Planar 7060 Darkchip 3, 720p Home Theater Projector Review: Summary, Pros, Cons
Everything considered, the Planar 7060 is a pretty refined, reasonably priced, compact, and good looking home theater projector. I expect that a production unit, with the gamma related problem fixed, is even more impressive (the work around provided, did good, but I'm looking forward to the correct fix in the next one they send me).
This reasonably priced Darkchip3 DLP projector, not only does good black levels, but is a bit quieter than most DLP competitors, and that is definitely an added bonus. Overall, the Planar 7060 does an excellent job on DVD and hi-def DVDs, and a good job on HDTV and regular TV sources. We are pleased to bestow our Hot Product Award on the Planar 7060.
As noted earlier, Planar intends to market their projectors through local (CEDIA type) dealers. So, don't expect to find them in Costco, Office Depot, or the big online resellers. As a result, the Planar 7060 will likely be selling very close to its $2995 MSRP. In the case of the 7060, however that still yields a very good value.
Overall, I find the projector to be a cut above the Sharp XV-3000, as well as less expensive DLP projectors. Of particular note is the sharpness, which I would put on par with the BenQ PE-8720 - a 720p DLP projector that I chose for my theater, and one of the major reasons I chose it, was that it was the sharpest of the under $10,000 720p projectors.
The Planar 7060, therefore is very strong in sharpness. It lacks the BenQ's wider range zoom, and vertical lens shift, but is actually brighter in best modes although the BenQ has a bit more horsepower in brightest mode.
Not surprising, there is no comparison between the Darkchip 3 Planar 7060 and the host of less expensive Darkchip2 DLP's including the Sharp, the Optoma HD70 and HD72, as well as the Mitsubishi HD1000U and HC3000, when it comes to black levels. The Planar does a visibly and signficantly better job, than any of those. Even Optoma's HD7100 which is also a Darkchip3 DLP projector, comes up short in terms of matching the Planar's blacks, althouhg i has more zoom range, and lens shift. Only the BenQ PE8720 seems to be able to match and slightly outdo the Planar, but they are very close in terms of black levels.. I spent quite a bit of time switching between my BenQ and the Planar,and, I finally concluded that the BenQ does blacker blacks,but barely when the BenQ's iris isn't in use. Myself, because of my large screen, rarely use the iris at all, or only moderately Therefore, pretty much a tie, with the BenQ winning in terms of placement flexibility, and minor performance. Since I recently reviewed the Epson Pro Cinema 810, which is also $2995, a couple of comments comparing the two:
The Epson has it hands down in placement flexibility, as should be no surprise, the Epson being an LCD configuration. The Epson is also just barely capable of beating the Planar 7060 in terms of "black levels" on very dark scenes, but that's it. Scenes with any bright areas at all, defeat the Epson's dynamic iris enough, that, overall, the Planar 7060 is the winner in black levels. Even the starship image from The 5th Element, which has almost nothing very bright, had the Planar offering a blacker background and more stars than the Epson. And, I will give the Planar a slight edge in sharpness as well. If it works in your room, the Planar has the advantage for serious movie watchers. The Epson's two strengths, besides placement flexibility are, an even better warranty, and a lot more lumens in brightest mode.
Shadow detail and black levels, as I have said, are very good, as demonstrated in a number of images in the Image Quality section, or, for that matter, this image below of Pete Townsend of The Who, captured from HDTV (M-HD - MTV's hi-def video channel - very cool). The detail is exceptional. Click to enlarge.
While overall image performance is very good, based on its projected $2995 selling price, I can't help wondering how well the Planar 7060 would sell if it was easily available online, for hundreds less.
Let's break it down:
Planar 7060 Pros
- Excellent black levels and very good shadow detail
- Brighter than most - in best modes
- Physically attractive unit - with black piano finish
- Fairly quiet for a DLP projector - more than acceptable!
- Two year warranty - better than most
- Menu structure - nice to have virtually everything on a few well organized menus
- Good color balance, out of the box (though not exceptional)
- Better equipped than most, in terms of inputs, including an HDMI and DVI (effectively a 2nd HDMI), plus a computer and one component video or two component videos (no computer).
- Good price/performance - even at typical "local dealer" prices.
- Lamp life up to 4000 hours
- One of the aspect ratios supports use of an anomorphic lens
- 12 volt screen trigger
- Sealed light path, no filters to change or clean
- Good price/performance, and, if you are just shopping local installation oriented dealers, then extremely good price/performance!
Planar 7060 Cons
- A very so, so User manual - first off, it only comes on disk. There is, though, a 12 page printed getting started guide. Alhough the manual is fairly comprehensive in terms of listing features, it is almost devoid of explanation - for example which is best gamma for movie watching - film, video, cinema? What color temp works best for what... I realize they are just launching the line, but the manual needs work! Couldn't find anything on lens offset, as related to where to mount the projector - a critical issue!
- Remote control's backlite - a bit hard to make out the labeling on the buttons.
- Must unmount projector to change the lamp
- Control panel on the projector - arrow buttons are sort of recessed, hard to find them by feel
- No lens shift
- Minimal zoom lens range
- Leaks minimal amount light out the lens (not a problem during normal watching)
Planar 7060 Typical Capabilities
- The remote control (overall layout and operation)
- 3 user memory settings
- Size and weight for a DLP projector without lens shift
Summary: Planar 7060
For a new line of home theater projectors Planar is off to a very good start. Projectors normally distributed through local "install" type (CEDIA) dealers tend to be more expensive. That said, the Planar 7060 is pretty reasonably priced considering its Darkchip3 DLP pedigree. Only Optoma so far, has announced (and is starting to ship) a less expensive Darkchip3 projector, the HD73 (a DC3 version of the HD72). The Planar should, however have a couple of advantages of the HD73, including sharpness, a more desireable amount of lens offset, and, if the HD73 doesn't outperform their HD7100 in terms of black levels, then the Planar 7060 should have a slight edge there, as well.
The 7060 should be great projector for small to medium sized home theaters, and can handle screens beyond 110" diagonal, as long as you match the screen to the projector. For those not ceiling mounting it, It is small enough and light enough to be pulled out and set on a table for use, when needed, for non-permanent setups.
Best of luck to Planar, they are certainly off to a good start with the Planar 7060, and I look forward to at least reviewing one of their announced 1080p projectors when they hit in a few months. The combination of very good black levels, good color out of the box, reasonable quietness, and a good warranty, make for a reasonably priced Darkchip3 DLP, that should find its way into many first class local dealers, and from there, into homes of discerning viewers. Of note, the Planar 7060 is especially good on Hi Def DVD sources, the best default for HDTV (cooler) isn't quite as good in terms of out of the box color, but easily adjustable.
So, a toast to the Planar 7060:
As noted, I do expect to get in, in the next few weeks, another 7060, with the fixed, production firmware, just to confirm confirm performance, take a 2nd look at shadow detail, and do some additional measurements/adjustments. Even with the work-around fix, though, watching the 7060 has been enjoyable.