InFocus Play Big IN76 DLP Projector
At the Home Entertainment Show this past June, the Home Theater staff put together the HTGamer Gaming Pavilion. The purpose was twofold. Not only did it give expo attendees a place to rest their weary feet for a spell, the pavilion allowed them time to relax and experience gaming on three different home theater systems. The first image these lucky attendees set their eyes on as they entered the room was a small rebel force attempting to break through the tyrannical Empire's lines of storm troopers in Star Wars: Battlefront II. An Alienware Aurora 7500 high-performance PC fed the image to the InFocus Play Big IN76 DLP projector and onto a Stewart GrayHawk screen. Even in a less-than-optimal convention environment, the IN76 produced an awe-inspiring image. But how would it perform in a theater?
Judge a Book By Its Cover
Back at the Home Theater studio, I was able to get a closer look at the IN76. Aesthetically, both the projector and its remote are striking. The IN76 employs smooth lines reminiscent of a classic 1960s roadster and a black case that blends well into a darkened home theater environment. The remote has a new feature that is ingenious in its simplicity. On the remote's underside is a trigger button that controls the remote's backlight. The light only illuminates the straightforward icons on the buttons and not the text affiliated with them. Overall, the IN76 demonstrates great aesthetic improvement over previous InFocus generations. The onscreen menu has changed very little. It's still functional and easy to navigate. Surprisingly absent from the menu is a tint control for the component input.
One thing the IN76 didn't need much of was calibration. The default 6,500 Kelvin setting was warm on the darkest end of the gray-scale range but tracked accurately up to a full white. Minor calibration adjustments brought the warm, dark end of the gray-scale screen closer to 6,500 K, but the small change in color temperature was only noticeable when we used our colorimeter.
May It Be a Light to You in Dark Places
InFocus projectors have never had a problem putting out enough light, and the IN76 is no exception. With a light output of 21 foot-lamberts in High Bright mode on our screen, it should have no trouble projecting an amply bright image onto a really large screen. Even in the fluorescent-lit convention room, the IN76 put up a clearly visible picture. The black level is acceptable in this mode, coming in at 0.012 ft-L. If you plan to use the projector in a room free of external light, it also has a low-light mode that brings the light output down to just under 17 ft-L. Unfortunately, it only nominally lowers the full-field black, decreasing the contrast ratio from 1,764:1 to 1,668:1. Even with the reduction in contrast ratio, there is an added bonus to the low-light mode. Since the projector runs cooler in the low setting, the fan doesn't have to work as hard, reducing the fan noise by quite a bit.
Depending on your room's setup, the projector's light throw might cause some issues. If you plan to place it in a rack at the back of the room, it will need to be rather low. In our studio, on an 87-inch-wide screen at about 10 feet away, the projector sat on the second-lowest shelf of our rack—about 1.5 feet high. The further back the projector goes, the higher the image rises. If you have a large screen and furniture that might block the image, consider mounting it on the ceiling (upside down).
Looking at the quantization ramp on Video Essentials shows a fairly smooth shift from light to dark with only a few lines noticeable. When I checked for the lines in The Fifth Element (beginning of chapter 5), they were very unnoticeable. The IN76 also did a good job picking up the 3:2 sequence. The roofs in Gladiator had minimal jaggies.
To continue the "good job" trend, the IN76 handled video deinterlacing rather well. Looking at the flag test on the Silicon Optix HQV Benchmark DVD, there were some jaggies along the edges, but the IN76 still scored better than average. The "Jaggies Test Pattern 1," also on the HQV Benchmark DVD, came in at around 20 degrees. Again, that's better than average but not the best.
I Can See Clearly Now
Until this point, the InFocus IN76's performance has been pretty good. Looking at the detail, I expected to see more of the same, and I wasn't disappointed. I popped in The Fifth Element again, this time to look at the first scene in Egypt (chapter 2). First off, there was very little noise in the image. The sky over the Sahara Desert was clear. Inside of the archeological find, you can see the definition in the hieroglyphs and the chips in the wall. Faces are relatively free of noise, and the detail in facial wrinkles and hair is sharp.
The past few months have been exciting with the release of the new high-def formats. Many consumers—with the VHS/Beta war still in their minds—have committed to wait it out and see which (if either) format survives. Those of us in the industry are salivating over the test-material possibilities. A handful of titles have surfaced on HD DVD, one being Firewall. (See my review in last month's issue.) The disc is one of the cleanest and most detailed movies currently available on either format. It's perfect for showing off what a display can do—or accentuating its shortcomings. In the IN76's case, the 1080i image came off looking a little soft. Although it was still more detailed than a standard DVD, it wasn't as sharp as I've seen it through other projectors. There is one important distinction, though: Those other projectors were all more expensive than the IN76.
In an industry that is constantly changing, there's always talk about the newest must-have technology. While that's great for those who need to be on the cutting edge, most of us are satisfied as long as a product does what it's supposed to do—specifically, what we paid for it to do. The IN76 is one of those products. It projects a great 720p image and does so out of the box. Its cost is comparable to that of a well-performing flat screen, too. If you're planning to upgrade to a projector, the InFocus Play Big IN76 definitely deserves a close look.
• Enough light output for a large screen, even with some daylight
• Redesigned remote is attractive and functional
• Does a good job with processing