The Art of Home Theater Projectors

Back to the Grind – Projector Reviews is busy – Pico Pocket and 3D

Greetings!  OK, I’m back from a 2 week vacation – part of it at Lake Tahoe, a gorgeous place, looks even better than some of those HD videos.

I figure it’s time to catch up, let you know what’s going on around here.  First some of you probably have noticed the site look has changes slightly – that’s a wider center area for content, and a slightly narrower right (advertising) column.  Then there’s the color change (I always preferred blue, but “one of those other review sites” was using blue.  Well, I’m tired of the old one, so blue it is.  And for those of you with sharp eyes, you’ll note that the background is that of a tensioned screen (with a ridiculous aspect ratio.)

More to come.  You’ll actually see a lot of new items, including a major redesign of the homepage.  In addition we’re building a database of press releases, with our additional comments.   The most recent will be on the homepage.  All considered we’re trying to improve the navigation and the visitor experience, and we’re not quite done yet.  anyone wants to throw in their 2 cents, with possible improvements, now’s the time, and commenting to this blog is the way.

NEXT – what’s in the works projector wise.

A Pico Projector Comparison (Round-up) is in progress. Tony now has 4 Pico and Pocket projectors at his place with a couple more to arrive.  He’s handling the measurements, writing the primary reviews (with an occasional comment from me), and will pass all the gear, with recommendations, back to me.  I’ll then play with them as well.  I’m primarily going to focus on the Projector Comparison writing.  We hope to have that completed before the end of August.

While that’s going on, I’ve got Mike just starting the core reviews on three low cost, single chip DLP projectors, that are 3D ready.  We have more 3D gear coming in, including LightSpeed’s Depth-Q which can be added to many projectors to make them 3D capable.  I’m picking up a new computer geared for gaming, with a GeForce card, so we can also look at how they handle serious 3D games, including those hundreds (of games) that Nvidia GeForce cards can re-render into 3D on the fly.  We have 3D education software to work with too.  In fact, the biggest problem is home theater content.

Mike will spearhead the 3D review process, focusing on the low cost units. I’ll handle the Lightspeed review.  Tony will jump in, when he’s done with the pico reviews.  It’s going to be a hellish 6 weeks before CEDIA, because after that, I have to clear the decks and focus myself completely on new home theater projectors.  Tony and Mike will continue to turn out some biz/education, and other reviews.

And naturally, I’ll be writing a report based on all that 3D reviewing, trying to put everything in perspective.

Meantime I have other projects as well, so some things will likely slip.

I’m in the midst of writing up the LG AF115 – an under $2500 LCoS projector – little brother to the CF181D reviewed earlier this year.

The review of the Screen Innovations Black Diamond 1.4 also needs to be written up.  (The screen is already back in its box awaiting return to SI.

You may remember, I bitched about the Optoma HD8600′s dynamic iris when I reviewed it.  - well, they’re sending me one with the latest firmware – with a reworked iris.  I’ll only have it for 48 hours, enough to see how much that iris improved.  With an improved iris the HD8600 becomes a top contender. We shall see.

And I’ve got the Sanyo PLV-Z4000 inbound.  Word is it’s a Z3000 with minor changes.  There shouldn’t be any surprises with the Z4000, but I’m hoping for some subtle, but worthy improvements.  And I’ve got a surprise projector inbound as well, but I’m under NDA (non-disclosure agreement) on that one, so “I could tell you which one it is, but I’d have to kill ya”.  Let’s say it is the successor to one of my favorites… Sorry, that’s all you get for now.  -art

News And Comments

  • Peter Orrick


    In your Black Diamond screen review, I hope you will compare it to your Stewart Firehawk which has been the paradigm for expensive ambient light rejection screens. Yes, I own a Firehawk and am really curious.



    • Lisa Feierman

      Hi Peter,

      Black Diamond 1.4 vs. Firehawk G3… Of course… Remember we really aren’t set up for screen reviewing (at least not scientifically). As a result much of the review is subjective. I spent too much time watching a movie with the top half on the G3, and the bottom half on the BD1.4. To complicate matters, though, the BD1.4 has to sit about 24 inches closer to the projector, and produce a smaller (brighter) image because of that. Still, I’ve got a very good handle on the differences, which are more about basic properties, than actual gain, etc. You’ll see. I’ve barely started writing the SI piece, but need to finish the LG AF115 projector review first. (Tuesday, I hope), then the SI, then an update on the HD8600′s new iris firmware.

