Projector Reviews

Vivitek H9090 Home Theater Projector Review

The Vivitek H9090 is a DLP home theater projector that will appeal to purists and enthusiasts.  It is powered by a long life RGB LED light engine.

H9090 Projector Overview

My initial reaction to the Vivitek H9090 was mixed, when I first started viewing it.   Now, as I start writing up this review, and having spent over 60 hours viewing it, I can tell you that I’m way more impressed than I was initially.

With a $9999 price tag including its standard zoom lens – one of four lenses offered, this is hardly an inexpensive home theater projector. Over the past 2-3 years, sadly, there have been very few really serious DLP projectors that I could lay my hands on. The really high end companies, like SIM2 and Runco aren’t (apparently) big fans of handing out review units, unless its to some high end non-specialist company like the Robb Report. Every two to four years, I can get one in. Quite honestly, this Vivitek H9090 is priced below almost all of those but those two brands most “entry level.” From a performance standpoint, expect more value here.  As someone once indicated to me, a few years ago about Runco: “Their idea of a $10K to $15K projector is something inexpensive for the teenagers’ game room.”  Most of Runco’s projectors sell from $30K to the six figure range.

The H9090 sitting in my theater is an early engineering sample. I’ve been on NDA not to talk about it, or even mention it online until today (not the day I wrote this page), the day when it is officially announced.

Notes about these photos:  Because the color tables weren’t finished, we didn’t calibrate the projector, because our calibration settings wouldn’t be right with the final production versions.  Despite the pre-production aspects, color was pretty darn good, and I expect would have calibrated beautifully.

In the images you’ll note that there is a slight shift to yellow brown. That is more than one sees on the projected screen.  Interestingly, projected color from solid state light engines, (be they laser, LED or hybrid), seem to not be as faithful to what is on the screen, as lamp based ones.  I could conjecture, but I’ve noticed that consistently that my Canon 60D is less faithful capturing images from these types of projectors.  

Color is better with Brilliant Color turned off.  Notably BC was on for The Fifth Element and Casino Royale photos, which are normally the first two movies I shoot, so they have less red in skin tones and elsewhere, resulting in more yellow brown than many of the other images.

The best known brands of single chip DLP projectors – BenQ, Optoma, Viewsonic, don’t play in this price range, and their best efforts to date, are no match when it comes to competing in picture quality with this projector. Optoma even has an LED light engine projector – the HD91+, albeit at a much lower price.  We haven’t reviewed the latest + version of that one, but the HD91 definitely didn’t “rock our socks.”

I hope to get to revisit this projector viewing a full production version after they start shipping. (Nov 2015).

What this projector is about is picture, rather than frills. That’s a really good thing, because the feature set itself is very limited.

DLP Look and Feel

For as long as they’ve been around, DLP home theater projectors have had a certain mysticism surrounding them. As owners, or reviewers, etc., the common phrase has been “the DLP look and feel.”   That’s hard to define, but as someone who has owned 3 DLP projectors, even if it’s been a long time, the best I could describe what I felt was that the compelling difference tends to show on darker scenes.

I’ve said many times, that DLPs seem to be able to do dark rich colors, including skin tones, looking more natural than the other technologies, without seeming oversaturated. Why? I couldn’t really tell you. Others no doubt have different opinions as to the differences when watching. It’s not an obvious thing, I just find that when it’s a great DLP projector, those dark scenes just look more right. For the most part, though, the single DLP manufacturers have handed over the $3000+ to $15,000 price range to the 3LCD and LCoS crowd. Nice to see a new DLP contender.

Click Image to Enlarge

No frills, other than the zoom lens options, the lenses, BTW, are manual ones. I’ll discuss them more later.

One of the first things I noticed was the lack of 3D capability. Before I asked Vivitek I figured I knew their rationale. This is a projector claiming 1000 lumens. That’s low in this day and age, but not because you need more than that in your home theater – 1000 lumens is enough for screens up to about 150” diagonal, although, 150” will be a bit too large as the lamp nears the end of its life and has dimmed a good bit. When talking with the folks at Vivitek, I asked them why no 3D, and that was exactly their answer, that it would have to be brighter to do respectably bright 3D on a decent sized screen (typically you need more than 3X the lumens for 3D.

I was a bit disappointed that there is no CFI, that is “smooth motion.” While I’m not a huge fan (I use it basically only for sports), others like it more than I. (I always recommend not using it for movie viewing – as it changes the “director’s intent!”)

There’s not even an Eco mode, but that does make some sense with an LED light sourced projector. That plus the fact that 1000 lumens is unlikely to ever be TOO bright…  The light engines is pretty energy efficient.

OK, the H9090 is not completely without some fancy processing. First of all, Vivitek went with Gennum processors, which have been one of the well recognized names in high quality image processing for years. (Gennum, Silicon Optix, Faroudja, etc.), rather than try to do a great job on their own.

As mentioned, this Vivitek projector does offer Brilliant Color, and it also has Adaptive Contrast.

And, it has dynamic iris like functionality for deeper blacks on darker scenes. I will discuss these and more.

And, of course, this projector has all the controls to be fully calibrated.

Time for a few “Highlight” bullet points, and then we’ll turn the page to Special features where I’ll touch on those previously mentioned things like the Adaptive Contrast, Brilliant Color, the LED light engine, and more.

H9090 Projector Highlights

  • 1000 lumens – it should calibrate very close to 1000 with Brilliant Color on
  • Brilliant Color for a punchier, more saturated image
  • Adaptive Contrast adds a lot of pop to the image
  • 4 Interchangeable lenses (user changeable)
  • 4 Savable User areas for overall settings
  • Vertical and Horizontal Lens Shift
  • 2 12 volt screen triggers (for controlling motorized screens, or an anamorphic lens, etc.)
  • Good backlit remote
  • Excellent 5 Year warranty!