Highly Recommended Award
Our Highly Recommended designation is earned by products offering extraordinary value or performance in their price class.
[Note: Star rating posted 3/28/05, and value rating is based on average street prices.]
The Toshiba TDP-MT800 (henceforth "MT800") is the new high-performance home theater projector in Toshiba's line. It features the popular 1280x720 resolution HD2+ DLP chip. Thus it is in the same general performance class as other projectors based on the HD2+ chipe like the SharpVision Z12000 and the Marantz VP12S3, but with a much lower retail price tag.
The MT800 is also marketed by the original manufacturer, InFocus, as the InFocus Screenplay 7205. 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. Those who are planning ceiling mounted installations often prefer the white color because it blends with a white ceiling and becomes less visible in the room.
The MT800 is rated at 1100 ANSI lumens and 2200:1 contrast. It features a 5x speed, seven segment color wheel. The unit weighs 9.5 lbs, and with a solidly constructed handle integrated into the casework it is suitable for both portable use as well as fixed home theater installation. The casework is in fact identical to the earlier edition Toshiba TDP-MT8U (a.k.a. InFocus Screenplay 7200) that we reviewed about eighteen months ago. Other than the switch from the HD2 to HD2+ chip, this new and improved projector features a new color wheel, improved contrast, improved optical performance, and HDMI compatibility, and a lower retail price.
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 MT800 has a manual 1.38x zoom and focus lens. 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 latitude 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: As with the earlier version, the picture out of the box is impressive and no adjustments 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 enabled us tweakers to get our two cents in. The projector has a wide assortment of image adjustment controls and three user programmable memories.
Brightness: The MT800 has two light output settings, standard and high. Standard is the factory default. At this setting, after calibration its light output was 560 ANSI lumens. The high lamp setting boosted lumen output by about 20% to 670 lumens, and increases fan noise somewhat. In standard lamp mode, fan noise is low on this unit, but not the lowest among the competing units in this category. In high lamp mode it is louder than competing units, to the point where it would be distracting for some users.
Brightness uniformity: With a 100 IRE white screen, brightness is visibly uneven across the screen. The earlier edition of this projector had a problem with this, and it has appeared once again on this one. On this test sample the hottest part of the screen was lower center, and it fades off most noticeable by 40% toward the upper right corner. This is below average performance relative to competing units in the class. 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 not noticeable unless you intentionally look for it.
Contrast: The contrast rating of 2200:1 indicates an improvement over the MT8U, and it is visible on the screen. As noted in other reviews, the contrast numbers published by manufacturers are theoretical in nature and not indicative of actual expected real life experience. Even low amounts of ambient and reflected light will hammer actual contrast performance on screen. Therefore we 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 projectors rated at 2000:1 and those rated substantially higher will not be as dramatic as the numbers would lead you to believe.
Geometry: The barrel distortion problem we found on the original versions of this projector has been resolved. Geometry is almost perfect, with just a very slight arc in the top edge of the image that is barely visible and insignificant.
Color decoding: Color decoding on this product is 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 superb.
Deinterlacing/scaling: The deinterlacing electronics on this unit are excellent. Images from DVD are clean and razor sharp. Motion artifacts are relatively minimal even with interlaced input. Images from HDTV are exceptional. 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. As with the earlier model, for DVDs we preferred the results ultimately achieved with component 480i rather than progressive scan input. And in point of fact, on the MT800 actual lumen output was about 7% higher with the interlaced input than with progressive, which is unusual. Unlike other HD2+ models we've seen, we would not recommend use of an external video processor that bypasses the Faroudja subsystem on this unit.
The MT800 delivers great images from both DVD and HDTV. Color, contrast, image definition, and lumen output combine to produce a truly beautiful result. Though retail priced at $8,995, in today's competitive market many of the HD2+ projectors such as this one can be found at street prices well below MSRP. Assuming you find a good discount, the MT800 is considered to be an outstanding value for the money.
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our Toshiba TACP TDP-MT800 projector page.