Marantz VP-12S2 DLP projector Page 2

The VP-12S2's color decoder is excellent, and, as a result, the color saturation is superb. Red and blue are fairly close to the NTSC SMPTE specifications, but green is not, which accounts for the slightly punchy or pushed-looking greens. The VP-12S2's black-level performance, although not as good as that of my reference Runco DTV-991 CRT projector, is really good and significantly better than that of the VP-12S1. The contrast ratio—the dynamic range between black and full white—is also considerably better than that of last year's model. I attribute both of these advances in picture performance to the new HD2 chip's 12-degree rotation.

While the VP-12S2 may very well be capable of the 2,600:1 contrast ratio that Marantz claims, the company's "full on, full off" method of measurement doesn't apply in the real world. Your room has a major impact on a projector's contrast ratio, and no one's home theater is a black hole. After calibration, I measured a 460:1 contrast ratio, which is excellent. Using title 17, chapter 28 on the Video Essentials test DVD, I measured the black and white areas of the checkerboard pattern, which has circles around the corners upon which the black and white boxes meet. I measured four white and black areas and averaged them (two in the center, one on the left, and one on the right side of the screen). I took this real-world measurement in a darkened home theater in which I'd completely controlled the light, including covering the LEDs on all of the equipment in the room.

My test unit was the stock projector, which includes a short-throw zoom lens. It has a throw ratio of 2.5 to 2.9 times the screen's height, which is convenient for a small-room application. For a larger room, Marantz offers a long-throw lens for an additional $3,500 that has a throw ratio of 4 to 5.4 times the screen's height.

As I expected, HDTV sources from both DirecTV and Dish Network also looked awesome through the VP-12S2. In particular, HDNet looked three-dimensional. Again, I had the opportunity to check out a DVI connection. I ran the DVI output from a Sony SAT-HD200 HD DirecTV tuner directly into the VP-12S2, which produced pristine HD images. There's no doubt in my mind that the DVI connection from the SAT-HD200 looked much cleaner than that of the Dish Network HD feed in my home, which passes through my Dish Network 5000 satellite receiver's RF output, into a Panasonic off-air set-top box, out of the Panasonic DVD-RP91's component video output, and into the Marantz projector.

Thanks to the new HD2 chip, the Marantz VP-12S2 takes one-chip DLP performance to a new level. While it's still not as good as a CRT-based projector in terms of black-level and shadow-detail reproduction, the VP-12S2 comes frighteningly close to that beloved reference. The Marantz doesn't reproduce subtle shadow details in dark scenes as well as a CRT does. Like all DLP projectors, it produces a harder—dare I say—digital-looking image, while CRT projectors produce a smoother, more-filmlike picture. This is a subtle difference, to be sure. Considering the cost differential and the VP-12S2's near-maintenance-free design, it's an extremely compelling product for big-screen front-projection home theater.

Highlights

• Excellent Minolta all-glass optics
• Accepts all HDTV formats and has a 720p native resolution
• Excellent video processing with 3:2 pulldown for film-based sources

COMPANY INFO
Marantz
VP-12S2 DLP projector
$12,500
Dealer Locator Code MAR
(630) 741-0300
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