InFocus SP8602 Projector Review
6/2/2010 Update: The InFocus SP8602 projector was originally awarded a Special Interest award in our in our annual Home Projector Comparison Report, however based retesting the SP8602 projector with new dynamic iris firmware, we elevated the InFocus SP8602 from Special Interest award to Best In Class - Runner-up award ($3500 - $10,000 price range). This puts it in a tie with JVC's RS25, a superb projector in its own right. For those interested in what we found with the improved iris firmware, please check out my June 2010 blog on the InFocus SP8602 projector's iris action.
March 2010 - Art Feierman
InFocus SP8602 Projector Overview
This has been an interesting review experience. I learned something new, and it all turned out rather nicely. I'll explain, as I go.
InFocus was taken private last year, and this SP8602 is their first new home theater projector since that occurred. Though I've never owned an InFocus home theater projector, I have to say that a few of them are among my favorites. I find that they calibrate beautifully, projecting some of the most natural skin tones around.
The SP8602's predecessor, the InFocus IN83, was one of those, so I had very high expectations coming in. One more piece of trivia for you. The SP in SP8602 stands for ScreenPlay, as in Screen Play 8602. Until just a couple of years ago, all InFocus home projectors were Screen Play models.
Ok, with that background, let's get started with a description of the SP8602. Before I forget, one thing I want to say very early on. The InFocus SP8602 is one of the brightest home theater projectors under $10,000. Mounted to take maximum advantage of brightness, it can put out almost twice the best mode lumens as most other home theater projectors, and roughly 2000 lumens in brightest mode. That's a WOW! I'll discuss the unusual lens and lens shift layout, and how you can put all those lumens to work.
The InFocus SP8602 home theater projector is one of the largest of the under $10,000 projectors. It is much deeper (21 inches) than wide. Its zoom lens is manual, and recessed. The SP8602 is finished primarily in a flat black with some matte silver trim. Mostly, it's a softened industrial look. Nothing offensive, but certainly not elegant. In fact the SP8602 shares the case with InFocus's top of the line business projector, their 7000 lumens. If you want to dress up your ScreenPlay 8602, you can replace the matte black top surface with a shiny black one, a white one, or a walnut wood looking finish.
Of course, it's what's under the hood that really counts. The SP8602 is a DLP projector sporting a bright 260 watt, warm color temp UHP type lamp. That allows it to crank out a lot more "best" mode brightness than most of the competition.
The image above was taken with a modest amount of ambient light on in the room.
In this review, we'll discuss the dynamic iris performance and resulting black level performance, the quality of their Creative Frame Interpolation "SmoothMotion" and many other aspects of this projector.
SP8602 Projector Highlights
- Very good color out of the box
- Excellent color overall, with very natural skin tones in "best" mode (User)
- Bright! Large quantities of "best mode" lumens, with over 1050 with Brilliant Color on, and still almost 750 lumens with Brilliant Color turned off
- Very good black though not exceptional level performance
- Creative frame interpolation
- 1.5:1 zoom lens, plus a healthy amount of adjustable vertical and horizontal lens shift, for very good placement flexibility
- Recessed inputs, and a cable cover to keep things neat
- Appears sharper than most 1080p projectors
- Excellent warranty (see warranty page for details)
Specs for InFocus SP8602
MSRP: $4999, MAP: $4999
Technology: DLP (0.65")
Native Resolution: 1080p (1920x1080)
Brightness: 1300 lumens claimed (at REC 709), 1160 measured
Contrast: 30,000:1 (with dynamic iris), 5000:1 native contrast
Zoom Lens ratio: 1.5:1
Lens shift: Vertical and horizontal
Lamp life: 2000 hours at full power, "more than 2000 hours" in low power
Weight: 16.8 lbs. (7.6 Kg)
Warranty: Up to 5 Years Parts, 2 Years Labor (many parts: 2 years only)
Click for more complete specs of the InFocus SP8602
InFocus Screen Play 8602 Special Features
Single Chip DLP design
Of course, a significant number of home theater projectors are DLP based. What I want to communicate here, is that many DLP projectors share some attributes. Of particular note, DLP's seem to have, in general, a different look and feel to the image. I often associate it with very rich darker colors, but it's hard to nail down. Sometimes I might say colors tend to seem a little more saturated looking on DLP projecrtors, without being over the top.
Of course on the downside, single chip DLP projectors cause some of us to see rainbows - flashes of red and green as fast moving whitish objects move across a dark background, or vice versa. The Screen Play 8602 has a fast 6 segment color wheel, and is about as rainbow free for someone like me, as with any of the other more expensive DLPs. Free enough that I certainly wouldn't consider that a big factor in considering this projector.
Creative Frame Interpolation
InFocus's CFI is pretty clean in the low setting. Normal's pretty good for sports. I found high generated enough artifacts to avoid for most things. I'm rarely going to use CFI with movies, but I did find the InFocus to be a touch less "soap opera" looking than some others, when fed the usual 24fps movie content. I just watched some of SwordFish with it on low. There's a movie, if any, where you can appreciate the effect, but I still didn't end up watching the whole movie with it on.
Overall, not the best CFI, but multiple modes, and very respectable overall. Unlike some, it didn't get weird trying to handle some of the scenes in Bourne Supremacy, since the camera is always moving in that movie. That sort of has the CFI removing some of the shake intentionally put in there by the director.
Cable Management System
Yes, there's a nice, spacious input panel, and it's recessed. Along with the cable cover, you can align all the cables to keep the whole area neater.
Strange and Interesting Lens Shift
InFocus takes a very different approach to the trick of lens shift with a DLP design. Yes, it is variable, but with almost all projectors with lens shift you can set up the projector anywhere between the highest point it can be placed, above the screen, or down to the lowest point below the bottom of the screen. You don't even have to invert the projector with the vast majority, even when up high.
It's completely different with the Screen Play 8602 projector's optical design. Lens shift starts at the 0 offset point. In other words, the center of the lens is even with the bottom of the screen (in a table top or low shelf setup). This would allow you to have the projector below the bottom of the screen by a couple of feet (depending on the screen size), up to the screen bottom, or anywhere in between. You cannot have the projector placed between the bottom and top of the screen surface.
If you want to mount even with, or above the screen top, you will invert the projector, just as you would have to with any projector that lacked adjustable lens shift.
Is this a bad thing? Actually, the placement aspects are minor. Most people's home projectors are either above or below the screeen. It does mean, though, if you like the rear shelf idea, you won't be sitting it on a high rear shelf, but you could mount inverted from the bottom of that shelf. Ultimately, this projector has almost as much practical flexibilty as any other DLP projector around. Most LCD and LCoS projectors have more.
There is a real point, though to this discussion, to make it worthy for the front page of the review, and not just in the Lens Shift section later on:
InFocus's lens shift solution has a huge impact on projector brightness.
It had so much effect that we were recording much lower brightness than InFocus said this particular unit should have. It was enough of an issue that we sent it back in for them to retest.
Well, the bulk of our differences was due to the lens shift. If you use the maximum (projector a couple feet above the top, or below the bottom) shift, the projector is about 16% brighter than the 0 offset point. InFocus put the difference closer to 14%, but those two numbers are probably within the margin of error.
That difference is: Huge!
I have never encountered anything like this before. I had Mike pull out one of the Epsons which has about the same maximum shift as the InFocus, but can be used rightside up, anywhere from above the screen to below, as is the case with most projectors. He did the same thing, comparing maximum to 0 offset.
Mike indicated that the brightness only varied by 2% - 3%. That's a bid difference from say, 15% +/-