March 1, 2005

InFocus ScreenPlay 7205 DLP Projector

I always appreciate a company that can take a near edge-of-the-art concept and bring it to market at a reasonable price. It’s easy to knock out a Lamborghini Murcielago when you can charge $330,000 per car, but try getting the same level of performance for $82,000 in the Dodge Viper, or darn near close from the Lotus Elise for $43,000. Like those overachievers, InFocus has always delivered home-theater products through their ScreenPlay division that offer performance equal or close to the best, and at a bargain price.

Over the last few months I’ve put InFocus’s ScreenPlay 7205 DLP projector ($4999 USD) through every kind of test you can imagine, using every type of source. As you can tell by the Reviewers’ Choice designation at the top of the review, I think it’s a winner.

My back thanks you

The ScreenPlay 7205 replaces the superb ScreenPlay 7200 from a few years ago. The main news about the 7205 is that it uses Texas Instruments’ Mustang HD2+ chip, which has better black levels. The 7205’s resolution is the same as the 7200’s: 1280x720 (16:9). Despite their lowish prices, InFocus never skimps on the guts of their products. The 7205’s projection lens is an all-glass Zeiss design, and they use a more expensive, proprietary seven-segment color wheel.

Outwardly, the ScreenPlay 7205 is identical to the 7200. It measures 13.8"W by 4.3"H by 12.8"D, weighs 9.5 pounds, and is small, light, and easily transportable (a huge handle covers two thirds of its front panel). On the rear panel are plenty of inputs, including two S-video, one composite, two component inputs, an M1-DA input that accepts DVI, a D5 that will accept SCART, and a VESA computer input. While this wealth of inputs should leave no one hanging, DVI users will need a proprietary cable or converter to use the M1-DA input.

Every time I install an LCD or DLP projector in my system, I’m reminded of all the trouble it took to hoist my 100-pound Runco CRT projector up to the ceiling and bolt it in place, and then the hours I spent trying to coax it into giving a decent picture. While the very best CRTs still have better overall dynamic range than light-bulb-driven digital projectors, I don’t miss the backbreaking installation, fidgety setup, and costly annual tune-ups.

The 7205 was a delight to set up. As with every other InFocus projector I’ve used, the entire process took less than 15 minutes. Simply connect your selected devices, attach the power cord, square the projector to the screen, make sure it’s the proper distance below or above the screen, and focus. In the particular case of the 7205, the lens should be below the screen by 16% of the screen's height ( e.g., 1.6' below a 10'-tall screen), and it also would need to be 12-15' away from a 100"-diagonal screen.

200503_infocus_7205_closeup.jpg (16908 bytes)The InFocus engineers have spent some quality time figuring out how to make the fine-tuning process easy and quick. Contrast, Brightness, Color, and Tint adjustments have all been set at the factory so that the midpoints of their ranges yield a proper D65 color setting. (Thank you.) If, the first time you turn on the 7205, you see something wrong with the picture, illustrations at the beginning of the owner’s manual show what the problem looks like and how to fix it. No more getting lost in a sea of mistranslated jargon.

Once the setup basics have been taken care of, you can set the aspect ratio any way you like, including Native, 16:9, 4:3, Letterbox, and Natural Wide. By the way, I never found a need to use the Natural Wide setting. InFocus has managed the 7205’s light spill so well that the side stripes flanking a 4:3 picture look jet-black -- which is harder to do than you might think. You can also manipulate a number of advanced settings, then save them in three user slots. I used all three, setting one slot each for critical viewing, watching with a low-wattage light on, and viewing in normal ambient light.

Fire that baby up!

The first piece of gear I hooked up was the Ayre DX-7 DVD transport, using the DVI connection. Luckily, the Ayre has two settings for black level, so I was able to optimize it for the ScreenPlay 7205. This pairing provided the best DVD picture I’ve ever seen in my home theater. I started zooming through all of my favorite films, seeing them anew. I was especially excited by how well the combo handled such classic black-and-white films as Citizen Kane, Casablanca, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, and Raging Bull. In every case, the dark shadows were handled with aplomb; I never saw any black crush. Switching over to other DVD players, especially the monumentally awful Pioneer DV-434, created nasty problems with black crush. Here is a perfect example of the principle of GIGO (garbage in, garbage out) and its antithesis: Feed the 7205 a beautiful signal such as the Ayre DX-7 can produce, and you get a beautiful picture out.

