InFocus Play Big IN76 Projector Review – Overview

LCD projectors
Sony HS51A.
LCD projectors
+Sony HS51A.

Gamma is another interesting area that separates projectors. Not only do you need colors to be correctly balanced, but you need colors to be in the correct proportion relative to how bright they are. Imagine breaking down the brightness of a color (or gray) into 10 sections from darkest to brightest. Ideally the difference between each should be the same. But if one projector’s first step up from black is less than another’s, then near black areas will be almost indistinguishable from the black, and you lose the detail. Projectors that pack the lower ranges too close together, and do the same for the whites and near whites, tend to look contrasty and lose details.

The point of all this, is that I found the IN76 to do an excellent job in terms of the gamma. Now this is a determination without the benefit of measurement, but I spend at least 10-15 hours of general watching on each projector I review. For example, I found the IN76 to provide better highlight detail in the extremely bright areas, than on the competing HD72. The InFocus scores very well here.

I found that the IN76 did extremely well in terms of preserving highlight details. In this regard, I definitely observed that the IN76 did a better job on near white area detail than the Optoma HD72 when viewing them both side by side.

Color saturation – the intensity of the colors, is something you can easily control on every projector, and with the IN76 projector, sure enough, there is a color saturation control (Color). I found the default to be slightly undersaturated (again this could relate to a possible problem), but adjusting it up a few points provided the saturation I was looking for. The image below shows the InFocus IN76 on the left, and Optoma’s HD72 on the right, The difference in color saturation is noticeable, however adjustable. (The InFocus IN76 is in default settings, the HD72 in the Brilliant Color 4 setting (see more below).

InFocus IN76 on the left, and Optoma's HD72 on the right
InFocus IN76 on the left, and Optoma's HD72 on the right

Now we get into InFocus’s choice of DLP chips, and something called Brilliant Color which are “preset” balances of attributes that Texas Instruments provides at least with their new Darkchip2 that is 1280×768 resolution, that I mentioned in the overview. With Brilliant Color, a user can quickly change the setting from 1 – 10 each more intense (for lack of a more precise term) than the one before. I really liked this feature in the Optoma projector. Mind you, nothing Brilliant Color offers, can’t be accomplished by adjusting contrast, brightness, saturation and other settings, and the InFocus IN76 has all the controls, its just that Brilliant Color makes things so easy! (No it will not cure something like the Optoma’s tendency to produce a slightly greenish cast image.)

Just to clarify, the InFocus has its own set of presets – more in the General Performance section when we look at menus, but they call theirs CRT, Film, Video, BrightRoom, etc. It’s simply that machines with Brilliant color also have those, plus these extra adjustments you can dial in.

Quicktip: A purist would want a perfectly calibrated machine, and no matter with what presets they start with, the end result would be one final group of settings, producing the “perfect” image. Having dozens of presets would mean nothing. For most people though, its nice to be able do decide that this preset, or that one, provides richer colors that they like better, and I like that.

So, while Brilliant Color is a nice convenience which I really like, ultimately, in my opinion it doesn’t improve a projectors best performance, it just makes personal preferences easier to fine tune.

Here’s another side by side (Starship explosion from Starship Troopers), against the Optoma, with the InFocus on the left, You may also click on the image for a much larger version:

Optoma, with the InFocus on the left
Optoma, with the InFocus on the left

No image overshoot

This is more of a performance area item than Image Quality, but I want to start here. The IN76, as mentioned is a native 1280×720 resolution projector, that is the correct 16:9 aspect ratio of HDTV. Others like Optoma and Mitsubishi are using the 1280×768, which means the shape is not a perfect match for a home theater screen (16:9). As a result, those using the 1280×768 chip will slightly overshoot your screen at the top and bottom. Not by much, but if your screen doesn’t have a black border of about 2″ or more, you might see some light on your wall above and below. While I have worked with several projectors with that odd aspect ratio, and didn’t find it to be a problem (both of my screens have fairly wide border/frames), I’m personally more comfortable with the idea of true 1280×720.

HDTV image quality

The IN76 looked “simply fabulous” on HD sources. I watched the usual HDTV (Leno, NBA basketball, Discovery HD, and was never dissapointed. I also viewed a couple of D-VHS tapes outputting 1080i. Immediately below is an image from the Over America HD tape. The image is extremely sharp.

Click Image to Enlarge

More Images

Here are a number of additional images. For as well as my digital camera is able to capture, and your computer, to reproduce them, you should still be able to tell that the images from the IN76 look good, and right!

Overall, the IN76 provides a well balanced image between dark and light areas, and in the image above, you get that feel of a bright sunny day, something that many projectors tend to mute giving you more the feel that the image was filmed on more of a hazy day.

In summary, image quality of the IN76 projector is most impressive!

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