Home Theater Projectors
Marantz currently uses the promotional tag "because music matters." This company is indeed better known for audio than video. But they have packaged up a couple of DLP projectors to accompany their audio line. The more expensive of the two, the VP8100 is an XGA-resolution product rated at 700 ANSI lumens and 500:1 contrast. The list price at release was $12,500, and that is about what is being quoted by many of the home theater specialty dealers who promote it.
The VP8100 has a couple of nice features. Of primary note is the excellent line doubler and scaler on board. The doubler's 3:2 pulldown delivers a stable image that is free from artifacts that would otherwise be present due to film-to-video conversion. There's not much to complain about as far as image clarity and stability is concerned.
Also, the VP8100 takes most of the signals you'd want to feed it—HDTV 1080i, 720p, EDTV 480p, component 480i, anamorphic, and data to XGA. However, projectors selling for $12,000 should do no less.
The primary weakness of the VP8100 is, predictably, color accuracy. This DLP engine produces some flashy colors when you have Toy Story 2 on the screen (which is why is it not unusual to see it demonstrated with this type of material). But it does not handle subtle colors, earth tones, flesh tones, etc., as accurately as one would like in a $12,000 product.
The 700 ANSI lumen rating is rather anemic as far as home theater projectors go, although adequate for the purpose with a 500:1 contrast ratio.
The VP8100 has decent connectivity considering its petite 9" x 12" form factor. The connection panel includes a 15-pin RGB port, 3 RCAs for component, one S-video and one composite jack. However, considering the price this is rather minimal.
Due to its small form factor, there is not much opportunity for the projector to dampen the fan noise and the whine of the color wheel. So audible noise is somewhat irritating compared to most competing units.
Since dealers who handle the Marantz VP8100 generally do low volumes, and since it is not widely available on the Internet, there is little discounting going on. The VP8100 is accordingly significantly overpriced relative to the competition.
High-end DLP products being quoted at prices above $10,000 such as the VP8100 should be tested against commercial-branded DLP products such as the InFocus LP350 or the NEC LT150, both of which currently sell for below $5,000.
In the case of the LP350 vs. the VP8100, both are XGA-resolution DLP projectors. Both have exceptionally good line doublers and scalers on board. Both have manual zoom lenses. Both have the same limitations in color. Both are HDTV compatible.
The differences are that the LP350 has a higher 1300 ANSI lumen rating, and is a brighter machine. VP8100 has component inputs and the LP350 does not. However the LP350 has DVI input and the VP8100 does not. The LP350's fan noise is not quite as objectionable. That's about it as far as salient differences.
When you set up the VP8100 against the LP350, you will find that many of the image attributes (pixelation, image stability, resolution, color quality, contrast) are identical except that the LP350 is a bit brighter. Bear in mind that the VP8100 sells through high-end specialty shops for an $8,000 premium over the LP350 primarily because of the way it is marketed, not because of any substantialy intrinsic image quality advantage. A side-by-side shoot-out will demonstrate this.
Therefore, unless you can negotiate a massive discount on the VP8100, we suggest you carefully examine competing options before choosing this model.