Home Theater Reviews

EPSON PowerLite 550 Review

epson powerlite 550Projector Central gives the 550 Cinema projector from Epson the once-over. This is the same model we took a look at with projector reviews earlier.

This is a native 720p, (3) LCD 16:9 unit with 3000:1 contrast ratio.

Home theater inputs include HDMI, Component and VGA.

The review covers the fact that this machine is a solid contender among the latest 720p LCD units. However, they did find an issue with misaligned LCD panels causing color convergence and pixel structure problems. (Part of the screen had an obvious color tint, and half seemed a bit out of focus.)

Review Conclusion

“The Epson Powerlite Cinema 550 is among the strongest of the new high contrast LCD projectors released this fall. Those who make their projector selections based on manufacturer’s specs will tend to overlook the Cinema 550 with its official 3000:1 rating, and go for one of the competing units rated at 5000:1 or higher. They do so to their detriment, for the Cinema 550 is fully capable of meeting or exceeding the actual contrast, black level, and color saturation performance of the other high contrast LCDs in its price range.”

This machine could be a good choice, if you get one without the LCD panel alignment problem. If you buy this unit, make sure the dealer will work with you if there is a problem. Epson should work with you as well, but I think you’d be better off with a dealer who can ship something out faster and is very interested in keeping your sale.

Review: EPSON Cinema 550 Home Theater Projector

Star Wars Episode III – Must Have DVD

Star Wars Episode 3 Revenge of the Sith DVDFor a technical look at the latest Star Wars release, we get the thumbs up from HomeTheaterMag:

Video: 5
Audio: 4
Extras: 4

The film presentation itself, created directly from the original digital source material, is stunning in its richness of colors and amazing details. Everything you saw theatrically, from helmet glare to the subtle reflection of animated characters, is present and visible on the home screen. There is simply no flaw in the 2.35:1 anamorphic picture, ranking this as one of the best DVD presentations you’ll see.

This DVD is a “must have” for any home theater enthusiast. Unless, of course, you hate Star Wars. (What is wrong with you?)

This could also be a good reference DVD choice for calibration or HDTV shopping.
Rent StarWars Ep III at netflix. Free 10 day trial – movies sent to your mailbox with a free return mailer. See if you like it before you buy it.
Star Wars Episode III

Marantz VP-12S4 DLP Projector Review

Marantz VP12S4 Projector
Well, while we’re covering high end projector reviews this week, here’s another one on the Marantz VP-12S4.

This high-end DLP unit uses the TI HD2+ DLP chipset with DarkChip 3. This means the pixels are closer together resulting in less SDE (screen door effect).

Other features include:
Vertical lens shift of up to 80 percent of screen height above the screen
O.R.C.A. (Optically Reproducing Color Accurately) filter
4500:1 contrast ratio
700 ANSI lumens
200-watt lamp
seven-segment color wheel
adjustable iris
sealed optical path
double-sealed cabinet
auto color temperature calibration system
black level selection

Though this machine costs quite a bit for a single-chip DLP, it is definitely worth a look.

“There is no doubt that the Marantz VP-12S4 is one of the best single-chip DLP projectors currently on the market. Many participants in the online video forums have expressed concerns about buying any 720p video device at this time. I understand their concerns but disagree. As I stated above, I believe it will take a couple of generations of 1080p DLP chips to get performance up to levels commensurate with the resolution. Second, mainstream 1080p sources are a rarity right now and probably will be a few years to come to market. So why not get the best possible picture you can get now and enjoy it now? That is what I did. I bought the sample projector to use for my reference system.”

Review: Marantz VP-12S4 DLP – Via HDBlog

InFocus ScreenPlay 777

infocus 777 projector

Here is another high end projector beauty, this time from InFocus. The 777 is their new flagship model, and she is one slick looking machine.

CreativeMac give this home theater masterpiece the highest marks of 10 out of 10. Here are their final remarks:

“Summing up, the InFocus ScreenPlay 777 is the standard against which we will judge all other projectors coming into our facility for evaluation. Well, at least for the time being. There are native 1080p projectors on the way, but until they can reach the 777’s $15,000 price point, this is as good as it gets. For the money, this projector represents a remarkable value. Highest recommendation. 10 out of 10 stars.”

Wow, that’s pretty strong. Those Mac freaks pros know image quality. Let’s see, if I can get that 2nd mortgage…

Here is another Infocus 777 Review from last month.

InFocus ScreenPlay 777 Review

Sony “Ruby” VPL-VW100 Review

Sony Ruby VPL-VW100The high end projectors are dropping in price, and the newer models are becoming available.

Henning over at HD Blog has found an extensive look at this new SXRD projector from Sony. I have been waiting for a review on this machine.

“This projector really impressed the testers: there were no major weaknesses! They were first impressed by the great colour representation. Then they were impressed by the contrast ratio, which is among the best of any projector ever built. The level of detail is amazing due to the 1920 x 1080 resolution and lack of pixel structure. The lack of digital artifacts was amazing – no noise on dark scenes, no false contouring, no rainbow effect (of course, there’s no colour wheel!) etc. ”

Sounds like a winner, if you’re shopping in this price range.

HDBlog.net Review: Sony VPL-VW100

Panasonic TH-42PX50U Review: Almost Picture-Perfect!

Panasonic TH42PX50U plasma HDTV

Here is another review of this popular Panasonic 42″ Plasma. There is also another earlier review here. This time, Businessweek gives this unit a once over, and stamp her with 4 out of 5 stars.

