InFocus SP8602 - Review Summary
A summary of the InFocus SP8602 projector's pros and cons and capabilities.
3-28-2010 - Art Feierman
InFocus SP8602 Projector - Summary and Bottom Line
I do really like the SP8602, but don't love it. Or rather there are things I love about it, and one or two I don't like. I guess I'm emotionally conflicted about this home theater projector! The InFocus has a lot going for it. It's bright, sharp and has great color. It just looks really good. It's got a couple of rough edges though, including a dynamic iris that is frequently more obvious than need be. I'm sure they can improve upon that iris action, I urge them to do so, and allow for an upgrade. That would be excellent, and further elevate the SP8602 in my opinion, to one of the very best. (Update: as noted elsewhere in this review, InFocus did upgrade the iris, rather successfully. That improvement definitely elevated the SP8602 in my opinion. It got it a higher award in our report, and, well, probably makes it my 2nd choice of a projector under $10,000 (I'd still consider the RS25/35 the top pick, personally, but I can see many folks, especially those wanted more "horsepower" - lumens, and a slightly sharper image, opting for this InFocus projector over the RS25. More, of course about that, in the comparison report.
InFocus SP8602 Brightness
You've really got four decisions with significant impact on brightness. Here's the story: If you really want maximum brightness, you will want to mount the projector towards the front of its zoom range, mount it above the screen, by close to the maximum amount (which is about 15 inches above the screen top, for a 100" diagonal screen), and you will want Brillant Color turned on. That will give you just about 1100 screaming lumens in "best mode".
Of course Brilliant Color tends to make the picture a little more dynamic appearing, and uses a number of techniques to do so. Engage Brilliant Color, and the SP8602 still does a really good job on skin tones, but upon inspection, you can see that a face is a bit higher contrast, and less smoothness from one shade of skin to another. InFocus does it well, as many Brilliant Color implementations on other home theater projectors often do more, and are less natural looking.
Still, turn off Brilliant color if you want the most natural image. That will drop brightness about 26%. Mount the projector as close to even with the top of screen, if possible (about 2.5 inches above), to unload another 14% of lumens.
Just those two things together reduces our measured 1059 lumens to only 580 lumens. Mount the projector at the maximum (about 16 feet) from a 100 inch screen, and you'll lose another few dozen lumens.
So, all considered, if you do all three things, you still end up with the InFocus Screen Play projector still being brighter than most of the competiton. In fact to get down below 600 lumens you'll also have to put the lamp on low power!
"Brightest" mode only buys you an extra 50 lumens or so, if maintaining good white levels. Push contrast up a bit (from 50 to say 57), and it seems like there's another 100 lumens lurking under the hood. There's not much advantage to "brightest" mode, in brightness, which is fair, because it is a very good looking "Brightest" mode, not very different than "bes"t mode. This is similar to the JVC competition, only the InFocus is inherently brighter than any of the JVC home projectors. (Most do 750/900 - Best/brightest lumens.)
Bottom line brightness: It's sweet having all these "best mode" lumens. So nice. The InFocus effortlessly fills my 128" Firehawk with Brilliant Color on, but more to the point, even with it off, it still has more than enough lumens for my screen.
In "Best" mode, it's a light cannon. In "Brightest" mode, it's one of the brightest, but two or three can beat it by a few hundred lumens or so.
The SP8602 though, still isn't a match for the older IN83, in brightest mode, which managed amost 1400 lumens, but I find the SP8602 very acceptable (especially since my JVC can't get much over 900 even with a new lamp). An extra 25% is always appreciated. Well done!
