PLUS Piano HE-3100 Tabletop DLP Projector Page 2

The HE-3100's aspect-ratio control is also slightly limited, flavored prominently for 16:9 DVD tastes. The projector offers both an anamorphic and a 4:3 mode. The large 4:3 (full) setting is the best option for nonanamorphic letterboxed images, although it doesn't quite fill the screen. Then again, neither does the 16:9 (LB) setting, which for some reason is slightly smaller than the full setting. You can slide the projector forward or back, if you prefer. Using a large 4:3 screen won't, of course, let you take advantage of the dual-mode chip. Subsequently, the projector lacks a 16:9 mode for this type of setup. You might consider a 1.42:1-shaped screen, though. While this screen shape may be unorthodox, 4:3 images would fill top to bottom and 16:9 images would fill left to right. Nonanamorphic letterboxed movies still wouldn't fill the screen.

The projector's manual focus works well, however, and helps produce a really sharp picture. The image from the different video inputs varies. For instance, the composite input noticeably softens the image. This input's comb filter doesn't remove dot crawl any better than many outboard comb filters do, but it uses an extremely accurate color decoder, which helps make the image as colorful as possible. Both the S-video and component inputs preserve more of the source material's detail, and the component signals feature their trademark improvement in color detail. I recommend you use the S-video or component connections whenever possible.

Using these connections, my typical demo DVDs appeared naturally colored and reasonably bright. The Fifth Element's colorful antagonist stood out against the futuristic traffic landscape, while Braveheart's lush backdrop made me want to visit the Scottish Isles. Much of this color saturation is due to the HE-3100's six-segment, RGB-only color wheel (and that it only has to live up to NTSC standards). While presentation projectors often substitute clear elements between the RGB filters to boost brightness, this technique robs color richness. The HE-3100's only constraint is a somewhat limited light output. While the images don't offer the depth and contrast of those produced by brighter projectors, they were sufficient to light a 7-foot-wide, negative-gain Stewart Grayhawk screen. A smaller, higher-gain screen proved to be a better choice and made the image really pop. A 5- or 6-foot-wide high-gain screen offers more cinematic brightness levels.

In the end, I was very happy with the image (more so than I was with the Six-Dollar Burger, I might add). Compared with the competition, the Piano HE-3100 is far cheaper and provides an excellent picture when driven under the right conditions. Try to power a 12-foot-wide screen with composite sources and you'll be extremely disappointed. Illuminate a 6-foot-wide screen using higher-quality connections and you'll have a pleasing but not bank-account-breaking image. PLUS has definitely taken a huge step toward bringing front-projected DLP images to the masses.

• 3:2 pulldown eliminates motion artifacts and jagged edges
• 848:480 resolution is perfect for 16:9 DVDs
• Almost dirt-cheap

Piano HE-3100 Tabletop DLP Projector
Dealer Locator Code PLU
(201) 818-2700