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New High-End Front Projectors With DLP Abound

As expected, the recent CEDIA Expo proved to be a major showcase for next-generation video front projectors based on DLP micro-device technologies, and revealed a developing trend of using pricey three-chip DLP solutions for the extreme high-end home theater market.

At the same time, manufacturers began lining up smaller and lighter high-definition DLP models, with price points now starting under $8,000, and produced even lower-cost and lower-resolution home theater options with native widescreen aspect ratios.

This was good news for Texas Instruments, whose Digital Light Processing (DLP) chips virtually covered the floor of the convention. Most of the DLP-based front- and rear-projection systems were based on TI’s second generation HD2 “Mustang” widescreen digital micro-mirror device (DMD), which yields a full 1,280 by 720 pixel HD resolution, or the newer HD2+ DMD chipset and DLP engine. The HD2+ system also features 1,280 by 720 pixel resolution but offers a higher contrast ratio, and improved video performance in dark scenes using an improved color wheel design.

But a number of manufacturers showcased new three-chip DLP front projectors for the very high-end trade. Texas Instruments helped to spur development of three-chip designs recently by announcing a new lower cost solution for the approach.

At the same time companies including Runco/Vidikron, Sim2 and InFocus produced mini front projectors based on TI’s new “Matterhorn” widescreen DMD (1,024 by 576 resolution), which features a reduced pixel count, at a lower cost. The technology was originally developed for the PAL countries that don’t have much high-definition source material, but U.S. firms are offering the technology to attract a wider audience.

The following is a glance at some of the many DLP-based front-projector offerings that were displayed at CEDIA.

Accurate Imaging Technologies (AIT) introduced its first two front projectors based on DLP technology — the Accurate BR-5 and Accurate BR-7. Both models list contrast ratios of 2,000:1 and compact styling.

The BR-5 (shipping now at a $5,995 suggested retail) weighs 6.4 pounds and features a native 1,024 by 768 resolution, internal scaling, 3:2 pull-down, multiple aspect ratio settings, and a peak brightness of 1,000 ANSI Lumens. Connections include DVI-HDCP, RGB HV, component video (YPrPb), S-Video and composite video.

The BR-7 (shipping in October at a price to be announced) features 1,280 by 720 high-definition resolution, internal scaling, 3:2 pull-down and a peak brightness of 1,000 ANSI Lumens, and the same connection package as the BR-5.

BenQ showed its PE8700 home theater projector based on TI’s 1,280 by 720 widescreen DMD. The unit is shipping now at a $7,995 suggested retail price.

Marantz unveiled its VP-12S3 HD DLP front projector using Texas Instruments HD2+ DMD chip with 1,280 by 720 resolution, but promising “improved sharpness and color accuracy,” over early versions. Brightness is rated at 700 ANSI lumens and contrast is said to be 3,800:1. The Marantz VP-12S3 will ship in November at a $12,999 suggested retail price. An optional long-throw lens version is available at a suggested retail price of $15,999.

Other features include 3:2 pull-down detection and a 10-bit digital gamma processing system along with Faroudja chipsets, which incorporate patented Directional Correlational Deinterlacing (DCDi) technology. Inputs include dual-component video, RGB and DVI with HDCP jacks.

Marantz also showed a three-chip prototype DLP front projector.

Optoma displayed its H76 DLP front projector which uses a single-chip DMD with 1,280 by 720 resolution. It is slated to sell for under $8,000.

Runco announced three-chip DLP projectors in eight models and two product families. The Video Extreme VX-4c and VX-6c families both use TI’s advanced “Dark Metal Process” DMD chipset that delivers 1,280 by 1,024 resolution and improved black-level performance. Runco said it would offer four different versions of each model to meet different installation needs.

These include a 720p system, a 960p system, a 1,024p system and a 1,024p with 2.35 aspect ratio system that is ideally configured for CinemaScope presentations. Suggested retail prices for the VX4c models range from $69,995-$99,995, while the VX-6c model models range from $89,995-$109,995.

The VX-4c models use a 700-watt Xenon lamp (up to 56.2 foot-Lamberts of brightness), while the flagship VX-6c models use a 1.2-kilowatt lamp (up to 101.3 foot-Lamberts of brightness.)

SIM2 unveiled its new entry Domino line of DLP front projectors, consisting of two models — the Domino 20 ($5,995 suggested) and 30 ($8,995 suggested). Model 20 employs TI’s new “Matterhorn” 576p DMD device.

Sim2 is offering the projectors in either black or white enclosures, which led to the “Domino” line name. Both models also include long-throw lenses and Faroudja DCDi de-interlacing/image processing.

The Domino 30 is based on the HD2 chip-set, and delivers full high-definition 1,280 by 720 resolution. It also adds an enhanced color wheel, and boasts a 2,000:1 contrast ratio.

The company also unveiled the HT300 Link ($14,995 suggested retail) and HT300 Xtra ($11,995 suggested retail) front projectors that employ HD2+ chipset. Both claim 2,800:1 contrast ratios. The HT300 is bundled with Sim2’s DigiOptic Image processor.

Samsung unveiled its first DLP-based front projector — the SP-H700A (shipping this fall at a $10,000 suggested retail). The unit, which uses a single-chip 1,280 by 720 DMD chipset, was designed with the assistance of noted industry videophile consultant Joe Kane. It adds extensive memory and color calibration settings, plus direct input capability for RGB color coordinates.

Sharp announced its new SharpVision XV-Z12000U, slated to ship in October at a $11,999 suggested retail, will employ TI’s HD2+ chipset. It also announced two models based on the Matterhorn chipset — the SharpVision XV-Z200, which will ship in December at $4,499, and Sharp DT-300, which will ship in January at $4,299.

Toshiba showcased its second-generation DLP front projector in the MT-800 (shipping in this fall at a $7,999.99 suggested retail). The projector uses a single HD2+ chip with 1,280 by 720 resolution plus Carl Zeiss optics. The contrast ratio is listed at 2,200:1 and brightness was said to be 1,000 ANSI Lumens. The company also showed its Matterhorn-based MT-500, which is shipping now at $3,999.