The Yamaha LPX-510 is Yamaha's newest widescreen LCD projector. With a retail price of $5,495 it occupies the lower end of the price range in their premium line-up of home theater projectors. The product is a relatively compact 14 lbs, and is loaded with an assortment of highly desirable features including horizontal and vertical lens shift, variable Iris, power zoom and focus with a very long 1.5x zoom range, and an HDMI interface. This unit has demo'd beautifully at recent trade shows, and it performs equally well in the lab. This projector, like the others in Yamaha's line, is designed inside and out for consumer home theater and home entertainment use. Yamaha markets no projector products in the commercial market.
The LPX-510 is rated at 1000 ANSI lumens and 1200:1 contrast, which is essentially leading edge contrast performance for LCD technology. The light engine features three 0.7" LCD panels with a native resolution of 1280x720.
Connectivity. The video inputs on the rear of the unit include one D4 port, two 5-RCA ports for component/RGB, one HDMI port, one composite video, one S-video, one RS-232c, and one trigger output.
Compatibility. Signal compatibility includes HDMI (HDCP), component and RGB HDTV 1080i, 720p, component 576p, 480p, standard component video 480i, 576i, S-video and composite. Color systems include NTSC, PAL, and SECAM. Computer compatibility includes digital and analog PC and Macintosh from VGA to XGA.
Lens. The LPX-510 has a power zoom and focus lens with an extended zoom range of 1.5x. It throws a 100" diagonal 16:9 format image from a distance range of about nine to 13.5 feet. Thus it is moderately wide angle in orientation. A nine foot throw distance for a 100" image is about as short as it gets in the projector world, so this unit is designed to accommodate installation in small rooms.
Lens shift. Not only is the zoom range rather long, the range of the lens shift function is greater than most competitive units as well. The horizontal shift lets you position the entire image either to the right or to the left of the centerline of the lens, or anywhere in between. Vertical lens shift allows the image to be placed either 100% above the centerline (in tabletop orientation, with centerline striking the bottom edge of the image), or 150% below the centerline. This provides extraordinary flexibility when ceiling mounting the projector since it can accommodate a variety of ceiling heights while letting you put the image on the wall pretty much where you want it without tilt or keystone issues.
Eco-mode. This projector has an incremental adjustment for lamp power on a scale from 75 to 100. At 100 the lamp is at maximum output, and reducing it to 75 creates a reduction in lumen output by about 20%. This also increases lamp life from 2000 to 3000 hours and reduces fan noise.
IRIS. There is an IRIS that closes down the lens aperture that can be manually adjusted via the menu. Like the lamp power adjustment, it is on an incremental scale from 75 to 100, with 100 being wide open and 75 being maximum closure. Closing the IRIS reduces the lumen output of the projector by about 40%, and slightly increases black levels and contrast. This feature should not be used except in a fully darkened viewing space (dark walls, ceilings, carpets, etc.) with no ambient light and very little potential for reflected light from the screen.
Color balance filter. The unit has a built-in internal color balance filter that automatically drops into the light path in certain "picture modes." The picture modes that activate the color balance filter put out about 30% less light than those that do not.
Picture modes. The system has six preprogrammed picture modes, designated Dynamic, Bright, Standard, Cinema, Cinema Black, and PC. These six modes essentially constitute different combinations of settings of (a) the color balance filter (on or off), (b) color temperature default value (6500K vs. 7000K), (c) IRIS (100 or 75), (d) flesh tone setting, and (e) lamp power (100 or 75). Each of these values can be adjusted manually in most modes, with the exception of the color balance filter which is fixed for each mode (off in Dynamic and Bright, and on in the other four).
Brightness. Due to variable lamp power, status of the color balance filter, IRIS settings, etc., the actual lumen output from the LPX-510 can range anywhere from about 200 to 760 lumens. Most users calibrating the system for optimal video performance will tend to experience results in the lower half of this range since lower lamp power reduces fan noise and increases lamp life, and the color balance filter lends much greater color fidelity to the image. This projector should be used in a viewing space that has no ambient light for best video results, or low ambient light if being used for computer games or for material like televised sports events in which image brightness is more important that perfect color balance. Use of the IRIS to obtain maximum black levels should be reserved only for fully darkened environments.
