InFocus caught the attention of many at this year's CEDIA convention with the unveiling of their first 1080p projector, the Play Big IN82. It is currently the brightest 1080p projector available under $10,000, which makes it a great option for very large screens or ambient light use. It is sold primarily through the CEDIA custom installer network, so it is not available on the Internet. It can be had from your local custom home theater installation specialist for a cool $5499.
ANSI lumens: 1500
Contrast (full on/off): 12,000:1
Light Engine: 1920x1080, native 16:9 single-chip DLP with a 300W UHP lamp.
Video Compatibility: 480i, 480p, 576i, 576p, 720p, 1080i, 1080p/24/30/50/60. NTSC/PAL/SECAM.
Connection Panel: One HDMI, one DVI/M1-DA, one 3-RCA component video input, composite video, s-video, one serial port, one IR extender port, two 12v screen triggers, and a Kensington lock.
Lens and Throw Distance: 1.2:1 manual zoom/focus lens. Throws a 100" diagonal 16:9 image from 13'5" to 16'1".
Lamp Life: 2000 hours, 2500 hours in eco-mode.
Lamp Cost: $399
Warranty: Two years.
The InFocus IN82 stands out for its high lumen output while maintaining good contrast and color performance. In its brightest usable mode, which is "lamp native" color temperature with the lamp on High, our test unit measured a whopping 1259 ANSI lumens. Obviously, this is way too bright for traditional home theater use. But it allows the IN82 to be used in moderate ambient light or on very large screens to a degree unmatched by any other current 1080p projectors under $10,000. Simply put, if you want to go really big, the IN82 may be your best option in 1080p.
The IN82's other modes, tailored to more traditional home theater, are more subdued. In high lamp mode with color temperature set to 6500K and the iris halfway open, our test unit measured roughly 680 ANSI lumens - still bright enough for a 150" diagonal 16:9 screen in a darkened room. Low lamp mode reduces lumen output in any operating mode by about 20%.
The IN82 has a manually adjusted iris which defaults to the middle position - half open, half closed. For those with complete light control, closing the iris fully can result in greatly improved contrast. However, this does drastically reduce the projector's lumen output. In high lamp mode with the iris closed, our test sample measured 292 ANSI lumens, and in low lamp mode this dropped to 230 ANSI. The key advantage is that you can drop the IN82's lumen output to a comfortable level for dark room viewing when you want to, and then turn all the lights on and substantially boost the IN82's light output for a party or other home entertainment use.
With a contrast rating of 12,000:1, one would expect the IN82 to have solid black levels and shadow detail - and it does. Contrast performance on this model is consistent with other 1080p DLP projectors in the sub-$6,000 price bracket. Blacks are deep and inky, while shadow detail is generally well defined; however, the IN82 occasionally loses some detail in very low IRE shadowy areas. With some careful fine tuning, a balance can be struck that gives you excellent blacks while avoiding the loss of detail. Since the IN82 is sold by custom installers, they will likely calibrate the projector for you without you having to worry about it.
Out of the box, color was slightly too warm. Before calibration, the 7500K color temperature setting looked more natural, though still slightly too cold. Calibration can be used to make the 6500K setting colder, or make the 7500K setting warmer, which will give a pleasing, natural looking image. After calibration, the IN82 has the potential to display near-perfect color.
The IN82, like many DLP projectors, has a 1.2:1 manual zoom/focus lens with no lens shift. Most 1080p projectors under $6,000 do have some form of lens shift or a longer zoom. The IN82 has a throw offset of 36% - meaning that the bottom edge of the image will be 36% of the image height above the centerline of the lens. This is optimal for a ceiling mount in a room with a standard eight or nine foot ceiling - using a 100" or 120" diagonal 16:9 image, the picture will fall roughly in the center of your wall.
