Plus Vision Piano Avanti HE-3200 DLP Video Projector 
Home Theater Front Projectors DLP Projectors
Written by Ed Masterson   
Saturday, 01 February 2003

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 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.

The Movies/Television
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 Downside
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.
Manufacturer Plus Vision
Model Piano Avanti HE-3200 DLP Video Projector
Reviewer Ed Masterson

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