InFocus ScreenPlay 7205 home theatre projector - Review

InFocus ScreenPlay 7205 home theatre projector - Review

InFocus, a leader in the professional video arena, has been in the projector business for a long time. The company entered the home-theater market, as so many industrial projector manufacturers have recently, about three years ago. The introduction of this projector, the ScreenPlay 7205, took place in June 2004, and now that InFocus has introduced a step-up version (the ScreenPlay 7210), the MSRP of the 7205 has been cut to S$8,999 (US$5,920.33). InFocus will continue selling the 7205 alongside the 7210; the two projectors are identical except that the 7210 features a higher-contrast DLP chip (the DC3) and a better color wheel. Meanwhile, like the less-expensive Sharp XV-Z2000, the 7205 employs Texas Instruments' HD2+ chip. However, a couple of key performance pluses set it apart from the Sharp and lesser DLP projectors, and when combined with the new list price, the 7205 is the best value in the midpriced home-theater projector category.

Design of the InFocus ScreenPlay 7205 home theatre projector

Design The design of the 7205 is subtly smooth, although we found its look a little generic. The whole package is a rather small 3510 x 3250 x 1100mm (WHD), with the lens assembly mounted all the way on the left side of the chassis. It's finished in a neutral gray color and weighs next to nothing 4.3kg.

InFocus's remote control is quite small, unfortunately not backlit in any way, and somewhat awkward to use. However, we did appreciate the direct access keys for input switching and aspect-ratio control. The internal menu system, while straightforward enough, is a bit of a pain to navigate. For example, when you are in the Advanced menu, you can't back out to the first menu page; there is no Return or Back button--when you hit the Menu button, you're thrown all the way out of the menu.

Features of the InFocus ScreenPlay 7205 home theatre projector

As we mentioned at the outset, this projector uses Texas Instruments' HD2+ chip, which has a native resolution of 1,280x720--enough to display every pixel of HDTV sources. All other sources, including 1080i high-def, computer sources, and standard-def soures such as DVD and VHS, are scaled to fit the chip.

The 7205 has a fairly comprehensive feature package as far as front projectors go. Of course, convenience features--such as PIP or even a TV tuner--are few and far between, but there are a number of cool picture-enhancing features worth mentioning. Zoom and focus controls are manual at the lens assembly. There's 2:3 pull-down in the video processing if it is selected in the Advanced menu under Film Mode. There are a number of gamma presets, with Film being the best for home-theater use. The three selectable color temperature settings are 6,500K, 7,500K, and 9,300K, with 6,500K being the closest to the broadcast standard.

Also on board is a keystone correction feature that we highly recommend you do not use; it reduces resolution and introduces artifacts in the picture. You are much better off making sure that you (or your installer) get the projector in the right place relative to the screen so that you don't have to use it.

Connectivity is fairly comprehensive on this projector, with one weird exception. The digital video connection is labeled M1-DA, and it looks like a standard DVI connector, except it's larger. Standard DVI cables won't fit; you'll need to get an M1-to-DVI or M1-to-HDMI cable or adapter (US$45 and up at InFocus's online store) to use this connection with your digital video gear.

Two broadband component-video inputs are on board, as well as a 15-pin VGA connection for computers, two S-Video connections, one composite-video input, an RS-232 control port for use with Crestron and other touch-panel control systems, and two 12-volt triggers for electric drop-down-screen control. Another unusual connection, labeled D5, requires an adapter to connect to SCART, an RGB video connector used mainly in Europe.

Performance of the InFocus ScreenPlay 7205 home theatre projector

Out-of-the-box image quality on the 7205 is pretty impressive compared to the competition. Grayscale tracking in the 6,500K setting with gamma set to Film comes quite close to ideal (see the geek box for more). Other things such as color, tint, and especially contrast are way off, but that is to be expected.

The video processing performed well as long as we left the 2:3 pull-down option selected in the Advanced menu. The lens is a huge improvement over the first-generation ScreenPlay 7200 and the Sharp XV-Z2000, with far fewer chromatic aberrations, although it does produce a slightly soft picture. The color decoding is quite accurate with only a slight error in green and no red push whatsoever. Black-level performance on the 7205 is impressive, thanks to the HD2+ Dark DLP chip.

After a thorough calibration, difficult material such as space scenes from the excellent Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back DVD revealed deep, inky blacks. We did see some visible low-level noise (dithering), but that is common to DLP technology, and a function of the bit rate in the video processing. Chapter 12 of the superb DVD Seabiscuit revealed excellent color saturation and natural-looking skin tones.

The HD content from Time Warner Cable of NYC was breathtaking. The Discovery HD channel looked great with excellent detail and deep saturated colors that really popped off the screen. It's also worth noting that, according to our Sencore HD signal generator, the projector did achieve a full 720 lines of vertical resolution via the component-video outputs.