Planar PD8150 Home Theater Projector Review: General Performance
There's lots of information about the PD8150 to cover in this section. These links will allow you to quickly get to any topics of interest to you.
Planar PD8150 Menus
Planar PD8150 User Memory Settings
PD8150 Remote Control
PD8150 Lens Throw and Lens Shift, Pixel Structure...
SDE and Rainbow Effect
Planar PD8150 Projector Brightness
Planar PD8150 Light Leakage
Planar PD8150 Audible Noise Levels
PD8150 Projector Screen Recommendations
Planar PD8150 Projector: Menus
I like that Planar puts all the image related controls on two main menus, basic and advanced. The menu surface itself is large, as they put a lot of items on each. I do have one complaint - the text on the Menus is very small. I do believe reading them is going to be tough at normal, or further than normal seating distances. The menus are opaque, but there are three translucent options. Ultimately since the menus aren't high contrast to begin with, the translucent menu options make readability even more difficult, so you almost certainly won't use that capability.
Images to follow in a few days.
Planar PD8150 Projector: User Memory Settings
The PD8150 has three user memory settings, an adequate number, although I wish everyone would provide five or six. I for example like to have two versions of "best" two of "brightest" and possibly additional variations.
Planar PD8150 Projector: Remote Control
To put it simply, it's a very good remote. Larger buttons, lots of space, a very good backlight, and good organization. To round it all out, it has better range than most, and it is not a problem in my room, to sit 11 feet from the screen, with the projector about 16 feet back, and get a good bounce off of the screen. Many remotes have been unable to do that.
Planar PD8150 Projector: Lens Throw and Lens Shift
For a 100 inch diagonal 16:9 screen, the Planar PD8150 (with the standard lens) may be placed as close as 13.4 feet, and as far back as 17.4 feet, measured from screen, to front of the lens, for a 100" diagonal 16:9 screen. If you plan on a different sized screen, you can use these numbers to figure out the appropriate distances. A 90" screen would have distances 90% of those of a 100" screen, and so on.
I mentioned on the first page, that there is also an optional short throw zoom lens for those that want to mount the projector closer than the standard lens would allow. Should you go that option, the wide angle zoom will allow you to place the PD8150 as close as 11.3 feet (or as far back as 13.4).
In terms of lens shift, it's wonderful to see a DLP projector under $10,000 with a lot of lens shift. Of the higher volume, known brands, only BenQ even offers lens shift, and, while their range is pretty good, it's less than most 3LCD or LCoS projectors.
The Planar PD8150 has unequal lens shift, meaning it can shift the image more in one direction than the other. If you are ceiling mounting, for a 100" diagonal 16:9 screen, the top of the image can be as much as about 12 inches above the top of the center of the lens, or as low as about 29 inches below the center of the lens. There is also horizontal lens shift, which as usual, has a lot less range than the vertical lens shift, but more than adequate for most normal installations.
Planar PD8150 Projector: SDE and Rainbow Effect, Pixel Visibility
As a single chip DLP projector, the PD8150, of course, has a spinning color filter wheel. I've searched through Planar's manual, but they don't seem to think the color wheel speed, or segment make up, is of interest, as I couldn't find that info anywhere.
So, I am forced, for the moment (hopefully they will get back to me on my request for more info), to conjecture. I expect it is a fast color wheel, probably 5x, maybe even 6x, as I was bothered a bit less than usual by rainbows.
Ultimately my guess is that it is a 5x wheel, but with at least 6 color segments. If I get a straight answer, I'll replace this conjecture with facts.
Pixels on a 1080p DLP projector are a non-issue from normal seating distance. Pixel structure is fine enough that, if you are seeing any pixels aspects, it is because you are seeing the content, which is the same 1080 resolution. Bottom line, screen door effect is a non-issue.
Planar PD8150 Projector: Brightness
Very interesting to measure the PD8150. It's actually been measured twice. Before I get started, Planar publishes a spec of 1000 lumens calibrated for D65 color temperature.
