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

Affordable DLP projectors sporting the top of the line Darkchip3 DLP processor (with superior black level performance and contrast) are few and far between, at least compared to the lower priced Darkchip2 projectors which now start at under $1000 US. In the US market, Optoma has had their HD7100, now being replaced by a more expensive (and more capable) HD7300 with outboard processing from Gennum. We have been awaiting their $2000 HD73, but as of this writing it isn’t shipping yet. BenQ’s PE-8720 is very capable, and flexible and still commanding over $3000 street price.

Enter the Planar 7060, at $2995 MSRP. This is the least expensive of the three Planar’s with Darkchip3, and the only one without lens shift.

What counts most, though, if the 7060 will work in your room, is its image quality, which I should start off by saying is excellent, as the images will show.

I mentioned in the first page, that there was one serious problem with the pre-production 7060 I was provided. Fortunately Planar’s product management had a quick work-around for it, and assured me that the units just being shipped have upgraded firmware that solves that problem. I will show you what was happening below, but hate to start this section “with a problem”.

So let’s begin with handling of flesh tones, which I have to say, the Planar 7060 does very well out of the box. The first images below, are the usual suspects – from Lord of the Rings – Return of the King, and The Fifth Element. Let’s start with Gandalf, and Arwen:

Let me note that all the images shown, are “out of the box” performance – no calibration of any sort, other than a quick adjustment of brightness and contrast. And, the “fix” for the problem, which amounted to setting what Planar labels as white peaking from 0 to 10 (out of 100). That setting of white peaking, primarily affects very dark areas, which I will show you the results below.) Overall, considering no tuning of grayscale has been done, the color balance is very, very good. (As usual, you may click to enlarge almost all images).

Please consider – these images are here to support our commentary, not the other way around. There are limitations to the digital images I shoot, for openers, the camera can’t capture the full dynamic range of what the projectors can put on a screen. As a result, shadow detail is lost, and some hightlight detail gets blown out as well. The images can provide some useful insight, in conjunction with the text, but take them with “a pound of salt” – as a grain won’t be enough! -art

Of course HD sources are much higher quality, with better dynamic range than regular DVDs, so here are a few images from HD-DVD, starting with the movie Aeon Flux:

I especially was impressed with the first of these two images, a night scene and Aeon’s skin tones looked just exceptional.

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Planar 7060 Projector Review - Image Quality Slideshow

Planar 7060 Projector Review - Image Quality

Planar 7060 Projector Review - Image Quality

The Fifth Element

Planar 7060 Projector Review - Image Quality

Leeloo above looks just about right - good highights in her orange hair, not too purple a cast in her face (which is the tendency of most projectors), based on the original image), and natural looking lips and eyes.

Planar 7060 Projector Review - Image Quality

Bruce Willis looks good above, with the flesh tones appearing very natural, considering the warm (indoor theater lighting) cast to the scene.

Planar 7060 Projector Review - Image Quality

Will Smith also looks very good in the image below from I, Robot. The reds are just the tiniest bit strong, yet his skin tone looks very natural. Again, no adjustment to color balance has even been attempted.

Planar 7060 Projector Review - Image Quality

The image from HD-DVD of Aeon Flux

Planar 7060 Projector Review - Image Quality

The image from HD-DVD of Aeon Flux

Planar 7060 Projector Review - Image Quality

The classic image of La Carlota, from Phantom of the Opera

And Clint Eastwood from the HD-DVD of Space Cowboys. I will note that the frame itself has a tendency toward strong reds, as seen in the same image on most projectors, and in general the Space Cowboys HD-DVD has a bit more color saturation that most, which attributes to this red tendency on projectors.

For a quick comparison, the image below, is the same frame but shot with the Epson Pro Cinema 810, which is an LCD projector, and priced the same. The Epson shot was taken after doing a grayscale adjustment. That said, I prefer the Planar except for the higher contrast in dark areas (right side of Clint’s face), which, as I will note, is directly attributable to that aforementioned problem.

OK, before moving on to other aspects of image quality, let’s consider this Pre-production projector’s problem. Basically, as explained to me by Planar, the secondary colors – Cyan, Yellow, and Magenta – (and those close to them) are seriously desaturated with white peaking at 0. This is resulting in what appears to be a flattening, and limited color palette in dark areas. It’s enough to make a drastic change to the image , and an untennable one at that.

Planar 7060
Epson Pro Cinema 810

When I first spotted the problem (about 5 minutes into using the 7060), it was apparent that very dark areas were really bad. Consider this same frame from a very dark scene from Space Cowboys, shot first as I orignally spotted it, and below, after adjusting the white peaking to 10. In this scene the room is completely dark except for a small light on a drafting table (below to the right). In the original setup, Clint’s face is almost not there, and in the neck area, and in the denim shirt, it looks like colors are posterized, far too few to make smooth transitions or a natural feel (you can click to enlarge).

Resetting the white peaking to 10, as recommended by Planar, made a word of difference, not perfect, but, overall, brought performance up to easily acceptable levels. You’ll also notice details on the back wall, and right side, completely missing from the first image. The exposures were almost identical.

When I pointed out the problem initially to Planar, I photographed the same image on my BenQ PE-8720, and sent them both. Here is one of the images from the BenQ, although the exposure is darker than the others, you can see that like the lower picture above, it is less contrasty. You can still see the upper part of Clint’s face, unlike the first image. And you can see more detail in the walls.

Dark scene from Space Cowboys, orignally spotted
Resetting the white peaking to 10
Epson 810

Sorry no enlargement. Bottom line on the problem. The setting of the white peaking at 10 is a work around. The ideal is to have the problem fixed, and be able to compare using the 0 setting. For that, however, I’ll have to wait for a production version to come in (soon I hope).

Despite the inherent problem with this unit, setting white peaking to 10, ended up providing very good final results. And on bright scenes, 0 or 10 looked great. it took many other comparison images, but won’t spend your time, on a problem defined, and not relevant to someone buying a full production version with updated firmware.

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