The IN82 uses a 300 watt lamp to attain its maximum 1259 ANSI lumens. This means that the IN82 throws off a lot of heat, which can quickly heat up a smaller room. It also means that the fan is louder than most competitive models, which can cause distraction if the audience is too close to the projector. In high lamp mode, the fan is easily heard from several feet away; eco-mode is quieter but still not silent. When placed next to most other 1080p projectors, the IN82 is clearly louder.
When you consider the fixed throw angle, short zoom range, loud fan and higher than average heat dissipation, it is clear that the IN82 should be ceiling mounted in a room with good ventilation. A shelf mount behind the seats would be difficult due to limited zoom and fixed throw angle, while placement between the seats or on a coffee table would expose the audience to excessive heat and audible noise.
The IN82 has a 4x-speed color wheel. Those who are sensitive to DLP color separation artifacts may see them when watching the IN82. Color separation artifacting, also known as the "rainbow effect," is a phenomenon where the viewer sees momentary flashes of color that look like a rainbow when an object moves quickly across the screen. This is most noticeable in high-contrast images where a bright object travels across a dark background.
The speed of the rotating color wheel determines how often rainbows are experienced, and by how many people. When people started using commercial DLP projectors for video and home theater, their 2x speed wheels caused many people to see rainbows. Business DLP projectors today still use 2x speed wheels, but due to their intended use (static content on a smaller screen versus full motion video on a larger one) rainbows are not often a problem. Meanwhile, the bare minimum color wheel speed for single-chip DLP home theater projectors today is 4x. This speed eliminates the rainbow effect for most people, but not nearly all of them. Many home theater projectors now use 5x or 6x speed color wheels, which further reduces the percentage of the population sensitive to color separation artifacts to just a handful of folks.
For this reason, it is recommended that you audition either the IN82 itself or another DLP projector with a 4x speed color wheel before making your purchase. While most people are unaffected by rainbow artifacts, it can be a deal-breaker for those who can see them.
Finally, the IN82's remote control is somewhat poor. While the remote does have a backlight, this only illuminates the symbols on the remote's buttons, while the labels remain dark. This means you'll have to remember what all those symbols mean - which defeats some of the purpose of having a backlight to begin with. Also, the IR signal range is limited. We could not bounce the signal off the screen at a distance of ten feet, but instead had to point the remote at the projector itself.
As mentioned earlier, the InFocus IN82 is available from custom home theater design/installers. It is typically not sold on the Internet, and it is not in open distribution. This is either an advantage or an unfortunate limitation depending on the type of buyer you are.
The advantage to buying from a professional designer/installer is that you usually get the entire home theater system completely installed, with all video and audio systems optimally calibrated, without you ever having to lift a screwdriver or run a wire. They will do all of the installation, wiring, and drywall work. They can calibrate your projector and balance your multi-channel audio system. They can install complex electric screens with auto masking and powered drapes. They can install seating that vibrates with the explosions on the screen if you want them. They can do controlled indirect lighting, acoustical treatments, decorative Art Deco accents, movie posters and popcorn machines. They can program all of your equipment to be controlled by a master control system or universal remote. And they can teach you how to use it all once they've installed it.
Basically, if you have a lot of money to put into a full-blown high end home theater, then using a professional designer/installer will save you a tremendous amount of time and energy. For buyers who don't want to turn the installation of a complex home theater system into a full time job, using the professional installer is the only way to go.
Now of course, professional installers need to be paid for their services and expertise just like everyone else. They usually get compensated in one of two ways. First, they may bill you directly for their design and installation time. Second, they may do your job based on your commitment to buy products from them. The products they offer you are those they can make sufficient profit margins on to justify undertaking your project. Most of the products sold by custom installers are in limited distribution and not available on the Internet. The reason is simple--they don't want to sell their customer a $5,000 product, only to have the customer find the exact same product online for only $3,000 the very next day.
The IN82 is one of many products in restricted distribution that have been priced with sufficient margin to dealer/installers that they can make a reasonable living by spec'ing it into custom home theater jobs. When you buy the IN82, you are paying not only for the projector, but for the expertise and installation labor you get from the people you buy it from. As a total package, it can be a great value if you don't want to install it yourself. But if you are a do-it-yourself home theater hobbyist who does not want to pay for design and installation services, the IN82 is probably not the projector for you.
