Best Home Theater Projectors
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InFocus SP 5700 Projector InFocus SP 5700
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1400:1 Contrast Ratio
1000 Lumens
Street Price: n/a
$2,999 MSRP

The Stunning InFocus Screenplay 5700

Evan Powell, July 31, 2003

Video projectors at InFocus get more and more exciting with each new release. The Screenplay 5700, which just commenced shipments last month, is in our opinion the best video projector yet released by InFocus. Not only is it a great projector, it comes precalibrated almost to perfection. So forget about your calibration discs, this one is ready to rock and roll right out of the box.

Product Overview

The 5700 is a native 16:9 format projector using Texas Instrument's new Matterhorn DLP chip, which has a physical resolution of 1024x576. Though this is native 16:9, keep in mind that a native XGA resolution chip is 4:3 format with 1024x768. When an XGA projector displays a 16:9 image, it uses a 1024x576 portion of the chip. The remaining 192 lines are rendered black, creating the black bars at the top and bottom of the image. So in essence the 5700 delivers a 16:9 image in the same physical resolution as does a standard 4:3 XGA projector—the only thing missing is the black bars.

The 5700 is rated at 1000 ANSI lumens after optimization for video. So it is a "bright" 1000 lumens compared to many competing units with the same rating. It has a 1400:1 contrast ratio. A six-segment, 5x speed color wheel modulates the light. It is precalibrated to a color temperature of 6500 kelvins, which is ideal for color video reproduction. On board Faroudja DCDi video processing handles the interlaced inputs, and is bypassed when using progressive scan.

Compatibility: This unit will accept component and RGB HDTV 1080p, 1080i, 1035i, and 720p. It also displays EDTV 480p and 576p, as well as interlaced component, composite and S-video. A separate DVI/HDCP interface will allow input of digital and encrypted digital video.

Connection panel: The connection panel on the rear of the unit features an M1-DA VESA input for component and RGB HDTV, DVI, computer and USB; one 15-pin Dsub for HDTV and computer; two sets of 3-RCA inputs for HDTV, EDTV, and interlaced component; a D5 for HDTV, EDTV, standard TV and RGB SCART (with adapter); two S-video ports, a composite video jack, a 9-pin Dsub for RS-232, and two 12-volt triggers.

Lens and throw distance: The 5700 has a 1.38x manual zoom/focus lens with a relatively long throw. A 100" diagonal 16:9 screen can be filled from a throw distance of between 13.6 and 19.3 feet.

Performance

Frankly, it is difficult to find something to complain about on the Screenplay 5700. Color accuracy and saturation, a weak point in many DLP projectors, is virtually perfect on the 5700. We are tempted to say it is the best we've ever seen. Color on this unit is simply beautiful, and saturated reds in particular could not be more perfect.

The 5700 is constructed in the same casework as the more expensive and higher resolution Screenplay 7200, and from the outside the two projectors look identical. We were hoping that the unfortunate geometry problem on the 7200 (its single most obvious flaw) would not appear on the 5700. Thankfully it does not. InFocus engineers have resolved this problem, and geometry on the 5700 is very close to ideal. No visible distortion exists.

The whisper quiet cooling system produces audible noise that is exceptionally low. Noise on the 5700 is a complete non-issue for all except those who would demand absolute silence.

The 1400:1 contrast is ample for delivering very solid black levels and excellent shadow detail. Scaling is precise and clean. The 5700 produces a detail-rich image that surpasses all but a few projectors we've seen in any resolution class.

We are extremely enthused by the genuine "plug and play" factory presets. As noted above, this projector is stunning right out of the box. No calibration is needed as the factory presets are so close to ideal that messing with most of them will diminish the picture quality.

If you have a progressive scan DVD player, take note that you might not want to bother with 480p. The 480i output sends the signal through the powerful on-board Faroudja processor and you end up with a richer and more stable picture.

It is the reviewer's job to find the flaws and we normally feel like we haven't done our job until we've uncovered a few. Those few that we found are so trivial that it would be silly to mention them. InFocus engineers have done an outstanding job with the Screenplay 5700. It is as close to perfect as any projector we've ever seen. Almost from the moment we powered it on there was no doubt we would place it on our list of Highly Recommended Home Theater Projectors.

Competition

Screenplay 5700 vs. the NEC HT1000

This is a head-to-head match up between two video titans, both selling in the under $5,000 category. There are four primary differences between them. First and foremost, the 5700 is native 16:9 and the HT1000 is native 4:3. This has huge consequences in terms of how you set up your theater for the viewing of both types of material. Second, the HT1000 is the higher contrast of the two. Third, though both are rated at 1000 ANSI lumens, the 5700 is functionally the brighter of the two. Fourth, the throw distance is shorter on the HT1000, so it is a bit more versatile for smaller viewing spaces. Fifth, lamp life is (in most normal deployments) 3000 hours on the 5700, and 2000 hours on the HT1000.

