The Art of Home Theater Projectors

Viewsonic Pro8100 1080p Home Theater Projector – First Look

Greetings all,

Things haven’t worked out as well as I had hoped with this review, and I am now waiting for a replacement review projector from Viewsonic.  As a result, the review will now likely be posted around June 25th.  There have been some very interesting results.  To quote The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” however, “DONT PANIC”.

Let’s start at the beginning.  TheViewsonic Pro8100 is Viewsonic’s first serious entry into the 1080p home theater projector market.  It is a 3LCD projector, however, it is unusually large for an LCD projector.  It’s pretty, in shiny black, and slightly sculpted.  Physicially, it looks worth the price tag ($4999 list price).

The projector has the standard goodies found in most 3LCD home theater projectors – vertical (and horizontal) lens shift, a zoom with a good amount of range (1.5:1), although not as much as the 2:1 found on many 3LCD home projectors, but better than any of the single chip DLP projectors.

Upon firing up the projector for the first time, in my theater (pre-calibration), the most impressive thing I noticed right off, was that the Pro8100 is especially sharp.  Definitely, it produces one of the sharpest images I’ve seen to date (and that covers a lot of 1080p projectors).  Out of the box performance for movie watching wasn’t bad at all, but, as with most projectors it needs some work. Color saturation is a little over the top, but that took about 5 seconds to adjust to a more pleasing level.   The first evening I watched segments of two movies – Casino Royale and Live Free and Die Hard.  Not bad at all!

Where I ran into a problem, though, was the following day.  I fired up the projector again, this time starting with some standard resolution TV.  What I saw, was an incredible image noise problem.  I’m not talking the usual slightly noisy tendency of many DLP projectors here, I’m talking total disaster.  Essentially, an unwatchable picture.  At first I assumed that it may be a problem specfic to SD (standard definition), so I popped in a SD DVD.  Same disastrous results.  Mind you, I had already used the projector’s system reset, several times, and it helped not at all.  The Viewsonic projector has four types of noise filters some with up to four settings.  Nothing made any significant difference.  BTW, during all this excitement, Mike showed up, as he was going to calibrate the projector.  He’s my witness! It was so bad, it was unthinkable that any company would ship a projector that had this noise problem. No one in their right mind, or even without a right mind would ever find what we saw as acceptable, so, it was obvious there was a problem with this specific projector.

Finally, I put in a Blu-ray movie, and to my surprise, it showed the same problems as the TV, and SD DVD.  HDTV did no better.  So, now I’m in the situation of it looked just fine the night before on Blu-ray, but now looked like – well, the stuff cow pies are made of, comes to mind.  Now realizing that something had happened since the night before we decided to move the projector from the theater to the testing room.  

And, of course, it started behaving like it did the night before – just fine.

So, our conclusion was, that the Pro8100 burped!  Strangely the resets (multiple) did not solve the problem, but, apparently turning the projector off, and back on, did, as that was the last I’ve seen of the problem.  The projector has since been powered up and down at least a half dozen times, as Mike calibrated it, and I put in more hours watcing content.  I probably accumulated at least 10 more hours of operation, without this noise PROBLEM re-occurring.  

So, I’m not overly concerned about that, but it really was something to see.  I can’t even begin to describe it, other than we were looking at an announcer on ESPN, and most of his dark sport jacket looked like slimy things were slithering over most of it, in the dark.  Like some Indiana Jones movie scene!

If that was the end of it, I would have continued on with the review.  Because of this problem, and before it was restarted with the problem gone, I did something I normally avoid doing.  I decided to see who might have already reviewed the projector to see if they encountered the same thing. 

Projector Central had already reviewed it, and they reported nothing like what I described above.  But, in my brief scan of their review I found another discrepancy.   They were reporting the projector doing about 700 lumens in Cinema mode after adjustment, but I was getting a measurement of about 275 lumens before adjustment, and similar numbers after.  Mike measured it again, separately, with his equipment, and got numbers almost identical to mine.  So, why was Projector Central getting a dramatically different level of brightness – roughly 2.5 times as bright?

At that point it was time to hit the panic button.  I contacted Viewsonic, and am shipping this one back. They are sending out a replacement.  Hopefully the replacement will show brightness more in line with Bill’s review.  If not, then things get really murky.

Mike did a great job of calibrating it.  I watched the Pro8100 last evening for several hours and the image quality was most impressive.  Lots of Pop and Wow.  Black levels were very good, but not up there with the best (which, in the case of LCD projectors, is the Epson “UB” series (TW2000 outside the US.)

The Viewsonic uses a dynamic iris, and the iris action is a bit more visible than other projectors.  I’ll discuss that in depth in the actual review.

So the Viewsonic Pro8100 is heading back to Viewsonic tomorrow, and hopefully the replacement will arrive shortly.  

On other notes, a good question is:  Where can I buy one?

Viewsonic says the projector is being distributed to local “installing” dealers, and, therefore, is not likely to be easily found on the internet, but, other manufacturers have said that before… we shall see. Viewsonic knows that if they want the local installing dealers to embrace the Pro8100, they need to maintain margins, and that can’t be done without, maintaining control of internet distribution.

That’s it for now.  Overall, I suspect we have a very good projector here, although, one that is a bit pricey.  Note, please, that projectors sold through local dealers only, are traditionally pricier than those widely sold online.

Hang in there!  -art

News And Comments

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