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Toshiba's TLP-MT7 for Home Theater

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Toshiba TACP TLP-MT7U Projector Toshiba TACP TLP-MT7U
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400:1 Contrast Ratio
1000 Lumens
Street Price: n/a

Our first looks at the Toshiba TLP-MT7 were at the CES, NAB, and INFOCOMM tradeshows earlier this year. Quite frankly, it didn't look very good. But Toshiba had set up their demos with standard factory presets, so the units were not optimized for best video quality. When someone called to ask if we wanted to review the MT7, we jumped at the chance to see what could be done to improve the image.

Out of the box the MT7 was of course calibrated to factory presets. And firing it up it delivered the same lackluster image that had been seen at the trade shows. However, after ten minutes worth of some relatively simple adjustments to color, contrast, brightness, and sharpness, the image was magically transformed. We are pleased to report that the MT7 is a much more exciting product than one would have guessed from its trade show debuts. So here is a closer look at Toshiba's newest home theater entry.

Product Overview

The MT7 is a sleek, compact home theater projector, weighing 11.7 lbs. Its white case, contemporary design, and small form factor enable it to be ceiling-mounted rather unobtrusively in many environments.

The MT7 features a 1,280 x 720 pixel array on three 1.3" LCD panels, making it one of the few native 16:9 aspect ratio machines on the market. It is rated at 1000 ANSI lumens with a full on/off contrast ratio of 400:1.

Throw distance. The 1.3x manual zoom and focus lens projects a 100" diagonal image from a minimum distance of 12.7 feet and a maximum distance of 16.3 feet (measured from lens to screen). The exhaust is directed out the front of the unit, so it can be ceiling mounted relatively close to a rear wall. There is no clearance spec in the Owner's Manual, but to ensure adequate heat dissipation we would suggest allowing at least a foot from the rear of the case to the wall if it is to be ceiling mounted. Placement in a bookcase or rack without proper ventilation is not recommended.

Lamp. The MT7 has a 150-watt lamp that must be replaced every 1000 hours. Buyers should be aware that the retail price of the replacement lamp (at this writing) is $437 (not unusual for this class of product). So lamp replacements should be factored into the cost of ownership to avoid surprises.

Fan noise and extraneous light. Fan noise is extremely low, almost silent-a highly desirable feature in a home theater projector that many competing units cannot quite match. Furthermore, Toshiba engineers have done an outstanding job in controlling scattered light; the only place light comes out of the MT7 is the lens, which is an impressive achievement in a projector with such a small form factor. That is important because scattered light emerging from intake/exhaust vents can reduce the contrast performance of any projection system.

Signal compatibility. The MT7 takes a variety of video signals including HDTV 1080i and 720p, EDTV 480p, as well as standard 480i in component, composite, and S-video formats. It is also compatible with computer resolutions from VGA to UXGA (1600x1200). The MT7 supports NTSC, PAL, SECAM, PAL-M, PAL-N, PAL-60, and NTSC 4.43.

Connectivity. The MT7 has one 15-pin D-Sub VGA connector that serves as the input port for all computer, HDTV, and 480i/480p component video sources, as well as one S-video port and one composite RCA jack. That means if you are running multiple sources you will need signal switching capability in your equipment rack to avoid the nuisance of unplugging signal cables every time you want to change a source. If your component sources have 3 RCA jacks as outputs, you will need a cable with three RCA jacks on one end and a VGA connector on the other. Toshiba provides one of these cables in a ten-foot length with the unit.

Image formatting. The MT7 will take a variety of 4:3 and 16:9 input signals and format them to your desired viewing format. 4:3 can be displayed with black bars on the side, stretched horizontally, or blown up to full 16:9 screen width with the top and bottom truncated.

Features for commercial presentation use. There are several features incorporated into the MT7 that are intended primarily for use in data presentations. Keystone correction enables you to display a rectangular image rather than a trapezoidal image in the event the projector's centerline is not perpendicular to the screen. For data images this is fine, but for video it is much preferred to align the projector properly with the screen and set keystone correction to zero. Keystone adjustments introduce artifacts and distortions that diminish the quality of the video image.

There is a digital zoom feature that enables you to enlarge small parts of the projected image-great for spreadsheet presentations, but of no value for video. The MT7 has a single 2-watt speaker on board which may have application in a conference room presentation, but is of no practical use in home theater. A mute button temporarily cuts the picture and sound so you can address your audience without the distractions the projector might represent. A carrying handle is built into the side of the case. It blends into the casework such that it is almost invisible when not in use.

Thus the MT7, despite being a native 16:9 machine, has wider application than just home theater. For those who want the projector to serve a second function as a mobile presentation device, it has all the basic features required to perform this service. Putting out 1000 ANSI lumens in its 12 lbs package, it is not the lightest or the brightest projector on the market by any means. So it is not the best choice for frequent travelers. However, it is an excellent choice for people who want to combine superior home theater performance with occasional data presentation use, all at an attractive price.

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