InFocus Play Big SP777 home theater projector - Review

InFocus Play Big SP777 home theater projector - Review

If you have the money, the Play Big SP777 is a massively impressive piece of equipment. It's the sort of thing gadget-heads and A/V fanatics will dream about owning because, aside from owning your own cinema, there really isn't much else that's better. Its strength is offering such a wonderful high-definition cinema experience, so the investment will really start to make sense in 2006. Thankfully it's also strong enough to support the DVD movies likely to be taking up residence in your home.


The InFocus Play Big SP777 is a huge projector, but the impression of bulk is alleviated by its smooth, UFO-like styling. There are no buttons to be found on its chassis--it's designed to be hung from the ceiling and installed by a professional. You wouldn't want its huge 20kg body falling on your head.

Connectivity on the rear is substantial. The projector is HD-ready, and will accept DVI and HDMI inputs (albeit only via an adapter). InFocus wanted to offer support for HDMI and DVI, so it has opted for a proprietary connector on the projector itself that will allow both types of digital cables to connect up. It's a shame, because accessory manufacturers like Monster make standard HDMI-DVI converters that high-end home cinema fans probably own--InFocus' method means you have to buy more accessories from the company. It's not a real problem, though. InFocus' semi-official line is that you should consult your dealer regarding your individual requirements, as the likelihood is it'll throw in the required adapter for free.

For a high-definition projector, the standard video input allocation is generous. There's an adapter included in the box so you can connect an RGB SCART up to the component-video inputs, plus there're three inputs, two S-video and one composite on the rear. There are two sets of component-video sockets which are also high definition-compatible--perfect for a gaming console or DVD player. The physical design of the projector means the large connection board is well hidden, while still offering room for all these sockets plus a panel so you can change the bulb. Predictably, there are also sockets that let you wire the 777 into an automated home system, so that you can have the projector come on in tandem with an electronic screen at the touch of a button. Ah, what it must be like to live in such luxury. The lamps have an average lifespan of 3,000 hours. So, if your average movie lasts 2 hours, that gives you about 1,500 movies before you have to buy a replacement. That's not too bad by our reckoning--the average lamp life these days seems to be around the 2,000-hour mark.

It's a shame that InFocus' remote is the exact same model as the one included with the rest of its range and not a premium model that reflects the extra investment. It's simple to use, with a backlight that can be activated via a button on the side, but we found it often didn't do as told, from turning it on to changing inputs. All the more infuriating when there are no buttons on the main body.


We've reviewed InFocus' other projectors here on the site before, and the basic user interface and features are the same here, too. Your money is quite clearly going towards the creme de la creme technology inside, but there are still some useful premium features to be found. The benefit of using three chips instead of one is that there's no need for a color wheel, and subsequently no dreaded rainbow effect. The contrast ratio and brightness are also way ahead of one-chip devices. And with three Mustang HD2 Digital Micromirror Devices (DMD) offering a 1,280 x 720-pixel resolution, the "Ferrari of the projection world" analogies may be cliched, but they're fully justified.

Like many projectors, the InFocus Play Big SP777 uses Faroudja's DCDi picture processing technology. Like the picture processing developed by major manufacturers for their LCDs and plasmas, this helps to keep the picture flicker-free while making it appear more detailed. This is necessary because the picture resolution is higher than the majority of video sources available at the moment. And when the image is being blown up to sizes of 80 inches or more, masking these artifacts is a tough job, indeed.

Unlike cheaper projectors that have a manual zoom over the lens, the 777 has seven different lenses available, all of which can be focused electronically. With the standard lens we were able to get a 120-inch image from only 185-inches away. InFocus also allows you to shift the lens so you can position the projector off-center to the screen. It's worth repeating: You really do want to employ a home cinema expert to set this thing up. Perhaps most importantly (and, indeed, surprisingly, given its physical size), the projector is ultra-quiet, keeping under the 30dB mark. It takes about 20 seconds to show an image once you turn it on, and about a minute and a half to cool down after a movie.

The 777's design is clearly intended to cater for ceiling use, but you can use it from the rear as well, and the brightness of the lens means it will cope with a good deal of light intrusion. So while you don't necessarily need a dedicated home cinema room to enjoy its pictures, we'd still suggest complementing it with some decent chairs and a full surround sound system. While it's hard to fault the 777's performance, there's always room for improvement. The HD2 chipset isn't as new as Texas Instruments' Darkchip, which boasts even higher contrast than its predecessor. And, of course, if you still want to consider the super-high-end competitors around the S$50,000 mark, Sony's Qualia 004 is another fine alternative. Despite being based on a different (and older) projection technology, it runs at a higher 1,080-line resolution, and when playing Spider-Man 2 from Blu-ray, it's the single most impressive piece of home cinema technology we've ever seen.


If you like movies, then watching films on the 777 is a rare treat. Like most of the finer things in life--a vintage wine or a tailor-made suit--someone who's never experienced the jump in quality may question the price. But when you've seen this class of product, it's hard to go back.

The brightness, rich colors and fine detail combine to make the projector's image seem almost three dimensional. Playing back high-definition movie clips from Microsoft and Apple's online libraries was enough to make us go weak at the knees.

Like LCD and plasma TVs, one of the problems with high-definition projectors is that they're not that strong with standard DVD movies or digital TV. Playing Ronin back through the projector we saw a small amount of MPEG artefacting, no matter how hard the internal processing worked to sort it out. At least it's not too long to wait until Blu-ray DVD players arrive--and we doubt the extra S$1,000 will bother potential buyers.

We'd even say it would be a false economy to invest in the 777 without budgeting in the full Blu-ray player and Xbox 360, as well as a superb sound system.