Here’s the rundown:
The Good
Excellent picture, with near-3-D imaging

The Bad
Visual “noise” when transitioning from black to lighter colors

The Bottom Line
One of the best plasmas in its class, with a relatively low price

“While there are some noticeable omissions from the Panasonic TH-42PX50U that make it less than ideal for people worried about future connectivity, it’s an outstanding performer in terms of image quality — and at a price that won’t break the bank. Few would be unhappy adding it to their home theater, or using it as a second set in the bedroom.”

Yep, this is easily one of the most popular 42-inch plasma screens available. It’s not perfect, but it would be a great way to get into the home theater game now, without having to sell your children.

I have seen this unit priced very competitively online:

Full Review (warning – popups)

Best A/V Receivers

The HTguys give us their picks for best A/V Receivers in four (USD) price ranges:

– less than $500
– from $500 to $1000
– from $1000 to $2000
– and greater than $2000

And we’re off…
Less than $500

Pioneer VSX-1015TX
7.1 Channel A/V Receiver with THX Select 2 Certification ($370 to $499)
7 channel x 120 watts
THX Select 2 Certified
DTS-ES Discrete, DTS 96/24, Dolby Digital EX, and Dolby Pro Logic II x

Video Conversion up-converts S-Video and composite video into component video
Good priced entry level unit. Has support for WMA9 audio decoding. No multi zone support. Decent set of features for the price.

Harman Kardon AVR-240
7.1 Channel A/V Receiver with Logic 7 Processing ($350 to $599)
7 channel x 50 watts (high-current amplification)
Logic 7 processing

192kHz/24-bit digital converters
EzSet+ to automatically set system speaker levels
Sleek styling
This is an entry model from a very high quality company. They measure 50 watts per channel with all channels driven at full power.

$500 to $1000
Read “Best A/V Receivers”

Sony SXRD KDS-R50XBR1 and KDS-R60XBR1 Info and Review Roundup

sony sxrd KDS-R60XBR1 and KDS-R50XBR1These 2 models are the hottest and most popular rear projection sets available today.

Excellent image quality coupled with the Sony brand makes these two HDTVs tough to beat.

I’ve covered several reviews and lots of info about these units here, so I decided to consolidate everything to make it all very easy to find.


Sony SXRD KDS-R50XBR1 50 Inch HDTV

50 inch SXRD Review
“I’ll lay bets that Sony’s newest SXRD offerings are going to shake things up in HDTV-land.” – Full review at Sound and Vision

User Review
“All in all, the Sony SXRD 50 (it also comes in a 60 inch screen) is an awesome HDTV with a large range of features and high quality screen.” – Full review at HDBeat

SXRD 50 Review
“If you are looking for a great picture from DVDs and HD, consider this TV. Sure it is expensive, but man the picture is amazing.” – Full Review at HDBeat

Sony SXRD KDS-R60XBR1 60 Inch HDTV

60 inch SXRD Review
“By today’s standards, the Sony KDS-R60XBR1 is expensive, but its fabulous performance and feature set make it well worth the price for early adopters.” – Full review at Cnet

60 Review
“This set appears to put Sony back on top. It’s really something special.” – Full review at UltimateAV

User Review at AVS (non-technical “blind test”)
“Wow did you see that… it looks so three dimensional… I’m getting dizzy watching this it so real… look at that picture its so realistic”

Read “Sony SXRD KDS-R50XBR1 and KDS-R60XBR1 Info and Review Roundup”

NeuNeo HVD2085 Review

neu neo hvd2085 dvd player revieweCoustics take a look at this upconverting DVD player, which has caused quite the buzz due to being able to upconvert to 1080p.

– HDTV up-conversion
– 1080P support
– Region Free
– HDMI and VGA outputs
– Firmware upgradeable

– Lackluster design
– Childish remote control
– Expensive
– Does not come with an HDMI cable

“With a price over $200 dollars, the HVD2085 is on the high-end for a mid-range DVD player. Picture quality is good, and we like that the player is region free, but we just can’t justify the high price. Heck, for $245 dollars, Neo Digits should have thrown in an HDMI cable, instead you will have to pick up your own, and you can expect to pay more than $40 for a good cable too.

So what should you do? Well, if you will not be importing those foreign films and 1080P output isn’t that important to you, buy the Oppo Digital OPDV971H DVD player instead. For under $200 dollars you get a great DVD player and a DVI cable thrown in. The HVD2085 isn’t necessarily a bad player; it’s just not a premium name, so why pay for it?”

So, it sounds like the Oppo is the best way to go.

NeuNeo HVD2085 Review

Spyder2PRO Studio Review – Projector Calibration

spyder 2 pro studio projector calibrationNot long ago, we took a look at a review of the Colorvision Spyder TV. This unit, the Spyder2Pro Studio, is the bigger brother and includes a mount for attachment to a tripod.

Then you can easily calibrate your home theater projector. You definitely want to calibrate your projector.

Review Conclusion:
“We were already sold on the capabilities of Spyder2PRO Studio for use with our motley crew of CRT and LCD monitors we have installed here at the Midwest Test Facility. It’s an instrument that serves us well, keeping all of these monitors, which are in various stages of decay, honest. Now with its new projector calibration routine, it’s even more versatile. Highly recommended. 9.5 out of 10 stars.”

Spyder2PRO Studio: Projector Setup