TAW HD-800 CRT Front Projector
Monty Python's take on the plague in the Middle Ages could just as easily be applied to the CRT-based front-projector market. Pundits have long proclaimed that CRT technology, at least 30 to 40 years old and an admitted setup and maintenance hassle, is dead, or at least in its last years of life. Upstarts like DLP and D-ILA and adolescents like LCD are ready to take CRT's place in the front-projector market. Then, as other consumer-projector manufacturers close their doors, a new CRT company pops up.
A. The TAW HD-800 uses 8-inch electromagnetically focused CRTs and has a horizontal scan frequency of 90 kHz.
Enter Theater Automation Wow! (TAW) and their HD-800 CRT projector. TAW is unique in their distribution approach to home theater. They sell direct, either via the Internet or through a local dealer (whom they refer to as a distributor). You might think that buying a projector over the Internet would be a bad idea, particularly since a CRT projector requires so much expertise and effort to install and maintain. Normally, we would completely agree. However, TAW offers the same level of service you would expect from your local dealer by contracting through authorized local distributors for the installation. You buy the projector from TAW, TAW ships the projector to you, and the local distributor installs it. The installation fee will depend on your requirements and the dealer's pricing. TAW has about 25 distributors throughout the country. If you live outside of the area of these distributors, TAW will send their own crew to do the installation. The end result is that you get the local service you need but save money by buying direct. In fact, since TAW ships from Florida, non-Florida residents save on sales tax. It's an intriguing plan.
As it is, the HD-800, at $16,999, is one of the least expensive electromagnetically focused projectors in the consumer market. Generally speaking, electromagnetic focus allows for a tighter beam-spot size and sharper picture than the more-common electrostatically focused products, although we've seen exceptions. The projector uses three 8-inch CRTs and has a horizontal scan frequency of 90 kilohertz. Since most projectors use 7-inch CRTs, the HD-800's larger CRT should offer better light output and (again) increased resolution. The high scan frequency allows the projector to display all the various HDTV formats and many computer resolutions.
Input options on the projector are limited to RGB+Sync. There are no NTSC connections, which is a good thing. There are no wideband component inputs for HDTV or progressive DVD, either. These signals will need to be transcoded to RGB. You definitely want to upconvert NTSC signals with a quality video processor. Assuming the processor's capabilities match those of the projector, the processor can have as much or more to do with picture quality as the projector. All connections should be made to the processor.