InFocus X9 - Image Quality
11/12/2008 - Art Feierman
InFocus X9 Out of the Box Picture Quality
Really very good! the InFocus X9 projector is one of the few, that provides a very good picture without calibration. The best color accuracy, however comes with Brilliant Color turned on (it's on the Default menu). Brightness, Contrast and some other basic controls can use a little adjustment, but we do provide those settings in the Calibration section. Beyond those adjustments, the X9 does not need a formal calibration (and it doesn't have all the controls to do one).
This is a great low cost projector for the "no fuss" plug it in and enjoy it, non-techie crowd thanks in large part to the good image right out of the box. Skin tones look very good, as do most scenes projected with the X9.
As noted above, I was very pleased with the skin (flesh) tones. With Brilliant Color off, they were a little too redish, but with Brilliant Color on, as we recommend, they are pretty much dead on.
Time to take a look at some images. The first two are the only ones from standard DVD. All the rest are from either Blu-ray, or HDTV sources:
Keep in mind, that there are a number of factors which affect how skin tones look. Not the least of them, are the lighting of the scene, and the director's intent. The director's intent? Sometimes a director wants an affect. Consider - the Matrix movies have a very heavy green caste to everything (an extreme example). In Lord of the Rings, it seems each land (The Shire, Mordor, Gondor, Rivendale, etc.) has a different color balance, for example the Shire has strong greens, Rivendale almost a pastel type of feel..)
The other aspect is the lighting. You would expect someone's face to have a different look when they are in bright sunlight, compared to indoors with incandescent lighting, or a night scene, flourescent lights, cloudy day, etc. We will provide some examples below.
From Lord of the Rings - images of Gandalf, and Arwen (SD-DVD). Almost all screen images in this review can be clicked on for a much larger version.
The Arwen photo above was a scene deep in a forest with lots of green, which softens the skin tones. The X9 handles this image beautifully.
Moving to Blu-ray source material:
First, Daniel Craig as Bond, in Casino Royale, under three different lighting situations. The first image is full sunlight on his face, the second is in an airport, with flourescent lighting, and the last of the three, is filtered sunlight (shade).
A few additional images for your consideration.
From the sci-fi flick Aeon Flux:
And, a night scene from Aeon Flux, as well:
Two images from the movie Dogma:
Here are two, from The Fifth Element:
This next two images are from the DVE-HD calibration disc, from their demonstration materials section:
Pretty impressive, especially since all we did was turn brilliant color on, and do minor adjustments to brightness and contrast, in order to get this quality of skin tones.
Nothing like a a rock concert image with all that stage lighting, to confuse the eye, and change the colors, yet this image of Justin Hayward and John Lodge illuminated by a lot of purple and blue light, from the Moody Blues, looks very believable:
InFocus X9 Black Levels & Shadow Detail
The InFocus X9 claims only 2500:1 contrast - the normal number expected from the Darkchip2 DLP processor used. The X9 is without any enhancement features such as dynamic irises, which are found on many projectors to improve black level performance. As a result, black level performance is pretty basic, but comparable to what we have enjoyed on most projectors until the last couple of years, with the launch of 1080p models, most of which sport adynamic iris. Dynamic irises are now also found on a number of 720p projectors, but mostly the 3LCD models, as they inherently had poorer black levels than the DLP's, without a dynamic iris.
We start with the usual HD starship image from The Fifth Element on Blu-ray. The first image, is the X9. It is intentionally overexposed so you can see the letterbox at the top and the bottom to help discern how black the blacks get. Unfortunately the older reviews did not have this image as overexposed, making a great comparison tricky.
For comparison, here's the same image from the Optoma HD71:
And here's the Mitsubishi HC1600 another low cost 720p DLP projector:
This next image is from the DVE-HD disc. Look at the blacks in the sky and the buildings in the upper left. Blacks are pretty good, but not exceptional:
Here's an image from Space Cowboys:
Immediately below is a shot from the DTS test disc. The first one is the InFocus X9, and below it, the Panasonic PT-AX200U. Look to the blacks in the slice of sky and around the picture:
Shadow Detail Performance
As seems to be typical of InFocus projectors, the shadow detail abilities of the X9, are most impressive.
Top left: X9, Middle: Panasonic PT-AX200U, Right: Optoma HD71
Next is this very dark scene from Space Cowboys. It is a good one for checking out both shadow detail and black level performance. All the images are seriously overexposed, for that purpose. Don't worry about contrast or skin tones as they tend to get exaggerated on long time exposures on dark images like this one. Look at the shades in the back for shadow details. Consider, that some that have very good shadow detail do not seem to do particularly black, blacks.
InFocus X9 projector, followed by the PT-AX200U, Optoma HD71, Sanyo PLV-Z60 and Optoma HD65:
(The Sanyo image directly above is a bit more overexposed than the others.)
Again, from Space Cowboys, this is a cropped image. the right side, is very bright (so dynamic irises will not be effective). The X9 (top left) provides very good detail in the dark areas of the satellite. Next to it on the first row, is the Epson MovieMate 72 - an all-in-one projector system with built in sound and DVD player. On the next row: the Mitsubishi HC1600 and the Optoma HD71.
Above is the re-entry scene from space cowboys, the enlarged versions are intentionally overexposed. Left is the X9, center, the PT-AX200U, right is the Optoma HD65.From Aeon Flux, look at the dark details of the table, and all the shadow areas:
Next is the casino image at night from Bond's Casino Royale.
When comparing, the InFocus X9 to the competition, look at the detail in the roof (tiles), and in the assorted trees and plants. The images below are from the same projector and slightly overexposed. Click on the images and the larger versions showing the different projectors will appear. Those are far more overexposed, to allow a closer inspection of shadow details.
InFocus X9 projector:
Epson Home Cinema 720:
From National Treasure, a very dark scene, overexposed. Look for the shadow details in the upper right corner, as well as other areas:
Below is a heavily overexposed scene from Lord of the Rings. The overexposure lets you see all the details in the shed on the right, the structure on the left, and the plants and ground along the lower right. The X9 performs very nicely.
Our last comparison uses the night train scene from Casino Royale. Look to the trees and shrubs on the right, especially just above the tracks. The first image is the InFocus X9, the second is the Sanyo PLV-Z60, and the last one is from the Optoma HD71.
InFocus X9 - Overall Color & Picture Quality
Really, the X9 produces a very good picture, especially skin tones. The only real weakness is black level performance, which is bested by some competitors, but all considered, rather typical of affordable 720p home theater projectors. Add to that, very good shadow detail performance, and a sharp image, and the X9 is a solid entry.
Keep in mind, while I criticize the X9 and the other low cost 720p projectors a bit, regarding black levels, consider that the bar has been raised dramatically by the higher end, but mainstream 1080p projectors like the Panasonic PT-AE3000U, the Epson UB series, and of course higher end models from JVC, Sony, and others.
The black level performance you get with the X9, is pretty much typical of what you got on a $3000 projector just two and a half years ago!
Here's a mix of additional images to show off the X9's abilities:
The next images are from digital sources on Blu-ray (as opposed to film sources above):
InFocus X9 Projector: Performance, HDTV and Sports
Coming shortly (always the last section added)!