Viewsonic Pro8100 redux: A second look coming

Greetings all!

About two and a half weeks ago I published a full review of the Viewsonic Pro8100 1080 3LCD Home Theater Projector.  Overall, it was very impressive, but had one glaring (ok, not so glaring) flaw.  I found the dynamic iris to have problems.  It was often visible in its operation, to the point of occasionally being distracting.  It didn’t just adjust from scene to scene, but seemed to overshoot where it was heading (opening or closing) before settling back to where it should be.

This resulted in making its action more visible than if it simply adjusted to exactly where it should go.  The action was visible enough that you could often see it at work, even in a single scene if the lighting (content) changed even slightly.

I brought this to Viewsonic’s attention (pat on my back), and they seemed to really appreciate it, advising that they were already working on improving the dynamic iris, but that the commentary has spurred them to do a firmware update almost immediately (a pat on their back), instead of holding off, perhaps until the next model, which is no doubt many months away.  Remember, this is Viewsonic’s first serious 1080p home theater projector, and they are off to a pretty good start.  

I agreed to take a second look.  Unfortunately, I had just shipped the Viewsonic Pro8100 back to them a couple of hours before they called me.  Today, I received notification that they are shipping the same unit back with the newest firmware.  

That new firmware now offers 3 different dynamic iris modes (instead of one), plus, of course, dynamic iris off.

Assuming the new settings provide a much more ideal iris action, this will elevate the overall performance of the Pro8100 projector, already a very good home theater projector, so I’m looking forward to my second look.

I should note, that the firmware is user upgradable, so any who have or still get one with the older firmware, can quickly update it.  I will provide the firmware information when I post an updated review, next week.

The projector should arrive on Tuesday, the 15th, so I should be able to get to it before my one week vacation that starts on July 19th.

Stay tuned!  -art

News and Comments

  • Hi Art,

    I did not see any updates or change in your March-09 review of Viewsonic projector Pro8100. I guessed the iris problem was solved after you got a firmware update from Viewsonic. Currently, the price has been reduced and it seems attractive buy to me.

    Keep up the good work.

    Saumil

    • I agree, I’ve heard some feedback indicating that the Viewsonic’s iris has been improved. And I’m also hearing that the projector can be found, if I got this straight, well below $2000, and possibly around $1500?

      That changes everything! Yes, it’s a very serious projector under $2K, and probably an excellent value while they last. Certainly its rather more full featured than any other DLP well below $2000. -art

  • Craig

    I realize this is old hat, but I’d like to see a redux of the Pro8100 against the current crop of budget 1080p projectors, since it’s street price is now under $1300.

    The improved iris settings (#3 particularly) makes a BIG difference in the performance/watchability of the Pro8100, and gives the projector a slight black level boost as well without sacrificing shadow detail, which is amazing on this projector.

    • Craig, I’ve received a number of emails asking me about the Pro8100 compared to any number of lower cost projectors, now that it’s well less than half of its original selling price. Problem is, the Pro8100 review was about 15 months ago, and 40 home theater projector reviews ago. Further, as everyone can tell from that review, I wasn’t particularly enamored with the Pro8100 at its price point, and with it’s dynamic iris. Because I was not overly impressed, my recollections are now vague (I haven’t, for example used it in the different reviews Competitors pages, etc.
      Readers have advised that the improved firmware for the iris pretty much dealt with my issues there, but I haven’t seen a Pro8100 since. If Viewsonic is going to keep selling the Pro8100, I would take another look at the “improved version” but honestly, there’s not a chance of that happening until January, when I catch up on all the new projectors.

      That said, the Pro8100 with improved iris should be pretty formidable at $1300. Certainly, I would be curious to how it stacks up against the Mitsubishi HC3800 which lacks a dynamic iris, so doesn’t have “ultra-high contrast” blacks, but otherwise produces a really impressive image. And also the Epson Home Cinema 8100, which like the Viewsonic is a 3LCD. BTW my guess is that black level performance is probably not up to the Epson’s but roughly comparable with the Mitsubishi, the Sanyo PLV-Z700, and better than the Optoma HD20. That’s all educated guesswork though. -art

  • Is HD9900 the new name for Pro8100?

    • No, I believe the HD9900 is a DLP projector, currently sold in Europe. I actually have a call scheduled with Viewsonic early next week to discuss what’s coming. I will post any interesting info. -a

  • Art,

    Specifications under this link (http://www.viewsoniceurope.com/de/products/hd9900.htm) says it is LCD. It looks like they replaced the pro8100 with HD9900 or it’s a mistake!

    I am very curious about your meeting with Viewsonic next week. Do write on your blog at the earliest.

    Thank you and keep up the good work.

  • Recently, tigerdirect has started selling this Viewsonic Pro8100 again and the price is $1,299. The manufacturing date for the new units are November 2009. It looks like they restarted the production of these units. Is it possible for you to get one of these and have a fresh review.

    • Hi Saumil,
      Ahh the challenge is not so much having a fresh review, as repositioning the projector at its current price. It’s been a long time, but, other than the one fix I called for back when I reviewed it, which Viewsonic apparently has handled nicely, it’s the same projector. I’ve had discussions with several people who currently own the Pro8100 (purchased in the last few months), who are saavy to black levels, dynamic irises, and other enthusiast aspects, and they all agreed that Viewsonic nicely dealt with the issues.

      My problem is, that I was not exactly overwhelmed with the Pro8100 when I reviewed it, at a couple+ times the current price, and therefore, it quickly became out of sight, out of mind. As such I no longer “know it” well enough to conjecture how exactly it compares, to say the Epson 8100, etc., in terms of performance. From a feature standpoint, though, that’s easy.

      In other words, I can’t position the projector properly without another look. On the other hand, time is very limited, I’m completely slammed over here. I’ve got 2 in the works. Of those, the Epson 705HD (720p, entry level) is the only non-1080p. Others scheduled in include the CineTron (in house now – a new LCoS PJ from China), plus the JVC RS15 and RS35, the LG CF181D and the Mitsubish H6800. That is the absolute minimum projectors I must finish before starting my annual 1080p report later next month.

      And, it’s time to, for the most part, to switch back to business projectors – which I completely ignore from Sept – Feb. (They do pay a good chunk of the rent!).

      So, I will see if I can get another Pro8100 in, at least for a quick look, so I can better position it in the 1080p report. I just won’t have the time to put it through all it’s paces (one shot is all they get). If nothing else, it is probably the least expensive 1080p projector currently available, with lens shift.

      BTW, I might as well dangle an opinion since you went to the trouble of reading this far. The Viewsonic is certainly a “classy” projector. It’s got good but not exceptional placement flexibility (1.6:1 zoom, lens shift), and those cool interchangeable color panels.

      In terms of brightness, it should be roughly comparable to the Epson Home Cinema 8100 (and most likely uses the same LCD panels). It has a dynamic iris and claims 13,000:1 no match for the Epson’s 36,000:1, however, one thing we observed with the Epson, Epson doubled the contrast over the older 6100 by improving the iris. Unfortunately that only rarely provides an real improvement in black levels, so most likely the two projectors are very close in black level performance. I’d venture a guess that the Epson has a sllght (but not really significant) advantage, and for that matter, I could have it wrong. (Let’s just say, the black level performance is probably close – close enough that your final choice would be due to mostly other factors.

      OK. I’m on it. My old Viewsonic product manager contact is now my biz dev contact at Samsung, but, I’ll track someone down. -art