Plus Piano Avanti HE-3200 DLP Projector Page 2
The Piano Avanti HE-3200's video performance was very similar to the HE-3100's: extreme highlights were slightly blown out. That is, various levels of the brightest whites all looked the same. I've seen this effect on most single-chip DLPs, and it was no worse on the Piano Avanti than on many more expensive models. The red differentiation was good but not great. The Piano Avanti could not distinguish between the reds of the two leather jackets in chapter 11 of VH1 Divas. Lawns were an iridescent green, looking more like Astroturf than cellulose. Motion artifacts were present on slow pans, but not to the point of being major distractions.
I had noticed some variations from gray-scale neutrality in the HE-3100, but the HE-3200's gray scale looked spot on. Perhaps having TJN calibrate the Piano Avanti's color before it arrived on my doorstep had something to do with this. With an output of 450 ANSI lumens, the Piano Avanti was not the projector for watching daytime football games in my sunroom, but in a darkened room with a 1.3-gain screen, it was more than bright enough to produce a fine picture.
Rainbow effects remain unchanged from the HE-3100. I've come to the conclusion that I'm more sensitive than most viewers to the pernicious effects of the rainbows created by single-chip DLPs. Watching double features through the Piano Avanti gave me serious optical headaches that lasted all night. If you're thinking of purchasing a single-chip DLP projector, I suggest you watch for at least three continuous hours before deciding whether or not rainbows and eyestrain are problems for you.
The HE-3200 displayed noticeable pixel cropping on the Avia test DVD, and shaved quite a bit off the picture area. On the left, right, and bottom, the Piano Avanti cut off more than 20 pixels, while on the top it sliced away only 14. Geometry was fine as long as I didn't use too much keystone correction. Within ±8 on the correction scale, the geometry was quite acceptable, but when I went outside this range, circles were transformed into ellipses. Unlike many projectors, the Piano Avanti's keystone correction didn't introduce jagged edges or lines through the image, but because it did alter the geometry, it had to be used with care. A little bit of keystone correction goes a long way.
The new zoom lens on the Piano Avanti performed admirably with both test patterns and movies. Focusing could be a challenge—the focusing and zoom rings are ridiculously close together, making it hard to turn just one of them. But, once focused, this lens was sharp, sharp, sharp. I didn't have a Piano HE-3100 around for direct comparison, so I can't say that the Piano Avanti's new zoom was definitely sharper than the HE-3100's fixed-focus glass, but it was sharp enough to bring out all the detail from 480p sources.
Unfortunately, the Piano Avanti's lens doesn't correct differences in image size between 4:3 and 16:9 sources. If you fill a 4:3 screen with a 4:3 image, the 16:9 image will run off the screen on either side. If you set up your magnification so the 16:9 image extends just to the edge of your screen, the 4:3 image will not fill the whole 4:3 screen. This problem stems from the DLP chip itself, which uses different numbers of pixels for the two aspect ratios. Unless you want to spend some time messing with your zoom lens's magnification, you'll just have to live with this minor inconvenience.
The bottom line for any projector is how filmlike a movie looks through it. The Plus Piano Avanti HE-3200 did an excellent job of rendering DVDs in a very cinematic way. It downsamples all hi-def sources to its native rate, and so can't reproduce hi-def sources as well as a DLP projector armed with Texas Instruments' new HD2 chip. Yet the Piano Avanti's lack of true hi-def resolution can be easily forgiven; after all, it costs $10,000 less than any current HD2 machine.
My neighbor plans to install a home theater in his rec room. I invited him over, and five minutes of viewing convinced him that the Piano Avanti would be perfect for his room. I have the feeling that many folks will come to that conclusion. At $3299, the Plus Piano Avanti HE-3200 delivers a lot of projector in a neat, small, cinematically satisfying package.