On the first pass, we did the usual out of the box measurements, then calibrated the projector and again measured for "best" and "brightest" modes. For brightest mode, that includes having Brilliant Color on.
There was a rather limited increase in brightness from best to brightest, making the PD8150 a definitely brighter than average projector in best mode, and well less than average in "brightest mode".
However, upon watching the PD8150 projector extensively, as usual, I play with the various controls. Planar has one called Adaptive Contrast.
Seems like Adaptive Contrast is the trick needed to cut through ambient light. More on Adaptive Contrast, at the bottom of this topic, including some comparison screen images.
Here are the numbers - first "out of the box" brightness. With Gamma set to Film, Lamp on Standard (full power), Brilliant Color off, and Color Temp at the 6500K setting (which was very accurate), the PD8150 measured 627 lumens.
Only Native of all the other Color Temp settings, was higher, and even then, only 650 lumens, a relatively insignificant increase of less than 4%.
Dropping the projector down to Economy mode (low lamp), the projector lost approximately 26% of its brightness, netting 462 lumens.
Before discovering the Adaptive Contrast setting, we got our highest lumen rating with Native mode, and Brilliant Color turned on, of 814 lumens, hardly anything to write home about. Native color temp, with Brilliant Color on, wasn't quite as accurate from a color temp standpoint, but produced a very watchable "brightest mode" picture. I've already discussed the impact of Brilliant Color, and Adaptive Contrast, in the Image Quality section.
OK, let's talk Adaptive Contrast. After playing with it, my first impression is that it is significantly brighter. Actual measurments though (with both Adaptive Contrast and Brilliant Color both turned on), showed only the slightest increase - from 814 lumens to 842 lumens. Not enough to get anyone's attention.
But, as I said, it really cuts through the ambient light, far better than just using Brilliant Color. Here's what's going on.
Adaptive Contrast definitely causes a significant degradation of image quality, if you are looking for that "best" performance, but that's not what it's there for. It functions best when fighting more ambient light than the PD8150 is otherwise comfortable with.
What it is doing is ramping up the contrast and seriously affecting the gamma. We didn't do the gamma measurements but I wouldn't be surprised to see a jump to the high 2's or maybe 3.
From a practical standpoint - white remains virtually unchanged in brightness, but not so near whites. We measured 80 IRE, which should normally be about 64% the lumens of white (100 IRE), but instead found it to be more like 94% of the brightness of white. When viewing, as you can see in these images, having both on crushes the whites and blacks. That is, near white objects go completely white, not that white objects (light gray - 80 IRE) are almost completely white.
That means you are losing all that highlight detail, and the same is true on the bottom, with near blacks coming out black, and so on. And you are losing a significant amount of that detail
So, lots of detail loss on both ends of the spectrum. The thing is, though, no big deal. ambient light is going to cost you most of that shadow detail regardless, and will also take a significant toll on highlight detail.
It therefore comes down to what the end result is. In ambient light situations, the overall picture is much easier to watch and just looks much better. I had a football game on, with just Brilliant Color engaged, and there was no way I could enjoy it filling the full 128" diagonal of my screen. Even at 110" (approximate), it was a little weak.
Kicking on Adaptive Contrast as well, made a huge difference. Now 128" was definitely watchable, and looked reasonably good, while at 110" it was downright excellent to watch.
Overall color accuracy does not seem to be affected to any significant level. I even put on Iron Man in a dark room and watched segments both ways. If you don't worry about that loss of highlight and shadow detail, watching with Adaptive Contrast on, provides a perfectly enjoyable viewing. Yes, turning both it and Brilliant Color off, makes for a more natural, more perfect image, but with it on, the average consumer will just go "wow". With just a quick glance the overall effect of using these controls is that you have a brighter = better, picture. Those of us seeking the best, most faithful image reproduction will, however, not want to give up those details, so most of us will save those features for ambient light situations when it really makes a dramatic difference.
