1080p DLP Home Theater Projector
Vivitek's new H1080FD is their latest 1080p projector, and one of the first 1080p projectors to be priced at $999. This small, bright DLP projector has a wonderful high-definition picture, solid contrast, and accurate color after some calibration. Performance does not match more expensive 1080p projectors, nor does it have the feature set to compete with higher-priced models. But as an entry point to high-definition big-screen theater, it is a good product and a great price performer.
The H1080FD has several potential uses. High maximum lumen output make it good for HD sports or video games in ambient light. Accurate, well-saturated color (post-calibration) could be useful for those wishing to display high resolution photography on a budget. And strong contrast performance is always useful in home theater. The H1080FD has its weaknesses - a 3x-speed color wheel and some user interface quirks - but for $999, it is an attractive value proposition that should appeal to first-time buyers looking to get into 1080p projection.
High lumen output. The H1080FD is rated at 1800 ANSI lumens in its brightest mode. The projector's bright mode is helpfully named "Bright," and our test sample produced 1607 lumens when using the high lamp setting. This is 89% of the stated specification, and more than enough light for a 100" screen in ambient light conditions. Color performance in this mode is not well-balanced, and you lose some contrast in favor of more lumens, but ambient light typically throws off color accuracy and contrast anyway.
Movie mode, which has superior contrast and color accuracy that is more appropriate for home theater, measured 712 lumens on our test unit. It also had much higher color saturation than Bright mode did, along with better visible contrast and deeper black levels. For home theater in a light-controlled room, this is enough to power a 150" diagonal screen. Alternatively, you could use Movie mode on a 100"-120" screen in mild to moderate ambient light, such as for more 'serious' video games that benefit from a more cinematic presentation.
Low lamp mode, which on this projector is called "Standard" (as opposed to "Boost"), reduces lumen output by 15%. This brings Bright mode to 1360 lumens and Movie mode to 605 lumens. Be aware that the specified lamp life of 3,000 hours is in Standard mode, not Boost, so using Boost mode may in fact shorten lamp life.
Contrast. Contrast specs have undergone some inflation in the last two or three years. In days past, it was not unusual to see a projector like the Panasonic AE-700, rated at 2000:1, become the hot product of the year. These days, there are several projectors rated at or above 100,000:1. I'm here to tell you that a projector rated at 5,000:1, like the H1080FD, can indeed produce a picture with excellent snap and sparkle that is perfectly suitable for use in an entry level home theater. Will it have a black level approaching that of deep space? No. Will you be clearly able to see the borders of the projected image, even when projecting a black screen? Yes. You may have to adjust the picture settings to avoid losing some detail in the low end, but the picture looks very good, and dynamic range is impressive for a product at this price.
Color. After spending some time with the color adjustment controls, the H1080FD is capable of well-saturated, accurate color. Some adjustment is absolutely necessary, because the factory default settings in Movie mode are noticeably unbalanced. If you are just getting into home theater projection for the first time, you probably don't have a calibration disc or any familiarity with optimizing the picture adjustments. No matter. The adjustments needed to get a good picture from the H1080FD are easy enough.
Using the default settings on out test sample, colors were oversaturated to the point of looking artificial. Thus, reduce the Color control to the point where colors and skin tones look natural and not overdriven. Next, you'll want to move the Tint control towards the magenta, which on this projector means moving it to the right. You will also want to adjust the gamma setting--the default is 12 in Movie mode; we preferred 7. After these adjustments have been made, the H1080FD has a very nicely balanced picture for a projector in this price range.
If you are interested in displaying photography, the H1080FD's solid contrast and vibrant color make it an affordable choice for the high-resolution display of photographs. 1080p projectors offer some of the highest resolution available - a 4:3 image displayed on a 1080p projector is higher in resolution than an SXGA+ projector. The H1080FD offers you access to this ideal photography display format at an affordable price.
Quiet operation. The H1080FD is quieter than many other small DLP projectors. While it weighs less than six pounds and produces more than 1500 lumens, it only uses a 230-watt lamp and is it is very quiet during operation. This helps if you want to use your projector on a coffee table, since less fan noise equates to less distraction and less heat exhaust getting blown around near your audience.
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