      Short version – slight shift to blue – correctable with projector calibration that works with the light reflected off the screen instead of direct from projector to light probe. That definitely makes the Firehawk G3 the more color neutral screen of the two, but, that’s not a deal breaker either.

      The most significant difference lies with the rejection of stray light. The short version is this, they work differently, (the screen surfaces) but, the difference that matters is not related to that.

      The big difference is that the SI Black Diamond 1.4 is best a absorbing (“rejecting”) ambient light from overhead (or below) sources. This is outstanding if you have overhead lighting, etc. where it really helps. The Black Diamond on the other hand isn’t very good at absorbing/rejecting ambient light from the side.

      By comparison, the Firehawk G3 is great dealing with side ambient light and weak with overhead lighting.

      Translation – depends on your room. In mine where the overhead lighting has lots of controls (four separate circuits for 6 recessed lights), and where I have serious ambient light from the sides, from my windows and doors that for sports, etc. I don’t really want fully closed (and they leak small amounts of light in the daytime, the Firehawk G3 is ideal.

      But for someone with out side lighting issues, and more overhead ones, the Screen Innovations would be the choice.

      In my room with rust colored walls, the Firehawk G3 barely allows you to detect any pickup of the rust, by the screen.

      With the SI, though, forget the natural very slight blue shift to the Black Diamond, in my room the screen picks up a lot of the rust color – very noticeable, especially doing the two screens at once. Because my ceiling and floor are far more neutral – (medium and medium dark beige), the firehawk doesn’t pick up any noticeable shift from the overhead lighting, by comparison. For a more dedicated room, but with vertical ambient issues, the SI is superb. For side ambient – go Firehawk.

      It really is about that simple. I’ll save the greater specifics for the full review… -art

  • jim c

    You have been missed. Glad to have you back..

  • Matthieu

    About the site.
    I love the blue that comes up when I open your website, but than the white appears.
    I hoped you would choose a darker background color this time and lightcolored letters like in your blog, but the color could be a bit different.

    That’s very pleasant reading, for me that is, since I have trouble with looking at bright white screens while reading.

    I missed you for a while, but the vacation explains.
    Can hardly wait to find out which projector your talking about.
    Could be a JVC?
    Could be an Epson?
    Could be in 3D?
    Man this is hard.

    You could tell me, and kill my neighbour instead.

    • Lisa Feierman

      Matthieu! I guess you’ll just have to learn to live without knowing! -art

  • Peter Orrick

    Thanks Art-

    Looks like I was born lucky. Nothing overhead in my den except a ceiling fan (it is Florida) and side ambient light from windows on left wall and french door opening to living room on right wall.


    • Lisa Feierman

      Hi Peter,
      Yep, you’re like me, lighting on the side. People like us are Firehawk people, until we move and have a new room with different requirements. -art

  • Matthieu

    I mean not in the front screen part cause thats awesome, but in the reviews itself.

  • Manuel Herrera

    “We have more 3D gear coming in, including LightSpeed’s Depth-Q which can be added to many projectors to make them 3D capable”

    You are mistaken, this will not turn any projector to 3d, unless it’s already 3d to begin with.

    The advantage of that product is to turn existing 3d capable projectors into a polarized setup.
    with the advantages being polarized glasses being much cheaper than their shutter counterparts.
    Of course you would also need a silver screen for this product to work.

    None of the “120 HZ” projectors that are 2d have a 120 Hz input, it’s therefor impossible to get a 3d image out of those at 120 Hz.

    This is going to be a nice product for the people that intend to buy a true 3d projector but need lots of glasses (it’d be pretty expensive to buy say, 20 shutter glasses vs polarized)

    Of course this would mean they need the silver screen, which they wouldn’t need if they simply used shutter glasses.

    • Lisa Feierman

      Greetings Manuel,
      You are correct, I mispoke, relating to the Depth-Q in terms of possibly taking 2D projectors and making them 3D. I started working with it yesterday. Actually, you don’t need 120 hz to do 3D however. It’s the most common, but there’s both faster and slower out there. Digital Cinema, I believe, is 144. But technically if you are doing a 24fps movie, you can do 3D with as little as 48fps. It’s all about the standards.
      Meantime, you mention the solution as an alternative to “needs lots of glasses”. With a price point of about $6000 for the setup (plus projector), The glasses look like a bargain. That’s especially true in a year or so, when the glasses’ selling price will likely start for about $30 a pair. Ultimately the goal of the 3D report will be to figure out how some of these options fit in the mix, and when much of it is consumer practical. -art

  • Pierre

    There are reports the new ver 1.11 firmware for Optoma HD86 had improved the iris operation in avsforum. It also solved the 24fps problem. If I’m not wrong, the twin brother Vivitek H5080 still had the 24fps problem. I would recommend the HD86 if all the above issues is solved by the firmware. H5080 is still cheaper but for the minor difference in street price, Optoma more polished firmware and user accessible greyscale tuning would be the final decision for the purchase.

