Projector Reviews

2011 Home Theater Projector Comparison Report-14

Deep Color

Deep Color is a technology, (or rather a standard) that is supported by HDMI 1.3. However, having HDMI 1.3 does not guarantee that the projector supports Deep Color, (as was the case last year with Sony’s VW40).

What’s it all about? Although you read about things in projector brochures such as 10 bit processing or 12 bit gamma, the source material coming to you over HDTV and Blu-ray disc is only 8 bit per color (24 bits total), a palette of merely 16.7 million colors. You would think that to be enough, but, in truth, it’s not. Look closely at a closeup of a face, and you will see there simply aren’t enough shades of the skin tones to go around, so you get some “flat areas” and perhaps a tiniest bit of a mottled look. Oh, it looks fine when you are normally viewing, but a larger color palette make things better.

Deep Color comes in 10 bit, 12 bit, or 16 bit per channel. The real goal is to get to at least the 10 bit, which means 30 bits total, or about 2 billion colors. 12 bit, better still (over 100 billion color palette), 16 bit – over the top.

The bad news, another year goes by and there still isn’t any Deep Color content out there, but we’re all hoping to see some sooner, rather than later. Meantime almost all projectors take the 8 bit/color data and process at 10 or 12 bit, to improve the color smoothness somewhat. It’s a good trick but starting with the greater color depth is the the right way to do things, and it will make a visible difference.

All projectors in this year’s report, should support Deep Color. Last year all but one did

ISF, THX Certification

OK, you’ve got a new home theater projector and you want to get the most out of it. Some of you are hard core enthusiasts, you’ll tweak your projectors constantly trying to improve the picture. Many of you will do this with end user calibration discs, some of you even own light meters (the really hard-core), but many of us, to maximize the investment, will seek out a professional to calibrate their projector and often related other gear.

Today, you see many projectors now sporting an “ISF Certified” label. ISF (Imaging Science Foundation) is an organization of professional, certified calibrators. The projectors that bear that logo, have two things. 1. Sufficient color controls to allow a professional calibrator to do their job properly, and, 2. Two additional saved setting modes, password protected, for the calibrators (ISF Day, ISF Night).

THX is a name you are well familiar with from audio. Just over a year ago, they got into the certification game as well, with their own standards of performance. The first THX certified projectors were $30,000 and up. Today, in this report, we see the under $10,000 THX certified projectors, the JVC DLA-RS25 and RS35. For even less money, the Epson Home Cinema 8500UB, and the Pro 9500UB also are THX certified. At least in the case of the RS20, there is a THX mode pre-calibrated picture mode (and while not perfect, in my opinion), that preset mode is comparable to the best examples of “out of the box” color accuracy.

Is it critical that a projector be ISF certified? No, not at all, there are fully excellent projectors that aren’t. In fact, the lack of ISF certification is intentional with some manufacturers. Take Epson for example: Their Home Cinema projectors (6500UB and 6100) are not certified. Thos projectors are sold online. To provide “extra value” for their Pro series (7500UB, 7100) which are almost identical, the Pros have ISF certification, while the Home series do not. Considering even the Home Series has 10 presets What is important, is that you realize that there are things you can do to get the most out of your projector, and one of those is to hire a calibrator, or a dealer who has or works with one.

These are the ISF certfied projectors in this report, by brand:

BenQ: W6
Epson: Pro Cinema 7100, Pro Cinema 7500UB
InFocus: X10, IN82, IN83
Mitsubishi: HC5500, HC6500, HC7000
Optoma: HD806-ISF (not reviewed, we reviewed the standard HD806), HD8200
Panasonic: PT-AE3000
Planar: 8150
Sanyo: PLV-Z700, PLV-Z3000
Sharp: XV-Z20000
Sony: VPL-HW10
Viewsonic: Pro8100

THX Certified:
Epson Home Cinema 8500UB
Epson Pro Cinema 9500UB

Note that the list for THX is pretty short – just two manufacturers. In the more expensive space, though, Runco (and their Vidikron brand) have a number of THX certified models, all way over $10,000 and a couple 10x that amount.

To me, having the THX certification is most important for their THX mode. Basically you are getting THX’s idea of correct calibration. It’s just that they are creating just one set of settings for all projectors of one model. We all know there’s slight variation in color from lamp to lamp, etc. (even a lamp changes it’s color temp characteristics over its life). As such, a professional calibrator should be able to come up with even better results, but you will rarely, if ever, find any preset mode on any non-THX certified projectors, that looks as good as the THX mode on these Epsons and JVCs.