InFocus Play Big IN76 Projector Review – Overview
Lens Throw and Lens Shift
The InFocus IN76 lacks variable lens shift, which, when present, simplifies vertical placement of the projector. This is typical of DLP projectors selling for under $3000. In fact, as all the competing LCD home theater projectors have variable lens shift, this tends to be one of the few real advantages of LCD vs DLP, in this price range.
The 1.3:1 zoom, as mentioned in the Overview, is also limited compared to the 1.5:1, or even 2:1 found on LCD projectors, but is typical or slightly more range than most DLP projectors in this class. As far as placement distance goes, to fill a 100″ diagonal screen, you can place the IN76 as close as 11 feet and as far back as about 13.9 feet. For many people that will allow them to place on a table or ceiling mount in the middle or toward the back of the room, and even on a shelf at the back, if the room isn’t very deep compared to the screen size.
When mounting the projector you will need the projector (actually the center of the lens) to be just slightly above the top of the screen surface. If sitting on a table, the center of lens will be a few inches below the bottom of the screen. This is a common amount of fixed lens shift, that works well for most users.
SDE and Rainbow Effect
Pixel visibility is typical for a DLP projector, meaning that they are far less visible than on competing LCD projectors. Sitting about 1.1 times screen width (that works out to just less than 9 feet back with a 110″ screen, is far enough that pixels will not normally be noticeable. The exceptions are in large stationary bright images, and on things like credits. The distortion of the pixel structure and small details in areas like grass, that can make the grass look wierd, is not likely to become an issue at that distance. If you really want never to be able to detect the pixels (except maybe on those movie credits, think sitting more like 1.4 or 1.5 times screen width, but most will be content at 1.1 times.
The IN76 home theater projector uses a 5x color wheel, that is the fastest avaiable and typical of most DLP projectors in this price range. With a 5X wheel only an extremely small percentage of viewers are susceptable at all of the “Rainbow Effect”. If you are one of those very few, you are likely to go with an LCD projector instead. I should note that the Optoma HD72, which I have mentioned previously, uses a 4X wheel, so there will be few who find the IN76 to be a better choice in this regard, as there will be an additional small percentage of people who spot the rainbow effect with the Optoma.
The IN76 is very clean, in regards to light leakage. No issues here at all. You can spot the tiniest amount of light coming out of the sides of the projector, but far less light overall than most other projectors.
Audible Noise Levels
I have not found a published spec for noise levels, however from using the projector, it is very quiet in Whisper mode (low power), although not the quietest I’ve worked with. In my viewing room with the projector sitting about 4 feet behind me (but I sit in a high backed “captain’s chair”) I never noticed the fan except when the sound track was extremely quiet, and only when listening for it. The fan is supposed to be variable speed, but I simply never noticed a change while watching. so as not to be an issue for almost any but the most picky. In full power mode, as is typical, the IN76 is significantly noiser. In that regard it seems about average, but definitely quieter than some of the noiser units like the Epson Cinema 550 in its brightest modes. Those who are very concerned about noise levels would be best served by avoiding the High Bright (high power) mode.
Despite the relatively low brightness claims (800 in whisper, 1000 in High Bright mode), the IN76 is one of the brightest out there. In Whisper mode, with gamma set for Film, I measured an impressive 385 lumens. With the same Film Gamma that should be just about 500 lumens in High Bright mode, and brighter still if you set the projector for Bright Room mode. Of the DLP’s in this class, I found only the Optoma HD72 to be slightly brighter. Interestingly, in another reviewer’s tests, they found similar measurements on the Optoma, but found the IN76 to be slightly brighter than the Optoma, so again, I question whether the IN76 I am working with is performing as well as it should be.
Anyway you slice it, though, the InFocus IN76 is one of the brightest projectors, significantly brighter than say the popular Panasonic PT-AE900u, or the Sanyo PLV-Z4 LCD projectors.
Lamp Life and Replacement
Now this is interesting. With most projectors the low power mode (Whisper in the case of the IN76), feeds less wattage to the lamp, and therefore extends the life of the lamp). Not so with the IN76 projector according to the published specs. In fact the IN76 claims a 3000 hour lamp life regardless of which mode you are in.
