I recently picked up the Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith and King Kong DVDs. I didn’t get a chance to watch them right away and when I found out that I was going to review the Marantz VP8600 DLP projector, I decided to save them until I got the projector. And what a good choice that was.
When I first learned about the Marantz VP8600, I thought that it would be one of those high-end projectors that most people, including myself, could only dream about but couldn’t afford. After all, Marantz produces only reference quality projectors. But with a $7500 price tag, the VP8600 is actually attainable to those seeking a high performance home theatre projector. Marantz offers two other DLP projectors, one with a pricey $18,000 tag and the other with an even higher price of $47,500.
The Marantz VP8600 is a large projector – it’s almost as big as a typical home theatre receiver. It’s also heavier than the average projector, weighing in at a substantial 26.4 pounds. The moment I removed the projector from the box, I knew that I was dealing with a reference-type product. The build quality of the VP8600 is exceptional and speaks for itself. From the solid aluminium chassis to the focus, zoom and lens shift dials, every component has a quality feel to it.
The VP8600 is based on the Texas Instruments HD2+ DMD chip, boasting a high-definition resolution of 1280 by 720 pixels (720p) in its native 16:9 screen ratio. It offers 800 ANSI lumens of brightness and a 2500 to 1 contrast ratio. The VP8600 is capable of displaying a Picture-In-Picture and promises a lamp life of about 4000 hours. Its compliment of video inputs includes a single DVI (with HDCP), 2 component, 1 S-video, 1 composite and 1 VGA. A DVI to HDMI connector is included in the box. The VP8600’s extruded aluminium chassis and a large, low-speed fan assist in delivering a quiet operation of 27 dB. The projector can produce a picture from 40 to 300 inches with its 1.3 times zoom lens. One IR receiver in the front and another one in the back of the projector ensure that the unit can be controlled with the remote whether you’re behind or in front of the projector. Dual 12V trigger outputs allow the VP8600 to send a signal that can automatically lower or wind up an electric screen.
A fully backlit remote is supplied with the projector. Its backlight is turned on by a side-mounted spring-loaded switch that’s easy to locate when the remote is in your hand, which is a very clever idea. When using other backlit remotes you still have to find the button that engages the backlight, which can be tricky in the dark. This button is very easy to find because it’s the only button on the side. Three different colours backlight the buttons, grouping the buttons logically on the remote – an equally great idea. Much appreciated direct input buttons mean that you don’t have to cycle through the different video inputs when switching sources, simply select your source with the appropriate button. And don’t worry, if you’re the type who prefers to sit there and cycle through the inputs, there’s a button for that too! There are even buttons that allow you to adjust the contrast, brightness, sharpness, tint and colour directly. Hands down, this is one of the best-designed remotes that I’ve ever held. This is also perhaps the longest paragraph I’ve ever written about a remote!
I set up the Marantz VP8600 to project its image onto an Elite Screens Home Series electric 94-inch 16:9 screen. My couch was placed at a distance where roughly 30 degrees of my field of vision was taken up by the screen. This is the recommended setup by the THX standard. My sources included a DVD player as well as high-definition satellite and Xbox 360 signals. I used both component video and DVI connections.
When firing up the VP8600, it took about 30 seconds for the picture to first appear. Configuring the initial settings such as zoom, focus, lens shift and keystone adjustments took just a couple of minutes. I knew that someone had used the projector before, so I reset all the picture settings to their defaults.
The first movie that I played was Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith. With the factory picture settings, the picture was a little on the bright side, with the colours being too warm. Accessing the projector’s menu confirmed my findings. The brightness was turned up to +11 and the colour was right up there at +31. I turned the brightness down to +5 and the colour to +15. Now, the picture looked much more natural. There was a better balance between the colours and the blacks were deeper. While making these adjustments in my dark room, I quickly discovered just how awesome this remote really was with its well-designed layout and direct access buttons for all important functions. I couldn’t ask for more. Well, I could ask for one thing – an aluminium casing, just like the projector would be nice! The remote is so light weight even with the batteries loaded that it doesn’t feel like you’re holding much. The projector’s onscreen menu was very intuitive and allowed easy access to all adjustments.
