The highly anticipated Yamaha DPX-1, the company's first offering in the home theater projection market, is now appearing in retail stores and on dealer shelves. And the production model we have just seen looks as good as the pre-production units Yamaha has displayed at recent trade shows. Here's a run-down on what this projector has to offer...
The DPX-1 is a single-chip DLP projector with native XGA resolution (1,024 x 768, 4:3 aspect ratio format). Though pre-release marketing literature had this unit rated at 1000 ANSI lumens, the owner's manual lists it at 800 ANSI lumens. We have therefore reduced the manufacturer's published rating on our spec sheet for this product. Full on/off contrast is rated at a very high 900:1.
The DXP-1 will take video signals in a variety of formats, including 480i, 480p, 576i, and HDTV 1080i, 1035i, and 720p. DVI is also supported for those who want to go with the best possible DVD sources. Standard data formats from VGA (640x480) up to a compressed SXGA (1,280x1,024) are also accepted.
Connector panel: The connector panel features an S-video port, a composite video jack, a standard 15-pin D-sub and a set of five BNCs for RGB and component video signals, a 24-pin DVI port, and a D4 video connector for the Japanese market. There are no speakers on board this unit, and no audio connections on the panel.
Lens and throw distance: The projector features a manual zoom and focus lens with a modest 1.2x zoom range, adequate for making small image size adjustments to fit your screen, but not enough to allow great flexibility in the placement of the unit for any given screen size. Throw distance is not particularly short. If you want to throw a 100" diagonal 16:9 image, you need to allow at least 14.5 feet from lens to screen, and 16 feet if you want to use the center of the zoom range. The good news is that the ventilation is out the front of the projector, so the rear end of the unit can be backed up to within about 6 inches of the back wall and still allow adequate heat dissipation. Bottom line, you can set up a 100" 16:9 screen and hit it comfortably in a room that is at least 17 and preferably 18 feet from wall to wall.
Lamp and fan noise: The DPX-1 has a 120-watt VIP user-changeable lamp from which you will get 1000 hours of usable life. A lamp this small doesn't put out much heat, so it won't challenge your air conditioning. And the fan noise is almost non-existent with such a small lamp in the larger, non-portable housing.
Digital lens shift: While the physical lens cannot be moved up or down to change the height of the projected image, the image height can be changed digitally when the unit is in 16:9 mode by essentially altering which portion of the 4:3 chip is used to create the image.
Aspect Ratio Modes: The DPX-1 will format an image on the screen however you might want it displayed. If you are using a 16:9 screen, you can display a full 4:3 image with side bars. A letterbox image will zoom up to fill the full screen. Anamorphically squeezed 16:9 will be in proper full screen. If you are using a 4:3 screen, a letterboxed image can be display in normally with top/bottom bars, or zoomed to fill the screen with the sides truncated. You have the same options with an HDTV source. An anamorphically squeezed source will be displayed in 16:9 ratio with top/bottom bars.
Image control: Yamaha has given the user a wide range of control over the image. A black level control enables you to adjust black without affecting white brightness-an unusual feature in a digital projector these days. Meanwhile the brightness control affects both black level and white together, and contrast adjusts the ratio of black to white. Five predefined gamma trim patterns are user-selectable. Sharpness can be set at any one of five discrete settings from 1 to 5, although setting it any place above 1 adds unattractive edge definition.
Color temperature is user-selectable at four separate settings: low, mid-low, mid, and high. Of the four, the "mid" setting delivered a very serviceable neutral gray. High is visibly blue and mid-low is visibly yellow. For those who want to get into additional fine-tuning, the white balance can be adjusted by contrast and brightness controls over red, green, and blue independently.
Another unique element on the DPX-1 that is not found on many digital projectors is the "SETUP LEVEL" which lets you adjust the black level difference of the signal. Options are either 0% for a signal with no difference from the pedestal level, or 7.5% for a signal with higher black level.
The DPX-1 has six memory settings so you can set up six different image calibrations for use with different material-a neutral gray for color video, a warmer calibration for black and white films, and perhaps a colder setting for data, for example.
