|Vidikron Vision Model 50 DLP Video Projector|
|Home Theater Front Projectors DLP Projectors|
|Written by Kevin Miller|
|Wednesday, 01 November 2006|
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Without question, front-projection video is where it’s at if you truly want to recreate the theatrical experience at home. It’s all about cinematic impact, and you just don’t get this kind of experience with big box micro-displays or even the biggest plasma screens available today. A number of different technologies are vying for your hard-earned dollars in the front-projection arena: LCD (Liquid Crystal Display, which is transmissive) and its variant LCoS (Liquid Crystal on Silicon, which is reflective technology), and DLP (Digital Light Processing, based on chips made with micromirrors from Texas Instruments’ also reflective technology). I am a fan of DLP, primarily because of its better black level performance, which yields better contrast ratios. Vidikron, a high-end display manufacturer, has both LCoS or what is known as D-ILA (Digital Image Light Amplifiers) and DLP projectors in their line of front-projection systems. Their new Vision Model 50 lies directly in the middle of their front projection lineup. It is a one-chip DLP design with a native resolution of 1280 x 720.
My review sample was cleanly finished in white. Physically, the unit is quite large for a one-chip projector design, and the chassis is squarish, measuring 22 inches wide by 18.9 inches deep by 8.8 inches high with the feet installed. It also weighs in at a hefty 43 pounds. On the back of the projector is a flip-down door that reveals all the inputs, the power button and some of the key function buttons from the remote, such as menu, zoom, focus and lens shift. It is interesting to note that all the labels are duplicated upside-down as well as right-side-up, so that whether you floor-mount or ceiling-mount the projector, they will still be legible. This is a gigantic chassis compared to most of the competition out there, but its weight and mass do inspire confidence. The remote is a well-designed affair that is fully backlit and has direct access keys to all inputs, aspect ratios and the electronic zoom, focus and lens shift features. The internal menu system is fairly straightforward and relatively easy to navigate.
A number of the Model 50’s features are worth mentioning. I was quite surprised to find PIP (Picture-in-Picture), a consumer television feature, not at all common on a high-end front projector. It is definitely a cool feature for sports fans wanting to keep tabs on more than one game at a time. The rest of the features are mainly set-up and calibration-related than of a convenience nature. I was pleased to find that zoom, focus and lens shift are all electronic, allowing you to perform all these functions with your nose on the screen, which is easier to do and will yield more accurate results. The electronic vertical lens shift enables you to move the image up and down a full screen height. This flexibility will make installation much easier and should help prevent the use of keystone, which impairs picture quality by reducing resolution and introducing unwanted artifacts in the picture. Some of Vidikron’s competitors amazingly are promoting the use of keystoning, which is something an AudioVideo Revolution reader will want to avoid at all costs.
The Vision Model 50 features a nifty ISF Day and Night mode, which gives you the ability to set up each input for both dedicated nighttime viewing and a mode that will be better able to compete with some ambient light in the room. These modes also give technicians like myself access to hidden service menus for grayscale calibration and other set-up parameters, and these modes lock so that you can’t mess with the calibrated settings. Of course, if you want to play with the picture after a calibration, you can simply switch the projector out of ISF Day or Night mode and play to your heart’s content, returning to the calibrated mode when you wish. Multiple Gamma settings and selectable color temperatures are on tap. I chose 2.5 for the Gamma and 2 for the color temperature setting, as these were the closest to accurate in terms of grayscale and a nice slow rise out of black (gamma). A Blue Only feature is included for setting color and tint. This is a big advantage, as using a blue filter with the SMPTE color bar test pattern to set color and tint is not accurate with high light output lamp-based displays like this. I applaud Vidikron for including blue only, originally a feature from the professional broadcast world, as it ensures the accurate setting of both color and tint for all inputs. Of course, you are given the choice of selectable aspect ratios, with anamorphic being the most common for HD and anamorphic DVDs. Vidikron’s version of Theaterwide or Panorama is what the company calls the Intelliwide mode, which stretches the sides to fill the screen with 4:3 standard material, leaving the center proportionately correct. Letterbox, Cinema and Cinema Fill are the remaining available ratios.
As is typical on nearly all front projectors, no matter what the cost, connection options are rather limited. One HDMI input, one component video input with RCA connectors, an RGBHV input that can be used for a second component video input, one S-Video input, one composite video input, an RS-232 port and a 12-volt trigger for electronic drop-down screen control is all the connectivity you get. If you need to enhance your connectivity, consider investing in an outboard external video processor, so you can route all your video sources into the processor and feed that to the projector with one HDMI cable.