Planar PD8150 1080p DLP Home Theater Projector Review: Overview
10/22/2008 - Art Feierman
This review of the PD8150 has just been posted. Some cleanup, and additional images and commentary will be added over the next week. Enjoy! -art
The Planar PD8150 is the top of the line single chip DLP projector from Planar. Planar itself is a relatively new player in projectors, a company founded only about four years ago. More recently, less than two years ago, they bought the high end home theater projector manufacturer Runco (which also owns the Vidikron high end brand). Oregon based, Planar has a number of former top folks from InFocus in their executive ranks. The Planar product line is sold primarily through local dealers. This is the second Planar we have reviewed.
We see the Planar PD8150 as a direct competitor to other local dealer only projector models such as the InFocus IN83, the Optoma HD81-LV, the JVC RS series home theater projectors, as well as entry level projectors from SIM2, Runco and Vidikron.
Planar PD8150 Projector: Highlights
- Very good out of the box color
- Very good black level performance (has a dynamic iris "Dynamic Black", to help out)
- Brighter than most in "best mode"
- Below average brightness in "brightest mode"
- Two HDMI 1.3 inputs, with support for 24/48fps, Deep Color...
- Slightly more zoom range (compared to other DLP projectors, plus vertical and horizontal lens shift
- More audible noise than most projectors (but typical for DLP projectors)
- Optional, shorter throw zoom lens available
- Sold only through local, trained, authorized dealers
The Planar PD8150 is a bit pricey, with a list price of $7999. Unlike the less expensive InFocus IN83, however, it offers a dynamic iris, and produces slightly better black levels. It also has more placement flexibility than any other DLP home theater projector that I can think of. Its zoom has a little more range than most DLPs and it also has lens shift, which is rarely found in DLP projectors for the home. Of all the DLP projectors we've reviewed in the last year, only the two BenQ projectors - the W5000 and W20000 offer vertical lens shift, and they have less zoom lens range (1.2:1 compared to 1.3:1 for the PD8150).
What we have here, is a well endowed DLP projector, with really good performance. It's on the bright side, in best mode, but well below average in brightest mode. (Similar in that regard to most of the the JVC and Sony projectors, which just happen to be LCoS projectors)
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Projector: Basic Specifications
Click for full specs, and access to a pdf of the projector's brochure: PD8150
Native Resolution: 1080p (1920x1080)
Zoom Lens ratio: 1.3:1
Lens shift: Vertical and Horizontal
Lamp life: 4000 hours in Economy mode (low lamp), no published spec for full power (Standard) lamp mode
Weight: 24.3 lbs. (11 Kg)
Warranty: 2 Years Parts and Labor
Planar PD8150 Projector: Physical Tour
The PD8150 projector definitely has some style. The somewhat teardrop shaped case, finished in a glossy black finish, definitely looks good with the lights on.
Looking from the front of the PD8150, you'll find its 1.3:1 manual zoom lens to be center mounted. An infra-red sensor for the remote is located slightly below and to the left of the lens. The lens has an outer focus ring, and inner zoom ring for adjustment. For a 100" diagonal, 16:9 screen, this Planar projector can be placed as close as 13.4 feet, and as far back as 17.4 feet, as measured from the front of the lens to the screen. You can figure out throw distances for other screen sizes, simply by calculating the differences - if your screen, for example is 110" diagonal, then the closest and furthest distances are 1.1x greater than for the 100" screen.
Most DLP projectors have only a 1.2:1 zoom, so having 1.3:1 does help. Since it can be as far back as about 17.5 feet, it is possible, in many rooms, to shelf mount on your back wall. For those who need a shorter throw lens, Planar offers an optional wide angle zoom lens as well. (More can be found in the General Performance section.) Though you are not likely to use them, there are two screw thread adjustable front feet on the bottom, by the front.
Moving to the top of the Planar PD8150, you'll find two sets of controls. In the center is the control panel. If you press on the left side of the Planar logo in the top front center, the plastic piece pops out to reveal the allen wrench (provided) adjustable vertical and horizontal lens shift.
In the center of the top is the basic control panel. There's a power button closer to the front, and then the four arrow keys in a round configuration, with the Enter button in the center. Above the top arrow is the Source (select) bar, and below the bottom arrow is the Menu bar. Behind the control panel (closer to the back) is the second infra-red sensor for the remote control. Many manufacturers put it on the back not the top, but Planar provides a cable cover that would hide a sensor on the rear. All considered, it works just fine, the Planar's remote has very good range.
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That takes us to the back of the PD8150 projector, for a look at the inputs. Before I list those, I should point out that the inputs are all recessed, and the Planar PD8150 comes with a cable cover that screws in to hide all the connections.
The Planar PD8150 is slightly better endowed than most other, under $10,000 home theater projectors. It has the usual two HDMI 1.3 inputs, which seems to be the standard these days (I still think manufacturers should provide three). In addition, there are two component video inputs; one with 3 color coded RCA jacks, the other with 3 BNC connectors (old school). In addition, there are the usual composite video (RCA jack) and S-Video (the usual DIN connector) inputs as well. The Planar PD8150 also has a separate analog computer input (standard HD15 connector used on all monitors). As expected there is an RS-232 serial port for command and control of the projector from PC or room controller.
In addition to all of that, the Planar offers two 12 volt triggers for screen control. That would allow controlling a motorized screen, and a masking system, or one of the triggers can be used for controlling the motorized sled of an anamorphic lens.
I should mention one really nice touch. There is a light to illuminate the back panel, when you are trying to plug in things, and the room is dark.
Lastly, there's even a hard input for the remote control, for those placing the projector where there would be no line of sight for an infra-red remote to work properly. That might include rear screen, or a projector hidden when not in use.
We'll look closely at the Planar 8150's remote control and menus, in the General Performance section, but now it's time to consider the picture quality aspects of this projector.