In the images below (click for larger versions), the first one is shot with both Brilliant Color and Adaptive Contrast turned off.
The second image has both turned on. I should point out that with them on, the scene appeared brighter overall. As such, the two images below were taken with different exposures, a faster shutter speed on the lower one, so overall brightness appears about the same (actually the top one is just a trifle brighter, but close). You can see some additional loss in detail, in the man's hair in the lower image, and it appears more contrasty. Conversely, you can look into the darkest areas (furniture in the back of the room), and again, see a loss of detail, there as well. Back to the man on the right. Look at his neck, despited the images being intentionally well overexposed, you can see smooth shading in his neck on the top image, but more white, and less shading in the lower one. Ultimately, though, on the screen, the lower image appears brighter and higher in contrast, to the eye, and is definitely better at dealing with ambient light.
Now, below, with one of my favorite images, you can compare again. The top image of Gandalf is without Brilliant Color and Adaptive Contrast, the lower one, with.
Look at the shadow area on the right of his face. You can easily see the increase in contrast in the lower image. The lower image has more pop and wow, but isn't what we would call a faithful reproduction.
I believe Planar has implemented the Brilliant Color and Adaptive Contrast so well, that for those concerned about ambient light, you just might want to consider their "brightest mode" to be roughly equivalent to having 1200 lumens or so, for a brightest mode, which brings the Planar PD8150 up to about average, or a little better than average for brightest mode viewing.
One more pair, a very telling set. This is the usual image from Space Cowboys that I like to use to demonstrate shadow detail in a scene that has a lot of bright. Click on the thumbnails to see the larger, images (the thumbnails are the same). Left are with these features off, and on the right with the special features on.
As you will see, much of the workings of the satellite, are much darker on the image with the features on, that image has more "pop", but you can easily see that much of the detail is gone in those dark areas.
Ok, you should get the idea. Remember, in each case, the images with the Adaptive Contrast and Brilliant Color on, were shot at a faster exposure, so that the overall brightness is close, so you can compare.
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Planar PD8150 Projector: Light Leakage
The Planar PD8150 is very clean, in terms of light leakage. There is just the tiniest amount, coming through the lens and hitting outside of the image area. The light streaks are curved, indicating reflections from the lens. Even with a fully black image on the screen, it's barely noticeable, even if your wall by the screen is white.
I never noticed any issue during viewing of content!
Planar PD8150 Projector: Audible Noise Levels
Overall, the Planar is on the noisy side of average, in terms of audible noise from the fan and color wheel. Planar claims 29 db, which I will assume is in Economy mode. I would say that the PD8150 is about average among DLP projectors, and significantly noisier than most 3LCD or LCoS projectors.
At one or two points during normal viewing in my theater, with the projector placed about four feet behind my captain's chair, I was aware of the fan noise. I mostly attribute that to the quiet passages in the movies, combined with the noise output being slightly higher pitched than most other projectors, making it a touch more noticeable.
In Economy mode, the noise levels should satisfy just about everyone, but, as with many projectors, if you are really noise intolerant, in full power mode, it is a little bit noisy, probably around 32 db, which is still 2-4 db quieter than a number of DLP projectors out there.
Bottom line: The Planar is going to make far less noise than your central air, or forced air heating system, but still has enough to bother those who demand virtual silence.
Planar PD8150 Projector: Screen Recommendations
The very good black levels are further enhanced by using a high contrast gray surface. I spent the bulk of my time watching movies and sports on the Planar, on my Firehawk G3, and found I preferred it to watching on the Carada Brilliant White. The Carada (similar to the Stewart Studiotek 130 which is considered the industry standard, by most), had more pop, but with a projector in this class, I'm assuming as a top of the line single chip DLP, that owners have paid the bucks for, among other things, pretty black blacks. The Firehawk G3 really helps. Subjectively, using the Firehawk, compared to a white surface screen, lowers black levels, and, ultimately gives you a more "higher end" projector feel, than watching on a white surface.