Contrast. Relative to other LCD projectors, the LPX-510 is among the best in contrast performance on the market at this time. Relative to DLP based home theater projectors in its same price range however, the contrast is lacking. This is the single most notable weakness of LCD as compared to DLP. With this in mind, a smaller screen size will allow you concentrate the fixed amount of light from the projector on a smaller surface area, thereby increasing image brightness and apparent contrast. So for optimum image quality we would suggest not going too large with this projector-say, no more than a diagonal image of about 100" to 110" or so. You can certainly go much larger with it if you wish, but the comparatively low contrast will produce a slightly duller image with each incremental increase in image size. This of course happens on all projectors, but it is more of an issue with the lower contrast LCDs than some of the DLP products.
Brightness uniformity. Almost perfect, with light falling off no more than 10% from center to the top right edge of the screen.
Overscan. The unit has two modes for overscan, standard and full. Standard loses about 4% at the edge of the image on all sides; full gives you 100% of the picture. This works perfectly with both interlaced and progressive scan signals, and is a very nice feature.
Color temperature. Color temperature can be adjusted via the menu from between 5000K to 10,000K. Many home theater projector do not have the ability to drop below the NTSC standard of 6500K as easily as this one does. However for classic black and white films, the ideal color temperature for viewing is closer to 5500K. The ability to drop color temp to this warmer setting for a viewing of Casablanca or Citizen Kane is another attractive performance advantage. Once you've viewed b/w films at 5500K, you won't go back.
Fan noise. Fan noise is very low when the lamp is in low power mode. Fan noise increases noticeably in Dynamic and Bright modes with the lamp on full power. However, in general this operating mode would be reserved for situations in which fan noise would not be as much of an issue as it would for quality home theater viewing, so we do not see it as a significant issue.
Overall image integrity. The LPX-510 produces a beautifully smooth, pixel free image on both standard and high definition material. Visible pixel structure disappears in subtitles and white text at a viewing distance of 1.3x the screen width, which is excellent, especially for LCD technology. The picture has a smooth, well integrated analog quality to it that some would call film-like. The best picture quality is achieved by using the HDMI input, followed by progressive scan input into the component/RGB ports. The image is slightly softer using interlaced inputs, but still quite acceptable.
The Yamaha LPX-510 is probably the most elegant LCD projector we've yet seen in terms of looks, features, and user interface. It is easy to install in a wide variety of room layouts due to its long zoom range and lens shift functions. And most importantly, image quality is as good as it gets with LCD technology.
We tend to judge most projectors on a strict "image value for the money" basis. It is not fair to assess this unit entirely on those terms. The reason is that this unit is being sold through custom home theater installers and high-end home theater specialty retailers. That means that it is typically not being offered at substantial discounts below its MSRP of $5,495. Thus on a strict price comparison basis, there are other projectors that deliver better overall value for the money. Examples would include the Sony VPL-HS20 which carries a retail price of $3,495, which is a full $2,000 less. The HS20, also a widescreen LCD projector, has higher physical resolution, similar lumen output and contrast features, comparable image integrity and lack of pixelation, and an HDMI-HDCP interface. It does not have an equivalent zoom adjustment, and it has no lens shift function. So it does not have the installation flexibility of the LPX-510. But for the money it produces an image that is entirely comparable to that of the LPX-510. For the do-it-yourself home theater hobbyist, the Sony HS20 is the better value.
This is not the end of the story however. Not everyone wants to spend the time and effort learning how to install a high-end home theater system on the fly just to save some money. For those who wish to pay an expert for a fully installed, turnkey professional home theater system, the best option is to retain the services of a trained professional custom installer or specialty retailer. These folks are good at matching projectors and screens to the environment. Not only do they install an optimally calibrated projector and screen, but they install and balance the surround sound audio system, the indirect ambient lighting, acoustic treatments, and control systems. Then they wire it all together for optimum performance. They will program the universal remotes and teach you how to use the system you've invested in. It is more costly than doing it yourself, but it is the easy way to get a great system installed with no muss or fuss.
Thus when you buy the Yamaha LPX-510 you are usually buying a whole host of components and services along with it. We believe the LPX-510 is an excellent value for the buyer who wants to invest in this entire package, and who wants the services of professional installers to take care of the entire creation of their home theater. In this situation the projector becomes part of a larger solution, and cannot be evaluated strictly on the simple basis of price vs. image quality. Thus as a component in a total solution being provided by a professional installer, the Yamaha LPX-510 is a terrific value and is highly recommended.