Large screen televisions are great but if you want a truly cinematic experience in your home theatre only a projector can deliver one. From my own experience, watching a DVD through a projector brings a whole new life to your previously enjoyed DVDs. Seriously, if you have a good DVD collection and don’t own a projector, buy one and you’ll want to experience your whole collection all over again! Okay, now that you’re convinced that you need a projector let’s take a look at a prototype that I was asked to review from Studio Experience.
The Studio Experience Premiere 55HD will sit as the flagship model in the company’s projector line-up. This projector is based on the Texas Instruments DLP HD2+ DMD chip, features a 16:9 aspect ratio, a native resolution of 1280 by 720 pixels (WXGA), a brightness of 1000 ANSI lumens and boasts a 3500:1 contrast ratio. The glass lens has a 1.25:1 manual zoom and a manual focus. The 55HD is capable of producing an image from 33 to 300 inches on the diagonal but keep in mind that the larger the image, the less bright it will appear. It comes with a full suite of video inputs including: 1 composite, 1 S-video, 2 component, a single DVI-D (HDCP) and a single VGA. An RS-232 terminal can also be found for future firmware upgrades. It is capable of accepting 480i/p, 576i/p, 720p and 1080i signals. The projector’s lamp life is rated at 2000 hours in the standard mode and 3000 hours in the economy mode.
The prototype 55HD looked sleek in its gunmetal enclosure. When the projector gets released to the consumers, it will come in the same enclosure but will probably be silver. All the essential controls are located on the top: focus and zoom rings, lens shift dials, as well as menu navigation and power buttons. Once you’re done with the initial setup and tweaking, the focus and zoom rings, together with the lens shift dials can be covered with a supplied cap for a completely clean look. Height adjustment can be performed by two screw-type adjustment feet found at the lower front of the projector. All of the projector’s inputs are situated on the rear panel.
The 55HD’s remote controller is fully backlit with only a handful of buttons. It has buttons for the power, menu navigation, input selection and aspect ratio. If you select automatic signal detection in the projector’s menu, you will rarely ever need to use the input buttons. The remote works when aimed at both the front and the rear of the projector because it has two IR sensors: one in the front and one in the rear.
Out of the box, the 55HD produced a great picture when connected to my Pioneer DV-563A DVD player using component cables. From just under 9.5 feet, it projected an image measuring 106″ on the diagonal, having just the right amount of brightness that appeared to be uniform from the middle to the corners of the screen. I used a Da-Lite 106″ Fast-Fold screen with a black border, mounted on an aluminium frame. I had the projector set up in a room with dim lighting conditions or no lighting at all during my tests. The projector’s on-screen configuration menu had a clean, logical layout and was a breeze to navigate. I enjoyed how the menu disappeared while making certain adjustments and the only item being shown was the range of that particular adjustment (i.e. contrast, brightness). After some tweaking of the brightness, contrast and sharpness, I was completely satisfied and began watching movies. The colours seemed to be right on the spot with its default settings, so I didn’t change any of the colour settings. The 55HD delivered a slightly softer image than some of the other projectors that I have watched in the past. This may be preferred by those who enjoy the softer look of film (much like at the movie theatre), although it does come with a slight sacrifice of details.
Contrast of the 55HD was excellent. Watching dark scenes from Pirates of the Caribbean and Aviator, varying shades of gray and black were clearly visible. I didn’t notice crushing of the grayscale on either side of the spectrum during movie watching.
I was impressed with how the 55HD handled the higher resolution material. The picture was sharp, clean and very detailed. The 720p high definition signals looked spectacular on the 55HD since its native resolution is exactly that of 720p – 1280 by 720 pixels. As a result, the projector didn’t have to do any scaling to this material.
The 55HD offers deinterlacing although my Pioneer DVD player performed a much better job at it. Progressive scan signals fed from my DVD player looked substantially better on this projector.
Colour reproduction was excellent – the colours were properly saturated and the flesh tones looked natural.
The progressive scan signal from my Xbox console looked fantastic on the 55HD. I especially appreciated the projector’s high contrast ratio in the Return to Castle Wolfenstein game. Many displays and projectors struggle with the dark corridors and shadow detail in this game but the 55HD did a great job here.
With its brightness of 1000 lumens, the 55HD is capable of producing an image much larger than my 106″ screen, although the image will appear less bright as the image gets larger. In a room with conditions brighter than dim lighting, the 1000 lumens would not be bright enough to watch.
With the projector’s fan producing a noise output of 30 dB (better than the average for a home theater projector), the noise was low and audible mostly only during quiet scenes.
All in all, the Studio Experience 55HD created a truly realistic cinematic experience. Considering its performance, aesthetics and price tag of $6999, this fully-featured projector should satisfy home theatre enthusiasts and bring enjoyment for years to come.
Studio Experience 55HD
• Display type: DLP HD2+ DMD chip
• Brightness: 1000 ANSI lumens
• Lamp: 250 watt
• Color wheel: 6-segment, 5X
• Aspect ratio: 16:9, 4:3 compatible
• Contrast ratio: 3500:1
• Resolution: 1280 x 720 (WXGA)
• Projection lens: manual zoom and focus, 1.25:1 zoom ratio. F=2.36-2.5. f=24-30.1
• Projection method: front/rear, desktop, front/rear ceiling
• Throw ratio: 1.33~1.67:1
• Inputs: 2 component, 1 composite, 1 S-video, 1 VGA, 1 DVI/HDCP, 1 RS232
• Decibel rating: 30 dB (Eco Mode)
• Keystone: vertical/horizontal adjustment of ± 15°
• 2D lens shift: +/- 100% vertical, +/- 15% horizontal
• Dimensions (WxHxD): 342mm x 144mm x 306mm / 13.5in x 5.6in x 12in
• Weight: 6.3 kg / 14 lb