VIDEO CAMERA 1995

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SHOP WINDOW -- VIDEO PROJECTORS

 

INTRO

Most people think a 26-inch TV is quite big enough for their living rooms, but if youíre serious about picture size then a video projector is the only way to go

 

COPY

Video projectors have been around in one form or another for more than forty years but only recently have they begun to compete with conventional televisions for living-room space. The turning point occurred in the early 1980ís, following the development of liquid crystal display (LCD) picture elements, which could replace the highly specialised -- and very expensive -- cathode ray tubes (CRTs) that has been used previously. These LCD elements are similar to the oneís used in pocket TVs, essentially theyíre tiny television screens and in a video projector theyíre placed between a powerful light source and the lens, rather like a slide in a slide projector.

 

This development led to rapid reductions in size, cost and complexity, and the appearance of the first Ďdomesticí video projectors. At about the same time there was growing interest -- mostly in the USA -- in the concept of Ďhome cinemaí and this created a demand for ever larger TV screens. The largest practical size for a picture tube is around 37-inches,  bigger oneís can be made but they become impossibly heavy, expensive not to say dangerous! The gap was filled by back-projection and fixed-screen front-projector TVs, which have screen sizes starting at around 40-inches, and occupy roughly the same amount of floor-space as a normal large-screen TV. (NB screen sizes are always measured diagonally, and traditionally quoted in inches).

 

Back projection TVs have three high-intensity CRTs -- one for each primary colour: red, green and blue --  shining onto an opaque screen, using a system of lenses and mirrors. Nowadays most back projection TVs are housed inside large floor-standing cabinets but at least one manufacturer has developed a table-top design, that looks like a normal TV, albeit with a monster-sized screen. Back projector screen range in size from around 40-inches up to twenty feet or more, though the really big ones are not suitable for home use, besides being incredibly expensive (prices start at around £10,000...), they take up an enormous amount of room and require specialist installation.

 

Fixed-screen front-projectors have the projection tubes immediately in front of, and below a fold-out screen. They were quite popular for a while but they have since disappeared in the last few years as back projection TVs have evolved.

 

In many ways video projectors are a good deal more flexible than back projection TVs. The actual projector can be hidden away, in another room if needs be, or suspended from the ceiling, and the screen folded away when not in use. The smaller Ďportableí models can be easily set up on a table. There are other advantages; image size can be easily altered by changing the distance between the screen and the projector. Thereís a wider choice of models, and prices start at below £800 (the cheapest back projection TV costs almost £3,000). Most domestic video projectors have one LCD picture element, though three-element designs are becoming cheaper. Needless to say they produce a much better picture, though the performance of single-element models has improved enormously in the last few years.

 

Video projectors, both back and front, do not produce as bright an image as a normal TV, consequently they all work best in subdued light; some models require almost total darkness and/or expensive high-performance screens for optimum picture quality. Back projection TVs tend to have a fairly narrow field of view, and as soon as you move away from the centre line colour fidelity is lost, and there may be other strange aberrations. Alignment used to be a big problem on video projectors, though itís a lot better nowadays. Early domestic projectors needed constant attention, as they warmed up, these days most adjustments are carried out automatically, though one or two models still have convergence controls, so the three picture -- red, green and blue -- are correctly superimposed on one another. Finally, in general video projectors have shorter working lives than normal TVs, bulbs and tubes have limited life expectancy and maintenance charges will be higher. Some Halogen lamps, for example, only last for only a few hundred hours, which can equate to just a few months with only moderate daily useage.

 

 

FRONT PROJECTORS

 

CITIZEN 30PC, up to 50-inches, £800

Itís small, very small; to give you an idea its footprint is about the same as a VHS cassette. Lamp power is only around 35 watts, which isnít a lot in the scheme of things, so the image isnít especially large or bright. The manufacturers claim picture size can be up to 50-inches, though thatís only possible in complete darkness, using a high efficiency screen. A 20-inch image in a semi-darkened room is more like it.  The single LCD element has 170k pixels, so the picture is fairly coarse -- around 230 lines --  but colours are sharp and reasonably well defined. It has composite video input, (PAL/SECAM switchable), an on-screen display system and a stereo audio system, heard through two miniature speakers. Itís not going to give the big boys any sleepless nights but it can be powered from a 12volt DC source, so we can see it being quite popular with campers and holiday-makers, who donít fancy lugging a TV around with them, to watch their home video movies (shame it hasnít got a tuner...). It could also make a useful low-cost AV presentation tool, though it needs a good screen.

