Vivitek H1085 DLP Projector Page 2

As with most projectors in this price range, the Vivitek provides no lens-shift controls, which move the lens up and down and left and right. Without these controls, you are very limited in where you can place the projector in relation to the screen. The ideal placement is to mount it upside down from the ceiling with the lens axis pointed at the top of the screen. If you put it on a table or stand, the lens axis must be pointed at the bottom of the screen, which means people in the room can easily block the image.

In addition, the lens-zoom range is more limited than I've seen on many other projectors. This means there is less flexibility in the distance it can be from a screen of a given size, further limiting your placement options.

After positioning the projector, I set the basic picture controls (Brightness, Contrast, Color, Tint, and Sharpness). At the maximum Contrast setting that didn't clip above-white, the peak-white level was way too high on my 75-inch-wide screen, even in Standard lamp mode. So I backed it off until the peak-white level was around 16 foot-lamberts, where it should be for a completely dark room. This means the H1085 will work well on a larger screen in Standard lamp mode and an even larger screen in Boost lamp mode.

Real-World Performance
From the moment I started watching real-world content, it was clear that the blacks were going to be far from deep. Even after my calibration adjustments, the black of space in the opening title sequence of Stargate: Continuum on Blu-ray was distinctly gray, and few of the stars I know to be there were visible. Shadow detail in the scene of the Achilles steaming across the Atlantic was also poor, with lots of low-level detail lost in solid gray. The color of skin tones and the tans of camo uniforms was good, as was detail in the texture of clothing and masonry buildings.

It was much the same story with Super 8 on Blu-ray. The letterbox bars were definitely gray and plainly visible, even in bright scenes, and the shadow detail in the night scene while the kids are shooting their movie before the train crash was fairly poor. On the plus side, bright daytime scenes, such as the cleanup the day after the crash, looked quite good, with excellent detail in hair and skin textures and good color in skin tones and green grass.

Turning to DVD, the black in the opening title sequence of Star Trek: Insurrection was very light, and shadow detail that's present in the duck-blind observation post was almost non-existent. Colors, such as green foliage and blue sky, were good, but overall detail was not as sharp as I've seen standard-def look on other projectors. When I realized the Oppo BDP-83 player was set to output the disc's native resolution—in this case, 480i—I switched it to output an upscaled 1080p signal, and the detail noticeably improved.

Topsy-Turvy on DVD has a great test of shadow detail near the beginning, when Arthur Sullivan is in a carriage at night rushing to the theater to conduct Princess Ida. On the Vivitek, this scene was mostly solid gray. The color of skin tones, green wall paper, and maroon velvet furniture was good.

Bottom Line
The Vivitek H1085 calibrates very well and provides an effective CMS, and it exhibits good detail with 1080p sources and good color overall. However, it also suffers from very poor blacks and shadow detail, resulting in an image that is dingy and dull with little pop except in bright scenes. Alas, it does not satisfy my quest for a high-performance, low-cost projector.

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