ViewSonic PJ1165 £4000

30th Apr 2005 | 23:00

ViewSonic keeps its home cinema presence ticking over

TechRadar rating:

3 stars

Just too many failings to recommend at this price

Although far more established in the business world than it is in the living room, ViewSonic isn't afraid to have a crack at the home cinema world from time to time. In fact, it scored a major hit recently with its latest 30in LCD TV, the N3000w. But now it's out to appeal to the serious movie lover with a tidily specified LCD projector - the PJ1165.

Whatever else we may discover about the PJ1165, we can say one thing for sure: by the standards of most of today's home projectors, it's huge. The black plastic covering and lack of any design swankiness merely exaggerates further what a monster it is. Still, at HCC we often like our AV gadgets big, so provided it knows its picture quality onions we won't hold its bulk against it.

PC-friendly

Connectivity is okay, if a little complicated - and proves that the PJ1165 is certainly designed at least as much for PC as for video use. So, for instance, alongside a normal set of component video jacks, there are five BNC offerings, while the digital video jack is a PC-style M1-D device rather than a standard DVI one. Still, with the right adaptor the M1-D will do the jobs of a normal DVI jack - especially as it's compatible with HDCP digital rights management protocols, meaning this projector should be able to show Sky's high-definition broadcasts when they start.

If the looks and connections hint at the PJ1165's PC bias, its specs scream it from the rooftops. For starters, the alarmingly high 3,500 Lumens brightness rating is about three-times what I'd expect from the average affordable video projector, and is clearly aimed at eking the best out of PC rather than film sources. Also, tragically, it transpires that the PJ1165's LCD chipset is in a native 4:3 ratio, rather than 16:9, which is used by most digital media. This could instantly make the PJ1165 a no-no to many HCC readers.

More positively, the screen accepts progressive scan, has a pretty good (by LCD standards) quoted contrast ratio of 800:1, boasts horizontal and vertical keystone correction, and can take all forms of high-definition feed.

Features available via the bland but functional onscreen menus and rather iffy remote control aren't prolific - a 'whisper' mode which trades a little brightness against reduced fan noise, gamma adjustment, individual tweakage of the red, green and blue colour components, and video noise reduction.

Sadly, the PJ1165's PC roots remain abundantly clear in its video performance, namely visible panel structure in the image. I wouldn't go quite so far as to describe this as the chicken wire effect, whereby LCD projectors can reveal the cross-hatch pattern of their LCD panels in the picture. Yet there's definitely some sort of vertical line structure lying between you and the film you're watching, distancing you from the world of the movie.

Optimistic figure

The next disappointment comes from the projector's contrast. The quoted 800:1 ratio looks pretty optimistic to me, as any part of the image that's supposed to be black appears swathed in the familiar low-contrast 'grey mist'. This makes the image feel flat, lifeless, and short of background detail.

As if this wasn't enough, the picture's colour tone becomes really quite odd for video viewing during low-lit scenes, as flesh tones take on over-ripe red or green undertones, and the white balance seems some distance away from the sort of 6,500K level generally best suited to movie as opposed to PC viewing.

Not that the PJ1165 doesn't have some strengths. When it comes to fine detail, for instance, it's rather good, effortlessly serving up clarity and textures with only the occasional bit of dot crawl.

The PJ1165's brightness, meanwhile, makes it actually watchable in a lit room. It's also capable of exceptional results with PC graphics, and really bright, colourful film scenes can sometimes look quite spectacular. It's just a pity things go so pear-shaped whenever the projector's asked to try and render any meaningful shadows...

Finally, there's little evidence of any of the processing noise that afflicts many DLP rivals, nor any fizzing around edges and fine detail - facts which replace a little of the viewing directness lost by the visible panel structure and low contrast.

But try as I might, I couldn't find any way to make these strengths come even close to overwhelming the weaknesses. If you're a PC user first and film fan (distant) second, then the PJ1165 might float your boat. But most consumers would probably be disappointed to find this level of video performance on a projector costing a mere £1,200, never mind a hefty £4,000...

Viewsonic Home cinema High definition
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