. The theoretical ideal is 2.2 whereas the preset gammas varied from Gamma 1 at 1.65, to Gamma 4 at 1.95. Even 1.95 is a significant difference from 2.2. With a gamma around 1.9 or 2.0, moderately dark and very dark areas aren't quite as dark as they should be.
Thanks to the ability to customize the gamma, Mike's work resulted in User 1 gamma of 2.23. While that sounds great, I actually did not like it. The average of 2.23 might sound great, but the gamma wasn't very linear through the range.
As a result, often, skin tones appeard too contrasty. This may in part be due to the large dip in gamma Mike reported around 90 IRE. I've still been screwing around (by eyeball) with the user gamma controls, however, ideal is somewhere between Mike's settings (in this case) and Gamma 4. I've come up with a very nice compromise, but am still tweaking. Otherwise, I definitely prefer Gamma 4 at this point, over Mike's settings. BTW, Gamma 4 works great for sports, as far as I personally, am concerned.
Although the Cinetron HD700 lacks a dynamic iris (too bad!), it does have a manual iris, which can be used to limit brightness. Along with reducing the iris opening (you'll find the controls in increments of 10%: 100% - 90% - 80%...) which will reduce brightness, you will also get a slight (slight is the operative term) increase in contrast, with the iris closed down a good deal. For perspective, to get the Cinetron HD700 brightness comparable to the Epson 9500UB, for our comparison pictures, I had to put the Cinetron iris to 60% to get the two projectors as close as possible in brightness. (That should serve as a quick reminder about how bright the HD700 is, in its "best" mode!)
Cinetron HD700 Anamorphic Lens Support
The HD700 does support 3rd party anamorphic lenses and sleds. (And it has two 12 volt screen triggers).
That about covers the special features. Let's move on, to take a tour of the projector!