 

Value for money             7                                             

Picture quality             6

Home cinema rating               7

           

 

MARANTZ VP500, up to 50-inches, £700

Without doubt the most unusual-looking video projector in this group, and the cheapest too. Itís a single element design, the LCD panel having 100k pixels, with a 25 watt halogen bulb as the light source. Picture performance, therefore is going to be fairly average -- optimum screen size is only 30-inches -- and with a life expectancy of only 500 hours, bulb replacement is likely to be an on-going chore for medium to heavy users. The projection head pivots through 90 degrees, which simplifies installation, and opens up interesting possibilities, such as projecting the image on the ceiling -- handy for the bedroom... The head can also be removed from the base, and mounted on a tripod, if required. It has a built-in mono audio system, but with output power in the order of 200mW itís really only suitable for monitoring. An interesting concept but not really a serious AV tool.

 

Value for money             8         

Picture quality             6

Home cinema rating               7

 

PHILIPS LC2000, up to 140-inches, £5000

Launched late last year this is Philipsís first front projector -- in the UK at least -- and itís although itís targeted at pubs, clubs and commercial users we understand several have already ended up in home cinema systems.  The three LCD element have a total of 653,835 pixels giving a claimed resolution of 455 lines, with no apparent Ďpixellationí or granularity. The projector has a flicker-free display, which makes it particularly suitable for text and graphic displays. The 200 watt lamps lasts for 2,000 hours and it throws up a picture up to 140-inches across. Extra features include a built-in VHF/UHF tuner for off-air reception of TV programmes, it also has fastext, stereo sound (2 x 10-watts) and multi-system compatibility (PAL, SECAM and NTSC), with composite, S-Video and RGB inputs. The lens has motorised zoom and focus controls, accessible from a supplied remote handset.

 

Value for money             7                     

Picture quality             9

Home cinema rating               9

 

SANYO PLC-220, up to 300-inches £4,111

This is a serious 3-element projector, capable of producing an image up to 300 inches across, though it performs optimally on screen sizes of 100 inches of less; image intensity from the 180 watt lamp is 1,000 lux on a 40-inch screen. It has a number of useful features to aid installation, including motorised focus and 2x zoom, plus keystone correction, to compensate for picture distortion caused by mis-alignment of the projector in relation to the screen. Most major functions can be controlled from a IR remote handset, which has illuminated buttons, so they can be seen in the dark. Input options include composite and S-Video and it can handle PAL, SECAM and NTSC (3.58 and 4.43 variants) colour signals. It has a built in amplifier and speaker, rated at 3 watts, which is sufficient for monitoring. Each 7.8cm TFT LCD element has over 112k pixels, giving a resolution of around 450 lines. All up weight is around 13kg, and it has a built-in carry handle, so itís quite portable, ideal for clubs or exhibitions in fact, as well as industrial and commercial applications, and at that price it might even make it into the odd living room.

 

Value for money             7                     

Picture quality             9

Home cinema rating               8

 

SANYO PLC-320, up to 300-inches £10,000

From the outside the 320 looks similar to the 220 but as you can judge from the price itís in a quite different class. Each LCD panel has around 300k pixels, thatís almost three times as many as the 220, so the image is noticeably sharper and resolution is increased to 550 lines, (as good as some tube TVs). However, the key feature is computer compatibility, in addition to normal composite and S-Video inputs it can be connected directly to the monitor ports of most IBM PCs/compatibles with EGA, CGA, VGA outputs, plus Apple Macintoshís. Moreover, it operates at all of the most commonly used resolutions, up to 640 x 480 and 720 x 400. Most of the rest of the facilities are similar to the 220, though lamp output is increased to 190-watts. The high-resolution output and computer display facilities put this projector in a specialised sector of the market; it seems expensive from the home cinema perspective but for commercial and industrial users itís definitely competitive...  

 

Value for money             6                     

Picture quality             10

Home cinema rating               7

 

SHARP XV-315P, up to 100-inches, £1,800

This is the successor to the XV-710 which was the very first domestic video projector, at least, the first one to cost less than £2000. The XV-315 is a single element design, the element in question being a 9cm LCD panel with just over 100k pixels per colour, giving a resolution of 350-lines, and thatís not bad for a projector of this type, making it a practical proposition for home cinema applications. Image size can be from 30 to 100-inches, picture brightness is quoted at 330 lux on a 30-inch screen. Itís has multi-system input (PAL, SECAM and NTSC)  from composite or S-Video formatted signals. Thereís also a built in 3-watt amplifier and speaker. It weighs only 4.3kg, and it has a fold-out carry handle, so itís highly portable, and at just under £1800, relatively affordable.

 

Value for money             8                     

Picture quality             8

Home cinema rating               9

 

 

SHARP XG-3850E, up to 200-inches, £10,000

This is highly-specified professional video projector, designed primarily for industrial and commercial users, though doubtless a few will find theyíre way into serious home cinemas, pubs, clubs and exhibitions. It uses three 7.6 cm (3-inch) LCD panels, with just over 300k pixels per panel, resolution is claimed to be 500 lines, or 640 x 480 if used to display computer data, via its adjustable RGB multi-sync input (15-40kHz). Video inputs can be composite or S-Video, and it can handle PAL, SECAM and NTSC standard signals. Picture size is up to 200-inches, image brightness on a 40-inch screen is 600 lux. Focus and zoom controls are motorised and operable from the remote handset, which has backlit buttons. Other features include variable masking modes for 4:4, 16:9 and 21:9 picture formats, and thereís a built in amplifier and speaker, with a sound output of 3 watts. Like the Sanyo 320 this is a specialised, high-performance projector, not really the kind of thing youíd expect to buy for the home but then again, if your lottery numbers come up....

