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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

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