Fujitsu LPF-D711W LCD Video Projector and LPF-QSD1W AV Selector

When Fujitsu announced a high-end LCD projector, my first reaction was a stifled yawn. After all, until recently, home theater LCD projectors had been limited to the low end. Yes, they sometimes offered very good value for the money, and we've given good reviews to more than one of them over the years. But an LCD projector priced like a new car, in competition with 3-chip DLPs and high-end LCoS projectors, seemed far-fetched. Even more surprising was the fact that Fujitsu was known in the home video market for plasma displays, not projectors.

Then I saw the projector at CES last January. My reservations vanished. What I saw was arguably the best video display at the show.

The Fujitsu LCD projector is actually a two-piece system. The projector itself, dubbed LPF-D711W, has no inputs other than a single DVI connector. This input is connected to the DVI output of the LPF-QSD1W AV Selector, which provides a complete complement of inputs—17 in all, though there are only 10 independent, numbered inputs. Four of these numbered inputs have up to three sets of input connectors assigned to each of them. For example, inputs 1, 2, and 4 each has composite, S-Video, and component jacks. If you use more than one, the selector automatically locks onto an active input according to the following priority: component, S-Video, composite.

There is only one HDMI input. The Selector's separate DVI-D input would not function with the video sources I tried; according to Fujitsu, it is set up for computer sources only and is not HDCP-compliant.

The AV Selector also provides audio switching, which might be convenient in some situations. In addition, it accepts audio over an HDMI cable from a source, such as a DVD player, that offers this feature. To use this, you simply connect the HDMI cable to the AV Selector and connect the optical digital output of the Selector to your AV receiver or pre-pro. I tried it with the Pioneer DV-59AVi DVD player. It worked, but did not pass multichannel audio such as Dolby Digital. It downmixed such sources to 2-channel linear PCM. For a serious home theater setup, you'll still need to run a separate digital audio cable to your sound system.

Available in either black or white, the projector's oddly shaped case must have been designed to accommodate its internal parts with little room to spare. It's certainly distinctive-looking, and while it's not excessively large or heavy, no one would call its styling anything but functional.

But the Fujitsu hides a lot inside its convoluted outer shell. It starts with the zoom lens (there are no lens options), which offers power everything—focus, zoom, and both horizontal and vertical image shift. The throw distance is said to be 3.82-4.84 meters (about 12.5-15.9 feet) for a 100" diagonal, 16:9 screen.

3LCD is the trademark that was recently been adopted by a consortium of companies for LCD front projectors and RPTVs. It indicates that a display uses separate LCD panels for the three primary colors (RGB). But to my knowledge, there have never been any LCD projectors that didn't use three imaging chips. The 3LCD designation is simply a clever way to distinguish LCD projectors, front and rear, from their obvious competition—the single-chip DLP display.

The three HTPS (high-temperature polysilicon) liquid crystal panels in the Fujitsu's imaging engine are 1920x1080 devices, manufactured by Epson.

The projection lamp is 250W. Fujitsu was did not provide us with the anticipated lamp lifetime by deadline (we will add it to this space later when we receive the information). However, it has been my experience that some projection lamps, no matter what their specified useful life (generally rated at the half-brightness point), lose as much as 30% of their brightness in the first 300 hours or so. A reasonable replacement cost is important for fussy videophiles who might want to replace the bulb every few hundred hours for peak performance, or for those who insist on very large screens. Replacement lamps for the Fujitsu currently cost $499, which is more than most cheaper projectors but less than some competitive high-end models such as the D-ILA designs from JVC and Sony's Qualia 004 SXRD.

There are two lamp settings for most operating modes: Normal and Low. I found Low to be more than adequate for all of my viewing. In addition to its potential for increasing lamp life, the Low setting keeps the fan very quiet—not as ghostly quiet as the fan in the Sony VPL-HS51 Cineza LCD projector in its Low setting, but very, very close. In the Normal lamp mode, however, the Fujitsu's fan is one of the noisiest I've yet experienced in a home theater projector.

The Fujitsu projector has one special feature that made me particularly eager to review it: active light modulation. That's my term for any mechanism that automatically reduces the light output as the average light level of the image decreases. This improves both the richness of the blacks and the effective peak contrast ratio. The Sony VPL-HS51 Cineza and Panasonic PT-AE700U LCD projectors perform this operation with automated irises.

The Fujitsu takes a different approach, using an automated polarizing filter, which they claim is superior to a dynamic iris, offering more uniform color and more evenly distributed brightness. It operates by rotating one polarizing element with respect to a second polarizing element, which allows more or less light to pass through both elements. You can see how this works by taking two pairs of polarized sunglasses, holding one lens from each pair next to each other, and rotating one with respect to the other. Oddly, this important feature is not mentioned in the Fujitsu owner's manual that accompanied my review sample; I suspect it was added after the initial design of the projector, perhaps even after the projector was first released for sale in late 2004.

With its power-everything lens, the Fujitsu was as easy to set up as any projector I've used. The only snag was the rather cramped recess that holds the projector's single DVI input. But most users will only have to make this connection once (as opposed to a reviewer, who is constantly moving things around!).

Most adjustments are best performed via the remote control, together with onscreen setup and operating menus. There's nothing special about the remote itself, except that it's backlit (yippee!). But the remote is perfectly serviceable apart from the fact that it worked better if I aimed it at the projector itself rather than pointing it, more conveniently and intuitively, at the screen. Some of the remote's controls are duplicated on the projector, but some (notably input selection) can only be performed from the remote itself. Don't lose it.

There are a maximum of five aspect-ratio options: Normal (4:3), Wide1 (one of those uneven stretch modes designed to fill a 16:9 screen with a 4:3 image), Wide2 (for anamorphic material), Zoom1 (for expanding a non-anamorphic, letterbox widescreen source to fill the screen), and Zoom2 (similar to Zoom1, but with a slight vertical squeeze to fit captions at the bottom of a 16:9 image so they can be seen on a 16:9 screen). Not all of these are available with all sources. Most significantly, not all of them are available with a 720p or 1080i HDMI digital source, including standard-definition digital sources upscaled to those resolutions—a common characteristic of digital video displays. With either 720p or 1080i digital sources, the Fujitsu provides only one aspect ratio: Wide. Depending on the player, the most convenient way to make upconverted standard definition images fill the screen properly is to switch the source to 480p. At that resolution, all aspect ratios are available.

An odd footnote on the aspect-ratio page of the manual states that displaying a picture in Normal mode for an extended period may cause phosphor burn. The manual must have been written by a Fujitsu plasma engineer! There are no phosphors in an LCD display, which should not be subject to burn-in (though some in the DLP camp argue otherwise).