A year ago we looked at a tremendously exciting home theatre projector from Vivitek. It was also tremendously expensive (at close to $25,000!). This got us wondering if Vivitek had anything more affordable in its range, and indeed it does.
The H5085 is at the top of Vivitek’s H5080 range (there are two lower models). It offers a bright display with Full HD resolution. In the last couple of years the higher-end DLP-centric projector companies seem to have stopped talking about the particular model of Texas Instruments Digital Micro-mirror Device they’ve used in their projectors (e.g., DarkChip 3, and so forth). All Vivitek says about its DMD is that it is a 0.65 inch (16.5mm) one.
Of course, it offers the full high definition resolution of 1,920 by 1,080 pixels, so there are over two million tiny mirrors on its small surface flicking to and fro in response to the signal.
By ‘bright’, I mean that the projector is rated to a higher output than most home theatre projectors: 1,800 Lumens. Vivitek also gives it a contrast ratio rating of 35,000:1, without indicating the conditions in which it is being measured, so I’ll take it that this is a ‘dynamic’ rating, employing the operation of the dynamic iris. For despite offering the black levels expected from high quality DLP performance, the projector enhances this with ‘DynamicBlack’, an operation mode for the DMD that works with the automatic iris to reduce the overall light output during dark scenes. This stretches the ultimate black/white range. There is also a manual iris which you can use to clamp down on the maximum brightness levels, and extend, at least subjectively, the apparent contrast ratio.
The lamp is a 280W unit which, by default, operates at a reduced output (there is 60W between the two modes). This is called ‘Standard’ in the projector’s menus. For a brighter picture or, more usefully, to support a larger projection screen, you can select the ‘Boost’ mode instead. In standard mode the lamp is rated at 3,000 hours of operation, and 2,000 hours at ‘Boost’. In standby mode the projector uses less than one watt of power.
Under a flip-up panel on the top are two knobs for adjusting the vertical and horizontal lens shift, giving the projector quite a bit of flexibility in its precise location with respect to the screen. Added to this is a 1.25:1 zoom range. With the standard lens, the projector-screen range for a 100-inch (2.54m) screen needs to be between 3.41 and 4.27m. Two optional lens are also available: a zoom long throw lens (4.27m to 6.40m for a 100-inch screen), and a fixed short throw one (1.25m).
The usual range of inputs were provided, or even a little more with three HDMI inputs. There are two 12V trigger outputs for controlling such things as roller screens, and both RS-232C and USB for system integration.
How did it go?
With the installation flexibility offered by the lens shift and zoom, I was able to attach the unit to my ceiling mount and have it filling the screen in minutes. Getting a precise focus took a few minutes because my usual shortcut – twisting the dial until the clearest screen door effect is visible – didn’t work. It wasn’t because the projector was insufficiently sharp or in some way unable to be focused, but because the projector produced almost no screen door effect at all. This resulted in a smooth picture, no matter how close I went to the screen.
The standard colour and brightness settings were quite accurate, but there was plenty of the room provided for tweaking. In addition, if you get in a suitable calibrator then he or she can set fixed Imaging Sciences Foundation settings for your particular environment.
The black levels were excellent with DynamicBlack enabled. But, subjectively, they were very nearly as good without it. I preferred the greater stability in overall black levels from leaving it switched off, and can’t say that the resulting black levels were in any way problematic.
The scaling of standard definition video up to the full high definition resolution was a little unusual in that it wasn’t quite as sharp as is the norm. This had nothing to do with the parameters controlled by the ‘Sharpness’ picture setting. This last boosts the higher frequencies in the horizontal scan lines. The vertical scaling had to do with how the 576 vertical pixels of standard definition map onto the 1080 native pixels of the display. Some of the resulting horizontal display lines more or less match the originating lines, however some straddle the boundary between two of the scan lines of the incoming signal. It is perhaps an oddity of projection technology that how this mapping is managed is not within the controls available on a projector.
Well, this one seemed to be more inclined to spread a standard definition scan line over a couple of rows of its own pixels than most, producing a slightly softer result. This was most apparent where finely spaced horizontal lines form part of the picture.
This isn’t necessarily a negative, though. This also meant that there was rather less of an inclination for the projector to produce aliasing (also known as ‘jaggies’), producing a smoother picture.
As with the far more expensive Vivitek model we’ve previously examined, this projector had no control over the format for progressive scan conversion. It applies its own automatic system. This was a ‘cadence detecting’ type which worked moderately well at choosing between film and video modes of deinterlacing. But moderately well isn’t quite good enough. With both Australian 576i50 DVDs, and the occasional 1080i50 Blu-ray, the system became confused from time to time – only briefly, to be sure, and rendered film-sourced content as video sourced. This produced flashes of processing artefacts. With DVDs, it only happened with highly ambiguous material. With 1080i50 Blu-ray, and by extension HDTV, it happened rather more often. There was breakup on fine detail, including the scrolling credits at the end of movies, plus the generation of visible distortions elsewhere in some images. A ‘force film’ mode would have eliminated this.
The projector has some advanced functions to potentially improve the picture equality. These come under a menu called ‘ViviSettings’. The main function here was called ‘ViviMotion’. This is a motion interpolation system which inserts new frames in between the video frames of the input signal. This can eliminate the ‘judder’ that affects some on-screen movement of the picture content, because it doubles the effective frame rate from 24 to 48 frames per second, generating new intermediate frames.
These types of processes vary in effectiveness, and the Vivitek H5085 proved to be one of the best. It did two things extremely well: it worked even with very complex full high definition scenes of the kind I use precisely to trip these processes up. Furthermore, it wasn’t subject to producing the kind of heat haze distortion that so many of the processors do.
But it did seem to have a frame skip every eight or nine seconds, which was particularly obvious given that the picture progression was so smooth between times.
In truth, I prefer not to use frame interpolation processing, and with a high quality Blu-ray player that permits full control over progressive scan conversion, the internal processing of the unit becomes irrelevant. On that basis, I for one would be perfectly happy for this projector to grace my home theatre room because it produces a lovely, accurate picture.Stephen Dawson