The Art of Home Theater Projectors

Vivitek H1080FD Entry Level for the Home – A First Look – Projector Review

Greetings sports fans (movie fans too).

OK, finally, I received the 2nd, of the first three  $999 1080p home theater projectors.  I’ve already reviewed the HD20, and managed to hang on to it for the first 24 hours I had the H1080FD (after mike calibrated).  This allowed me to view the two, side by side, before I had to return the HD20.  Most helpful!

OK, I must first express some disappointment!   When I reviewed the HD20, I liked it, but also found the more expensive Mitsubishi HC3800, which is about $400 or so more, to be, at least in my opinion, to be easily worth the extra money, for those who consider both within their budgets.

So, with the Vivitek arriving, my thoughts were, “wouldn’t it be cool if the Vivitek was comparable to the HC3800, for the lower price.  Afterall, it’s more fun when I come upon a new projector that “raises the bar” at least around it’s price point.

Alas, it was not to be!  The Vivitek, so far, has proved to be interesting, but not a show stopper.  I hope to post the full review Monday night, so I’ll keep this First Look review pretty short.

The Vivitek is pretty much a standard entry level DLP projector with 1080p resolution.  It has a limited range zoom lens – so typical of DLP projectors, and no lens shift, so placement flexibility is typically limited.  You’ll be ceiling mounting this guy, or setting it on a table.  Like all other under $2000 DLP’s, it lacks the lens shift, and therefore can’t be rear shelf mounted up high  It’s finished in white, with minimal silver trim.

Brightness is pretty impressive, at least compared to the HD20.  From my initial observations, the Vivitek is brighter in both best and brightest modes, compared to the Optoma, although not by a large amount.  In brightest mode, the Vivitek H1080FD is definitely brighter, but has that heavy green shift typical of many brightest mode projectors.  There’s no great way to “fix” that, when calibrating, but using the tint control will bring up the reds a bit for better overall balance, for sports viewing with ambient light present in quantity.

Otherwise, drop down to one of the other modes – not quite as bright, but much better color.  In the 2nd brightest mode, the Vivitek is still probably almost as bright as the Optoma’s brightest, but with slightly better color.   Definitely trade-offs here.

Overall, however, I found the Vivitek picture to be a touch over the top – a bit too contrasty, etc.  I could dial that down to a degree, but for example, so far I haven’t seen skin tones that look as good as the Optoma due to that contrastly look.

The Vivitek, unlike most home theater projectors – other than “all in ones”, has built in sound.  This works out just great for those looking for a projector that’s not permanent. True, the sound is, of course no match for even a basic $299 home theater in a box type system, but, hey, if you just want to haul it outside for a movie night, it’s got some usable sound.  If you want to bring separate sound, more the better.  The built in speaker for at least a significant number of people who don’t plan to permanently mount the projector, should be a deal maker.

If you are really into the best possible, most natural picture quality for the bucks, the Vivitek isn’t going to be you first choice among the $999ers, but for those just looking for a very bright family or bonus room projector, the extra lumens, and sound may catapult the Vivitek H1080FD to the head of the class of $999.

Black levels also came up short – again, this is a projector who’s strength (compared to the competition) lies primarily in having more lumens, for non-theater type rooms.  The ImageAI, for example, on the Optoma, is so visible that I strongly recommend not using it (even though it will slightly improve blacks).  Even with it off, though, the Vivitek still can’t quite match it.

The Vivitek may, however be the classic “run out to costco and buy a nice, low cost home theater projector for the familry room” type purchase.  It’s not for enthusiasts (neither, is the HD20, but of the two, the Optoma is closer), but for normal folks who want to fill a lot of wall (or screen), with a bright picture, kick back, and have fun.

Mike reports strange calibration controls, and some even stranger results, which I’ll discuss in the full review. That said, he reported that the projector calibrated rather well, except for being a little bit cool (a touch too much blue vs red).  The shift to blue is small and not a significant issue at all, for this calibre of projector.  (Personally I favor watching most sports around 7000K compared to 6500K for movies. the Vivitek H1080FD comes in around 6900K, so it’s right in the thick of things.  Not ideal for movies, but just fine.

The H1080FD is physically a bit larger than the HD20, but still a small projector in the world of home theater projectors.  It’s still smaller, than say the otherwise, also small Mitsubishi HC3800.

How good or bad is the Vivitek?  As I said, it does make a nice entry level 1080p projector. Color could be a bit better, as could black levels, but it works for “regular” folks, no problem. My daughter’s crowd, who last watched a movie in my main theater, viewing the Optoma HD8600, barely noticed the difference.  My daughter’s comment was something like “that’s not as good as the last one, is it?” Which I confirmed.  Hmm, that’s $999 vs. $7499.

Of course had they been watching some dark film like a Harry Potter, rather than some chick flick with bright scenes and colors (like Legally Blonde), then the difference would have been far greater and more noticeable.  My daughter, actually is getting pretty good, – when she cares.  But, when her friends are around she’s in “normal” mode, and better projector performance is way down on her radar.

Bottom line:  The Vivitek H1080FD should find a sizable market.  It’s a low cost, bright entry.  It’s less refined than the competition, but, in the case of the direct competition, so far it’s slightly brighter, and has that speaker that will appeal to a lot of folks not planing to mount it.