Of course factors like your room ambient light (and where it comes from), as well as screen size comes into play during your decision making process.
I think, the real issue here, is that with a bit over 600 lumens in best mode, it has the power to handle my Firehawk, filling all of its 128" diagonal, something more than half of the home theater projectors we review just can't do. And with that screen, blacks while not the very best around, are very respectable.
Still, unless you have a compelling reason, I'd recommend sticking with some level of high contrast gray surface, whether something like the Firehawk G3, or perhaps a lighter gray surface, such as found on some Elite, Da-lite, Draper, and other screens.
Planar PD8150 Projector: Measurements and Calibration
First of all, the basic part of our calibration came up with these settings (numbers in parens are the default settings):
Contrast= 99 (100)
Brightness= 111 (100)
Color Temp= 6500K
Lamp Mode= Standard (unless noted otherwise)
Iris= Off (for measurements) On (for movie viewing)
Brilliant Color off
Dynamic Black off
Adaptive Contrast off
Zoom at mid-range, All other settings at default.
For those curious here are the actual color temperatures measured for the different Color Temp settings
Color Temperature measurements at 100 IRE (white), for the five different Color Temp settings:
5500K: 5512K (ideal for viewing black and white movies)
For the same 6500K setting we used when calibrating here's the full range of color temperatures we measured:
White (100 IRE): 6422K
Light gray (80 IRE): 6358K
Medium gray (50 IRE): 6285K
Low gray (30 IRE): 6212K
As you can see from the numbers, the Planar, out of the box, is almost dead on, for white, but shifts slightly towards warm (red) as the gray levels get darker. Overall, this is pretty good for out of the box numbers, but a good calibration can result in even better color accuracy.
After calibration we measured these results:
White (100 IRE): 6393K
Light gray (80 IRE): 6514K
Medium gray (50 IRE): 6568K
Low gray (30 IRE): 6355K
Not perfect but pretty close, with our measured range coming up a maximum of +68/-145K - just over 200K, which is very tight.
I should note that below 30 IRE, where are measurements start getting a little iffy, we note that there is a definite shift in the very dark grays to black, towards red. (20 IRE measured only 5995K, virtually identical to the pre-calibration measurement of 5994K).
Also worthy of mention, switching the lamp to Economy resulted in virtually no shift in colors, unlike most home theater projectors. The PD8150 measured white at 6401K before calibration in Economy mode, compared to 6422K in Standard mode.
For our brightest measurements (with Adaptive Contrast off), and using Native, instead of 6500K as the Color Temp setting, the picture was a little on the cool (blue) side, but not by much, with white measuring 6816K.
Gamma is a bit of an issue. Measured for the Film Gamma, and looking for an ideal 2.2 gamma, we came up with only 2.01, and other Gamma settings didn't have much affect. The lower than expected gamma number means slightly brighter mid-ranges and and an image with a little less dynamic look, than a 2.2 gamma would affect. I should point out that controls like Brilliant Color and Planar's Adaptive Contrast, tend to give you a more contrasty look to a picture, so if using one or both of them, the low gamma number becomes less relevant. Only the CRT gamma reached the 2.2 target, but it was too high. Stick with the Film setting.
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PD8150 Calibration settings for RGB
These are the adjustments we made (in addition to the Brightness, Contrast, Gamma, etc., above), for "best mode"
That pretty much covers it. If you get a Planar PD8150, your dealer will probably encourage you to get a full calibration (which goes further than what we do), but in the event that you want to pass on that, you can try our numbers. They should provide you a slightly better image than the defaults.
PD8150 Image Noise
Planar uses Gennum's image processing technology in the PD8150. Gennum has been well respected for years, and a number of higher, and high end projectors have chosen Gennum, including Marantz and JVC, to mention just two.
No issues with image noise. Jaggies are not an issue. I ran the HQV test disc for image noise, and found nothing of significance to report.