Component Reviews

InFocus ScreenPlay 5700 DLP projector, Review 1 of 3


Published on March 1, 2005

March 2005, Review 1 of 3  [2]   [3]

InFocus ScreenPlay 5700 DLP projector
$3,999 SRP

InFocus Corporate Headquarters
27700B SW Parkway Avenue
Wilsonville, OR, USA 97070
800 294-6400 (voice)
503 685-8887 (fax)
http://www.infocus.com

Basic Description

Single chip DLP video projector utilizing TI Matterhorn chip (1024×576 16×9); 6 segment, 5x color wheel; 16.7 billion colors; remote control; 200/250 Watt lamp with 2000/3000 hour lamp life; Faroudja FLI2300 processor with DCDi deinterlacing; 1000 ANSI lumens; 1400:1 contrast ratio; color temperature settings at 6500/7500/9300 K; multi-system compatible (PAL, SECAM, NTSC); accepts 720p, 1035i, 1080i, 1080p, 480p, 576p, 480i, 576i; keystone correction +/- 20 degrees; throw ratio 2.08-2.60:1 (distance/width); Zeiss optics; user adjustable for each source; IR miniplug input; RS-232 (for control); (2x) Component (on RCA); (2x) S-Video (on DIN); Composite video (on RCA); DVI; VGA; D5 input with included SCART adapter; IEC standard power cord; (2x) 12V triggers; manual focus and zoom; set up for front, rear, or ceiling projection; 13.8” W x 12.8” L x 4.3” H; 9.3 pounds; 2-year warranty on projector; 1-year on accessories; 90 days or 500 hours on lamp (whichever comes first).

Associated Equipment

Arcam DV78 DVD player, HTPC, Dish Network 4900 Satellite Receiver, Stewart 100” 1.78:1 Screen with Studiotek 130 material, Hughes E-86 HD Satellite Receiver, and Marantz VP-12S2 (for comparison), Ultralink, Monster Cable, and Revelation cabling.

Setup

Projection Offset. The beauty of digital projectors in comparison to CRT/analog projectors is the ease of set up. I set the projector on the floor and aimed it towards the front of the room. The projector can be set for rear/front and ceiling/floor mounting. Because the offset is rather large in comparison to some other projectors I’ve used, I’d caution anyone who is planning on a ceiling mount to check over their measurements. The image will project 33% of the image height above the lens. This meant with a 66” high image that the image ended up being about 22” from the floor. There is a right to left leveling foot and an elevator foot to raise the projection angle. The projection calculator can be found at: http://www.infocus.com/service/software/projcalc.asp?site_lang=1&site_region=1&. Select SP5700 and verify range according to serial number of the unit. There is no lens shift. (Lens shift allows you to mechanically shift the image up and down without affecting picture geometry.) This means that any type of vertical correction may only be accomplished via the keystone correction.

Warmup and Focus. I first connected my Home Theater Computer via the VGA input and got an image within seconds. The computer was set to produce an image with 1280×720 resolution (a.k.a. 720P). Full warm up takes approximately 75 seconds. I moved the projector farther towards the back of the room to get a larger image. Unlike some DLP projectors, this one needs to be fairly far back to get a large screen size. I initially set it up for a 128” diagonal screen size. The inner lens controls the zoom and the outer lens works the focus. It was a matter of seconds before the image was positioned and focused.

Pixel Structure. Somewhere between 16’ and 17’ away the pixel structure was almost indiscernible on a full white screen image. With Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory on DVD I’d say that at 14’ it was virtually unnoticeable. However, on the opening credits, it was easy to see the pixel structure from even more than 17’ away. Alas, this is the limitation with inexpensive digital projectors I’ve seen on large screen sizes when seated up close. I decided to try a more conventional screen size (110”) in the interest of a better image. With this size, at a 16’ distance, the pixels were not noticeable. With video, text on the screen was good at 18’, while with normal video 13’ or so was a safe distance. If you go with a seating distance at 2x the screen width you should be safe—a good recommendation regardless.

Mounting Options. The projector can be ceiling mounted and InFocus offers a universal ceiling mount (above) from their website for $174. You can use the throw distance calculations and offset (mentioned above) to calculate the best location for the unit

Features

Keystone Correction. For extreme vertical projection angles there is keystone correction. This adjustment alters the picture in the shape of a trapezoid in order to correct for improper mechanical setup. In the old days it seemed that keystone correction always mangled the projected image. As digital processing has improved, so has keystone correction. I used several scenes from Almost Famous and went back and forth between an adjustment of 50 (normal) to 35 and finally to 0 which corresponds to an alteration of about 20%. Since the correction is done on a fixed chip, you lose resolution by doing this, and you can see the trapezoidal shape on the chip if the contrast or brightness is turned up. However, I have to admit, any difference that it made to the image was relatively minor. It would be an acceptable solution for situations where the projector could not be set up optimally.