Placement flexibility is interesting. The 1.5:1 zoom only gets you about 16 feet and change back from the screen. Considering the roughly 2 feet depth of the Infocus, it would limit rear shelf mounting to rooms less than 18 feet deep (for a 100" screen). That's sort of OK, as the unusual lens shift setup really prohibits rear shelf use. Or rather, the projector must be inverted if up high. (Well, you could mount it to the bottom of a shelf?) Figure the InFocus will be ceiling mounted. If you have a room with a fairly low ceiling, remember the InFocus must be mounted above the top of the screen. A 100" diagonal screen will just work with an 8 foot ceiling, with the bottom of the screen at about 30 inches from the floor. Try a 120 inch screen in that room, or a 110" in a basement with a seven foot ceiling though, and you'll probaly find the bottom of the screen too close to the floor!
Remember, the InFocus increases brightness more than most as you position the projector closer to the screen. For example if you consider "brightest mode", at minimum zoom the InFocus is one of the brighter projectors out there, but at max telephoto, it now becomes one of the dimmer ones out there... Hmm, pay a lot of attention to you placement if you chose this InFocus SP8602 projector.
Leeloo image above - The Fifth Element, Blu-ray, from the SP8602
OK let's go over my one major complaint, one more time. The one "fancy feature" I have a problem with, is the SP8602's iris when in dynamic mode, which most people will likely use for movie viewing, for the darker blacks it allows.
The issue is that it's not that smooth. It's probably medium speed, so it's a little slow on scene changes, but I can live with that, it's fairly common.
On the other hand, sometimes it seems to "double dip" That is, when making a noticeable (not the biggest, not the slightest) adjustment due to the scene changing somewhat, it seems to adjust in two steps (two motions instead of one continuous one). This makes it a bit annoying when it occurs. Mind you, I pay a lot of attention to dynamic irises, more than most. I, (I'm reluctant to admit) also own a 40" recent Sony LCDTV with all the bells and whistles, and its dynamic features are definitely more noticable most of the time than the iris action of the InFocus ScreenPlay. However most people never notice.
Remember, you guys pay me the big bucks to quibble over small differences, so you know what you are getting. I really do not want to scare off first time projector shoppers. Understand, while this may bother some people occasionally, I suspect that the average consumer (wife, kid) won't even notice.
There is one scene type that does seem to be the situation I am most concerned about. That is, scenes with intimate conversations. Two people in a room, if the room itself (or outside at night) is pretty medium to medium dark, as the camera cuts back and forth between the two speakers, you will, if noticing, see the iris action the first second or so after each change. Worse, sometimes, the camera is fixed on one person, and that person (background medium or darker) moves around and has, say a fairly bright shirt, the movement changes the overall brightness and causes the iris to react. I've seen this in sitcoms, movies, most things really. It's like someone off camera is having fun playing with the dimmer for the room lighting, while it's being filmed. We've seen this issue before, on several projectors (and my 40" LCDTV). And that folks is one of the limitations of a dynamic iris.
As other companies have improved their projectors shortly after shipping, I'll be "suggesting" InFocus improve the iris action. If they do, this should be a top consideration rather than just a good one.
Of late, while watching I've rarely turned on the dynamic iris except for movies, whereas with most projectors I rarely turn it off, except for sports.
Below an excellent scene from Quantum of Solace. I've intentionally overexposed it a bit to better reveal shadow detail, but I must say, the InFocus looked outstanding on this scene, thanks to color and shadow detail.
The very bottom line:
Overall brightness, sharpness, and especially color fidelity, are the key strengths of the InFocus SP8602. It's also rather good on black level performance, has superb shadow detail, and a nice remote. Don't forget the warranty which is better than average for projectors in this class.
Blacks could be a bit better, though, and the projector could be a tad quieter. The iris is an issue. Its performance should be acceptable to most people, but some, like me will find it a little more noticeable than many. InFocus, you can do it - improve it!
On balance, it's that iris that makes the difference between a very good projector - one that is receiving our Hot Product Award, and a great one, which would likely have been a top competitor for our Best In Class and Runner-Up awards in the upcoming report. Oh, it's good enough that it will definitely be considered for them, but as of this moment, I'm not convinced that it can finish in the top two of the over $3500 projectors. That's almost certainly true, since I have already announced the Best In Class top winner.
