DWIN TransVision 4 DLP Projection System Page 2

The TransVision 4 has a bright 250W lamp. DWIN claims 3,000:1 contrast ratio. A lower lamp setting or a stepped iris might have allowed DWIN to claim an even greater contrast ratio. On the other hand, the high light output means the DWIN wouldn't be likely to suffer if its image were cast on a Stewart GrayHawk or similar darkened material. DWIN doesn't require or even recommend a gray screen, but I think you could get by with one if that were your preference. There's certainly ample light output. The lamp is rated for 2000 hours (to half brightness).

206dwin.3.jpgDuring the review, I fed the DWIN from the DVI output of my V, Inc. Bravo D2 DVD player, which upconverts DVDs to 720p, and from my Samsung SIR-TS360 DirecTV high-definition receiver set to output a 720p signal. I also briefly used the Pioneer Elite DV-45A as well to test the DWIN's ability to upconvert a 480i signal to the projector's native 720p resolution. As I've said before, if you're going to spend thousands on a digital projector, spend another couple hundred and get a player with DVI/HDMI output to drive it in the digital domain.

Double Vision
The TransVision 4 is easy to set up. Maybe too easy. The cornucopia of gamma settings and user memories in the SIM2 HT300 E-LINK and InFocus Screenplay 7210 were much less than a distant memory as I discovered that the Transvision 4 has none of this beloved Tom Foolery in its innards (Please don't make a pun on my name. –Ed). Each input did have its own picture settings for brightness, contrast, color, tint, sharpness and a custom aspect ratio. But that's it in the tweak department.

In spite of the fact that the projector had not been calibrated to D65 before I received it, I thought the colors looked pretty good out of the box, if leaning a little towards blue. As usual, I resorted to the Digital Video Essentials DVD for a quick calibration of the user accessible "front panel" adjustments. DWIN uses a 100-point scale for all the picture adjustments, except sharpness. Color and tint are adjustable with the DVI inputs, a useful option that's not available on all projectors.

Only small offsets from the color and tint center points were required to get the best results. In the end, I felt I achieved a slightly improved image. When TJN gets the unit, he'll have more to say about the DWIN's gray scale. Most of the newer digital projectors provide access to gray scale adjustments in the user menu, but the DWIN puts them in a code-locked service menu.

The first thing that will hit you with the DWIN is the quality of the optics. The lens is excellent and the picture the sharpest DLP image I've seen in my house. Unlike other projectors, there is no built in focus pattern or grid, but it was always easy to find perfect focus by eye. The manual didn't say anything special about the lens, but the web site reveals the TransVision 4 projector uses Carl Zeiss optics. Any camera buffs out there will recognize the name, along with Leica, as one of the best glass manufacturers.

Let's talk hi-def for a sec. I love my DWIN CRT, but boy, if you ask what would I rather watch, hi-def on the CRT or on the DLP, I'd cut you off before you got to the letter "P." The DLP is sharper, it's brighter, it's cleaner, it's simply better! While the base TransVision 4 lacks the very latest TI 720p DLP chip, DarkChip3, it still gets excellent black level from the HD2+ DarkChip2, especially with high-definition material. If you want that extra five percent, DWIN offers the TransVision 4 in a DarkChip3 version (for a $1500 premium) that is said to offer a subtle improvement in black level, among other incremental refinements.

On high-definition material, black level, even from this very bright projector, was never an issue. The only time I felt the need for a lower black level was, ironically, with 4:3 material on DVD. The matte area on the sides of the picture made me wish for a darker screen material or at least a lower lamp setting. But old school 4:3 material is hardly the way to judge a high-definition projector. Subjectively, 98% of the time, the DWIN was dark enough where it counted, with high-definition sources.

At the other end of the spectrum, the projector's brightness only seemed excessive when the source material was over enhanced for the broadcast. In particular, football on ABC high-definition channel seemed artificially enhanced and the whites in the football jerseys lacked some detail. With a CRT, we'd call this blooming. With digital, it just means the contrast is up too much. Sure enough, backing off on the contrast control during football season is a good idea. This is a case where multiple memories per input would come in handy. On the other hand, even with all those lumens on reserve, the DWIN's brightness never contributed to what we think of as "gray blacks." Blacks were always very good.

