It's tough being a home theatre addict. No sooner have we forked out big bucks for a new piece of hardware than a newer, cheaper version with more features arrives. While this is bad for those with ink still drying on the till receipt, it's great for others just about to lay down the credit card. The news, therefore, that ProjectionDesign has upped the features of the superb Model One projector and dropped the price by a substantial margin may or may not cause a certain amount of consternation.
At $10,999 it isn't chicken feed, but when you consider that this is the follow-up to a five-star unit that used to retail for a breathtaking $19,999, the value of this MkII will surely have the competition scrambling for red pens to slash prices. Many specifications of the MkII remain the same as its predecessor, resolution is still 1280 x 720 thanks to the same high-definition, Texas Instruments Mustang HD2+ DMD (Digital Micromirror Device) chip, and the simple-to-use menu system makes a welcome return. Outwardly the MkII looks all but identical to its predecessor, right down to the connection options on the back panel. Component, S-Video and composite accompany the DVI socket (claimed to be HDMI-compatible, presumably with an appropriate adaptor). Focusing and zooming are as rock steady and smooth in operation as the original Model One and are a joy to use. So what has changed?
Most importantly, a seven-segment colour wheel (up from six segments) has been added to great effect. The way a DLP projector works (very basically) is by shining light from the lamp onto the DMD chip, which in turn reflects it through a spinning colour wheel to add colour to an image. Adding more segments allows the manufacturer to increase colour depth and lessen the chance of colour banding ruining the viewing experience.
Reproduction of skin tones on a film you know well is always a good indicator of how well a projector performs overall. With the MKII skin tones looked completely natural, yet rich enough to make an impression while remaining free of any banding whatsoever.
Black levels are very good, even in low light, and I was never distracted by the presence of any unwanted light being thrown onto the screen.
Optics have had a makeover, too, with the prism being removed from the light path to prevent loss of detail and contrast due to light scatter. The direct impact of this is hard to quantify without a side-by-side comparison but we'll take the Norwegians' word for it that it gives the intended result.
I've been told I shouldn't mention the presence of the rainbow effect with DLP projectors in reviews since many people wouldn't even notice unless it's pointed out to them. It's caused by the spinning colour wheel used in DLP technology and I feel duty bound to point it out whenever I see it. I saw it with the Model One just as I've seen it to varying degrees in every DLP projector to date. It's one of the least obvious rainbow effects I've seen but it's there, although unlikely to bother 99% of the population.
At this price, and for image quality this good, the Action! Model One MkII deserves to sell very well; I know I was sad to see it leave my lounge. Hopefully you'll be lucky enough to see it arrive in yours.
Price: $10,999; Phone: (0)2 9452 8600; Distributor: Amber Technology Australia; URL: www.projectiondesign.com