1080p LCD Home Theater
May 16, 2008
Viewsonic is well known for their line of data projectors, which offer a solid feature set for a reasonable price. However, the brand is not often seen on home theater projectors. The Pro8100 is a notable exception. Viewsonic's newest projector marks their first foray into 1080p projectors. This bright, quiet projector offers solid performance for lovers of sports broadcasts, HDTV, and video games. The introduction of the Pro8100 also marks a noteworthy diversification of ViewSonic's distribution strategy: unlike previous models, this one is being sold exclusively though customer installers and specialty retailers. The Pro8100 retails for $4999.
High lumen output. The Pro8100 is rated for 1000 ANSI lumens. After we adjusted color temperature, our test sample measured 750 lumens in high lamp mode. That's a very bright color-balanced picture for a projector rated at 1000 lumens. It is plenty of power for a 100" screen in moderate ambient light, or a much larger screen in a dark viewing room. Low lamp mode brings output down to 591 lumens, a 21% reduction. As always, these numbers are calculated using the widest angle (brightest) setting on the zoom lens. Using the Pro8100's 1.6:1 zoom lens in its maximum telephoto setting reduces lumen output a further 18% which is not much compared to most zoom lenses of this length which can cut light by twice this much. So the Pro8100 could be a good choice for installations that require more lumen output than you get from many 1080p projectors.
In a dark room with a smaller screen, 750 lumens is too much light, and it can cause eyestrain and headaches after extended viewing. However, the Pro8100's other image modes can reduce output to roughly 350 lumens, which is arguably perfect for a 100" diagonal screen without any ambient light present.
Good connectivity. The Pro8100 has plenty of input options, including two HDMI 1.3 inputs, two YPbPr component inputs, and a 15-pin VGA port. Also included are a 12-volt trigger for motorized screens, a USB port, and an RS-232 port for external control.
Placement flexibility. As with most LCD home theater projectors, the Pro8100 has excellent placement flexibility. The projector has a 1.6:1 powered zoom/focus lens, allowing the projector to fill a 100" 16:9 screen from a throw distance of 10'3" to 16'7". The Pro8100 also has powered vertical and horizontal lens shift, with a vertical range of 2.5 screen heights. This allows the image to be placed either completely above or completely below the centerline of the lens, which makes coffee table and ceiling mounts easier, while rear shelf mounting is a snap. The horizontal lens shift has a range of 11% of the picture width in either direction, enough to compensate for slightly off-center mounting.
Color. Color balance out of the box with factory defaults is not particularly accurate, but it can be calibrated to look very good. You won't need to worry about this because the Pro8100 is being sold by professional resellers who can deliver it with installation and calibration services at the time of purchase. After calibration, our test unit had solid grayscale tracking with temperatures around 6500K from 30 IRE to 80 IRE. Below that (0-20 IRE) the Pro8100 was too warm, with color temperatures around 5000K; above 80 IRE, it was closer to 7500K. The solid mid-range performance and barely detectable cooling of the highlights means that the vast majority of content will look accurate, though the warm shadows may be noticeable to those who bother to look for it.
Low audible noise. In low lamp mode, the Pro8100 is rated for 18dB of operating noise. In reality, the projector nearly silent in low lamp mode, and we had a hard time determining whether or not it was warming up at first. This makes it an excellent choice for small rooms, since the fan noise will not be distracting to the audience, no matter where the projector is situated.