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Planar PD8150 1-Chip DLP Projector Print E-mail
Monday, 01 September 2008
Article Index
Planar PD8150 1-Chip DLP Projector
Page 2

Television and Movies
Overall, the performance on the PD8150 is good, with only a couple of flaws.  Black-level performance is excellent, with one exception.  The company has implemented the wrong RGB reference for white and black.  It is set at 0-255, which is right for computing, but wrong for home theater.  It should be 16-235 for video, which would increase the contrast ratio of the projector, as well as improve its black-level performance and shadow detail capability.  When it is set at 0-255, whites and blacks are slightly clipped.  It did not reproduce below black or above white on PLUGE and Reverse Gray ramp patterns on the HD Basics Blu-ray test disc.  This was verified by Planar, which states that this issue is being fixed for the next iteration of this model.  Hopefully, it will be an in-field firmware update for existing owners of the PD8150.

Speaking of black levels, the opening scene of the excellent transfer recently released on Blu-ray of Gangs of New York (Miramax Home Entertainment) provides good dark scenery as the Dead Rabbits prepare for battle inside a dingy dark building.  The Planar 8150 reproduced the beginning of this scene extremely well, indicating good shadow detail capability and solidly convincing deep, inky blacks. Chapter 2 of the same disc provides more material suitable for evaluating the display’s prowess at reproducing dark scenery and revealing good shadow detail. It starts out with Bill the Butcher walking the streets of New York City at night, as surrounding citizens are protesting Lincoln’s abolition of slavery.  Again, blacks were excellent and shadow detail was impressive.

Detail and clarity are also extremely impressive on the 8150. Its 1080p resolution from the Texas Instruments 1920 x 1080 resolution DMD (Digital
Micromirror Device) chip and good video processing, which preserves that resolution, are largely responsible for this aspect of performance.  It passed both the Video Resolution and Film Resolution Loss tests on the excellent HQV Blu-ray test disc from Silicon Optix.  The other key factor in the delivery of crisp sharp images on a 1080p-resolution projector like the PD8150 is the lens.  The 8150’s lens is fairly good, with few chromatic aberrations.  Detail abounds in Gangs of New York, indicating that it is an excellent transfer.  Close-up shots of people’s faces reveal fine details like individual pores and strands of hair.

Overall color accuracy is quite good.  Color decoding is accurate for both HD and SD sources, and there is a selectable color gamut for HDTV, SDTV and even for EBU, the European standard for their SD broadcasts.  While not spot-on, the color points for red, green and blue were extremely close to the HDTV specification.  Unfortunately, they are not addressable, as the projector lacks a Color Management System, which is available from T.I. (Texas Instruments) and could make them nearly perfect.

The importance of accurate primary and secondary colors becomes obvious when you hone in on objects you know very well.  For me, the New York City yellow cabs (many of them) in Chapter 6 of The Day After Tomorrow (Paramount Home Entertainment) were obviously rendered extremely accurately.  Most projectors, particularly in this price range, skew yellow to the green side of the spectrum, and yellow objects like NYC cabs tend to look greenish.  Skin tones were also rendered extremely naturally, which is a sign of a good, accurate grayscale.  Chapter 12 of Gangs of New York, where Leonardo DiCaprio’s character betrays Daniel Day-Lewis’ Bill by trying to kill him, is full of extremely saturated colors from the costumes of the players at the hall. The reds of the Chinese costumes in particular were reproduced extremely well by the 8150.  These reds and the reds of the meat at the Butcher’s place in an earlier scene were very saturated, while skin tones were reproduced naturally without too much pink in them.  This is an indication of excellent color decoding and a reasonably accurate red primary color.

White-field uniformity is also excellent.  This is an area of performance where DLP-based projectors excel, compared to their LCD and LCoS competitors.  The 8150 reproduced the snow-capped Austrian Alps in the
beginning of Chapter 5 of The Italian Job (Paramount Home Entertainment) very well indeed, with no red or blue splotches on the sides of the screen that you would be likely to see on an LCD or LCoS-based projector.  Sky shots and hockey games are often the downfall of a good LCD or LCoS projector, because they reveal the poor white-field uniformity of those devices. This is an area where DLP display technology demonstrates clear superiority.

The Downside
Although the PD8150 is an excellent projector, there is always something a picky reviewer like me wishes was just a little better.  The RGB reference is my biggest complaint.  It should be fixed as soon as possible and the fix should be made available to current owners of the PD8150.  It should also be a fix provided for current owners of the PD8150.

If I had my druthers, I would like to see addressable primaries built in to the Advanced menu as well, although the primary and secondary colors are a lot closer than those on most projectors in this class, close enough that it doesn’t adversely affect the overall color fidelity the way most projectors do.  The vertical and horizontal lens shift feature could also be improved if they were implemented with some sort of a dial, as opposed to the more difficult Allan key method currently employed.

Planar’s newest home theater projector, the 1080p resolution one-chip PD8150, is an excellent projector in its price range.  In fact, at pennies under $8,000, there isn’t anything in its class that can outperform it in terms of color accuracy and black-level (Contrast Ratio) performance. I would compare it to a much more expensive LCoS projector, the Sony VPL-VW200, which is nearly twice its price.  It virtually smokes the 200’s smaller sibling, the VPL-100W a.k.a. “The Ruby,” in light output, black level, contrast ratio and overall color fidelity.  Color fidelity is for the most part very good. Color decoding is excellent.  It is far superior to most projectors in its price range in these key areas of performance.  Considering how well it performs, the comprehensive feature package and good connectivity, I consider it a hell of a bargain in one-chip 1080p resolution DLP projectors.

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