Planar PD7010 £1350

23rd Apr 2007 | 23:00

Planar PD7010

A fine debut projector from a new kid on the AV block

TechRadar rating:

4.5 stars

As compelling a high-def projector as you'll find for the money

Like:

<p>Versatile connections</p><p>Impressive picture performance</p><p>Few of DLP's traditional flaws</p>

Dislike:

<p>Limited zoom</p><p>Occasional issues with dark images and blacks</p>

With profit margins tumbling, it's a brave company that's willing to risk entering the UK's home cinema market right now. Yet that's precisely what US outfit Planar is doing. It has rolled out a range of DLP projectors, mostly targeted at custom installers.

The first is an entry-level DLP projector, the PD7010. With its glossy black looks and bold design, it's immediately striking and that bodes well for Planar's appreciation of the domestic market. Its on-paper specifications are none-too-shabby either...

The unit uses the Texas Instruments Dark Chip 2 (DC2) DLP system, serving up a native resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels, with colour provided by a six-segment, four-speed colour wheel.

There's a healthy 1000 ANSI Lumens brightness, and a fair-sounding contrast ratio of 2,500:1. This figure may seem limited versus numbers like 10000:1 quoted by some budget LCD projectors. But the PD7010's ratio is arguably more 'real world', since it's achieved without the brightness-reducing automatic iris controls LCD models use to get satisfactory black levels.

Connections are really impressive. Particularly gratifying are two HD-capable digital video inputs: one standard HDMI, and one DVI-D that can be used as a second HDMI via a provided adapter. However, you also get component video jacks, a D-Sub PC input and four jacks that back up the PD7010's installation ambitions - namely a 3.5mm 12V screen output, a 3.5mm IR jack, an RS232 control port and a USB port.

The HD jacks can, by the way, take 1080p HD inputs as well as the more standard 1080i/720p HD options, with scaling of 1080 sources (and other non-720p ones) delivered via a heavily tweaked version of Texas Instruments' own DDP3020 processing engine.

Flexible menus

The projector's onscreen menus host bags of flexibility: key adjustments available include multiple Kelvin-based colour temperature settings; five source-based gamma presets; the option to turn off overscanning; a white peaking adjustment; red/green/blue offset/gain adjustments; and three lamp power modes: Eco, Normal and Boost.

It's worth adding, too, that you can store different preferred picture settings for different sources using three memory slots.

The projector's flexibility is delivered via a startlingly simple set of onscreen menus. The PD7010 is also exceptionally easy to set up. You get both vertical and horizontal keystone adjustments, for instance, and the zoom/focus arrangement around the lens is robust and sensitive. Plus, as we've seen, there are plenty of connection options to help a professional installer.

The only downsides to the setup are a rather limited optical zoom range; the lack of any vertical image shift options; and a slightly too small remote control handset.

For a debut UK product, its images show a boldness and maturity that's up there with the very best of the more established brands. The picture is stunningly sharp and detailed, rendering an HD source with more pin-point accuracy and noise-free textures than any other projector we've seen for this money.

This impressive sharpness ensures that the PD7010's pictures look exceptionally three-dimensional and involving for such an affordable machine - a quality that's merely reinforced by its other great success, its black levels. That 2500:1 claimed contrast ratio seems laughably pessimistic, as the projector delivers blacks so deep they shame those of units costing twice as much, so that even resolutely dark movies such as The Revenge of the Sith look full of scale and genuinely cinematic.

Colours are also a delight, achieving some terrific vibrancy and generally authentic toning and adding yet more punch to an already dramatic performance. Meanwhile, motion looks reasonably crisp and clean. DLP's common fizzing noise in dark areas is superbly suppressed, with only a very sporadic appearance of it over horizontal motion and minor rainbow effect issues. Dark parts of the picture, though, can look just a touch hollow and short on shadow detail and the unit isn't exactly the quietest runner in town.

ProjectorHigh definitionHDTVDigital videoHome cinema
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