|Planar PD8150 1-Chip DLP Projector|
|Home Theater Front Projectors DLP Projectors|
|Written by Kevin Miller|
|Monday, 01 September 2008|
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Planar, a large front-projector manufacturer on the professional and industrial side of the business, broke into the home theater market late last year after purchasing Runco International, a well-known high-end HDTV manufacturer. Their recently introduced PD8150 is a one-chip DLP projector with a native resolution of 1080p (1920 x 1080), retailing for $7,999, which isn’t the cheapest option in its class, but when you consider its lineage and Runco brethren, its price tag seems to be something of a bargain. Following in the Runco tradition, the PD8150 does have the ISF C3 lockable Day and Night mode features, which allow the installer/calibrator to create two new picture modes per input, locking in the calibration settings to ensure that they are never lost. It is an excellent performer with a couple of flaws, one of which will be remedied in a future iteration of the product.
The design of the 8150, with its roundish (if not perfectly circular) shape, is quite original as most front video projectors are physically boxy. The outside case is finished in a glossy piano black, reminiscent of the Pioneer Elite product line, which has been very well-received by dealers and consumers for years. Sleek and sexy, the projector should please most interior decorators and anyone who cares about a projector’s aesthetic. The lens assembly is mounted directly in the center of the projector, which gives it a symmetrical and attractive look. It also makes installing it on the ceiling a bit easier than units that have the lens on one side of the chassis. There is a removable back plate on the rear of the chassis that, when removed, reveals all of the projectors connections. It is a rather well-built and hefty projector for a one-chip model, weighing in at a little over 23 pounds without the lens, and measuring nearly 21 inches long by 18 inches wide and nearly eight inches high.
The remote control is a fairly basic design, with nowhere near the design flair of the projector itself. It is finished in matte black and is relatively small and fits in the hand comfortably. On the lower right side is a Light button that fully illuminates the remote for use in a darkened home theater environment.
On the top of the unit, there are direct access keys for all the inputs. Directional arrow keys and an Enter button are near the center of the unit, and the Menu button, probably the most used key of all, is to the lower left of the arrow keys. There are also direct access keys for all three memories, and some of the most common picture controls, like Contrast and Brightness.
The internal menu system or GUI (Graphical User Interface) is relatively straightforward and easy to navigate. First, the main menu page comes up, and then there are five other pages to the right, addressable by navigating horizontally with the right arrow key.
Cool features, not available on many one-chip DLP projectors, include both vertical and horizontal lens shift, which greatly aid in the installation process relative to the screen. Zoom, Focus, and Lens shift are all manual at the projector itself rather than electronic. This makes the set-up process more time-consuming, but electronic controls like these are a luxury and typically come at higher price points. As mentioned earlier, Planar has incorporated the ISF C3 software interface, which allows the installer or technician performing a calibration to create two new modes per input, ISF Day and ISF Night, and lock them so that the calibration settings are safe and sound. A slew of set-up features in the Advanced Menu include multiple color space and gamma options. Selectable color temperatures include 5500K for black and white, 6500K for color, 7500K, 9300K and Native. There are frame rate options, including a 48fps setting that works well with a 1080p/24fps source from Blu-ray discs.
Questionable features include Brilliant Color, Dynamic Black (an auto iris feature) and Adaptive Contrast, all of which should be turned off for the best performance and picture quality. Finally, an RGB adjust feature gives technicians like myself the ability to fine-tune or calibrate the grayscale. Grayscale prior to calibration was relatively close to the broadcast standard color temperature of D65, clocking in at 7000K to 7300K from the top to the bottom of the spectrum. While this is relatively good when compared to other projectors’ presets for optimum color reproduction, the RGB menu should be utilized to fine-tune the color temperature to as close to the standard as possible. Finally, the PD8150 comes with a choice of two lenses. One is the standard lens with a throw ratio of 1.85 to 2.40. The other is a short throw lens with a throw ratio of 1.56 to 1.86. I wish I had known this earlier, as I would have requested a short throw for my review sample, as the standard lens is too long a throw for me to fill my 80-inch wide Stewart Filmscreen Grayhawk RS screen from my custom projection shelf.
Connectivity is reasonably comprehensive, with two HDMI 1.3-compatible inputs heading up the list. Two component inputs are on board as well, with one being three BNC connections. An S-Video and Composite input are on tap, as are a 15-pin VGA input for use with a PC, an RS-232 control port and two 12-volt trigger ports.