1080p LED DLP Home Theater Projector
September 8, 2009
Many believe that the next major advance in front projectors will be the move away from high-pressure mercury lamps and towards LED light sources. LED technology has several perks, like cooler operation and much longer life than traditional lamps - sometimes on the order of 20,000 to 40,000 hours. As such, its arrival on the scene has been highly anticipated by home theater aficionados and enthusiasts.
The new H9080FD from Vivitek is the first 1080p LED projector to reach our offices, and the first time we've seen LED technology in anything but a pocket- or pico- projector. It is also the first time we've seen LED illumination which even begins to approach the brightness of a traditional lamp, at 800 ANSI lumens. However, the H9080FD is not just a technology demo - it's a serious home theater projector. It has a 1.3:1 manual zoom lens with vertical and horizontal shift, for added flexibility. The LEDs cycle quickly enough to eliminate the appearance of rainbow effects, as it is supposedly the equivalent of a 20x-speed color wheel. It has a 100,000:1 contrast ratio. While there are some quirks (there always are), the projector is not just a proof-of-concept. That said, it still has a price that's commensurate with an early-adopter product, at $14,999. While subsequent generations will surely come down in price, those who want the latest and greatest will have to pony up the cash.
High lumen output. The H9080FD is not the first LED projector to hit the market, but it is the first one bright enough to be used in a home theater. Using settings appropriate for home theater, the H9080FD produced 360 ANSI lumens, which is enough for a 100" diagonal 16:9 screen in a light-controlled environment. Using BrilliantColor, lumen output was boosted to 467 ANSI lumens without significantly decreasing apparent color saturation or image quality. This increase in lumen output is useful if you wish to use a screen larger than 100" diagonal, or if you have some ambient light in your projection environment that cannot be removed.
A word about lamp degradation: it is common knowledge that the high-pressure mercury lamps used in the vast majority of front projectors lose brightness as they age. Projectors nearing the end of a lamp's life will appear half a bright as they did with a fresh lamp. One of the advantages of LED lamps is that they do not degrade like mercury lamps do. What does this mean for you? The H9080FD will appear just as bright in 20,000 hours as it does when you take it out of the box.
Contrast. The H9080FD boasts an on/off contrast rating of 100,000:1. In real-world terms, the projector's black level beats that of several traditional LCD, DLP, and LCOS projectors released recently. Since the LEDs can actually be turned off (or at least nearly turned off) when an all-black image is displayed, the H9080FD has an excellent black.
Where this projector really shines, though, is ANSI contrast. ANSI contrast describes the relative black and white levels that can appear in the same image at the same time - in other words, ANSI contrast measures the maximum contrast in any one particular image. In the past, the best projectors we've seen measured around 580:1 or 600:1, while many very good projectors measured 450:1 or lower.
This background information is provided in order to put the following number in perspective: the Vivitek H9080FD measured 844:1 ANSI contrast in our test lab. This is nearly half again as much as the next nearest competitor, and very impressive by any reasonable standard. The dynamic range on screen at any given time is broad enough to do justice to even the highest-contrast content available.