Component Reviews

InFocus SP8602 Video Projector SRP: $5000

For those who prefer the look of single-chip DLP the SP8602 has a competitive advantage.

Published on November 12, 2010

InFocus SP8602 Video Projector
SRP: $5000
InFocus SP8602 Video Projector
SRP: $5000

InFocus SP8602 Video Projector
SRP: $5000 [$3044 at Amazon]

Specs:  1080p .65” DLP Front projector; 1300 Lumens; 30,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio; 5000:1 native contrast ratio; adjustable four/six-segment color wheel; Pixelworks DNX 10-bit video processing; replaceable top panel in gloss black, matte white, walnut or primer finish; 2500 Hour lamp life (economy) or 2000 Hour lamp life (normal); 2.35: 1 support; 1.494-2.279:1 throw ratio; ISF presets; sleep timer; keystone correction; 28/29 dB fan noise; manual lens shift (+5-30% vertical, +/-15% horizontal at 105% vertical offset) and focus; 260 W lamp; remote control; inputs: VGA, (2x) HDMI 1.3, (3x) component video, s-video, composite video; RS-232 control; (3x) screen trigger; two-year warranty on power supply, fans, color wheel, light tunnel and labor while other parts are five years, six month lamp replacement warranty (assuming maximum hours are not exceeded); 16.76 pounds; 14.25” W x 21.25” D x 7.0” H.

InFocus Corporate Headquarters
13190 SW 68th Parkway, Suite 200
Portland, OR 97223
503-207-4700 (voice)
877-388-8385 (toll free)
503-207-1937 (fax)
http://www.infocus.com/Products/Projectors/SP8602.aspx


Audio/Video Equipment

Oppo BDP-80 Blu-ray Player, Dish Network Vip622 HD DVR, Roku HD Netflix Player, Popcorn Hour A-110 Media Player, PS Audio Power Plant Premier, Stewart Filmscreen 97” 1.78:1 Screen with StudioTek 130 material, Audioquest and Belden cabling.

Setup and Description

In the past InFocus had an arsenal of home theater projectors, but their current concentration is the business/commercial market.  This model is the only current home theater model in their lineup.  The unit comes with a remote, power cord, HDMI cable and documentation—that’s all.  I noticed that the lettering on the back of the unit is upside down (assuming that it will be read while mounted to the ceiling).  When placed right-side up there is not enough offset to place the unit on a high shelf at or above maximum screen height.  For those who do have a lower table there are four leveling feet.  With the projector mounted upside down on a bracket I was able to get more than enough range of adjustment.

There is a detachable back that protrudes from the projector case allowing cables to be hidden.  I removed a top panel that allows vertical and horizontal shift and zoom and focus.  All of these controls are manual.  The connection options are: VGA, two HDMI, S-video, composite, USB and three component video.  I was surprised that the analog video connections well out-numbered the digital ones, but this chassis apparently was also used for the commercial/business market.  I used both a component and HDMI connection.  The HDMI connection is 1.3 compatible and supports Deep Color (30-bit).  Additionally, there are three 12V triggers and a RS-232 connection for control.  I used one of the triggers for the screen and it worked flawlessly.  The others are for masking or anamorphic lens control depending on the aspect ratio mode selected.

Initially, when the projector is powered up, a blue ring flashes around the lens.  Once the warm-up process finishes the blue light stays lit.  This was distracting, so I deactivated it from the menu in the projector.  Fan noise was audible but not obtrusive (in the economy mode).  There was some light spill around the screen, so it is more critical to keep this area non-reflective than with some projectors.

I had some weird issues that occurred with the HDMI input over my time with the projector.  These would manifest as strange behavior from the unit such as: loss of signal, functional locking up where the remote would elicit no response, and/or powering down.  Only on one occasion did I have to physically pull the power plug and the unit instantly worked again.  Otherwise, pushing the “auto-image” button, turning the blu-ray player off and on again, or just waiting 10-20 seconds fixed the issue.  I never had problems once the movie began—it was only on startup, switching sources, or when refresh rate would change from 60 Hz to 24 Hz.
 

The Remote

The remote is similar in design to the projector in shape and style.  It doesn’t use conventional rubber buttons and all the tiles (buttons) that activate commands are right next to each other.  My only complaint was that the menu button is right next to the power.  When I was adjusting the projector I would occasionally hit the power button by mistake.  A second push of the power button would cancel the power-down sequence however.  Response of the projector to change inputs was a bit slow and holding the button down a little longer than normal was the only way to make the switch.  Once the switch occurred it would take from 8-9 seconds for the projector to lock to the input (regardless of whether it was digital or analog).  My wife always asked why there was a blue screen coming up constantly.  (Some of this could be avoided by manually setting the Blu-ray player to operate at either 24p or 60p.)