During transitions from light to dark I didn't notice any false contouring with most high-definition and DVD material. The single exception was still image of a circular transition that showed a gentle, but apparent stepping rather than a smooth, natural transition. In fact, the DWIN proved to have less contouring in very dark scenes than any of the DLP projectors I've had in house, and by a wide margin.

High-definition sources differ wildly in quality and the TransVision 4 had no difficulty in pointing out those differences. Content on Mark Cuban's HDNet Movies channel, arguably one of the best sources for high-definition material, was usually sublime. Even movies like Moscow on the Hudson, made when the Kremlin was still evil and Robin Williams was still fresh, looked beautiful on this channel and utterly irresistible. And Against All Odds had me waking up the next day humming Phil Collins while remembering the pristine transfer. But not all transfers are perfect and not all HDNet Movies are eye candy. A powerful drama like Silkwood, limelighting one of Meryl Streep's most absorbing character performances, has to be shown regardless of the quality of the transfer. The movie betrays its age and somewhat skunked production values with murky dark scenes that were not as deep as I'd seen from other films with the DWIN. Clearly the transfer was the problem. But even here, the DWIN did not succumb to noticeable contouring or non-linear noise, as I would have expected. If only my plasma TV was this good with dark scenes and less than pristinely lit material!

Movies on DVD like Universal's The Island, which sported many brightly lit scenes and a whole society dressed in white, naturally fared well. Darker fare, like The Machinist and The Ring (Dreamworks 89980) also looked spectacular with the DWIN, and the black levels were easily satisfying, and, for lack of a more expressive word, smooth. Carlos Santana smooth.

I also connected a Pioneer Elite DV-45A DVD player and Microsoft Xbox console to the DWIN's two component inputs. The images were quite good and in the case of DVD viewing, the component inputs looked as good I'd expect with a good CRT, only sharper and definitely brighter. I played only Halo on the game console but this is considered one of the better looking X-Box games. The DWIN never exhibited any artifacts or inability to keep up with my quick deaths (Oh yes, as a nine year old boy from somewhere in the ether that is online play observed, in his still gelded voice, I suck, dude.) In team mode, with my large screen split up into, essentially, four 45" diagonal widescreen sets, everybody had plenty of real estate and detailed graphics. Affordable but high-end front screen projection systems like the DWIN are going to open up a whole new world to gamers and should be an inspiration to snotty prepubescent boys everywhere.

One final note: the DWIN Transvision 4 is quieter than the InFocus 7210 and doesn't throw off heat to anywhere the same degree. In addition, although the InFocus leaked light out the back and right side, the DWIN is essentially dark everywhere except where it shouldn't be. Add to that the DWIN's separate video processing box, and then subtract the slight black level advantage of the InFocus's DarkChip3 design, and it still becomes elementary for me. The DWIN offers most of the convenience of the SIM2 HT300 E-LINK at the price of the InFocus making it a winner in my book.

It was near the end of the review period that was told by DWIN that the TransVision 4 is available with the DarkChip3 for an additional $1,500. That should seal the deal for some people. I'd be perfectly happy with the DarkChip2 projector I just reviewed. The way prices keep dropping, we'll all be upgrading to 1080p projectors in three or four years, and it's more than likely (if not inevitable) that they will cost us less than we're spending for 720p machines today. But I live in the present and the DWIN joins some of the best looking DLP front projectors out there today, but with the added convenience of a powerful external video processor. The day after I watched the SuperBowl on the DWIN I had to box it up for the return trip to California. Will I miss it? Like a favorite arm. Highly recommended.

Highs and Lows

Picture is both bright and capable of fine black level.
Lens is extremely sharp
Separate processor with lots of inputs and a single cable run to the projector

No built in grid pattern for focusing
No Mechanical Lens Shift