Until recently, if you wanted a high resolution SXGA-class projector, you needed to pay an arm and a leg for it. And unfortunately you needed all the arms and legs you had to carry the thing around. Not so anymore. The Dukane ImagePro 9115 is among the first of a new breed of projector—one that packs a bright, high resolution SXGA image into a portable 12 lb package, selling at street prices well under $10,000.
Some definition is required here. The classic computer resolution known as SXGA is technically 1280 x 1024, which produces an image with a 5:4 aspect ratio. That's fine for data display but not very handy for video. So several manufacturers began producing projectors with a wider SXGA resolution format—1365 x 1024—which generates a standard 4:3 image.
This improved format not only displays 4:3 video material full frame, but it also displays 16:9 images using a resolution of 1365 x 768, which is identical to the resolution of several new WXGA widescreen projectors. This of course creates yet another option for setting up a home theater since you get high resolution 16:9 widescreen performance AND native 4:3 all in one package.
(If you are confused about formats and how to set up your own theater—you are not alone. Read the article on sorting out 4:3 vs. 16:9 format options for further discussion of this issue.)
The ImagePro 9115 light engine features Liquid Crystal on Silicon (LCOS) technology. In other words, it's not conventional transmissive LCD and it's not DLP. It is a third light engine technology that features some of the advantages of both LCD and DLP.
An LCOS chip is a reflective device like a DLP chip. But instead of using micro-mirrors for each pixel, liquid crystals are adhered to a reflective integrated circuit substrate. An image is generated by modulating reflected light with the liquid crystal instead of deforming a mirror as is done with DLP. The 9115's light engine features three LCOS chips, one each for red, green, and blue. So there is no need for a color wheel in this projector as there is in single-chip DLP projectors.
The 9115 produces 1500 ANSI lumens from a 220W lamp. That's a major improvement. The lamp is not nearly as hot as the 400W+ lamps required to drive earlier LCOS-based projectors. Fan can be set at standard or whisper mode. In standard operation the audible noise is rated at 36 dB. It is low in frequency and not intrusive if used for conference room work. The fan noise in standard mode will be acceptable for use in many home theaters as well. However, whisper mode slightly reduces light output, and audible noise drops to a very quiet 32 dB. Many users will prefer this option for home theater use.
The 9115 takes just about every data and video signal you could want. Computer data signal compatibility includes VGA, SVGA, XGA, SXGA and UXGA (compressed). Analog video compatibility includes standard composite, S-video, 480i and 480p component video via 3 RCAs, and HDTV 1080i, 720p, and 1035i through two 15-pin VGA ports. The unit also accepts a digital video signal through a 24-pin DVI port.
For those looking for a dual purpose portable projector that delivers very high resolution data presentations as well as first rate video, the 9115 is an ideal solution. The SXGA resolution guarantees crisp, clean images of detailed financial spreadsheets and other material requiring precision display of detail. Picture-in-picture and 4x digital zoom are standard features, as is vertical and horizontal keystone correction.
In terms of video performance, the 9115 excels in several respects. Resolution is superb, and scaling is outstanding. The picture is as clean and stable as it gets. Color accuracy is also a strong point. And the LCOS technology, like DLP, delivers a 100% pixel free image from any normal viewing distance.
The one notable weakness of the 9115's video is contrast. The rated 600:1 contrast ratio notwithstanding, I was finding myself wishing for a bit better contrast performance with a number of sources. Now to be sure, inherently high contrast material such as animated films look sensational on the 9115. You haven't seen Shrek until you've seen it on this projector—pure magic.
Yet when the material is switched to something that is not inherently high in contrast, Bridget Jones' Diary for example, there are numerous occasions where blacks and shadow details are somewhat lacking. This was true even with the use of the high contrast Stewart Grayhawk, which is the screen currently mounted in my theater.
Fortunately, the new Stewart Firehawk screen goes a step beyond the Grayhawk in compensating for contrast problems, which are common to most digital projectors. Its 1.35 gain factor is not too hot for the 9115, particularly with its optional whisper mode. For those interested in getting the best possible contrast performance from the ImagePro 9115, we strongly recommend that you combine it with the Firehawk.
Menu layouts are a source of irritation on just about all projectors, and this one is no different. The aspect ratio control is buried too deep in the menu, requiring too many clicks to make that adjustment. Similarly, the TV/Film source selection was also too deep. The industry in general needs to do a much better job at designing more effective user interfaces for digital projectors.
All things considered however, the Dukane 9115 brings a lot to the table; an excellent combination of portability and brightness for an SXGA-class machine, a pixel-free image, precise scaling, and beautiful video performance when used with a high contrast screen. It delivers 16:9 resolution equal to that of any high resolution widescreen projector on the market today, and at street prices significantly below almost all of them. It is indeed a very unique projector that can be used effectively for both business presentation and home theater applications.
And by the way, a multi-purpose high-resolution projector is not all you get with the 9115. Dukane adds one more special sweetener... their industry-leading 5 year warranty. That is something no other manufacturer in the projector industry offers.