Overall, the DPX-1 delivers an impressive, pixel-free image at normal viewing distances. Contrast, perhaps the most important single performance factor for high quality video, is among the best in the industry at this juncture. Color is natural, saturated, and well-balanced when the unit is properly calibrated-none of the color performance deficiencies of many earlier generation DLP machines are evident on the DXP-1.
The internal deinterlacing for 480i component video is also extremely good. The source used for this examination was the Denon DVD-2800 DVD player. As one might expect, the Yamaha delivered a superior image with the progressive scan signal from the Denon. But when the player was switched to interlaced output, the Yamaha's picture was just slightly degraded. 3:2 pulldown compensation was first rate. As far as internal doublers are concerned, the DPX-1 has one of the best. (Actually, the Silicon Image deinterlacing chip that is in the Denon 2800 is also on board the DPX-1.)
Earlier generation DLPs also tended to produce a flaw in the image which was visible to some viewers called color separation, or more commonly, the "rainbow effect." This consisted of the image breaking up into distinct red, green, and blue along the edges of elements that were moving rapidly across the screen . Most viewers could not detect this. However, some would notice it to a degree that it would interfere with the enjoyment of watching the image.
The solution to the color separation problem was to speed up the color wheel. The DPX-1 incorporates this change; the color wheel rotates at twice the speed of earlier DLP products. So the magnitude of the problem is reduced, and the percentage of the population that can detect and be bothered by it should be substantially reduced as well.
The DPX-1 also has an advantage with its Digital Visual (or Video) Interface (DVI). A number of projectors now hitting the market have DVI, but many still do not have this feature-an important important feature for those who want the very best possible image quality. Computers with DVI output (coming soon, DVD players with DVI output) can transmit a digital signal to a projector capable of receiving it, and the projector will be able to display that signal on its LCD panels or DLP chips, which are exclusively digital devices. Thus the signal information goes from the DVD all the way to the display devices without ever having to convert to the analog domain for transmission. This eliminates the inevitable jitter that the signal picks up in the conversion from digital to analog and back again. The result-a more pristine, stable picture. Those planning to spend upwards of $10,000 for a projector should not consider any product that does not have DVI.
Which brings us to the big question-is the Yamaha DPX-1 worth the $9,995 retail price tag? It is certainly feature-rich. Yamaha has done an outstanding job in the design and execution of this product. The picture quality is first rate. Many will say (we think rightfully) that it rivals the quality of CRT systems two to three times its price. Furthermore, it is safe to say that if you want to spend ten grand, there is not a projector on the market that we are aware of that will deliver a measurably better picture for the money. DPX-1 owners won't have anything to feel bad about-they will have acquired an outstanding performer.
Our only note of caution would be that there are a number of other XGA resolution DLP projectors that are equal or higher in light output, comparable in contrast, and selling for a fraction of the price of the DPX-1. As home theater solutions they are certainly not as elegant as the DPX-1. But at $3,000 to $6,000 less, many cost-conscious buyers will find that the lower-priced alternatives will be the more practical solutions for getting a superb image on the screen in their home theater.
As far as price goes, there is also an unfortunate perception problem in the marketplace that projectors with 16:9 native format automatically make better home theater solutions. This is not the case by any means. We have not yet seen (at this writing) a 16:9 format projector that can deliver the image quality of the DPX-1. Nevertheless, with a number of 16:9 products now on the market for well under $10,000, the DPX-1's native 4:3 format will cause buyers who trust specs more than their eyes to overlook it. Realistically, it is a competitive issue that Yamaha will have to contend with in pricing.
Bottom line--the Yamaha DPX-1 is a thoroughly impressive home theater projection system. It is definitely worth a premium price. But in this highly competitive market, $9,995 is a bit too much of a premium. It is the price that causes us to give it "recommended" status instead of "highly recommended." We would like to have seen a retail price of $7,995. Had Yamaha been able to achieve that price point, they would have delivered a perfect home theater solution.
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our Yamaha DPX-1 projector page.