Projectiondesign Action! Model One mk.II front DLP projector Page 2

Image Quality
To test the projector, I hooked up a variety of analog and digital video sources, including a few digital terrestrial and cable set-top receivers and DVD players. But before conducting any tests of image quality, I swept the analog component inputs and checked the Action!'s high-definition frequency response. The good news is that 18.5MHz and 37.5MHz luminance multiburst charts were clearly visible in 720p mode, with only a little rolloff at 37.5MHz in 1080i mode.

These results mean you'll see plenty of picture detail when viewing HD signals, which was certainly the case when I watched programs on Discovery HD Theater and HDNet (both 1080i), as well as D-VHS recordings of the 2004 NBA Finals (720p). The picture quality with 720p content was amazingly crisp, and largely free from noise and MPEG artifacts, such as mosquito noise.

Sports programming in particular is often plagued by mosquito noise, but the Pistons-Lakers game looked just as clean on the Action! as it did on my reference Princeton AF3.0HD monitor. Color quality was also outstanding, with perhaps just a slight green tint that I couldn't completely tune out.

Switching to the DVI input made a slight improvement with all channels—so slight that you'd need a test-pattern generator with a DVI output to tell the difference. In this regard, the Action! outperformed more costly peer-group DLP front projectors that have bandwidth-choking edge-enhancement pro-cessors on their component inputs.

The Projectiondesign's 480i composite performance was average. The Zone Plate target from Video Essentials showed that a mediocre comb or notch filter is being used, with picture detail disappearing at 400 lines and a fair amount of dot crawl. An S-video connection cleaned that up in a hurry, but I got a bigger improvement in standard-def quality by feeding the projector a 480p signal from a good progressive DVD player.

The deinterlacing was good (it has a Faroudja DCDi chipset), but not as good as my Faroudja-equipped Panasonic RP56 DVD player. I freeze-framed several of the Video Essentials Montage of Images sequences and saw flicker when using the internal Faroudja processor with a 480i component connection, but no flicker when feeding the projector a 480p signal from the RP56.

Where the Action! came up short was where every other DLP projector comes up short: black levels. The Men In Black DVD revealed this immediately. You can work around this problem to some extent with the Contrast Enhancement and Black Level controls, but I got the most eye-pleasing results by setting both to "2" and fiddling with different Gamma settings to reveal more shadow detail.

The Projectiondesign Action! Model One mk.II is not a complex piece of machinery. Rather, it is thriftily engineered for performance with a minimum of frills. There aren't many bells and whistles inside, just solid performance.

In particular, I appreciated the excellent HD frequency response through the analog component-video inputs. Unlike some other makers of DLP front projectors, Projectiondesign USA has apparently resisted the urge to apply bandwidth-killing edge enhancement to every type of input signal.

Even though the brightness readings I got should be sufficient for the typical home theater, it wouldn't be a bad idea to have a few more lumens on hand for larger screens. With a gray screen, black levels won't be much of an issue, and the user will have a bit more latitude with screen and projector placement.

I liked the projector's color quality. Whoever set the review sample's factory presets for the Gamma and RGB adjustments must have a pretty good eye; it didn't take much fiddling to achieve and hold a clean gray scale. Assuming all units leave the factory like this, a reference gray card or a simple optical comparator will be sufficient to do the job.

As for that annoying trackball on the remote control, it's gotta go, and the sooner, the better. A simple array of directional arrows large enough for average-sized hands to operate is an absolute must for this projector. Otherwise, I give the Projectiondesign Action! Model One mk.II a thumbs-up.