The InFocus IN82 and the Optoma HD80 are in many ways similar projectors. They both feature a single-chip DLP light engine in 1080p resolution, the same 1.2x zoom range, the same 36% fixed throw offset, a similar manual iris, and the same 300 watt lamp. It's not surprising that the IN82 and the HD80 are strikingly similar in performance. There is however a large difference in price. The IN82 is $5,499, and the HD80 is $2,699. There is also a big difference in the way they are sold--the IN82 is in restricted distribution and sold by professional designers/installers. The HD80 is in open distribution, and is frequently sold through online dealers on the Internet who can offer little or no installation service or support.
From a performance perspective, the InFocus IN82 has several advantages over the HD80. It has a brighter operating mode in its brightest configuration. Thus, if you are looking for a projector to use in ambient light, the IN82 simply has more lumen horsepower. That is not to say that the HD80 is dim by any means. Compared to most home theater projectors it is quite bright in its own right, measuring close to 700 lumens. But we get a very nice picture out of the IN82 that measures over 1200 lumens, so it has a unique advantage if you have the room lights on.
In addition to a brightness advantage, the IN82 has much more accurate pre-calibrated color out of the box. In its low brightness modes which are more appropriate for dark room viewing it also shows somewhat better contrast than the HD80, with incrementally deeper blacks and shadow details that are on occasion better defined. The contrast advantage comes from the IN82's use of the DLP DarkChip3, whereas the HD80 uses the DarkChip2.
Nevertheless, the Optoma HD80 holds it own or even exceeds the performance of the IN82 in a number of areas. It has a 6x speed color wheel compared to the IN82's 4x. As noted previously, this substantially curtails DLP rainbow artifacts for those sensitive to them.
The HD80 also delivers a more stable picture with interlaced sources. With the HQV tests in standard definition 480i, the rotating bars and waving flag showed virtually identical results on both projectors. But in the racetrack segment, the HD80 locked in cleanly while the IN82 stumbled, with moiré patterns in the stands. Moreover, the HD80 delivered somewhat sharper images with standard definition signals. (Image sharpness was nearly identical with HD material.)
In HD 1080i tests, the two projectors passed the HQV rotating bar and jaggies tests with equal precision, and both of them were excellent. But on the Film Resolution Loss floating pattern the IN82 showed quite a bit of flicker and instability, while the HD80 was by comparison rock solid. When we flipped the HD DVD player over to 1080p, both projectors showed identically clean results. Therefore, there are no differences in stability and image precision if your sources are HD DVD or Blu-ray 1080p, but the HD80 will have a bit of an advantage with 1080i.
The HD80 also beats the IN82 in digital connectivity. The HD80 has two HDMI ports and one DVI-I, which will interface with not only DVI but HDMI and VGA with the correct adapters. Meanwhile the IN82 has just one HDMI port, and one M1/DA connector which will interface with HDMI, DVI, or VGA with the appropriate adapter. The one advantage offered by the IN82's connection panel is that it has two 12-volt triggers to the HD80's one.
The HD80 comes with a three year warranty included in its price. The IN82 has a standard two year warranty.
The bottom line is that in selecting between these models, buyers may prefer one over the other for a variety of reasons. In most situations, they are very similar; it is only in environments with a lot of ambient light that the IN82 becomes a necessity.
The InFocus IN82 is overall a solid projector, though its price tag is steep compared to products with similar performance in open distribution. Clearly the IN82 can be a great solution for lights-on parties. It is a strong option for those who wish to have their theaters designed and installed by professionals, and thus may be choosing from the various products in limited distribution that are available through those resellers. However, do-it-yourself home theater enthusiasts who want to set it up and install it all themselves will save money without giving up much in the way of image quality by looking toward other alternatives.