Toshiba TDP-MT700 £2500

31st May 2005 | 23:00

Toshiba's latest projector is HD Ready, but is that enough?

TechRadar rating:

4.5 stars

Brings HD Ready performance into the range of mere mortals

Projectors meeting the stringent new industry 'HD Ready' criteria are few and far between this side of £3,000.

Many manage some of the four key requirements: an HDCP-enabled HDMI/DVI jack; the ability to accept an analogue component feed; a native widescreen chipset ratio of at least 720 lines; and compatibility with all the key HD NTSC and PAL high definition formats. But precious few currently manage the lot.

Cue Toshiba's new TDP-MT700: a DLP projector bearing all the necessary bells and whistles to be truly HD Ready. This means it's fully tooled up both for Sky's upcoming HD service and HD feeds from the next generation of HD DVD players.

Not that the TDP-MT700 looks particularly futuristic. It's a bit of a chunky butt, truth be told,with precious few sculptural flourishes. That said, it does at least avoid outright ugliness,courtesy of a soothing silver and cream finish, and some sparkling buttons.Also, that fat-boy chassis really does feel extremely ruggedly put together.

As with any HD Ready bit of kit, the TDP-MT700's connections are dominated by an HDMI input which can handle the HDCP anti-piracy system needed to view much of tomorrow's HD content.There are also standard RCA component jacks able to take analogue HD and progressive scan,and a set of five BNCs for RGB HV PC connection. You could also fall back on the provided S-video and composite video jacks, if you can live with the drop in quality.

A key component of the TDP-MT700's HD Readiness is its Texas Instruments'HD2 chipset, complete with 1,280 x 720 native, widescreen resolution.With projectors just starting to appear bearing TI's brand new Darkchip 3 DLP chipset,the once cutting-edge HD2 is no longer the last word in DLP development.However,we've found HD2 to work extremely well with video sources and in the TDP-MT700 it seems to have found a projector willing to go the extra mile to get the very best out of it.

For instance, the contrast ratio is claimed to be a healthy 2,500:1 and help is on hand from Faroudja's DCDi deinterlacing system and a new 'O ' 10-bit scaler designed to reduce blurring over fast-moving objects.

When it comes to user-adjustable features, the Toshiba continues its so-far impeccable form with a list longer than your arm. We haven't got anywhere near enough space to cover them all,but particularly handy ones are manual white balance fine-tuning; noise reduction; individual adjustment of the red, green,yellow,white and blue components of the picture; and the freedom to choose between Truelife and Noise Reduction modes for the Faroudja deinterlacing system.

If some of what we've covered so far sounds rather technical, fear not - the TDP-MT700 really tries to keep things simple. It takes just a couple of minutes to get a perfectly presentable picture up on your wall or screen and the menus are structured in such a way that you don't have to go mano e mano with any hardcore techy stuff, unless you really want to.

It's also worth mentioning that thanks to a very healthy optical zoom system and impressive degree of keystone flexibility (for straightening image edges), the TDP-MT700 can be adapted to an unusually wide variety of room sizes and shapes.

It would be tragic if, after so much upfront quality, the TDP-MT700's pictures let it down.But thankfully they don't - not by a long chalk. Particularly eye-catching by sub-£3k DLP standards are the TDP-MT700's colours.For starters, they're impressively vivid and well saturated,which helps give the image an immediate sense of solidity and depth.

But arguably more importantly,colours are also superbly nuanced.Even dark backgrounds look three-dimensional and perfectly integrated into the picture as a whole, thanks to the subtlety with which the TDP-MT700 delivers even the slightest of colour shifts. The picture's almost cinematic smoothness is also a real strength at this price point and crucially, is achieved without compromising some impeccable fine detail levels. It proves that, as usual,Faroudja's DCDi system is earning its corn.

We were particularly struck by the way the TDP-MT700 completely hides the structure of the DLP mirrors with which it makes its picture.In other words,we could see no tell-tale signs in the finished picture of either the projector's pixel structure or any 'grid-like' arrangements of the sort that plague some (especially LCD) rivals.

While we're on the subject of image processing,the O 10-bit scaling also seems to work very well, as the TDP-MT700 shows fast-moving objects without a trace of softness or blurring.Furthermore, neither of these systems appears to throw up any nasty digital side effects.

Yet more good stuff is to be seen in the Toshiba's suppression of many of the common types of picture noise. This is especially true with digital feeds via the HDMI jack which, provided you keep the brightness and contrast set sensibly low,aren't unduly afflicted by the sort of MPEG blocking noise we've witnessed on some rivals. But grain,ghosting and DLP technology's often-troublesome green dot-crawl are also handled well.

We can't in all honesty call the TDP-MT700 perfect,though.For instance,while decent, its black-level response doesn't reach the same levels of profundity as one or two similarly priced or even cheaper DLP models we can think of from, say,InFocus and Optoma.

Also,while the TDP-MT700 tackles most noise types,it does still suffer a little at times from those two DLP technology issues - the rainbow effect (where bands of full colour appear in your peripheral vision) and gentle fizzing over horizontal movement.

It wouldn't do to get too caught up in these niggles, though.None of them are overtly distracting and if a £2.5k projector didn't have any weaknesses,then there wouldn't be much point in anyone making high-end models,would there?

No,what really matters about the TDP-MT700 is that it makes HD Ready projection affordable and delivers this key functionality with enough performance pizzazz to give many more costly projectors a few things to think about. John Archer

Home cinemaProjectorHigh definitionHDTVToshiba
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