|Marantz VP-12S2 DLP Video Projector|
|Home Theater Front Projectors DLP Projectors|
|Written by Augie Bettencourt|
|Friday, 01 August 2003|
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A large part of the experience of watching a movie at your local theater is derived from viewing film-quality images on a very big screen. Otherwise, nearly everyone would merely wait for the film to be released on video and watch it at home on their trusty 27-inch television sets at home. The audio portions of home theater systems have steadily improved over the last 10 years, and many of us now own audio equipment with the latest Dolby and DTS technology that rival (if not surpass) the sound of many commercial theaters. Yet affordable video projection has lagged somewhat behind until just recently.
CRT (cathode ray tube) projectors have been around for years and can project film-like images with wonderful lush colors and excellent contrast, but can cost upwards of $50,000. Luckily for those of us without a 1/2 share of a NetJet, digital video projectors are making significant inroads into the high-end home theater market, at a significantly lower price. Over the past two years, digital projection technology (DLP, D-ILA and LCD) have made great strides in color accuracy, saturation, and contrast. Today's digital projectors can output brighter images on bigger screens and deliver the excitement of big theater in the home, for prices well below those of high-performance CRTs.
The Marantz VP-12S2 is a single-chip, HDTV-compatible DLP projector that is capable of displaying 1280 x 720 images to screen sizes up to 180. The VP12S2 is waif-like compared to CRT projectors, with the Marantz coming in at 15.94 inches wide by 18.56 inches deep by 6.12 inches high. The VP12S2 has a retail price tag of $12,499.
The digital projector category is broken into basic groups, consisting of LCD, DLP and DIL-A, the two highest performers being that of DLP and DIL-A. Somewhat similar in technological approach, they differ greatly in their execution. The digital projector market is filled with acronyms. LCD (liquid crystal display), DILA (Direct Drive Image Light Amplifier) and DLP (digital light processing). With LCD, light is projected through LCD panels. The individual LCD elements are turned off and on to create separate red, green, and blue images that combine to produce the image. DIL-A is included in this category, but LCD is transmissive, while DIL-A uses a reflective surface behind the panel so that light first passes through the elements, then is reflected and passes through the elements again on its way to the lens. In a DLP projector, light from the projector's lamp is directed through a color wheel onto the surface of the DLP chip. The mirrors wobble back and forth, directing light either into the lens path to turn the pixel on, or away from the lens path to turn it off. All this technology is great, having vast advantages (and some disadvantages) when compared to CRT, but the question most consumers are asking is, “Has digital technology matured to acceptable levels for my home theater?”
The Marantz VP-12S2 is one of the latest digital projectors designed from the ground up for home theater. As I unboxed the Marantz VP-12S2, I couldn’t help but admire its heavy-duty look and feel. The finish is a metallic gray color with a sleek appearance and feels solidly built. This projector has the best build quality of any of the new 1,280 x 720 one-chip DLP projectors I've seen or tested to date. The Marantz VP-12S2 offers leading-edge technologies, such as the latest Texas Instruments Mustang/HD2 chip, three Faroudja chipsets that incorporate patented DCDi™ Directional Correlational Deinterlacing technology, high-definition 1280 x 720 pixel panel and Minolta custom optics. Its threaded, adjustable legs make it simple to table-mount and its Minolta lens is easily focused by turning the lens’ outer ring. The Marantz VP-12S2 has a fairly broad throw-distance, leaning towards the short end of digital projector throw-distances. This worked very well in my room. Remember, calculating throw-distance is critical when planning room layout, because the projector’s throw-distance could limit image size if it has to be mounted in a specific spot. With my 120-inch, 16:9 ratio Stewart Firehawk screen, the projector had to be a minimum of 155 inches from the lens to the screen, which works well in my application. Many other digital projectors have to be mounted much further back from the screen, which may or may not work well for everyone.
The remote leaves a lot to be desired. It's very small, all of the buttons are the same size, and it is not backlit. This makes it awkward to use in any environment, especially in the dark. The back panel provides just about every connector type that you could want, including composite, component, S-Video, RGB and even DVI. There’s also a remote control input if you want to have your screen trigger your projector to turn on, and a RS-232C port for remote options. One of the things I enjoyed about this projector’s back panel was that it can be illuminated so that all inputs can be seen in the dark. Somebody at Marantz had the sense to know that projectors can sometimes be mounted in confined areas, where a flashlight isn’t always handy. The Marantz VP-12S2 is designed for custom installation flexibility and offers many operational and convenience features, including a new menu system that facilitates setup and calibration. The projector can be optimized to display both 16:9 widescreen or standard 4:3 aspect ratios with four viewing modes: Theater, Standard, Dynamic and User. The VP-12S2's Lens Shift feature enables the image to be shifted up or down and projected through the upper or lower portion of the lens. This function and its horizontal keystone correction enables the VP-12S2 to achieve correct picture geometry if the projector is not mounted exactly parallel to the screen. The Marantz VP-12S2 is calibrated to three color temperatures, including correct NTSC 6500° color temperature, and it also features selectable black level adjustment to achieve optimum image quality with any video source.
One of the truly great things about a digital projector is how easy it is to set up. Literally, within minutes of unboxing it, I had the Marantz VP-12S2 up and running. I connected the projector via its component, interlaced inputs to the Sony DVP-ES999 DVD player (then later to the Krell DVD-Video Standard), turned it on, calibrated it with the Video Essentials DVD and began movie-watching. How much easier could it be?