The projector’s IR window is in front and I was able to bounce the signal off the wall or the screen equally well.  Presets are accessible from the remote as well as three user-defined sources.  You can also cycle through the sources if you like.  There is no way to delete sources so the projector goes through every source.  Overscan and resize are both direct-access buttons from the remote.


Projector Menus

Basic Picture Menu.  Brightness, Contrast, Sharpness, Color, Tint, etc.  Both tint and color were defeated while using the Blu-ray on the HDMI input, but was available on the component video input.  I tried the SplitScreen function which is relatively unusual for a projector—it works like PIP (Picture-in-Picture).  It wasn’t all that easy to select the sources I wanted and eventually the projector locked up and wouldn’t respond to any button pushes.  There is a way to move the secondary image around or have images both vertical and horizontal stacked.  Other options in this menu include: auto image (described above), aspect ratio, keystone correction (horizontal and vertical) and digital zoom and shift (when using zoom in both horizontal and vertical directions).  Lastly, this menu allows for selection of the User preset where altering the image is possible and changes can be saved.  I used this setting for calibrating the picture.

Advanced Picture Menu.  BrilliantColor increases saturation and is either “normal” or “bright.”  I set it to normal for the review.  There is an option for a fixed iris adjustment as well as an auto setting.  The auto setting created a noticeable change in black levels when viewing various program material, so I turned it off.  As for the fixed setting, I did not see an improvement when closing the iris so I left it at 100%.  (With different screen surfaces or sizes it might be worthwhile to close the iris.)  After measuring color temperature settings I found that even the warm setting on this projector was too cool.  I left noise reduction, overscan, force wide and flesh tone correction off.  Color space was set to auto (and it seemed to work fine).

None of the gamma settings were correct.  I had to make a choice between the gamma being low or varying over the stimulus level.  Some of the controls only affected a computer image, so I didn’t use these (H/V position, tracking, phase).  There was a sync adjustment that I didn’t use.  I left the Detect Film option on.  Color gamut can be selected or set to auto (which worked fine).  There are both gain and offset adjustments for grayscale calibration.  I found that even changing the values by one (from a range of 0-100 with 50 as a starting position) had a profound effect on the image both visually and measurably.  There is also a setting for motion smoothing that some find useful with sports.  I didn’t find any reason to use it, as it creates an unwanted artificial look to video.

Setup Menu
.  This menu had adjustments for: language, remote custom keys, power settings, screensaver, sleep timer, always-on functions, auto source, sounds, closed captions, glow ring settings, keypad disabling, serial port adjustments, menu display settings, on-screen display, rear/front and ceiling/table settings and video standard (PAL, NTSC, SECAM or auto).  There is an adjustment to change the color wheel from 4x to 6x.  I was able to detect the rainbows either way, but less so with the 6x setting.  It seems there is a way to “support an older player from the HDMI port.”  Eliminate HDCP?  There is also a setting to increase the lamp power (which increases the fan speed and noise).

Status and Service Menu.  Source info, projector info, lamp usage, and factory reset.  There is a setting for a long HDMI cable to help with sync.  I use a 12M cable, but activating this setting caused occasional video noise, flashes and signal loss, so I left it off.

Measurements and Testing

I used CalMAN 4.1 and an X-rite DTP-94 colorimeter for measurements.  Setting brightness was not problematic, but I had to lower contrast based on color clipping.  Interestingly, raising contrast by one click would seem to indicate white level clipping, but going another click would indicate that clipping was gone.  There were noticeable changes in color at various levels, so I settled on a somewhat lower setting than I would usually.  This impacted overall brightness (<10 fL according to my meter) of the image, but was still plenty bright for my screen size.  At 11-12 feet from the screen pixel structure was completely invisible.

There is no way to adjust gamma on this projector aside from the preset gamma curves.  The flattest (most accurate) curve was the video setting (below).  Here is where an outboard unit like the VideoEQ could be of service.

Gamma with Video setting (vertical lines are in divisions of .1) – lower than
target 2.2 (yellow)

For comparison, here is the gamma chart from an Optoma HD8600 (a previous review and more expensive DLP unit):

Gamma from Optoma HD8600 shown is closer to target

There were the standard gain and cutoff adjustments, but each click up or down was too coarse, so it was a slow process to get the grayscale smooth.  Here is the result:

 

Here are the raw levels for R,G,B (vertical lines are 2%)
—see below for DeltaE charts

For comparison, here again is a chart from the more expensive Optoma showing more even levels.

 

Raw levels for R,G,B from Optoma HD8600

Below are two DeltaE charts for the InFocus using different computations to show error at different stimulus levels.  The first is using 1976 formulas and the second is UV both from CalMAN.  Measurements were made in 10% increments.

