Planar PD8150 DLP Projector Page 2

In what may be a first for a DLP projector, the PD8150’s Gennum 9450 video processing has been configured to allow the user to manually change the projected frame rate. Most projectors have a typical refresh rate of 60 hertz, but we are seeing more and more add 48-Hz support for 1080p/24 sources. The PD8150 allows for Auto, which selects the refresh rate based on the incoming video signal, 48-Hz, 50-Hz, and 60-Hz. For example, with film-based DVDs encoded with 3:2 pulldown at 60 Hz, the user can choose 48-Hz conversion. The processing strips the signal back to its original 24 frames per second and plays it back at 48 Hz, eliminating the judder inherent in the 3:2 sequencing.

At this, the PD8150 did a commendable job, but I did see a few frame drops from time to time. There haven’t been many video processors that can do this perfectly, so results can vary depending on the source. I would recommend using the Auto setting for the most problem-free playback, but those who wish to can tweak to taste.

Planar has also allowed the end user to control some of the more advanced features that this projector offers. This includes Texas Instruments’ Dynamic Black and Brilliant Color features. This is the first projector I’ve used that incorporates TI’s Dynamic Black auto-iris system to increase contrast. An auto iris opens or closes to increase or decrease light output depending on the brightness of the incoming image. Similar dynamic-iris solutions have been employed in LCD and LCOS projection systems for some time now with mixed results. This projector also incorporates the Brilliant Color feature, which increases the projector’s color gamut outside of the Rec. 709 color gamut. This increases brightness and contrast a fair amount, but at the expense of color accuracy.

The PD8150 has four different gamma settings. The default is the Film setting, which measures in at about 2.2 and offers the best balance to my eye, with a nice balance of contrast and shadow detail. The CRT option crushed shadow detail a bit, which hurt dimensionality in darker images.

The service section of the main menu contains firmware information, lamp times, and access to a group of built-in test patterns. The patterns include a grid for focus, full-field black-and-white patterns, and full-field color patterns for measuring primaries and secondaries. There are also a gray ramp and color bars. Another feature here is the inclusion of a Blue Only mode that is great for setting color and tint in lieu of a blue filter. Anyone who’s familiar with the blue color filters that typically come with calibration discs such as Digital Video Essentials and AVIA know that the filters vary significantly in each batch, making them somewhat unreliable. I only wish Planar would have included a red and green mode to check color-decoding accuracy.

In Use
While all the features I mentioned above sound great on paper, it is really how well they are implemented that really determines how good an image you’re going to get. I don’t know how many times I’ve received a projector that looked incredible on paper, only to fall well short of the performance its specifications would suggest. Thankfully, that was anything but the case with the PD8150. Planar has truly delivered a projector that is well thought out and delivers in the areas that mean the most.

The first thing I do with any new projector is a rough calibration of the common settings. This is where I ran into the only real snag with the PD8150. This projector clips incoming signals above white and below black with HDMI signals. Not only does this make it hard to calibrate for brightness and contrast, it clips peak-white information that is still part of the active image. I’ve talked with Planar about this issue, and the company plans to address it with a firmware update shortly.

Aside from the clipping, the PD8150 was pretty much good to go in its default settings. For the best results, Planar recommends that you turn off the Dynamic Black function when you’re adjusting the user settings using test patterns. I’m always skeptical about dynamic irises since I’ve seen some that seem to hinder the image more than help it, but I was excited to see a DLP offer it.

This could be one of the best implementations I’ve seen yet of a dynamic iris. In past experiences, I’ve noticed a lot of image pumping with a dynamic iris. That means the iris is distractingly noticeable in operation as it changes the average picture level. That was not the case here. In fact, the only time I could actually tell the iris was changing was during a source change. Black levels were dramatically improved with the Dynamic Black function, giving the PD8150 one of the better black floors I’ve seen from a DLP projector. While the PD8150 still struggled to match the black-level performance of my JVC DLA-RS2, it was closer than any other DLP I’ve used to date, including quite a few models that are far more expensive. While I still think there’s room for improvement in really dark scenes, the PD8150 provided excellent shadow detail and dimensionality with most of the darker scenes and mixed content. It was only on the most difficult material that some contrast limitations were apparent.

Also quite noticeable is the amount of light this projector puts out, even in Economy mode. I use a large, 120-inch-diagonal screen, and it was nice to see a high-contrast image on this screen without sacrificing the top-end light output. This gives end users with larger screens or more ambient light a very attractive option. If you don’t need this type of light output, Planar has threaded the lens barrel to accept a neutral-density filter, which can cut the light output and lower your black floor.

I was continually impressed by the razor-sharp image the PD8150 provided. I’d been living with the JVC DLA-RS2 for quite some time before I received this unit. While the PD8150 didn’t quite deliver the blacks, I was enamored of the color fidelity. This went a long way with brighter material and provided a bit more of the “looking through a window” effect. Animation was a great showcase for this. Pixar’s Cars on Blu-ray has some of the best animation I’ve seen and colors that just pop off the screen. I was blown away by the PD8150’s depth of image with this film and the fine object detail on display.

The dynamic iris proved to be invaluable on darker images. Paramount’s recent HD release of Zodiac combines some of the best detail I’ve seen from a live-action release and puts up a good fight for both dark and bright imagery. The PD8150 held its own beautifully in both situations and provided stunning shadow detail, as well as plenty of pop and razor-sharp dimensionality in the brighter scenes.

The Gennum 9450 video processing in the PD8150 did a tremendous job with every source I presented it. This is a newer solution than the excellent processing under the Gennum brand name we’ve seen in projectors by Marantz and JVC. It pretty much eliminates the need for an outboard processing solution. It does an excellent job of deinterlacing and scaling both standard- and high-definition sources with full support for film and video-based content for HD sources.

The PD8150 is one of the best front projectors I’ve had the chance to use in my theater. It has the best contrast of any DLP I’ve used to date and has image accuracy that you rarely see in the front-projector market. This is also one of the only DLP projectors that lets you have both high light output and dark blacks for high contrast. This is a mix we rarely ever see from this segment of the market. Planar has done an amazing job with its first dip into the 1080p market, and once Planar resolves the clipping issue, this is a projector I would be happy to use as a reference display.

Class-leading contrast and light output
Excellent performance out of the box
Outstanding attention to detail

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