Remote Control. I have lots of good things to say about the remote control. Not only does it fit well in your hand, have the essential buttons, is backlit (!), but it easily worked by bouncing the signal off the screen without having to aim at the projector. There is direct access for sources 1-4, an auto image button that will quickly go to an active input, preset access, and toggles between zoom, crop, and normal. There is a resize button to change to 4:3, 16:9, letterbox, native, or natural wide almost instantly. The menu button–along with up/down and enter button–steps you through the more advanced features on the projector detailed below. Unfortunately, the contrast up/down buttons were right below the section utilized for navigating through the menu. When it was time to use AVIA to make the standard adjustments, I would accidentally hit the contrast. After a few times doing this I wrote down the contrast setting—the settings are numerical. This allowed me to go back in case I made an error. All the main adjustments have numerical values, so settings can be remembered. The presets are also useful for this. By the way, there are controls on the top of the projector that can be used when its location makes them accessible—they glow orange.

Power Fuctions. The projector has a Power Save feature that automatically turns the lamp off after no signal is detected for 20 minutes. An additional 10 minutes and the power will go completely off. Auto Power will turn the projector on when it gets power, which can be useful if there is a triggering device. High power increases light output, but also shortens bulb life. The manual claims that it also increases fan noise, but I didn’t notice much difference. I only tried the function briefly as I did not need any more light output.

Color Adjustments. Different inputs have different adjustment options regarding color. For instance, the S-video input allows you to adjust color and tint. The component input eliminates the tint adjustment completely. The VGA input eliminates both. Luckily, most people who use the VGA input will have a computer connected (as I did), and that will have its own adjustments. Gamma settings are preset choices that will suit most people’s needs. There are two film choices (1 being suited more for an entirely dark room), one for video, PC, and two bright room options (with the second being the one used with the most ambient light). There is a white peaking control to extend the brightness of whites near 100%. I made sure to adjust the brightness and contrast so that there was no white crush. Color space allows you to select a color space specifically tuned for that input. There is an auto selection or you can choose one for RGB (computer), REC709 (1080i/720p), or REC601 (480p/576p). Color temperature is selectable—6500/7500/9300K. There are also gain and cutoff (called offset) adjustments for red, green, and blue.

Aspect Ratio and Sizing. There are several different aspect ratio modes and some differ based on the input being used. Native mode bypasses the internal scaler and doesn’t resize the image. When I had a movie recorded on the computer and it was widescreen inset in a 4:3 shape, I could use native and the image would end up filling the screen rather well. The 16:9 mode is designed to be used with material that is widescreen enhanced. This is the operation mode that I used with the computer most often. When I played DVDs on it, the ratio was correct. When I played back media files or recordings I had the same result. The 4:3 mode is for full frame material like normal satellite and cable, videotape, etc. The image is inset in the center of the 16:9 frame produced by the projector. Letterbox will take non-widescreen enhanced material that may be in widescreen shape and zoom it to fit the projector’s frame. Images on satellite channels that were widescreen worked with this mode. Natural Wide was only available with the S-video input and is basically a stretch option. It will take 4:3 shape material and stretch the sides to fit a 16:9 frame. For those who don’t mind a little geometry distortion in their image, but want to use the entire screen on 4:3 material, this would be the choice. You’ll get the entire image, but it will be stretched out. The overscan button gives you the choice of zoom, crop, or off. It only affects a few percent of the edge of the image. With satellite material I used the zoom to eliminate blanking noise above the image.

Sources and Presets. The projector allows you to reassign sources to the first four inputs (which can be accessed directly from the remote) and de-select sources as well. There are three user presets per source! This should take care of everyone’s needs even if you are switching multiple sources through the same input. The Autosource function will check for the last used source on power up and if there is none, will cycle through inputs till it finds an active source. This can be disabled.

Advanced Settings. For computer and HDTV sources you can adjust phase, tracking, and horizontal/vertical position. Truelife is a Faroudja option that can be engaged on video sources. It allows you to adjust chroma detail, luma detail, and chroma delay. Cross Color Suppression removes color information from the luma portion of the signal. It automatically works on composite and can be used if desired for S-video and interlaced component video sources. The Film Mode choices are 2:2/3:2 enable, NTSC 2:2 pulldown, and NTSC 48Hz. I left 2:2/3:2 enabled for all my viewing. If the source is strictly video, then you should choose 2:2. Noise reduction is available either on/off/auto. There is also a skintone bypass so you can utilize the noise reduction on other parts of the image and not people’s faces. None of the sources I had really needed any noise reduction.

