Planar 7060 – A 720p Darkchip3 DLP Home Theater Projector – Overview

The obvious first question is: Who is Planar? It is rare to see a new company enter the home theater projector market, and we recognise most of the home theater projector manufacturers as huge overseas conglomerates, with Sony, Sanyo, Optoma, BenQ, Panasonic, Hitachi, and Mitsubishi projectors being some of the dominant brands. Then of course, there are a few US companies, mostly high end like Runco/Vidikron, some EU companies, like SIM2, and of course the best recognized US name in projectors, InFocus.

So, who is Planar?

First clue – they are located in Oregon, home of InFocus.
2nd clue – many of their management personell are former InFocus execs and managers.

Planar is hardly a new company. They’ve been around for 20+ years or so, focusing on display systems. (I believe many of their folks originally came from Tektronics). As far as display systems go, I believe medical has been their primary specialty. However now, with key projector people on board, including Scott Hix, InFocus’es Senior VP of International sales, and also InFocus’es chief poduct designer Bob Williams, just to name a couple. In fact, it has been written, that InFocus, formed in 1986, was started by people originally from Planar. I guess what goes around – comes around.

So we have a new player, and while hardly a company the size of Sony, or Panasonic, Planar is a respectable sized, publicly traded company, with revenues last year of over $200 million, not exactly your neighborhood garage operation.

The last piece of general information, I should mention, is that Planar is marketing through selected medium and high end home theater specialist dealers, so don’t expect to see much of their product at big online resellers. Planar is also rolling out business projectors, but I am not yet aware of how they plan to market those.

Enough, time to focus on the Planar products, and the Planar 7060 in particular.

Planar is rolling out several (6projectors over the next couple of months, with the 7060 being one of the first. I chose the 7060 for our first review of a Planar projector, because it is almost certainly the most affordable Darkchip 3 DLP projector available through high quality, installation focused, local dealers. I’m looking forward to also reviewing (especially after working with the 7060), with their 1080p entries, when they launch.

The Planar 7060, is a “classic” 720p DLP projector. The very first thing you notice about the Planar 7060, as you unbox it, is that it is one of the best looking projectors out there. In fact, for basic styling it’s a winner, with it’s only serious competition for “looks” being the closest InFocus competitors – the IN76 and IN78 (the new IN78 uses a Darkchip3 DLP, like the 7060) – both also great looking projectors.

The Planar 7060 runs on the TI Darkchip3 DLP processor, and like all but the most expensive 720p DLP projectors, it lacks lens shift, and it has a zoom lens with a rather limited throw range. As I said – a classic.

However!

Despite one serious problem with the pre-production projector I received (not to worry, more on that later), overall performance of the Planar 7060, was extremely impressive. In a world where entry level 720p DLP projectors now start under $1000, and Darkchip 3 projectors are at least for a little bit longer, all over $2000 (in the US), this Planar projector seems to be a cut above, and can ligitimately command its $2995 selling price. In that regard, since you would get the Planar 7060 from a local dealer, it starts looking like a real bargain for those of you who prefer to deal with a local dealer that offers full support, installation expertise, etc.

Why do I say that? Well, typical local dealer lines can be very expensive. Marantz’s entry level Darkchip2 DLP is a thousand more than the Darkchip 3 7060, and their Darkchip3 is $10,999. Yamaha starts at around $5000, and twice that for a Darkchip3 model. Runco, Vidikron and SIM2, barely even enter the under $10,000 market. In other words, local dealers rarely have a quality $3000 projector to offer, let alone one with Darkchip3 technology inside. The only otherrelatively affordable Darkchip3 projector that I can think of in the local dealer (CEDIA) environment is the new InFocus IN78, which we hope to review late March, and the IN78 is priced higher.

Feeling rich? Strangely, the Planar 7060 is only one of four 720p projectors they are rolling out. There is a similar 7010, with the Darkchip2, and also two higher end (and more expensive) projectors – the Planar 7130 and 7150 (both offer lens shift, and higher contrast still).

I say strangely, for having four 720p projectors in a lineup is a lot. Only Optoma comes to mind, with that many. Most companies have 1 (Panasonic, BenQ as examples) or two (most other competitors, including Sanyo, Epson). InFocus has three, but that’s counting their 3 chip SP777 now only $9999!

Let’s get started! (finally!)

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