Vidikron Vision Model 50 DLP Video Projector 
Home Theater Front Projectors DLP Projectors
Written by Kevin Miller   
Wednesday, 01 November 2006

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.

Vidikron’s Vision Model 50 is a very credible performer in the one-chip DLP projector category. I set up the projector in my theater on my A/V cart in a floor-mount configuration and projected onto my Stewart Filmscreen StudioTek 130 screen. The lens, which is quite good with only minor chromatic aberrations, has a zoom ratio of 1.82 to 2.42:1, which meant I had to position it well behind my ceiling-mounted projector to fill the screen. This is a very flexible zoom ratio and should be suitable for just about any home theater installation.

Color decoding is dead-on accurate, with no dreaded “Red Push” or other anomalies. The gamma implementation is excellent, with a slow rise out of black, and grayscale tracking is superb, thanks to nine grayscale adjustments instead of the average six controls. The red and green primaries are a little off from the reference, but not as bad as with most DLP-based projectors on the market. Red measured x=649 and y=314, with the ATSC reference being x=640 and y=330. Green measured x=343 and y=588 with the ATSC reference being x=300 and y=600. Blue, as is typical with many displays today, is much closer to the mark at x= 153 and y=073, with the ATSC reference being x=150 and y=060.

Grayscale tracking in the color temperature setting of 2 and gamma set at 2.5 was fairly close to the broadcast standard of D6500. It was a bit warm or minus blue at the bottom of the scale, with 20 IRE measuring 6075 Kelvins, and very close at 80 percent of peak white at 6850 Kelvins. Grayscale calibration proved relatively easy, and resulted in a near-perfect tracking of gray up and down the entire scale.

Video processing is pretty darn good on the Model 50, especially considering the price. It has the all-important 2:3 pull-down circuit necessary for the elimination of motion artifacts from film-based video material. The Film sequence on the HQV test disc under Select Single Tests showed the 2:3 pull-down detection to be a little slow. In this scene, a race car speeds around a track; in the background are empty bleachers, which were initially full of motion artifacts, and then suddenly cleaned up when the 2:3 kicked in. However, on the opening sequence of Star Trek: Insurrection, the best real-world program material demo of 2:3 pull-down, the scene was rendered smoothly and pristinely, with no visible motion artifacts.

The Model 50 uses the older HD2+ dark chip from Texas Instruments, rather than the newer and more expensive Dark Chip 3, to meet its price point. For more money, you can get blacks that are blacker, yet with the Model 50, you get blacks that are superior to those of most LCoS and transmissive LCD projectors in its price range. The projector clips below black at the component input, making setting the brightness properly a little tricky. Fortunately, this was not the case with the HDMI input, which did pass below black. To test black-level performance, I watched a variety of scenes, mostly space shots, from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. Star fields looked great and blacks were certainly deep, rich and convincing. This kind of material on a projector that can’t do black well is always distracting to watch, and consequently a lot less involving.

For color saturation and detail, I watched scenes from the excellent DVD transfers of Seabiscuit and Training Day. Chapters 12 and 13 of Seabiscuit in particular looked quite good on the Model 50, with especially natural looking skin tones and excellent color saturation. Deeply saturated reds and greens were convincing, even when compared to my reference rig, the Runco DTV-991 CRT projector, which has superb color saturation and extremely accurate reds and greens, thanks to red and green filters on the CRTs. Training Day remains one of the sharpest transfers on standard-definition DVD to date. Chapter four, when the two cops chase down the kids in the car, really popped with razor sharp detail and clarity. You must own this DVD if for no other reason than to show off your video system.

HD material from my Time Warner Cable HD feed also looked quite good. I watched hours of The Discovery HD Theater channel, which most of the time is one of the best-looking channels on the system. “Miracle Continent: Antarctica,” in particular, looked fantastic, with fine detail visible in the ice and snow. The Model 50 delivered a peak light output of 24 foot lamberts, which as a reference is twice the specification for projected film in a movie theater. This high light output, coupled with good black level performance, made images virtually pop off the screen, an indication of excellent contrast ratio, which I like to describe as the snap of the picture. Dark concert footage on HDNET, another reference-quality station on my system, revealed good shadow detail, a further indication of the good black levels the Model 50 delivers.

The Downside
-The chassis of the model 50 is rather large and unattractive, so you might want to nestle it behind a back wall if possible or hide it up in the ceiling to minimize its visibility. Depending on your installation, a hush box with a forced air system solves this vanity issue of mine and would also help to keep the projector cool and effectively silent.

I would like to see Vidikron improve the accuracy of the green primary and the secondary colors, as they are fairly far off from the ATSC references. The limited connectivity means you will need either a high-quality AV receiver for routing your video sources or, better yet, a high-quality external video processor like Vidikron’s own Model VDP-80.

Vidikron’s Vision Model 50 overall is a strong performer. In fact, as far as color accuracy and light output are concerned, it is superior to anything I know of in its class. At $9,999, the Model 50 is also a solid value and very competitive with similar offerings from Sharp, Sim2 and others. For example, Sharp’s XVZ-12000MKII sells for $11,000, and the Sim2 HT300E also carries a list price of $11,000. The Sharp, which uses the newest Dark Chip 3 DMD chip from Texas Instruments, delivers slightly better black level performance, but to me, the Vidikron is superior in all other aspects of picture performance. Don’t get hung up on being focused on only having the latest and greatest chip sets. A projector is more than a chip or collection of chips. The Vidikron model 50 is living, beaming proof.

The Model 50 offers an awesome feature package for a front projector, with lots of picture-enhancing features and a couple of extremely convenient set-up features as well. It is capable of adequately driving screen sizes up to about 84 inches wide with ample light output. The numbers are there and the price is right, making the Vidikron Model 50 a projector that commands you to give it a look if you are in the market for a top-performing projector anywhere near $10,000 in price. (NOTE: Vidikron announced at CEDIA 2006 the availability to outfit their projectors with Cinewide and Cinewide with Autoscope 2.35:1 technology.)
Manufacturer Vidikron
Model Vision Model 50 DLP Video Projector
Reviewer Kevin Miller
Chipset 1-Chip

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