Miscellaneous Adjustments. Display Messages turns on/off visual display on the projector. Translucent OSD allows you to see the image behind the menus. The Chime function turns on/off the chime at power up. Sleep Timer makes sure you can have the projector shut off after 4 hours. Startup Logo can be disabled and show a blank black, white, or blue screen when the projector turns on. Blank Screen lets you change the color displayed when you press the “blank” button on the remote or on the projector. Language selects from 12 different languages.

Service Options. If you alter the settings in an undesirable way and want to start fresh, you can always select “factory reset.” Test patterns are available to be displayed when the “blank” button is selected. There are black and white squares, a crosshatch pattern, solid colors, etc. There is a “blue only” choice that can be used with an external pattern so you don’t need a blue filter to adjust color and tint. I didn’t attempt to change the color wheel index or the ADC calibration as I didn’t have a colorimeter on hand.

Manual. The manual is mostly complete. It would have been nice if some of the more advanced controls were explained in more detail. There are diagrams or snapshots of all the adjustment screens to aid the reader. There are complete instructions for changing the lamp, distance charts, accessory part numbers, troubleshooting guides, hookup diagrams, projector measurements, and a complete table of RS-232 codes. At first it looks like a novel, but that is only because it offers six languages.

DLP Considerations and Unit Specifics

Wading through the technology today seems more and more difficult. Before choosing any display device you have to ask yourself a few questions: How big an image do I want? Will I be watching in a room with a lot of ambient light? How much do I want to spend? Am I concerned about the amount of space the display will take up and what it will look like? Will I mind replacing a bulb after 2000/3000 hours of use?

Not too long ago if you answered the question about ambient light with an affirmative, a projector was completely out of the question. But these days the digital projectors have so much output that a slightly washed out picture may not bother the viewer nearly as much. For the less tech-savvy reader there are several considerations:

To get the BEST picture from a front projector, ambient light needs to be controlled.
To get the BEST picture from a front projector, a good quality screen is required. High gain screens will not have even light output from wide angles. Lower quality screens will offer a worse image than projecting on a matte white painted wall. Gray screens may help black level depending, but many high contrast projector manufacturers recommend a white screen.
To get the BEST picture from a front projector, it needs to offer good black level with high contrast, accurate colors, enough light output for the selected size screen, a sharp image that has high resolution, lack of screen-door effect (obvious pixel grid), and high quality video processing.

Assuming you are trying to get a true movie theater experience in your home, there is no better way than the big image offered by a projector. So how do you decide which one and what technology to go with? First, you need to take into account budget. Projectors range from $1000 (or even under) on up to hundreds of thousands for commercial style projectors. The basic projector types are CRT (analog), DILA/LCOS (digital), LCD (digital), and DLP (digital).

CRT advantages: thought to offer the most film-like image. Longest life on tubes—can be up to 20,000 hours.

CRT disadvantages: just about everything else. Expensive, big, heavy, hard to set up, burn-in possible, requires outboard video processor, can’t be repositioned and adjusted quickly, convergence drifts and requires readjustment, lowest light output requiring smaller screen, analog device so video needs to be converted to analog even if source is digital, and won’t give a good image with ambient light.

LCD advantages: high light output, relatively cheap, no burn-in, and high resolution.

LCD disadvantages: black levels not as good as DLP, visible pixelation and screendoor effect (pixels are further spaced and pattern is uniform making it easy to see and prevented a smooth look), dead (broken) pixels, possible degradation of the blue panel over a long period, typically larger and heavier chassis than comparable DLP, and lower contrast ratios than DLP.

LCOS/DILA advantages: higher resolution, no burn-in, most saturated looking color, and not transmissive like LCD so better pixel fill.

LCOS/DILA disadvantages: relatively more expensive (may be changing), not as available in terms of manufacturer choices, run hotter with louder fans, and contrast ratio not as good as DLP(?)

DLP advantages: small, light, high contrast ratio, no burn-in, best black level among the digital projectors, good fill factor for pixels

DLP disadvantages: “rainbow” effect due to spinning color wheel in single chip designs, softer colors when not using several segment color wheels, and relatively lower light output per dollar.

