DWIN's "TransVision" DLP Projector
In the world of "high-end" home theater there are a few elite brands that avid enthusiasts identify with super-premium quality. Brand names like Vidikron, Runco, and Faroudja have traditionally stirred the passions of those in search of ultimate home theater in the same manner that Ferrari and Rolls-Royce inspire awe and a touch of mystery in the world of motorcars.
DWIN Electronics is a boutique video systems maker in Burbank, CA, that has established its credentials as one of the super-premium home theater brands as well. Like Vidikron and Runco, DWIN built its excellent reputation by producing expensive CRT projection systems that were sold in low volumes at high prices through a distribution network made up of custom installers and high-end home theater specialty retailers.
This distribution arrangement has worked well for DWIN and other marketers of expensive CRT projection systems since these products require professional installation, convergence, calibration, and on-going maintenance. However, the digital projector revolution has changed all that. Digital projectors are less expensive, light weight, easy to install, and usually require no professional installation unless the customer desires it. If they are so inclined, users can do their own test pattern calibrations with the help of a DVD called The AVIA Guide to Home Theater, available at Amazon and other Internet sites. Digital projectors make it much easier than it ever was before for the do-it-yourself'er to install an impressive home theater.
This creates a serious challenge for the high-end brand companies. The basic problem is simple. As digital projectors rapidly evolve into commodity items, how do the elite brands product-differentiate their own offerings enough that they can legitimately command super-premium prices and be marketed effectively by custom installers and boutique specialty retailers? This has not been an easy code to break. Two vendors have resorted to high-gloss, high-style casework on the marketing theory that if it looks high-performance on the outside the consumer will assume it must be high-performance on the inside too. But DWIN's approach with the TransVision has been to add a variety of extra features that are not typically found on most commercial digital projectors.
Overview: DWIN TransVision
The TransVision by DWIN Electronics is a standard 4:3 format DLP projector featuring a 0.9" XGA-resolution (1024x768) DLP chip. To produce a 16:9 format image, 575 lines of the native 768 are used. Since 25% of the chip is not used in 16:9 mode, the active area of the chip can be moved up and down, thereby moving the image up and down on the screen for the equivalent of a lens-shift function.
The projector has a rated brightness of 1000 ANSI lumens and a full on/off contrast of 500:1. It accepts NTSC, PAL, component, composite, S-video, progressive component 480p and HD signals including 1080i, 720p, and 540p.
The TransVision has a total of nine video inputs, including two composite, two S-video, three component and two RGB. A separate outboard controller/scaler is included in the configuration.
In addition to the TransVision's extensive connectivity, DWIN has incorporated other features to dress this unit up for high-end marketing. A Zeiss lens, twenty video source memories for custom set up, a back-lit remote control, and two sets of 12-volt screen trigger outputs are all features that the HT buyer will find attractive. Very few if any projectors built for the commercial and mass consumer market have this array of features. The product currently retails for $12,950, and since it is in limited distribution it is rarely discounted.
The TransVision produces a stable, sharp, pleasing picture with both HD and 480-line video sources. Scaling artifacts are minimal and the image is entirely free of pixelation from a normal viewing distance. There are no significant errors in color accuracy. If one were to audition this projector only, not bothering to check the competition, one could be quite content with the TransVision's performance.
There are two obvious deficiencies however. The first is contrast, rated at 500:1, which is adequate but not state of the art for projectors in this price class. The industry has move well beyond this relatively modest contrast performance. For example, the SharpVision XV-Z9000 ($10,995) is rated at 1100:1, and the Yamaha DPX-1 ($9,995) is rated at 800:1. Both of these units deliver obviously superior contrast and "snap" when compared to the TransVision.
The second deficiency is resolution and format. The TransVision offers only standard 4:3 native format XGA for its $13,000 price tag. Meanwhile the SharpVision XV-Z9000 features a native 1280x720 16:9 widescreen DLP chip that delivers visibly better performance in HD, especially with native 720p sources. The higher resolution of the XV-Z9000 combined with its decided advantage in contrast enable it to produce an image that is clearly superior to that delivered by the TransVision. And considering that Z9000 retailers are selling that unit for $3000 less than the TransVision, there is no contest at all in terms of image quality for the money.
Bottom line…the DWIN TransVision is a nice machine with a lot of little extras. The extras however do not include the best picture quality in town for the money. The $13,000 premium price tag buys you some extra connectivity, automatic aspect ratio recognition, more video source memories than you could ever need, a lens with Carl Zeiss' name on it, and automatic triggering of your retractable screen when you activate the projector. If these are important features to you, and you're willing to give up state-of-the-art image quality to get them, the DWIN TransVision is worth a look.