|Plus Vision Piano Avanti HE-3200 DLP Video Projector|
|Home Theater Front Projectors DLP Projectors|
|Written by Ed Masterson|
|Saturday, 01 February 2003|
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I tested the video performance with several different sources. I started out with some DVDs, first watching one of my kids’ favorite new cartoon series. “Big Ideas’ “VeggieTales: Lyle the Kindly Viking” (Lirick) features several characters like a tomato, an asparagus, and a cucumber. The greens and reds in these vegetable characters were rich and vibrant enough to make me actually hungry. The characters looked surprisingly three-dimensional. I have seen better three-dimensional pictures with megabuck CRT systems, yet the picture from the HE-3200 was very respectable and had inherent advantages.
Next, I put in “Spider-Man” (Columbia/TriStar Home Entertainment). This DVD has some noteworthy action scenes with lots of vivid colors. During the fights between the Green Goblin and Spider-Man, all of the motion with bright colors was handled well, with little apparent motion artifacts or noise. Overall, the picture was a little softer than I have seen on some high-quality small CRT televisions, but still sharper than that of most rear-projections sets. Spider-Man’s secret love is a fair-skinned beauty named MJ. Her light milky complexion was rendered beautifully by the HE-3200. When a video system distorts skin tones, the effect is one that gets in the way of the suspension of disbelief. Your brain knows you are watching video, as opposed to the HE-3200, which let me get more immersed in the actual film.
For some fun auto racing scenes, I put in “Driven” (Warner Home Video). Near the end of last scene, the drivers get out of their cars to celebrate the race victory. All of the colors in the cars and the driver’s uniforms in this scene were presented brilliantly and with good detail. I could clearly see the texture in the fabrics in all of the differently-colored uniforms. This projector seemed to really excel with computer animated movies like “Toy Story 2” (Disney/Pixar). The images were rock-solid, with no noticeable edge noise or motion artifacts. The three-dimensional perspectives were displayed convincingly. While watching “Ocean’s 11” on HBO, I got a good demonstration of the projector’s capabilities in contrast. During a dark scene outside the casino, I could see detail in the shadows around Mr. Ocean while he talked on a pay phone. I could clearly see the texture of his dark gray overcoat and differentiate between the almost black garment and the truly black shadows.
I never felt cheated by the picture quality during any of my normal viewing, but when I connected a high-definition source, I quickly realized that I had not been seeing everything that this projector could do. I watched a Harlem Globe Trotters game on HDNET. This really demonstrated the capabilities of this projector. I could see enough detail in the crowd to recognize people far in the background. The picture depth was better than I expected, given the resolution limitations previously discussed. I could see some stair-stepping in the handrails deep in the background, likely due to the HE-3200’s reduced HD resolution capabilities. This notching is usually much less noticeable with pure native HD resolutions provided by projectors equipped with the 1280 X 720 DMD chips.
The most obvious downside to the HE-3200, as with nearly all projection systems, is its relative brightness when compared to other digital projectors. With the HE-3200, I was forced to make the room dark in order to achieve acceptable picture quality. During the daytime, I had to have the shades pulled down over the windows and could run no more than a single 60-watt light in the room if I wanted any kind of video performance. This may be impractical for those with bright rooms and/or lots of windows. In a dedicated theater, this is probably not a factor.
Another issue is bulb life. The bulb is only rated to 1000 hours and requires that it be replaced after no more than 1100 hours. The bulb costs under $300, but if you watch a lot of television or movies, you could conceivably burn through bulbs once per year or more. That is around $0.30/hour or under $0.60/movie, but it is still a factor. Perhaps it is not an issue if you compare it to the beating you take at the local theater complex, where a soda and popcorn will set you back $10. In comparison, D-ILA bulbs burn out (actually they are shut off) at 1000 hours and cost closer to $1,000 per bulb, so the cost per hour is even higher.
For those seeking the most out of HDTV, this is not the projector for you. Be prepared to buck up at least another $5,000 or more to get to premium performance, however. The scaled picture on the HE-3200 is very good, but it is always a compromise. Some may argue that it is good enough, considering how little product is actually on HDTV right now, and they might be right. At the same time, when Tiger Woods is strutting up the 18th at Augusta National, blazing in 1080i glory, you might want to see every smile in the audience and/or if his last putt is going to break six inches to the left.
The Plus HE-3200 projector represents something of a revolution in home entertainment. As long as you are able to make your room dark enough and can sit far enough away from the screen, you no longer have to go to the theater to have a cinematic experience. For a little more than the cost of an average big screen TV, you can have a huge picture with even better picture quality. For those with home decorating concerns, this will be one of the easiest decisions that you have ever made. My wife was ecstatic to see the old big screen roll out of the room. Let’s face it - the average rear-projected big screen is as large as a small car on its side. For most of us, square footage is valuable and always in high demand. The use of a nifty DLP projection system like this will help you reclaim some much sought after floor space. When combined with either a pull-down screen or roll-down screen, set flush to your ceiling, this projection system can nearly vanish in any room. It is impressive to both genders.
Between my family and myself, we have watched over 250 hours of movies and television in just a couple of short months with the HE-3200. This says more about what I think of this product than anything. If you don’t want to steal your kids’ college fund for a megabuck projection system for your new theater and are considering a rear-projection or small plasma TV purchase instead, be sure to check out the Plus HE-3200 – it is sensational.