After these minor adjustments, the 480p DVD picture looked great. The colours appeared properly saturated, and the contrast and black levels were very impressive. The Star Wars DVD was a good test because it contains many dark scenes with unique lighting effects. It also contains a good selection of high contrast scenes (i.e. dark scenes with bright areas). The VP8600 did a really great job of displaying these high contrast shots. Characters wearing dark clothing retained detail as they moved in front of bright windows. The detail in both dark and light areas of the picture was very impressive. The Marantz VP8600 produced a movie theatre-like picture that was incredibly satisfying. I’ve seen clips from this movie on other projectors in the past but I don’t remember them looking this good since I saw the movie at a real movie theatre.
I inserted the Digital Video Essentials disc in my DVD player to further refine the brightness, contrast, colour, tint and sharpness settings. The sharpness test pattern, showed noticeable edge enhancements which could not be fully eliminated by choosing one of the five sharpness settings (there are only five degrees of sharpness to select from). However, during actual video material, I didn’t notice any unnecessary enhancements. After this calibration, I watched some of the same scenes from the Star Wars DVD and now the skin tones and other colours appeared even more natural.
Beyond the basic picture controls, the Marantz offered more advanced adjustments that are sure to satisfy any video enthusiast. These included a gamma control, a white peak option, red and blue gains as well as red and blue bias sliders.
Next, I grabbed an assortment of snacks and got comfortable to watch the special effects-filled King Kong DVD for the first time. Again, this movie featured a good number of dark and high contrast scenes giving me the opportunity to evaluate the VP8600’s brightness and contrast abilities. The varying shades of King Kong’s fur were always clearly visible whether he was in bright or dark environments. The VP8600 also did a great job with the shades of greens and browns of the jungle.
Watching regular television channels from my Starchoice satellite box (in 480p) produced satisfactory results considering that the low quality signal was blown up to a 94″ screen. The picture was much softer than from a DVD and lacked detail in the light and dark colours. But don’t get me wrong, this lower quality material was still enjoyable on the big screen, it just doesn’t do justice to this projector.
The Marantz VP8600 really shone when I fed it some high-definition signals. Stunt Dawgs, a behind the scenes show about stuntmen, looked incredible in 720p. The details of the abandoned mine where segments of the show were filmed looked exceptionally crisp. The black level was very impressive and shadow detail was clearly visible in the dark background. The colour reproduction was superb. From skin tones to grass to rusty metal scaffolding, everything had a natural, lifelike colour to it.
Switching over to TSN HD, I caught a few innings of a Blue Jays game. The resolution and detail of this game was phenomenal. The faces of the players appeared strikingly real. In the distance, I could clearly see the faces of the fans sitting in the bleachers.
Having the Marantz VP8600 at my house, I couldn’t resist also playing some Xbox 360 on it, and what a treat that was. Not surprisingly, the projector did a great job with the high-definition signal. In Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter, soldier uniforms showed all the fine details. The varying environments of the game were incredibly crisp allowing me to peer far into the distance.
Shortly after I pulled the Marantz VP8600 projector out of the box, I realized that its build quality and video performance were outstanding. Its picture quality combined with advanced picture adjustments and flexible mounting options should make the Marantz VP8600 equally attractive to home theatre enthusiasts and custom installers alike. The VP8600 is accompanied by a fantastic remote, perhaps the best remote that I’ve ever received with a review product. The quiet operation of this projector can only be viewed as a bonus. It’s going to be tough sending this one back!
Marantz VP8600 DLP Projector
• Display device: Texas Insturments HD2+ DMD chip
• Resolution: 1280 x 720 pixels
• Native aspect ratio: 16:9
• Brightness: 800 ANSI lumens
• Contrast ratio: 2500:1
• Zoom range: 1.33 X
• Processing: 10 bit digital gamma
• Len shift range: 50 to 120 %
• Lamp life: 4000 hours
• Fan noise: 27 dB
• Projection size: 40 – 300 inches
• H/V keystone correction
• Motion adaptive deinterlacing
• White peak enhance mode
• PIP (Picture In Picture)
• RS232C connection for system control
• Trigger Outputs: 2
• Video inputs: Composite: 1 S-Video: 1 Component: 2 DVI (w/HDCP): 1 VGA: 1
• Remote control type: fully backlit
• Dimensions (WxHxD): 17 1/8″ X 7 1/2″ X 15 3/16″
• Weight: 26.5 lbs