Time to organize my thoughts about the SP8602 projector into our usual three categories of bullet points. After that, just a couple of more paragraphs again summarizing what I've probably already written several times.
InFocus SP8602 Projector: Pros, Cons, and Typical Capabilities
InFocus SP8602 Projector: Pros
- Very good color with extremely good skin tones
- Well above average brightness in "best" movie mode, and in "brightest" mode
- While hardly the best, definitely good "ultra-high contrast" performance, in terms of blacks, with the dynamic iris engaged
- Good "pop and wow", dark colors especially rich looking
- Really excellent dark shadow detail performance
- Iris can be put in manual mode, with 10 brightness steps from 10% to full power (100%)
- Good CFI - SmoothMotion - creative frame interpolation, best for sports, and digital source material. I noticed some occasional and not pretty artifacts on settings above Normal, much rarer on Normal or Low settings. A touch more "live digital video" on film based movies, than the best CFI setups out there
- Very good remote control with very good range, excellent backlight, good organization Limited number of buttons though (InFocus favors simple)
- Very good color management system
- More inputs than most
- Very good placement flexibility with 1.5:1 zoom and lens shift
- Very good value proposition, when considering the competition around the same price
Here's a digital image off of the DVE-HD disc. I publish the American flag because I figure the large majority of my readers know exactly how the colors should look.
InFocus SP8602 Projector: Cons
- Dynamic iris. It delivers the blacks well enough, but can be visible in its action, more so than a lot of others
- Menu layout not great (too much scrolling to find things)
- CFI not as smooth as the best. Definitely changes enough to "damage" the director's intent when watching movies. Stick to sports and some digital content
- Slightly less than average lamp life? Rated by InFocus at 2000 hours (full power, and also the "industry average), but only "slightly better, in low lamp" while most 2000 hour full power projectors quote 3000 in low power.
- It really is large and not very pretty, even my JVC is smaller (and a lot classier looking!)
InFocus SP8602 Projector: Typical Capabilities
- Audible noise could be quieter, but not bad.
- All the standard inputs (2 HDMI, etc.) but more than most
- Lamp life is your standard 2000 hours at full power, but InFocus just says "more than that" at low power. (Funny, that's about the way JVC describes it, too)
The InFocus SP8602 in many ways reminds me of one less expensive projector, which is the recently reviewed LCoS projector from LG, the CF181D. The LG is half the price, but, is similar in that it too is bright (brighter actually), has really good color, and it has less than the best black level performance for the price. Understand, the LG's black level performance is not a match for the InFocus, And you do get some extra sharpness out of the InFocus, but in many ways, the InFocus, from a practical standpoint, is simply similar, but better, for more money. Fair enough.
OK this is pretty much a wrap. Final thoughts: Most impressive, but with a couple of limitations. My biggest complaint when I think hard about it, is the dynamic iris. I'd like to see them improve it, with this model, not wait for the next one.
As trade-off against that, you get more lumens than most of the competition, and better color overall, with certainly no more than one or two other projectors doing skin tones as well as the SP8602. It is a serious alternative to the JVC RS15, and the Sony VW85, not to mention a couple of Optoma's and BenQs in the price range. Blacks are darned good, but still shy of the best, but that great color, plus the extra sharpness of a DLP projector, makes for reasonable trade-offs!
I love the colors in the image below from near the end of Quantum of Solace. But every time I look at it, I want to tell you all: "It's a start for a theater, but, the walls should be a lot darker, and geez, get some decent, comfortable seating!" Still they do seem to be enjoying what they are watching.
All considered this new InFocus Screen Play, the SP8602 projector, is definitely a contender. Still, improve the dynamic iris action and this InFocus projector becomes one of the most serious contenders out there.
You don't have to be a wizard to really enjoy the InFocus SP8602! Wow, Gandalf's skin tones look outstanding. And therein lies the particular strength that allows myself, and most others, to forgive a few imperfections elsewhere in the SP8602's performance.
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