Cinetron HD700 Projector - The Bottom Line
So close - that's right, the engineers at Cinetron got so close to really having a first class projector. Had they opted for a good dynamic iris, instead of, or in addition to, a manual one, I believe the HD700 would be taking on the best under $3,000 projectors out there, and hold its own.
That's a big "if only". A good dynamic iris should have given the projector significantly better blacks overall. Combine that with excellent "best mode" brightness, very good color and a dynamic looking image, and that is the description of a top contender. With entry level black level abilities though, I, a huge believer in the importance of good dark blacks, just can't give that next level of respect to the HD700. That's the projector's weakness.
The good news comes by adding a little perspective. First, despite my criticism, today's 1080p projectors with entry level black performance still rival the best projectors on the market (in terms of blacks) as recent as the end of 2007. Just three years ago. The best of the projectors just a couple of years before that would likely be no match at blacks with this HD700.
So, we do tend to get a bit jaded.
Therefore, please realize that entry level black performance is not the end of the world, despite my own taste, let's take a practical look at the Cinetron, and who it will work best for.
First and most obviously someone who wants really good color, a dynamic image, AND, a really big screen - such as the size of mine (128" diagonal) or even a few sizes larger. The Cinetron in "best" mode is one of the brightest available.
For years, users compensated for weak black performance with gray screen surfaces. This HD700 is better than most of those, and that same HC gray screen should be a great match in most cases. As I stated earlier, I've spent a lot of time watching the Cinetron on my Firehawk G3, and the combination works very well, the gray screen lowers those black levels enough that the letterboxing rarely comes to your attention. Nice! One last thought here. While I did enjoy the projector in my main theater, with the plus gain, white, Carada screen in my testing room, the blacks were just too bright for me. I really couldn't watch it in there, unless I dialed the iris down to the point where the overall image was darker than I prefer. I've been running the HD700 projector with Detail Enhancement either Off or Low. Off seems softer (as one would expect), while Low adds contrast and a good bit of "wow" to the picture. While technically, Off is more natural, the Cinetron really rocks with it on low.
And it's that "pop and wow" factor that many people will really like about this projector.
In summary, 864 calibrated lumens is a lot for an under $10,000 home theater projector in its "best" mode. Don't expect a lot more in Dynamic mode - you'll only find an extra 100 lumens under the hood. Still, the combination of the cooler temps but overall good color (a bit thin on reds) of Dynamic mode, work out great for sports viewing, and usually Discovery HD type content.
Color and Picture:
As I've said repeatedly, generally the HD700 projector calibrates very nicely. That whites are just a little cool (bluish white), while not perfect, it is in my opinion, preferable to a shift to red. My old BenQ's did that, and I really liked it.
While default gamma settings aren't perfect, Gamma 4 is pretty good. And you can customize gamma. We provide Mike's calibrated gamma settings on the calibration page. Visually, I wasn't fully happy with them, so I'll add my eyeballed version when I come up with something I like better. I watched Blazing Saddles (Blu-ray) on the Cinetron, last night, and I, Robot, tonight. It does look good.
If playing with features is your thing, look elsewhere. True, it has a good Color Management System, a manual iris and a dynamic Detail Enhancement control, but no creative frame interpolation, no fancy split screens for comparing settings, nothing motorized. It's mostly just a big, bad, black, projector!
The very bottom line:
In the right room, with the right screen, this projector has the color and the lumens to do a great job. It offers its best value, when you need the brightness, when room conditions (light walls, minor ambient light) tend to minimize the difference in black level performance. Remember, the blacks are just fine on bright and average scenes, it's only when you get to those really dark ones that the difference becomes significant!
I, Robot looked great.
Bottom line: I'm still not clear about the actual selling price, but ultimately that's a key factor in determining value. While almost all projectors in the $2000 - $3000 price range have better black level performance, only the BenQ W6000 of those we've reviewed, can beat the Cinetron at best level brightness.