Every technology has its advantages and disadvantages, but these days DLP tends to be the king of the home theater market. CRT is just too troublesome and expensive for most people, and the better model DLP projectors have improved so much that for many the CRT is out of the running. When ambient light is very high, then LCD becomes more attractive. However, for light controlled rooms, generally, DLP tends to offer a more film-like picture. When LCOS/DILA is more available and less pricey, then this model may shift.

So, how does this relate to the projector under review? For one, I was able to watch movies and television with the lights on if I desired. There was no good reason to, but during the daytime I wasn’t bothered by ambient light like I am with a CRT projector. The fan was not as noisy as some, but definitely noisier than the (much higher priced) Marantz with which I briefly compared it. It wasn’t that the ScreenPlay was that much louder, but it did have a metallic sounding whine that would occasionally rise in level that made the noise more noticeable. I didn’t have a way to measure the noise, but with the sound going it wasn’t bothersome, just noticeable. It may be an issue in some installations and should be considered. LCD projectors I’ve heard tend to be even louder/noisier.

A more important issue is that of the “rainbow” effect. With DLP projectors that utilize a single chip (just about all the sub-$25,000 models), there is a wheel that turns to generate color in the image. In earlier projectors many people were bothered by colored streaks that were noticeable when there was motion on the screen. Nowadays, the solution for most people is the faster moving wheel and multiple elements utilized in most of the available projectors. However, some people are very susceptible to this artifact while others are not. Therefore, it is important to determine if you are one of those people. The only way is to look at some sets and see if you notice this artifact. With the InFocus unit in particular, I noticed the effect easily while watching scenes from The Gladiator, while comparing directly to the Marantz projector. By turning my head slightly from side to side or blinking I could see constant streaks with the 5700 during one of the fight scenes that had constant motion. With the Marantz it was almost impossible to see anything. After living with the Screenplay for a while the effects weren’t as bad. Occasionally, depending on the material, I would notice streaks, but only with certain films was it bothersome.

Those are some of the immediate concerns with any DLP projector. Higher/better models in the line might be improved in these areas, but given the price, you have to assume there will be some compromise. The other area of compromise is the resolution of the chip. In the case of this projector it is a 1024×576 chip. This is basically a 1024×768 1.33:1 image with an inset 1.78:1 frame. However, this chip is specifically designed to be used in widescreen applications so there is no visible area above and below as there would be with a 1024×768 chip. 1024×576 comes out to be 589,824 pixels. The better model DLPs currently offer 1280×720 which equals 921,600 pixels. This is the obvious upgrade path for those looking for a better image–but it will cost you.

Viewing I – Comparisons with Marantz VP12-S2

The Marantz projector is coming up on being two years old. It doesn’t utilize the HD2+ chip (it uses the HD2) as just about all the newer models use, but it did sell for $13,000. What will you get if you go up to the next price level in a projector? You get:
Lens shift, so you don’t have to worry so much about the height the projector will be mounted.
Better color fidelity—the colors practically popped out of the image and looked more saturated/richer.
Higher resolution resulting in a smoother image, with better depth and separation between foreground images and background images. On HD material the extra resolution really showed and the image looked much sharper.
Slightly better black level although this should be even more improved in the newer/higher models available (including those from InFocus).
Slightly better video processing although this too, should be improved on higher models or by addition of an outboard video processor.
Much reduced rainbow effect.
Lower fan noise/level.

If you’ve been wondering whether it is worth the difference to go up to the next price/performance level (if you can afford to) then the answer is 100% YES.

Viewing II – Standard Definition Satellite

I used an S-video cable from the satellite box directly into the projector during this section of the review. As mentioned in the Feature section, I used the zoom function to eliminate the blanking noise that was visible in the image—a very useful feature. When I tried the crop, I noticed the image was slightly smaller on the screen. I didn’t notice any picture degradation on this source by using the Zoom, so I stuck with that.

When I tuned to IFC there happened to be a movie that was being presented in widescreen format. Normally I’d use the 4:3 setting, but with this broadcast I choose the Letterbox mode and the image filled the frame on the projector from side to side. The larger image was more exciting and cinematic.

On the Disney Channel Toy Story II was playing. Picture quality was very good. It was a little soft, but that is to be expected. I found myself watching most of the film before I snapped back into reviewer mode. Motion was handled well and pans looked fine.

On Starz East Return of the King was the movie of the hour (or 3 hours). There were some edge artifacts especially during scenes of motion, but I believe these were related to the satellite (or transfer) and not the projector. I hadn’t noticed this on other channels with the same type of material.