If this proves out, the IN76 has about the longest lamp life of any projector we have worked with in full power mode. So for those with larger screens or using High Bright mode to deal with ambient life, the IN76 would prove to have a lower cost of operation. Now that’s a nice thing to have. If you run the projector for 20 hours a week, that works out to about 3 years on a lamp, or, as InFocus likes to point out, long enough for about 1500 movies.
To actually replace the lamp, you must remove the supplied pedestal, or, if you have ceiling mounted the projector, you must remove the projector from the mount.
The need to unmount the projector, is definitely a negative. In this modern day and age, most home theater projectors no longer require unmounting. If you are just placing it on a table, taking off the pedestal is easy enough.
Projector Screen Recomendations
Always the toughest call. Since you can use full power (assuming the extra noise doesn’t bother you), all the time with no extra expense, the IN76 can easily handle a 110″ diagonal screen or larger.
I watched the projector extensively on both My 128″ Firehawk screen (high contrast, light gray), and on the Carada Brilliant White screen in my testing room (1.4 gain – brighter, but lower in contrast, and wider viewing angle. Personally, I favored the light gray surface, although you don’t get as bright an image, it does what its supposed to, by lowering the brightness levels of “blacks”. If you want to stick to Whisper mode, I wouldn’t suggest a light gray HC screen over 100″ diagonal, but definitely for a screen that is smaller. For the typical viewer (who is going to be less critical), the extra brightness of the higher gain white screens will be appreciated. I mention the Carada as it is very affordable, compared to say the Stewart StudioTek 130, which is similar, perhaps slightly better, but well over twice the price, and hard for many to rationalize relative to the price of projectors such as the IN76.
I did the usual calibration on the InFocus IN76 that I do on projectors I review. However, because I am suspect of the findings, as related to my suspicions that this IN76 is not performing as well as other reviewers are reporting, that other units may calibrate significantly differently, or possibly need virtually no calibration at all. For that reason, I’m not publishing the specs and images as usual, other to say that with Carada screen, I ended up with Brightness set for 50 or 51, and Contrast at 51 (default on both is 50).
I’ll also say that I did have to drop the red values noticeably and adjust some blue values upward.
If/when InFocus sends me a second unit to look at, I will compare the two and update this review or publish a separate update.
DLP projectors are known to show some image noise in dark areas. Few notice, or care, but it is an area where LCD projectors have an advantage. I found the image noice on the InFocus to be slightly lower than what I recollect for the Optoma HD72. Whether this is due to the fact that they use different DLP chips, or other reasons, I wouldn’t venture to guess. Since I don’t consider the image noise levels of either to be an issue, I would suggest not worrying about it.
1280×720 vs 1280×768 DLP chips
I addressed this earlier, but want to finish up. Texas Instruments – makers of the DLP chips recently came out with a 1280×768 ratio DLP. This allows the projector using it to do true XGA found on typical PC’s and that is an advantage to some. The ability to use the same DLP chip in both business and home theater projectors should allow TI to build the chips in higher volume and for lower cost, an attractive advantage.
So far, all DLP projectors with Brilliant Color, use the 1280×768 DLP. Whether the use of Brilliant Color is tied to that chip, I don’t know, more importantly are the issues relating to the two different shaped images these two chips have.
The 1280×768 chip will overshoot a traditional home theater 16:9 projector. If you have a 100″ that overshoot (dark gray light, same as you get in the letter box area of a widescreen movie), works out to about 1.6″ at the top and bottom of the screen. Thus, the light will hit the frame of your screen, and if the frame/border is less than 1.6″ it will spill a little over on to your wall, which if white or near white, will be far more noticeable. So, my recommendation is simple: Choose a screen that has close to, if not 2 inches or more border at the top and bottom.
Since the IN76 is true HD – 1280×720, its a non-issue, so you don’t have to worry about the width of the top and bottom borders.
OK, that’s a wrap for this section, time for Warranty, and then the Summary.
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