The Toshiba TDP-MT8U is in fact the InFocus Screenplay 7200 being sold under the Toshiba label. The only physical difference between the two units is the case color-the Toshiba edition is off-white and the Infocus is medium silver-gray. Both carry an MSRP of $9,999. At this price they are the least expensive of all of the Mustang/HD2 machines released thus far. We brought samples of both the Screenplay 7200 and the TDP-MT8U into the lab for testing.
The 7200/MT8 is rated at 1000 ANSI lumens and 1400:1 contrast. It features a 5x speed, six segment color wheel rotating at 9000 RPM. The unit weighs 9.5 lbs, and with a solidly constructed handle integrated into the casework it is suitable for both portable applications as well as fixed home theater installation.
Connectivity: The connection panel on the rear of the unit offers a wide variety of input options including an M1-DA port, a 15-pin VGA, two sets of three RCA component jacks, two S-video ports, a composite jack, and a D5 video input. There are also two 12-volt triggers to control other features such as lighting, drapes, and screen deployment.
Compatibility: Signal compatibility includes DVI-HDCP, component and RGB HDTV 1080p, 1080i, 720p, EDTV component 576p, 480p, standard component video 480i, 576i, S-video and composite. Color systems include NTSC, NTSC 4.43, PAL B, G, H, I, M, and N, and SECAM. Computer compatibility includes digital and analog PC and Macintosh up to SXGA 1280x1024.
Lens: The 7200 and MT8 have a manual 1.38x zoom and focus lens. This is a longer zoom range than we find on most digital projectors these days. It throws a 100" diagonal 16:9 format image from a distance range of about 11 to 15 feet. Ideal placement for this screen size would be at a throw distance from lens to screen of about 14 feet-as far back as possible without hitting the extreme end of the zoom range. Why? When you have the lattitude to do so, it is advantageous to keep the angle of the thrown image as narrow as possible so that it bounces off the screen in a more uniform manner. Very short throw distances will cause light hitting the outside portions of the screen to bounce off at more oblique angles than the light with strikes the center of the screen. However, we also like to avoid the extreme ends of zoom lens, especially those with longer zoom ranges, since they tend to be optically more precise toward the middle.
Picture control: One of the selling features of the 7200 and MT8 is that is comes fully calibrated for optimum video right out of the box. We can definitely say this--the picture out of the box is impressive indeed and no adjustments at all were needed to get what most people would consider to be a great picture. Yet we still found some room for improvement, and slight adjustments to brightness, contrast, and color brought it to where we thought it was ideal. The projector has an assortment of image adjustment controls and three user programmable memories.
Brightness: The projector has two light output settings, standard and high. Standard is the factory default. At this setting, after calibration to the setting we preferred, we measured 643 ANSI lumens on the 7200 and 709 ANSI lumens on the MT8. The high lamp setting boosted lumen output on both units by about 20%. There is very little difference in fan noise between these two settings; fan noise is low in both modes.
Brightness uniformity: With a white screen displayed, brightness is visibly uneven across the screen. On the 7200 it was brightest in the lower center section of the image, and fell off by about 35% in the lower right and upper left corners. The MT8 was brightest in the center of the image, and brighter overall than the 7200 by about 10%. But illumination fell off by closer to 50% in the upper left corner. We attribute these differences to manufacturing variances. Any given model of either brand may be expected to manifest properties in this general performance range. We would classify our results on the 7200 as average, and on the MT8 as below average in terms of brightness uniformity. However, given that CRTs typically fall off by 50% at the corners, uneven illumination should be kept in that perspective. Once you take down the 100 IRE white image and start running real video, the effect of the uneven illumination is for the most part rather subtle.
Contrast: The contrast rating of 1400:1 accurately depicts the relative contrast performance of this product as compared to competing units with specs in the 1000:1 to 2000:1 range. By this we mean that the contrast is generally a bit better than you'd get from units rated 1000:1, and a bit less than you'd get from units rated at 2000:1.
However, in this contrast range, relative differences in contrast are not the constitutional issues that they were when we were dealing with projectors with contrast ratings in the 400:1 range. Those products had blacks that looked gray, and shadow areas that were muddy and ill-defined. Dark scenes looked like you were viewing them through a fogged window. Videophiles were right to preach a mantra that when it comes to selecting a projector, contrast is all important, and the higher the better.
