Yamaha DPX-1 DLP video projector Page 4

Because of this factor, you should therefore take your time and sample a wide range of material—particularly material with a variety of dark sequences—when auditioning any projector, but particularly a fixed-pixel design. And don't try to judge the quality of a projector's blacks using a brightly lit scene. I once attended a trade-show DLP demo (not Yamaha's) in which the host played a colorful scene from Austin Powers and asked the audience to judge the quality of the blacks from the rims of Austin's glasses. That's no way to judge blacks; the eye responds to the average picture level, and any blacks in an otherwise well-illuminated scene will invariably look very dark. That's also why a very dark border around a picture improves the subjective contrast.

1001yam.6.jpgIt's also why I continue to be bothered by light spill surrounding the active picture area in most fixed-pixel projectors, the DPX-1 included. Fixed-pixel projectors don't have the blanking feature common to CRT designs. To minimize the nuisance level of this "gray halo," I recommend a solid black, non-reflective border surrounding the image for about 2 feet on all sides.

Color me red, green, and blue
The so-called rainbow effect is an artifact that afflicts some, but not all, one-chip DLP projectors. It's a strobing effect caused by an interaction of the color wheel with eye movements. What does it look like? If you move your eyes on certain scenes you'll see instantaneous flashes of rainbow-striped colors. They come and go so fast that your first reaction will be "Whazzat?" In my experience, they're most common in high-contrast areas of the picture—white titles on a black background, for example—and least obvious in bright scenes.

Rainbows appear to be most prevalent on projectors using three-segment color wheels (see sidebar, "Like a Wheel"). And while this wasn't the first time we'd observed the dreaded rainbow effect from a DLP projector, the Yamaha seemed more prone to it than most. I saw rainbows from the DPX-1 repeatedly on ordinary program material, but one image that made them consistently visible was the dot pattern on Video Essentials (chapter 17-15). Even better was the Black Field Plus pattern on the Avia Guide to Home Theater (chapter 7, "Calibrations," under "Geometry and Convergence"). To see the rainbows, simply dart your eyes from left to right across the screen at different speeds. Of course you could avoid the rainbows by simply staring straight ahead and never moving your eyes. Ever try to do that while watching a movie? It's nearly impossible.

But it's also quite possible that you won't see them. There is anecdotal evidence that individuals vary in their sensitivity to this artifact. But it can be a major distraction for those who are sensitive to it. Contributor Randy Tomlinson ("Say ‘Hello' to an Old Friend: the TV Antenna," SGHT, September 2001) visited recently and could watch the Yamaha for only about 30 minutes before calling it quits. I didn't quit so soon—there was a review to be written—but while I managed to log about 30 hours on the projector in movie watching and other testing, and was impressed by the many things the DPX-1 did well, I would still find it difficult to live with the rainbow effect on a permanent basis.

There's a lot to like here. While not exactly cheap, the DPX-1 is less expensive than all but a few CRT projectors. It produces a bright, sharp picture with believably natural and saturated colors. It's easy to use, and while test-equipment calibration can improve the projector's performance, you'll get a very satisfying image simply with intelligent use of commonly available test DVDs. The common black-level weaknesses of fixed-pixel displays are visible, but while I would hardly rave about the Yamaha's blacks, I found them satisfying on most program material.

The only serious problem I encountered with the DPX-1 was the rainbow effect. If it doesn't bother you, this might just be your projector. But don't just consider yourself; before taking the plunge, you should also ensure that other regular viewers in your household are insensitive to the rainbow effect. And if you like to have friends over for movie nights . . . well, you see the issue here.

The rainbow problem alone precludes our giving the Yamaha DPX-1 a blanket recommendation. Its performance in other respects ranges from good to exemplary, and its user-friendly design is first-class. If the rainbows are not an issue with you, the DPX-1 is well worth your consideration. But if you do find yourself over the rainbow, I suspect there just might be a DPX-2 somewhere down the road that will address this concern. Any time a new company enters the video projector market, videophiles should celebrate. Competition brings innovation, and Yamaha's New Adventures in Video promises to be a show worth following.