    • Lisa Feierman

      Pierre, I have an Optoma HD8600 here with new firmware (improved iris action). Unfortunately this particular HD8600 (this one that arrived has “been around the block”), seems to have an HDMI problem with 1080p/60. Another one is on the way. I’ve been playing with the new iris firmware, and it’s a definite improvement, but, I’ve still got to see the status with 24fps. That may still be an issue? At least, nothing 24fps from either PS3 (latest firmware), or my new HDMI 1.4 Panasonic seems to lock on…

      Anyway, I believe the problem is this HD8600 and other arrives early next week. I have 6 identified scenes I like to use for analyzing dynamic iris action, and I’d rather wait until I can view them, rather than making any other judgements based on this slightly wounded HD8600. -art

      As to the projectors themselves. Obviously they are coming out of the same manufacturing plant (Coretronics?), but as to how much firmware they share, and how much is unique to Optoma, or Vivitek…?

      BTW, my key contact at Vivitek was previously my primary marketing contact at Optoma. Vivitek has a number of former Optoma folks. What does that mean? Probably not much. But, that’s what you do, when you want to jump into a market and gain marketshare – you loot the competition… especially the closest competition. -art

  • Roger

    Hey Art, welcome back. Are you also planning on wrapping up the comparisions for the Runco? Would love to see how it stacks up against the RS-35.

    • Lisa Feierman

      Hi Roger,

      I must ask for you to read between the lines. I think I’ve touched on that pretty well, in the course of the regular content, and I’m so slammed, that those long competitors sections are either going to have to go away, or be reduced to 3 or 4 comparison’s maximum.

      I was impressed by the Runco’s blacks (dynamic iris). while not up to say the JVC RS20/RS25, on those dark scenes, they are getting close, and I’d say the LS7 Runco is pretty close to as good as I’ve seen in black performance on any DLP projector I’ve reviewed. That is to say, Give me lumens, and I’ll give you my RS20…

      My RS20′s lamp is now at 1800 hours and due for replacement. I’m lucky if I’m outputting 400 lumens. It was pure heaven watching that LS7 picture with all those lumens, effortlessly filling my 128″ Firehawk G3. On the other hand – hey, it’s “only” a 720p projector. (but a sharp one…) Ultimately, the RS35 I reviewed was the sharpest LCoS or 3LCD projector I have seen. It will appear sharper on 1080p digital content than the LS7… But, as I said, the LS7 was most impressive in that regard for a 720p… -a

      Ahh, why can’t Runco just offer us a 1080p 3 chipper for the same price, and simplify everyone’s life – a 1080p 3 chipper performing like this 720p, but higher res – for $15K? where does the line form…? -art

  • dean

    quick question for anyone who knows. I have been wanting to set up a projector and screen under my camper awning for early sunday football and was wondering if this would work or if the picture would be lost due to light. the awning does stop the direct sunlight but there is of course tons of ambient. how many lumens do you think I would need and what would work best for screen material. I was thinking about one of those epson 705hd and about a 70inch screen. If you think it won’t work let me know and i’ll figure out a different route. thanks Dean

    • Lisa Feierman

      Well, the 70 inch screen is small enough to make a difference. Option A: Would be to pick an HC gray screen that will reject a far amount of side ambient light, that will help, depending on how much ambient you see coming from the side..

      Option B, would be to go with a high gain screen – such as the 2.4 gain (I think) Da-lite High Power. You get a narrow viewing cone but that screen is 2.5 times brighter than a 1.0 gain matte white, and should have the image looking perhaps as bright as a typical LCDTV. -a

  • MatthieuMatthieu

    Sony VW 90 is out and does 3D
    Can’t wait for you to review.
    I’ll hope others are coming out now too, like Epson, BenQ and JVC.

    • Lisa Feierman

      I’ve already asked Sony – none in the US for us reviewers yet, as of a week or so ago… (at least not us online reviewers).. -a