Themescene RD65 £4000
1st Mar 2005 | 00:00
Are you ready for Tyrannosaurus TV?
DLP technology now dominates the mid and up-front projection market, so it's no surprise to see inventor Texas Instruments pushing it into new areas, such as rear-projection TVs.
The category has exploded in America, and it could reflect that success in Europe. DLP rear-pro TVs are unlike old rear-pro designs, able to deliver razor-sharp images in surprisingly shallow cabinets. They can also deliver screen sizes that are prohibitively expensive for plasma.
Which brings us to the largest DLP rear-pro we've seen in the UK: the ThemeScene RD65. With advanced connectivity and a resolution of 1,280 x 720, this is quite a beast. It's also relatively inexpensive.
As well as being big, the RD65 is deep. The majority of connections are located on the back panel, although VGA is included on the front, apparently to make plugging a laptop in convenient.
The exterior boasts a clean piano-black finish with speakers situated underneath the screen. The only design flourish of note are the speakers that boast a smaller width than the screen - it's almost as if the designers wanted to accentuate how big the screen actually is.
Connectivity is where it's at, however, with 11 independent sources to choose from. It's actually something of a daunting catalogue when looking at it in list form on-screen, but there are numerous sub-selections to many of the inputs, including both DVI digital and DVI analogue.
The set also features two independent analogue television tuners which means you can watch dual-source picture-in-picture and even call up Teletext from a different channel, if you fancy some adventurous multitasking.
The DVI input is fully supportive of High-Definition Content Protection (HDCP) and can take a feed from an HDMI source via an adaptor (see our Practical Tip). Separate component inputs are included for both progressive and interlaced inputs. Rounding off the package are two RGB Scarts.
Configuring the screen is painless, thanks to the RD65's intuitive menu system. The preset picture configurations are minimal with only four different options (TV, Cinema, Vivid and User).
ThemeScene's boast of an 8,000hr lamp life might prove to be a little optimistic, but thankfully the replacement procedure for the bulb is a cinch. Once the front panel has opened, it's a simple matter of dropping in a replacement, which Optoma advises should cost £300.
Predictably, detail resolution is extremely high and colour vibrancy is outstanding. Despite the DLP engine, there was no overt problems with colour fringing.
Contrast levels are also superb. DVDs played through the DVI connection are worth writing home about; there's only a tiny amount of dot crawl if you sit close to the screen. But taking into account the sheer size of the image you'll be flabbergasted at how good standard definition video can look.
Feed the screen a high-def source and the picture quality jumps again. Astonishing detail creates an almost three-dimensional effect.
So this is a barnstormer right? Well, no, there's a caveat. This set is unable to display NTSC sources without horrendous motion judder. ThemeScene claims it's because the set is optimised for the European market - the effect is so bad that the brand have even stripped NTSC compatibility off the feature specs. But this is no compensation: to release a high-end DLP model which can't display NTSC material today is plain foolish.
We set up both imported Region 1 DVDs and 60Hz high-def sources and found the problem rendered the picture virtually unwatchable. And with most people having a few import movies in their collection, and the fact that all modern games consoles offer 60Hz support as well, it's hard to believe that ThemeScene released the TV in this state.
The sound system is best described as functional. The speakers can plumb some bass when challenged, but dialogue sounds muffled and lacks detail.
The ThemeScene RD65 is, in many ways, a remarkable screen which is custom designed to wow the home cinema crowd. However, its problem with NTSC and 60Hz sources is enough to make me discourage any home cinema fans from making the investment. Let's hope that the brand rushes an NTSC-friendly second-generation model on to the market - then we might have something special on our hands.