Hope that holds you for now.  As I said, a short one.  PS.  Still hoping to see the BenQ W1000 arrive in the next couple of days, but can’t get a straight answer out of them. -art

News And Comments

  • Jeff Hurst

    In this price range and “family or bonus room” best use, wouldn’t the better color of a good 720P projector, or the brightness of a “business class” light cannon be serious alternatives? No solution is best for everyone.

    • http://www.projectorreviews.com/members/lisasonfeier/ Lisa Feierman

      Wow, Jeff, I hope you do start running out of questions. You work me way too hard.

      1. DLP business light canon projectors aren’t! – Many have relatively horrible color in their brightest modes – even compared to some of the worst Dynamic modes we see on home theater projectors. Thus a 3500 lumen biz DLP projector may not have more than 1000 and likely no more than 1750 lumens in its best mode, which probably still won’t be any better than a bright HT DLP in brightest mode (like the Vivitek, the Mitsubishi HC3800 or the BenQ W6000. Consider – Most DLP HT projectors are using 200 – 250 watt lamps – about the same as the typical 3000 lumen Biz DLP. Lumens have to come from somewhere – at the expense of something else, like contrast, or by not equalizing the lamp output to get accurate color. (reducing a lot of green a a fair amount of blue to match up with the limited red that comes from most projector lamps.

      2. LCD projectors (and LCoS). Different problem, you can buy a very nice biz LCD projector and get very good color. LCD biz projectors are far superior to the DLP’s in that regard.

      Problem is – no contast to speak of. You are back to a nice 3500 lumen projector with a 400:1 or 600:1 contrast ratio, which in home theater terms takes, you back to the the the Bronze age. Want to take your nice HT projector with its 5 digit contrast ratio, and pretend it’s got 400:1 – easy turn on a 60 watt lamp in your room that hits your screen head on and look at the contrast and black levels. This may be fine for sports viewing, but If you are watching star wars or Space Cowboys, the black sky of outer space will look like an overcast afternoon, by comparison.

      I personally, though, have considered a serious 5000 lumen plus LCD for my current theater (mounted below my JVC on a rear shelf), strictly for sports and HDTV viewing with lots of ambient light. I’m talking about the amount of ambient light that tends to make a typical home theater projector, doing a dark scene, look like it’s not even turned on. Perhaps next year, when we move, and I get to set up the new house for theater and testing.

      I continue to yell at manufacturers to bring out projectors with respectable 3000 – 3500 lumen brightest modes, that means moving up to 300 watt plus lamps, or comparablly bright LED lightsource, when available. I tell them to give us the option, and to be sure to put a manual iris on them so we can get them down to 500 or 700 lumens as needed.

  • Chris

    It would be interesting if you would make a comment or two comparing $999 1080p models like the Vivitek to some of the under $1,000 720p models still hanging around (like the Epson HC720). Is the higher resolution worth putting up with worse blacks or contrast (if that’s even the case), etc.

    • http://www.projectorreviews.com/members/lisasonfeier/ Lisa Feierman

      working on that. I haven’t had a Panny AX200U or other 720p LCD pj here for more than a year, nor the Optoma HD71 or HD65. None the less, I do believe I will be addressing in the competitors section of the Vivitek review, which I hope to complete this week. I think you’ll already find I penciled in at least the Panny as one that would be compared. -a

  • Jeff Hurst

    It’s your own fault Art! If you didn’t give such wonderful answers I wouldn’t be inspired with new questions! HA! If you’re building the whole house from scratch anyway – would the same projector look brighter or better if you gave extra room behind the screen and changed to rear projection? The light would be shining right at you rather than reflecting, but then you’d lose some light absorbed by the screen. A 12 ft room behind the screen isn’t much in a new McMansion, besides you could put all the AV gear in there and use a RF universal remote. It would sure cut down on projector noise, but it’s not worthwhile if the picture would get worse rather than better.

  • Jeff Hurst

    Looks like the Vivitek H1080FD is the perfect review to show my non-projector friends. It’s a drastic comparison that shows what your choices are between cost and quality. The black level comparison photos are extreme enough for the uninitiated to “get it”. Actually, most of the people I know who do own a projector bought business projectors to watch movies and sports. Projectors like this are actually a huge step up that’s not impossibly out of their price range. I know the limitations would drive me nuts, but I know way more folks who wouldn’t notice the difference at all, and would never pay 3 times the cost to get better color and features they might never turn on. I’m really curious to see the comparison of an entry level 1080P with a good 720P projector, because that’s the advice my friends are 10x more likely to ask about than whether they should an Epson 8500UB or a Panasonic AE4000. I know it might be torture for you, but I’d love to have a with-photos single review comparing a $500 business projector, an $800 business proector, and representative home theater projectors at the 1080P entry, midrange, and high contrast price levels. That’s a web link I could send to people to explain what you’re missing when you pay $500 for a projector to watch movies. Before you go “arrrgh” I have to say I wind up having that very conversation at least once a week, and they really don’t understand unless I bring them to my house and we watch something. Most folks I talk to have no idea what they’re missing, and that includes most of the salespeople at big box stores where I was shopping for projectors before I discovered projectorreviews.com. You cater to the enthusiest crowd, but helping us explain things to our unconvinced friends is a valuable thing.