The good news is that we have moved on. We are in a new era of much higher contrast projectors that deliver solid blacks and much better shadow detail. Unfortunately there remains a legion of consumers who have been taught to concentrate on high contrast specs without due consideration of other vital factors such as scaling, color decoding, color temperature and so on. It is rather like buying a car with the highest horsepower rating without regard to the many other performance factors that affect the driving experience.
Since consumers have been conditioned to be hypersensitive to contrast specs, manufacturers tend to quote theoretical maximum contrast ratios that could never be achieved in a typical home theater environment. It is important to recognize that subtle changes in black level have enormous impact on statistical contrast ratios. In a typical home theater or multimedia room, light from the projected image on the screen will be reflected off walls, ceiling, carpet, furnishings, etc., and back onto the screen. This reflected light has no impact on highlights, but it affects black levels and thus compresses the overall contrast range of the system. And the blacker the blacks, the more they will be compromised statistically.
Therefore we would caution buyers against the prevailing tendency to place undue weight on the contrast spec. Unless you have a solid black home theater room that absorbs reflected light, the actual difference in real life contrast between a projector rated at 1400:1 and one rated at 2500:1 will not be as dramatic as the numbers would lead you to believe.
When it comes to the Screenplay 7200 and the Toshiba MT8, we find that these products produce more than ample contrast to create an entirely satisfying video image with loads of sparkle and snap. They are emotionally engaging and a pure delight to watch. Though they have lower theoretical contrast ratings than other machines using the Mustang/HD2 chip, they have higher lumen output in optimized video mode, and in live operation the overall result is a very exciting image.
Geometry: Unfortunately, when it comes to geometry we found a problem that manifested itself in similar fashion on both the Infocus and Toshiba samples. The projected image is not precisely rectangular. The bottom edge of the image (top edge when ceiling mounted) is straight, but the sides and top bow outward just a bit producing a slight pincushion effect. The error is not huge-about 1.5% on both machines. But that is enough to make the corners obviously out of square when trying to match the projected image to the screen. To compensate for this you must expand the image until the entire 16:9 screen surface area is illuminated. The screen mask thus defines the image border and gives you the perfect rectangle you want. However, this forces small portions of the image onto the screen mask at the top and sides (bottom and sides when ceiling mounted). Practically speaking, this means that on a 100" diagonal screen, about ¾" of the top center portion of the image falls onto the top mask when the bottom edge is perfectly aligned. We would prefer to see better geometric precision in a product in this price class.
Color decoding: We find color decoding on this product to be quite good. There are no obvious color defects. Saturated reds are solid red, and flesh tones look entirely natural. From a color accuracy and saturation perspective, performance is exceptionally good, and definitely a step beyond earlier generation DLP products.
Deinterlacing/scaling: This is another area in which the 7200 and MT8 excel. Images from DVD are clean and razor sharp, and images from HDTV are almost like looking through a window at the real world-exactly what HDTV should be at its best. The Faroudja DCDi processing system handles all composite, S-video and component 480i input, but not 480p. This subsystem gives you a greater degree of image control than is available on 480p inputs. Thus for DVDs we preferred the results ultimately achieved with component 480i rather than progressive scan input.
The InFocus Screenplay 7200 and Toshiba TDP-MT8U are capable of producing extraordinary video imagery from both DVD and HDTV. Color, contrast, image definition, and lumen output combine to produce a truly beautiful result. The magnificent demonstrations we've seen at trade shows were easy to reproduce in the lab.
The geometric imprecision is unfortunate. When viewing 1.78 format material, you may become aware of the edge of the image encroaching onto the screen mask and your eye inevitably glancing toward that edge when subject matter draws it in that direction. However, keep in mind that this only occurs when viewing 1.78 format material. Wider aspect ratio films will have black bands at the top and bottom anyway. While we would prefer that this geometric imprecision was not present, it is the only substantive flaw we were able to discover in the product.
Though they are priced at $9,995, in today's market these products can be found at street prices below their MSRPs. And if one accepts the premise that there is no such thing as the perfect, flawless projector, all things considered the InFocus Screenplay 7200 and Toshiba TDPMT8U are outstanding values for the money. Given their superb price performance, we have added them to our current list of highly recommended projectors.