On the issue of resolution, there are 25% more pixels on the DLP chip in the HT1000. It is native XGA, or 1024x768, vs. the 5700's 1024x576. This is of no consequence for 16:9 material, but it is significant for 4:3. The HT1000 can use all 786,432 pixels to produce a full screen 4:3 image. Meanwhile the 5700 can use only 442,368 pixels, or a little over half that of the HT1000. Is this important? Maybe yes, maybe no. It all depends on how you want to manage your theater.

If you want to set up a 16:9 screen and display full format 4:3 material in the center of it with bars on either side, then it makes no difference in terms of resolution. Both projectors will operate this way, and both will use the same number of pixels for both 16:9 and 4:3. In the case of the HT1000, you are permanently throwing away the 25% portion of the chip that you'd otherwise use for native 4:3 display.

On the other hand, if you want to set up your theater with a large 4:3 screen such that 16:9 material is displayed in the middle of it with bars on the top and bottom, then the HT1000 is the only way to go. The 5700 will not let you operate in this manner. Why would you set it up this way, you may ask? There are lots of good reasons. Many music videos are shot in 4:3, and you get a much more visually exciting presentation with a large 4:3 screen. Most older classic films such as Casablanca, Maltese Falcon, Gone with the Wind, Fantasia, Citizen Kane, etc., were all shot in 4:3. So presenting them in large screen 4:3 gives you the best reproduction of the original theatrical experience of those films.

For reasons such as these, many videophiles opt for a large 4:3 screen to take advantage of the full display capability of a 4:3 projector like the HT1000. For more on this subject see 4:3 vs. 16:9 – What's the best way to go?. The bottom line here however is that there is no "right" answer—this is a matter of personal preference. You are the stage director in your own home theater, and you should set it up the way you want it.

With respect to lumen output, when you run the HT1000 in 16:9 operation, you use only 75% of the DLP chip. That means some of the lamp light is blocked. Furthermore, if you activate the IRIS to gain incremental contrast, you further reduce lumen output. The net effect is that the 16:9 image produced by the HT1000 is not as bright as that from the 5700.

Regarding contrast, the HT1000 is noticeably higher in contrast than the 5700. This may be important to you IF you are operating in a dark environment with no ambient light. However, once you introduce ambient light into the equation, black levels on the screen are compromised (that is, ambient light makes blacks less black) and thus the contrast differences are neutralized. Therefore if you have a dark theater, the contrast performance advantage of the HT1000 may be an important factor that will be meaningful to you. If you do not, we suggest you ignore this particular specification.

For a 100" diagonal 16:9 image, the 5700 requires a minimum throw of 13.6 feet, whereas the HT1000 can produce the same image from 11 feet. For those who are planning for smaller viewing rooms, this may be an important practical consideration that tips the choice in favor of the HT1000.

In the most practical operating modes the 5700 will give you 3000 hours of lamp life, compared to 2000 hours (in the advised eco-mode) for the HT1000. You should price replacement lamps and factor in the long run cost of ownership based on your anticipated usage. The 5700 may save you some expense in lamps over the long run. However, given current promotions from NEC plus lower street prices (at the moment) on the HT1000, it may still be the least costly alternative overall.

Screenplay 5700 vs. the Sanyo PLV-70

The other major competitor to the 5700 in the same price range is the still very hot Sanyo PLV-70, also being marketed as the Studio Experience Cinema 20HD. This is also a native 16:9 projector, but much higher in physical resolution than the 5700. The PLV-70 has a resolution of 1365x768 compared to the 5700's 1024x576. That means the PLV-70 uses over one million pixels to produce a 16:9 image, while the 5700 uses under 600,000.

The PLV-70 is rated at 2200 ANSI lumens and thus is substantially brighter than the 5700. It is the right choice for those with larger screen applications and ambient light in the room. Between these two projectors, the 5700 has higher contrast performance which works well in the dark. But with ambient light present, the contrast advantage is neutralized and the much brighter PLV-70 delivers the more sizzling image. Therefore if you are going with screen sizes of 130" diagonal or larger and wish to plan for ambient light (party rooms and so forth), we recommend the PLV-70 over the 5700 for this type of environment.

The PLV-70 is an LCD product. Due to the six-segment, 5x speed color wheel on the 5700, very few folks are expected to be sensitive to rainbow artifacts and related negative reactions to them. But for those who are, the PLV-70 is a superb alternative. So is the Epson TW100 for those who want to spend less and don't need the light output of the PLV-70.

Conclusion

The Screenplay 5700 is an outstanding product that takes its rightful place among the elite of home theater projectors on the market today. Buyers who are budgeting under $5,000 have just a few great products to choose from, and each is best for a different theater environment. The choice is not based on which one has the best picture, but which one functionally best meets your needs and objectives for the theater you want to create.