I purchased a Region 3 copy of one of the most beautiful films I’ve seen in the last several years, Shi mian mai fu (aka House of Flying Daggers), and ran it through the region-free Ayre. Again, the combination of 7205 and DX-7 offered a staggeringly gorgeous picture. During the "Dance of Echoes," director Zhang Yimou’s quick cuts and gorgeous visual sense had my wife, not normally a fan of Chinese martial-arts films, swooning.

The Marshall household has finally bitten the bullet and bought a DirecTV HR10-250 high-definition receiver, with TiVo. Setting it to 720p, the ScreenPlay 7205’s native resolution, we settled in for some serious viewing. This combination created the most beautiful picture yet. No matter what we threw the 7205’s way, the picture was always clear; and no matter how fast the action, there was never any breakup or any other kind of problem. The Grammy Awards show looked glorious, with such extreme sharpness that we could see how old those guys in Green Day are looking. And Steve Tyler looked like the grandfather he is, giving "Walk This Way" a whole new meaning.

You’re probably asking yourself if the 7205 didn’t have some problems. Well, darn few, and they were the same things that plague all DLP projectors. The blacks weren’t completely black, but were blacker than I ever got from my Runco Cinema 750, which is a CRT. The whirring of the color wheel was apparent in extremely quiet scenes. And if I tried hard, I could force myself to see an occasional rainbow.

Judged against the competition

Compared to the best LCD projectors, such as the Epson Cinema 500 (review coming shortly on www.hometheatersound.com) and the Boxlight Studio Experience Cinema 20HD, the 7205 offered darker blacks and an absence of the irksome "screen-door" phenomenon. LCD displays, of course, sidestep the rainbow issue entirely by not using color wheels. I’ve never been terribly bothered by rainbows, even with the earliest DLP projectors. For those of you who are, the 7205 is almost entirely free of them.






Comparing the 7205 to other DLPs is a matter of implementation and price. At its current price of $4999, the 7205’s only competition is the SharpVision XV-Z2000 ($4499), another HD2+ device with similar specifications. The main differences: the Sharp has power zoom and focus, the InFocus doesn’t; the Sharp’s lamp life is spec’d at 3000 hours, the 7205’s at 2000 hours; and the InFocus’s two-year warranty is twice as long as the Sharp’s. If appearances matter to you, the InFocus sitting next to the Sharp looks like a Ferrari parked next to a Ford Fairlane. But beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

The bottom line

We regularly hear from readers worried about whether it’s the right time to jump into the market for a certain type of equipment. Their concern is always the same: Won’t something better and cheaper be available tomorrow? Well, yes, but that will always be the case. I’ve highly recommended the ScreenPlay InFocus 7205 to several friends, and I now include you in that group. Here’s why.

Unless you intend to spend about six times as much money and get something like a Sony Qualia ($27,000), a JVC DLA-HD2K D-ILA ($29,950), or one of the three-chip DLPs such as Sim2’s HT500 ($32,995) or InFocus’s own 777 ($30,000), I think you’d be hard-pressed to do better than the ScreenPlay 7205. As I said at the beginning, I appreciate a company that can bring a near edge-of-the-art design to market at a reasonable price.

InFocus has done just that with the ScreenPlay 7205. It’s the best projector I’ve tested. It’s easy to set up, highly flexible, rich with adjustments, puts out plenty of light with accurate colors, and offers the best blacks of any digital projector I’ve seen. It’s spectacular.

…Wes Marshall
wesm@soundstageav.com

InFocus ScreenPlay 7205 DLP Projector
Price: $4999 USD.
Warranty: Two years on parts and labor, one year on accessories, 90 days or 500 hours on lamp.

InFocus
27700B SW Parkway Avenue
Wilsonville, OR 97070-9215, USA
Phone: (503) 685-8888, (800) 294-6400
Fax: (503) 685-8887

E-mail: info@infocus.com
Website: www.infocus.com

 


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