 

Value for money             6                     

Picture quality             10

Home cinema rating               7

 

BACK PROJECTORS

 

PHILIPS 46P912A, 46-inches, £2700

This is the latest in a long line of Philips back-projection TVs, it has been designed mainly for home use, though itís perfectly capable of being used as a AV display in exhibitions or small halls. Inside the box there are three high-intensity, liquid-coupled CRTs, beaming at the flat 46-inch screen. Like Philips larger home cinema sets it has a 100Hz display for a flicker-free picture, plus various digital effects including picture freeze and picture-in-picture, so a second channel or input can be viewed at the same time (it has a second tuner). It also has an on-screen display, sleep-timer, fastext, switchable noise reduction and NICAM stereo sound, heard through its own speakers and sub-woofer. Audio facilities include pseudo surround and spatial stereo. Inputs are via twin SCART sockets on the back panel, configured for both composite and S-Video. This is the one to go for if you want a big screen, and take picture quality seriously, but donít have the room (or budget) to run to a 3-element projector.

 

Value for money             8                     

Picture quality             9

Home cinema rating               10

 

PIONEER SD-T4000, 40-inches £3300

In the short history of back projection TVs this has become something of a classic. Itís a big (68kgs) floor-standing model, based around three high-intensity CRTs. The headline feature on this model (and the TD5000) is a true world-standard VHF/UHF tuner, that can pick up and display PAL, NTSC or SECAM TV signals in virtually any country in the world. It has a full set of video inputs (SCART and Phono), configured for composite, S-Video and RGB signals. In addition to that itís equipped with a NICAM tuner, stereo sound system (2 x 30 watts), fastext and comprehensive on-screen display. It may not be the prettiest projection TV on the market but picture quality is excellent with maximum resolution on this model claimed to be 750-lines. Considering the multi-system capabilities itís quite reasonably priced and given itís track record, definitely worth thinking about.

 

Value for money             8                     

Picture quality             9

Home cinema rating               9

 

 

PIONEER SD-TD5000 50-inches £4000

This is the TD-4000ís bigger brother, the features and general specification are the same, only the size, and needless to say, the price are different.

 

Value for money             7                     

Picture quality             9

Home cinema rating               9

 

PIONEER SD-M1407, 40-inches, £3600

Traditionally back-projections TVs have been giant floor-standing monoliths but Pioneer have cleverly  managed to pack all of the gubbins into a box thatís not much larger -- and certainly no deeper -- than a big tube TV. The SD-M1047 is thus a far more acceptable size and shape for domestic applications than either of the Philips, Sony or Pioneer alternatives. The image on the 40-inch screen is produce by three high intensity CRTs, which are housed in the base of the set; light reaches the screen via a mirror and series of specially designed lenses. Itís fully equipped for domestic viewing, with a 64-channel tuner, NICAM stereo sound, fastext, PAL, SECAM and NTSC compatibility and twin SCARTs with composite, S-Video and RGB inputs. Everything is controlled via an extensive on-screen display; the remote handset will also operate Pioneer laserdisc players and VCRs. Itís certainly the least frightening looking projection TV but it suffers the same problems with fairly narrow viewing angles, and a picture that is at its best in a semi-darkened room, itís quite pricey too, making the big Philips look like quite a good deal.

 

Value for money             8                     

Picture quality             9

Home cinema rating               9

 

SONY KP-S4613, 46-inch, £4350

This is the dearest of the back-projectors, but itís a Sony after all. For your £4350 you get a 46-inch screen with a good assortment of gadgets (fastext, PIP etc.) but surprisingly, no NICAM decoder, though it does have a stereo sound system, with built-in speakers. Itís a real good-looker though, probably the best of the bunch, with cleanly styled lines that help disguise the fact that itís so big. Itís compatible with PAL, NTSC and SECAM standards, moreover it has three SCARTs with composite and S-Video inputs. Thereís also a front a AV terminal, for speedy hook-ups with other video products, like camcorders and VCRs. Inside thereís three high-intensity CRTs, and these give a picture resolution in excess of 500-lines. The lack of NICAM counts against it, though most domestic users would use their own AV sound systems in any case, the big problem, though, is the price and once again the Philips set would have to be top of our list.

 

Value for money             7                     

Picture quality             8

Home cinema rating               8

 

---end---

R. Maybury 1995 2401

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

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