   

DeltaE 1976 and DeltaE UV

The green bar represents 3%, the yellow is 5% and the red is 10%.  Note how the two charts calculate the error differently by comparing the 0% and 10% (although 0 is not really that accurate with my meter).  As red and green are in opposite directions they sum close to nothing with the 1976 chart while the UV chart shows the magnitude of error.

I confirmed with the manufacturer that there is no color management system, so as far as color goes there is not much to do but hope that it is accurate.  Unfortunately, that is not really the case.  This would be another situation where an item like the VideoEQ or the iScan Duo could help out.  In a future review of the Duo I will post some charts with InFocus adjusted with the iScan.  As is, here is the familiar chromaticity chart below.

 

The 1931 CIE chart for the InFocus SP8602

It may be hard to see the diagram due to the size, but aside from white being close to the correct place, every other color is off.  Some have shifted hue while others are also under- or oversaturated.  Primary colors had a DeltaE of 9-16% while secondary colors errors ranged from 10-20%!  For those who are very sensitive this will be an issue.

Video Material

I ran the projector for over 150 hours with all sorts of different material from DVD and Blu-ray to satellite and off-air HD.  

With movies that were letterboxed the borders were a shade of gray and not as black as some more expensive displays.  Many lamp-based DLP projectors seem to be lagging a bit behind the current LCOS offerings in this respect although it may have been partly due to the sub-optimum gamma that I was not able to correct inside the projector.  The more expensive JVC bested the SP8602 in this respect.  Other than that, the gamma issues did not seem to be obvious with video content and with any information aside from especially dark scenes the black level was not too much of a concern either.

Lowering the fixed iris did not improve things visually, but using the auto setting most definitely did.  However, I noticed changing black levels with program material (and the iris opening and closing was audible as well).  For those who don’t notice (or care) about the change in brightness this is a way to dynamically improve contrast from this projector in especially low light scenes.  This improved shadow detail to the point that the trade-off will be well worth it for some.  I was able to get more “punch” from the image with a higher contrast setting, but this came at the cost of clipping very bright scenes or losing color information at high levels.  Also, there was a tendency towards slight shifts in hue of the white tones at high levels that I was very conscious of and needed to remove.  

The InFocus handled the 24Hz motion test on the AVS709 test disc well which was evident with standard viewing material.  Artifacts with this projector were notably absent.  Even without engaging any of the motion smoothing circuitry available I felt that the motion handling was excellent.  The picture was sharp.  Being that this model is a single chip unit it has the advantage of not having any misconvergence of the panels like three-chips can suffer from.  Some projectors with more expensive (or larger) lenses will outperform it, but those come with an additional price.  The unit outperformed the more expensive JVC in this aspect.  I am sensitive to the “rainbow effect”  with DLP – which I have not seen on the newer LED units.  With the projector set to a 6x speed this was much reduced and may be more than acceptable for those who are susceptible to seeing streaks with sequential fields of color.

Although my screen is relatively small (for a big screen these days) brightness was more than sufficient.  As I mentioned earlier, I reduced contrast to improve other areas of performance, but as I watch in a darkened room this never caused a feeling of the image being not bright enough.  If needed, I could have engaged the high output lamp mode to increase brightness, but had no need to do so.

Colors were vivid and sharp with material that was extra colorful like the TV show “Outsourced.”  The depth of image was very good and HD material looked just like it should.  When I have a chance I will make further adjustments to the color with the iScan Duo and report the differences in the review for that product.

Conclusion

Despite what some of the measurements may seem to indicate, the picture with the SP8602 was quite good.  Like other single chip DLP units, the InFocus is sharp, with bright colors and an image that pops.  The projector has plenty of light output for those who wish to utilize a large screen and can be used with an anamorphic lens to get a full-screen 2.35:1 image.  The fan in the projector was quiet and could only be heard when the sound was turned off.  Motion handling was very good and I never noticed any obvious faults while viewing standard material.

The vertical offset of this projector was a bit more limited than some, so care should be taken to make sure it will work in a particular installation.  I would have liked to see a Color Management System as well as a way to adjust gamma.  I believe that this, in part would have helped with some of the issues I had with the level of black.  When someone designs an automatic iris that works invisibly then this too will be wonderful.  As for the white balance, a finer adjustment of gain and cutoff would be nice and enable an easier way to get accurate grayscale.  The remote could be better, but most people who have this projector will most likely use an aftermarket universal model anyway.

With the exception of the slightly slow picture-syncing I was very happy with the InFocus.  In the higher price ranges DLP designs are king while in the lower ranges LCD and variants dominate.  There isn’t a lot of direct competition from other DLP units in the range of the InFocus.  For those who prefer the look of single-chip DLP the SP8602 has a competitive advantage—check it out.

Brian Bloom        big_brian_b@hotmail.com




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