Yamaha DPX-1200 DLP projector Page 3

For example, I reviewed the DVD of Million Dollar Baby in the July 2005 Ultimate AV newsletter on the DPX-1200. I commented:

"Chapter 5 also offers what may be the definitive scene for checking DLP rainbows. Watch the shot where Scrap first holds the punching bag for Maggie, then lets it move freely. Most of the scene is darkest black, but the bag, moving slowly, is illuminated by a sliver of light on both sides. If you don't see rainbows along those bright edges, even when moving your eyes just slightly, you probably never will. You either have a rainbow-free display or are insensitive to this artifact."

I also saw rainbows on the Yamaha with other material as well. But I've become more indifferent toward them than I was in the early days of DLP projectors They've become less frequent, showing up mainly on the sort of difficult material described here. If you fall in the "don't see them" or "don't mind them" camps (and so do family and friends who are also likely to spend a lot of time with your projector), they won't bother you on the Yamaha.

A bit more serious were unusual artifacts in extremely dark areas of some (but not most) program material. I saw them for the first time on Million Dollar Baby. As I noted in my review of the DVD, they appeared as "some false contours and odd color distortions in the deepest shadows of chapter 35 (just as Dunne leaves the hospital room)."

More specifically, those distortions looked like irregular ripples of dark color bursting from nearly black regions of the image. I saw the problem again on the opening shot, and later on as well, in Steamboy, though there it looked more like noise combined with some reddish discoloration in the darkest grays and browns. The same thing appeared, though less clearly, in the early below-decks scenes from Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. All of this material has two characteristics in common: it's extremely dark, and it involves the camera panning across black or near-black areas.

Fortunately, the problem did not occur on most dark scenes, only a very few. And when it did, it was consistently repeatable. It also appeared mainly with 480i and 480p HDMI inputs. It disappeared with a 720p HDMI input from the Pioneer DV-59AVi DVD player.

To isolate the problem from the source material or player, I played all the offending scenes again on a Sony VPL-HS51 LCD projector. The artifacts did not appear on the Sony when I drove it with the Pioneer player, though oddly they did show up on the Sony when it was sourced from the Kaleidescape server. They were also reduced to barely visible (480i) or inconsequential (480p) when I replaced the HDMI connection between the Pioneer and the Yamaha with a component link.

But there was nothing else about the Yamaha's picture that suggested it might be malfunctioning. On the contrary, apart from this occasional artifact, the Yamaha produced the best picture I have yet seen from a home-oriented DLP projector.

Other than the problem noted, dark scenes nearly always looked impressive on the Yamaha, with superb blacks, convincing shadow detail, and no obvious false contouring. If very dark grays occasionally looked a little crushed on some occasions, but a little light on others, those variations alone suggest that the problem lay in the program material, not the projector. Most of the time, the blacks simply looked right.

Million Dollar Baby is one of those films that can look a little crushed in the blacks. It's an inherently very dark movie, shot in dim and dingy interiors. But it has all the shadow detail you need to make sense of what's happening. And the images from this film never look washed out or low in contrast on the Yamaha. It also looked reasonably crisp, though a little less naturally detailed than the best DVDs I've seen.

I hadn't revisited The Matrix for several years (the original—not the unnecessary sequels) when I called it up recently on the new Kaleidescape video server (under review). It turned out to be a superb transfer, far better than I recall. The Yamaha might well have had something to do with that. This DVD looked far sharper than Million Dollar Baby, but never etched or artificially enhanced. The Matrix sequences were subtly green-tinted, just as they should be. The colors in the real-world images were naturally balanced, with fine flesh tones, but subdued (as designed). The film's black level and shadow detail were extraordinary—every bit as impressive as any I've experienced with other films from a digital projector at any price, using any technology.

Nor did any of my old favorites disappoint me on the DPX-1200. Shakespeare in Love did look just a little dim, but kicking the projector's iris up to its middle position easily compensated. The Technicolor images on the 1953 version of The War of the Worlds looked clean and fresh.

If you want brilliant, accurate color, you can hardly do better than Under the Tuscan Sun. I watched this pleasant time-waster over a year ago, but rarely gave it another thought. I don't recall which projector I watched it on the first time, but I do remember that the DVD appeared to have a nice, though not spectacular, transfer, with a slightly over-enhanced, "video" look. But the Yamaha, now with its Sharpness turned Off, displayed the film beautifully. The dinner scenes made me hungry. The fiesta scene was so vividly colorful that I wondered why I've never seen this DVD used as a demonstration piece. Could it be that it doesn't look this terrific on all projectors?

High Definition
Most of my viewing is still done from DVD. High definition is great, but it doesn't yet have the almost infinite variety of programming that's available on those little silver discs. But little silver discs with high definition on them are likely to turn up late this year or early next. For those—not to mention the broadcast HD program material available now—a projector must be able to handle higher resolutions or it's a non-starter, no matter how well it handles DVD.

We may be on the cusp of 1920x1080 resolution for home displays, but a first-class 1280x720, high definition image, on a screen of reasonable size, can still be an eye-opener. And the Yamaha was. With my standard HD test material, recorded off-the-air onto a DVR, the DPX-1200 looked exceptional. Excerpts from the 2003 Academy Awards live telecast, an ABC broadcast of Jurassic Park III, and a few minutes from the now-cancelled sitcom Life With Bonnie, all in 720p, popped off the screen. Several 1080i clips looked fine, too, and I doubt if any viewers would find them disappointing. But I'm going to be picky and note that 1080i, while clearly superior to DVD, looked just a little less like "viewing through an open window" than 720p.

Conclusions
I don't know what the next year will bring in home theater projectors. Will the dynamic or auto iris that impressed me so much on a few projectors in recent months be incorporated into others, bringing us closer yet to that still-unattained goal of CRT-quality blacks and shadow detail? Will 1080p projectors become more affordable or remain the Mercedes of video displays? Will the ongoing battle for supremacy between DLP, LCD, and LCoS (and its variants) continue to heat up? And what kind of new HD sources will we have a year from now, and in what quantity?

None of these questions should stop you from making a decision now if you are currently looking for a good projector. The Yamaha is not only good, it's a contender for the best consumer projector on the market.

Highs and Lows

Highs
Superb image quality
Flexible video and setup controls
Quiet operation

Lows
Noise artifacts visible in a few very dark scenes
Luminance response more limited with component input and 1080i sources than with HDMI and 720p

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