Unlike the halo problems with early DLP projectors (light that escaped around the screen size that was clearly noticeable), this projector had none. However, when the image was set to 4:3 mode, you could see a dark gray shadow outlining the entire area of the projected image. No matter what I did with the contrast and brightness, it never went away. It is possible that with some tweaking of the offsets I might have made it darker, but I doubt it. This is not a problem I have with the superior black level offered by the CRT, but it will not likely be a concern for the person buying a $4000 projector either (as it was slight).

HBO East had a re-run of Carnivale. It is presented in widescreen, so there was another chance to use the letterbox feature on the 5700. The black level wasn’t as good as I hoped, but again, I think this is mostly broadcast related. The coolness factor completely won me over. Back in ’95 when I bought my first Runco projector (having graduated from a Sharp LCD) I was enraptured by my nightly viewing of old Star Trek episodes on a 100” screen. That is what it’s all about–the ability to get lost in whatever it is you are watching and forget where you are. There is just no better way to do this than with a really big screen.

Viewing III – DVD

To start, I spent quite a while calibrating the component input with AVIA. I juiced up the color according to the pattern, and when I went to adjust the tint I noticed there was a problem. There is no way to adjust the tint on the component input. Uh-oh. I guess that is another compromise on the cheaper projector. Anyway, it wasn’t that far off, so I put on the new The Fifth Element Ultimate Edition DVD. Even though the pattern said the color was right it looked just too colorful. I notched it back a little and the picture was more pleasing to the eye. I viewed the infamous Diva scene and the scene where Leeloo jumps off the edge of the building. Motion was excellent, but image depth wasn’t as good as I’d remembered. It was probably somewhat related to resolution. A friend who was over was very impressed with the picture from this disc.

Next, I tried a comparison between the progressive and interlaced output on the DVD player to determine if there was any sort of picture difference. The Royal Tenenbaums isn’t the best looking video transfer, but is colorful and in certain scenes the picture is quite impressive. The progressive output was not substantially better, although the color did look slightly more saturated (if that was possible). I thought motion was a bit better, but when I switched back and forth it wasn’t really all that much better. Still, clarity seemed to be improved in a very minimal way, so I left the progressive output on.

I have an older copy of Mary Poppins that is not widescreen enhanced. I gave this a run in order to use the Letterbox capability of the projector. I would expect the new release of the disc would look better, but, all in all, the image was good. (You can really get spoiled watching such a large screen.)

Another film that I haven’t viewed in quite a while that offers a really impressive DVD picture is The Truman Show. In chapter 8, and really throughout the entire film, the color was exemplary. With close-ups on Jim Carey the detail was fantastic and in darker scenes black level was very good. On long shots the image wasn’t quite as clear, but this is common with most DVDs I’ve seen. Motion looked fine and adjacent colors had a smooth transition.

Another film that showcased the startling color rendition capable with the 5700 was the special edition DVD of Memento. Unfortunately, I saw rainbows on just about every scene on this disc. For the flashback scenes (that were filmed in black and white) the rainbows were especially visible. Aside from this I was amazed at how good the picture looked. A few years ago even a $10,000 projector would struggle to get this kind of detail, crispness, and sharpness.

Conclusion

Considering the other display options, front projection ultimately offers the closest experience to being in a movie theater. Viewing a film on a truly big screen let’s the viewer experience the movie the way it was intended and it’s easy to immerse yourself in the action. These days, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to turn your living room into a dark cave. Digital projectors are smaller, lighter, quieter, and offer much more light output—you can now comfortably view the image with ambient light.

Of the digital projectors designed for home theater, DLP projectors tend to be the most popular. InFocus has a few projector offerings, with the Screenplay 5700 being in the middle of their single chip DLP line. The performance offered by this sub-$4000 projector would not have been available at any price in a digital projector only a few years ago. Black level used to be the big weak point with digital projectors, but with the 5700, black level was very good. Color was outstanding and so was picture detail with high quality sources. I was constantly impressed with the image provided by the 5700.

Unfortunately, there were a few negatives. The biggest of these was the “rainbow” effect, which, on this projector, was more visible than on some more expensive models I’ve viewed. Some people will not find this troublesome, but it is imperative that you determine whether or not you or your family is bothered by this effect. The lack of vertical lens shift was not a big deal in my installation, but vertical offset should be considered before specifying this projector in an installation. Fan noise was slightly higher than what I am accustomed to with higher end projectors, and the metallic pitch/whine made this noise more noticeable. This could have been related to my sample however.

For those looking for a widescreen projector in this price range, and are not bothered by the “rainbow” effect, the InFocus ScreenPlay 5700 should be seriously considered. It is a solid performer and should put the “theater” in home theater for those who have the option of enjoying a big screen.

– Brian Bloom
big_brian_b@hotmail.com




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