|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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Up until a couple of years ago, the biggest picture that you could get, short of spending the equivalent of the average college tuition, was a 50-65-inch rear projection “big screen” TV. While the picture on a big screen was huge compared to tube sets of the past (never larger than 40 inches), the resolution was never fantastic, the sets were physically deep and could get really expensive at the 60 to 70 inch category. Today, someone trying to live the bigger is better mantra though their TV has exciting new possibilities (without surgery, pills, pumps or weights). Projection systems were once a toy for the very rich, but with the invention of two new projection technologies (Texas Instrument’s DLP and JVC’s D-ILA), large-scale video systems are available to the masses with less maintenance, more brightness and a gigantic picture.
Plus Vision Corporation created quite a stir when it introduced the HE-3100 DLP projector in 2000 at an absolutely breakthrough price point of $3,000. The HE-3100 was based on the Texas Instruments “dual-mode DMD chip.” It was a very competent little digital projector with some critical features, such as a six-segment color wheel, which tried to eliminate the dreaded “rainbow effect” that was a common complaint with early DLP and some CRT projectors as well. The HE-3100 projector was followed by the new HE-3200, an updated version of the HE-3100, with a couple of significant new features, such as “high-definition compatibility” and manual zoom. With a new front-end processor, the HE-3200 also improves picture quality over the HE-3100 with standard sources. The HE-3200 is currently available at a limited number of brick and mortar dealers or can be auditioned or purchased directly at www.plushometheater.com. The HE-3200 has a retail price of $3,299.
The HE-3200 DLP projector uses the Texas Instruments “dual mode” DMD chip with a new Oplus Rembrandt-I multimedia display processor chip at the front end. The projector measures an incredibly small eight inches deep, nine-and-one-half inches wide, four inches tall, and weighs amazingly less than four pounds. The HE-3200 is technically a SVGA class projector, with maximum resolution of 848 X 600. This means that while nearly every input known to the world of video, including HDTV sources in 720p (ABC HDTV) and 1080i (CBS, HDNet, HBO in HDTV) can be fed to the Plus 3200, it cannot reproduce all of the resolution of the HDTV signal, but it nicely scales down the format to fit the native rate of the projector. It beautifully scales up sources like DSS, VCR and DVD.
Input connection options include S-video, component video, RGB, DVI-D, and composite (YPbPr & YcbCr). These inputs support 1080i, 720p, 480i and 480p signal formats. The HE-3200 is a great example of good minimalist engineering. The projector has a rated light output of 450 ANSI Lumens. This is among the lowest light outputs of any modern home theater projector on the market. While some video gurus consider 900:1 to be the minimum contrast ratio required to achieve a good picture, the HE-3200 flies in the face of this theory with a contrast ratio rated at 700:1. Others in the know suggest that digital projectors on small screens suffer from “blowing out” the picture with too much brightness, especially on higher gain screen. The Plus is less likely to have this problem and can light up a 100-inch (or larger) screen with ease.
High Definition and The Plus HE-3200
As far as high-definition compatibility is concerned, you really need a projector with the much more expensive Texas Instruments HD-2 DMD chip to get a true high-definition picture using the DLP technology. However, the HE-3200 manages to scale down high-definition signals and display them effectively. This must be emphasized: you cannot get the full performance from a high-definition source that you could get with some of the more expensive DLP or any D-ILA projectors. On the other hand, and depending on your expectations, you might be surprised by how good the scaled-down HDTV looks on the Plus. I have seen high-definition demonstrations with high-end CRT projectors and plasma systems that amazed me. But for a more fair comparison, I arranged to look at dozen modern HDTV-ready, big screen televisions playing HDNET from satellite (1080i). These sets ranged anywhere from $1,500 for small tube televisions to $3,000 for 65-inch rear-projection televisions. The HE-3200 produced a better picture than any of the rear-projection sets, hands down. As far as the small CRT televisions are concerned, they have excellent picture quality, better than the HE-3200 in terms of color and black levels, yet for myself, I would never consider a picture smaller than 50 inches for a home theater. Thus compromises must be made to fit my budget, size requirements and needs.
The HE-3200 offers all of the features required for setup in a typical home theater. This includes manual zoom, keystone controls and settings to allow for table or ceiling-mounting in front of or behind the screen. It has all of the standard color, tint, contrast and brightness controls that you would expect in any television, plus a few more that you might not. The projector offers more aspect ratio options that I knew what to do with, including 4:3, 16:9, 16:9LB, real, and thru.
Setup on this projector was about as simple as tying your shoes. I put the projector on a small table located approximately nine feet from the screen. There are some people who claim that a white wall or any smooth white surface should be adequate to achieve a good picture. I tried this the first day I received the projector and had mixed results. When I installed an 83-inch (diagonal on a 16:9 format) Firehawk fixed screen, provided by Stewart Filmscreen, I was very impressed with the across the board improvements that I saw. The Firehawk is the latest in Stewart’s line of home cinema screens and is designed to optimize the performance of high light output DLP projectors with a 1.3 gain. The gray material is designed to increase contrast ratios and make black images appear blacker. I strongly recommend the use of this or a comparable screen to achieve peak performance from any DLP projector. The HE-3200 was connected to an Aragon Stage One theater processor, which is in turn driven by a Sony SAT-A55 Direct TV receiver, using the S-video output and a Philips DVD-751 DVD player, again using the S-video output. I also tested the projector, using an RCA RC100 high-definition Direct TV satellite receiver. After only several minutes of initial setup of the keystone, zoom and picture controls, I was up and running. This is a radical departure from the hours, if not days, of labor it takes to get a CRT projector installed and functioning well. I tried each of the optional aspect ratio settings and eventually decided that “16:9LB” was my favorite. This mode expands the 4:3 television picture size to fill a 16:9 widescreen, cutting off some of the picture on top and bottom. With this configuration, you lose some information, but get a large format picture without distorting the image.
In my viewing room, I sit 20 feet from the screen. This worked out great, since it is generally recommended with DLP projectors that viewers sit a minimum distance of twice the size of the diagonal screen from the screen itself – any closer and the pixels start to become apparent. With nearly seven feet of screen, I now had an impressive cinema experience in my home.