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Show Review: CEDIA EXPO 2007

Evan Powell, September 11, 2007

Panasonic PT-AX200U

The AX200U is basically a refined and updated version of last year's outstanding PT-AX100U. Most of the specs are the same, including its 2000 ANSI lumen brightness rating, 6000:1 contrast, and the long 2.0x zoom lens. Newly added features include a second HDMI port, a redesigned auto iris, an enhanced Light Harmonizer that lets the projector automatically adjust to ambient light conditions, and a new Game Mode that makes the AX200 uniquely ideal for the display of video games. Though it is a 720p native resolution projector, it does wonders with 1080p material from Blu-ray and HD DVD, looking almost like a virtual 1080p projector. The AX200 will be available beginning later this month, and the price has not been determined as of this writing.

Planar PD8150, PD8130, PD8120

Planar announced three new 1080p resolution projectors. The top of the line is the PD8150 to be shipping in December at a retail of $8,999. This is a single chip DLP model rated at 15,000:1 contrast and 1000 ANSI lumens. The PD8130 and PE8120 are less fully featured versions rated at 10,000:1 contrast that will sell for $6,999 and $5,999 respectively. All three will be sold exclusively through CEDIA dealers on a restricted basis.

Samsung SP-A800

Samsung continues to retain the video calibration expert Joe Kane as a consultant in the development of their home theater projectors. The SP-A800 is the first 1080p resolution projector developed in this collaboration. It is rated at 10,000:1 contrast, with a brightness spec of 1000 ANSI lumens. It uses the antique DarkChip 2 edition of DLP, which we were surprised to learn is still being used for new video projectors. But it has a number of unique high performance features including an exceptional lens with virtually no chromatic aberration. Along with the meticulous calibrations of Mr. Kane, the SP-A800 is capable of producing an elegant and natural image designed to appeal to the most discriminating videophile. Indeed, it is only the most knowledgeable videophile that will be able to overlook the ho-hum specs (DarkChip2, 10,000:1 ??) and realize that the whole of this projector is much more than the sum of its specs. It will be shipping by early November. The price is yet to be determined, but it will be under $10,000.

Sanyo PLV-Z2000

Sanyo decided to sit out last year's rush into sub-$5,000 1080p projectors. So the PLV-Z2000 is the company's first 1080p resolution home theater projector. It is rated at 15,000:1 contrast, with 1200 ANSI lumens of brightness. At this year's CEDIA, Sanyo had a postage-stamp sized booth--a far cry from the large scale demonstration facilities they bring to CES and Infocomm. Unfortunately, the little booth at CEDIA was compromised with a lot of ambient light, so the projector was not being shown under the best of viewing conditions. However, the Z2000 features the same D7 panels that had such an impressive debut in the new Epson and Panasonic 1080p products. It will be shipping next month at an aggressive price of $2,995. Since the home theater consumer is highly price sensitive, we suspect this model will be selling like hotcakes once it hits the market in a few weeks.

Sanyo PLC-WXU10

For those anxiously awaiting the release of the Sanyo Z6, we have a news flash for you-there won't be one. Sanyo has discontinued the tradition of annually releasing a newer and better 720p model. However, the beautiful Sanyo Z5 continues to be one of the hottest selling 720p models, and at prices around $1300 we expect it will remain high on the Top Ten list for a long time to come.

Meanwhile, Sanyo is taking a different course with the introduction of a low cost widescreen multimedia projector. The WXU10 is in the 1280x800 format, which is 16:10 aspect ratio. This is designed as a cross-over piece that will do both widescreen video and native computer widescreen display in the common laptop format WXGA.

Sony VPL-VW60

Sony's latest 1080p projector is the VW60, which has just begun to ship this week at a retail price of $4,995. This is an SXRD projector, which is Sony's proprietary version of LCOS. It carries an iris-assisted contrast rating of 35,000:1, a native contrast spec of 7,000:1, and 900 ANSI lumens in its brightest configuration. The demonstration of the VW60 at CEDIA was in a well-darkened alcove on a 100" Stewart Studiotek 130 screen. The inherently high contrast subject matter being used for the demo looked spectacularly high in contrast, and colors were extremely saturated and vibrant. If one were to complain about anything, it would be that the contrast looked too high, as if artificially overdriven. However, what is true on the putting green is also true in the projector laboratory--better to overshoot the target than not reach it. If the projector is capable of extreme high contrast, then calibrating it down to a more natural looking image should be easy to do. We will be reviewing it this fall, so we will let you know.

There were many other home theater projectors being displayed at this year's CEDIA, but these are the most noteworthy new offerings under $10,000. We will be reviewing most of the models just mentioned as soon as they become available. Based on what we've just seen, this promises to be an exciting fall season for home theater enthusiasts.

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