Yamaha DPX-1100 £7000
31st Mar 2005 | 23:00
Yamaha tries to build on past successes
Yamaha is a familiar name in home cinema circles thanks to its trail-blazing AV amplifiers and receivers, but it's rapidly gaining a reputation in another field - video projection. While the DPX-1000 proved that Yamaha could make a serious home cinema projector that can keep up with its rivals, the replacement DPX-1100 builds on its success. With a new DLP chipset, native 720p resolution, improved contrast ratio and black levels, and an HDMI input, the DPX-1100 looks all set for high-definition home cinema.
The DPX-1100 is based around the latest Mustang HD2 chipset from Texas Instruments, which provides native 1,280 x 720 pixel resolution - perfect for high-def material - and a 16:9 aspect ratio. Anyone shopping for a DLP projector right now will know that there's a whole raft of projectors on the market that are currently using the Mustang chip and boasting 720p resolution. So what Yamaha has done is develop the chassis, optics, lens and interface to justify a premium price tag.
To begin with, you certainly get a lot more box with the big Yammy. At 13.8kg it eclipses Mustang rivals like the 4.3kg ScreenPlay 7205. Although the resolutions of these two models are identical and their specifications very similar, the ScreenPlay is a portable projector that could be used for business presentations, while the Yamaha is strictly for home cinema use and prefers to be installed and then left well alone. This sedentary existence means that its casing can be larger and more robust, preventing light leakage from the lamp and damping the sound of the fan. The DPX-1100 is one of the quietest projectors around and there's no light seepage at all.
The lens has an unusually powerful 1.6:1 zoom, giving a throw ratio (projector-screen distance to picture width) ranging from 1.35:1 to 2.17:1 and providing the flexibility to install either in the middle or the back of the room. Operating the projector can be achieved using a comprehensive and easily mastered control cluster on top of the player, or the well laid out remote control, which is partially illuminated.
The powered zoom, focus and vertical lens shift are luxuries that make setting up the DPX-1100 an armchair job. The same intuitive onscreen interface, inherited from the Yamaha DPX-1, is back, but this time there are lots more variables so you can tweak to perfection. Setup starts by adjusting white and black levels separately, followed by other colour points (green, yellow, cyan, red, magenta, blue) which can be set automatically or manually. Well-designed shortcut menu controls are available, however, and the DPX-1100 comes out of the box well adjusted.
A three-position manual iris control is the secret behind Yamaha's claimed 4,000:1 contrast ratio, allowing the user to set their preferred compromise between contrast and brightness. It is also possible to program up to six sets of parameters for each input, so once the hard work is out of the way, there should be no need to repeat the exercise.
With the addition of an HDMI socket in place of a DVI input, the connections panel has everything you need. We're seeing HDMI interfaces appearing on the majority of mid-to-high-end AV gear now and the advantage in terms of signal purity is quite clear. And with Sky's announcement that its forthcoming HD set-top boxes will only output HD material through an HDMI port, this is a significant feature.
Using an Arcam DV-29 as the source, it was interesting to compare the digital HDMI connection with the analogue component video connection. Beginning with the analogue feed, there are two sets of component inputs - one phono and one BNC type - that can take a PAL or NTSC progressive signal from the DVD player. With the Arcam doing the deinterlacing, the picture appears rich and clear with bold colouring and a satisfyingly three-dimensional feel.
By switching the DVD player into interlaced mode and making the projector do the deinterlacing instead, you can actually sharpen up the overall picture slightly, proving the superiority of the Yamaha's on-board Faroudja chipset.
What's more surprising however, is that you can make things even tighter by switching over to the digital HDMI input. The Incredibles is a great demonstration disc for this, no doubt because the computer graphics lend themselves to this kind of digital delivery. Already vivid and filmic, the image is now noticeably cleaner, and where there was once detectable pixilation in the background wallpaper, there is now much more resolved fine detail.
Best of all though, is the Yamaha's handling of high-def material, in this case input from a PC running Media Center 2005 via the D-Sub connection. The native 720p chipset can resolve every line of detail on screen with no scaling up or down. The result is a fantastically detailed and realistic image. I preferred to use the iris setting that offered the highest contrast and consequently lost some brightness. The lamp is not the most powerful on any setting, so you might need to consider how large and far your screen is likely to be and how dark your room is, but it wasn't a problem in my average-sized viewing room.
With a native 16:9 resolution of 1,280 x 720 pixels and an HDMI input, the Yamaha DPX-1100 has joined the elite club for projectors that are ideally suited to high-definition home cinema. This point will become more relevant as HD content begins to be released on HD DVD and by Sky.
More importantly, Yamaha has added a number of successful picture enhancing features that get the most out of regular DVD video too. Combined with its quiet running and varied setup options, this is a projector that home cinema fans should adore.