Retailing at just over £1,500 and aimed at moderately serious videophiles, the full 1080p HD ViewSonic Pro9000 lacks some of the features you might expect to see in this sort of price range – including, for example, frame interpolation – but it offers a hybrid LED and laser light source that should last the life of the projector, and it delivers a respectably high quality image.
To start with what's missing, the lack of frame interpolation is a little surprising. The feature has become increasingly common on home cinema projectors, such as, for example, the Sony VPL-HW30ES.
The argument for frame interpolation is that filmed content can show judder, a slightly jerky motion inherent in the standard 24 frames per second film speed. Frame interpolation smooths the motion by adding additional frames. However, adding frames makes filmed content look like live video, which many people – including me – find distracting. If you want your movies to look like movies, in short, you'll probably want to turn this feature off anyway, so not having it may not matter.
Also somewhat surprising, because it's all but standard on DLP projectors today, is the lack of 3D. If you don't care about 3D that won't be an issue either, but just be aware that the Pro9000 is strictly 2D.
Two other features you might expect at this price, but won't find, are lens shift and more than minimal zoom. Both make setup easier by giving you flexibility in where you can place the projector relative to the screen. The Pro9000 offers no lens shift, and only a 1.2x zoom.
Worth the money?
What makes the Pro9000 potentially worth the price is its hybrid LED and laser light source. Much like the hybrid light source in Casio's data projectors, the Pro9000 uses red and blue LEDs for its red and blue primary colours, and a blue laser shining on a phosphor element to produce green.
A key advantage for the light source is that it's designed to last the life of the projector, with a 20,000 hour rating. That helps keep the total cost of ownership down, since it means you don't have to buy expensive replacement lamps every 2,000 or 3,000 hours. It can also help with electricity bills, and ViewSonic claims the power draw is only 186 Watts. I measured it at 123 Watts in normal mode and a miserly 84 Watts in eco mode. In standby mode, the rating is less than 0.5 Watts.
Also worth mentioning is the three year warranty for both the projector and light source. That's a year longer for the projector than many vendors offer, and far longer for the light source than the 90 days that's common with traditional lamps.
One other feature that makes the Pro9000 different is an almost complete, if not actually complete, lack of rainbow artifacts – light areas breaking up into little red-green-blue rainbows. These are always a concern with single-chip DLP projectors, because of the way the projectors create colour, but they show more often with some projectors than others. The Pro9000 is the first single-chip DLP projector I've ever tested that was completely rainbow-free.
I have to be a little careful here, because some people are more sensitive than others to seeing these artifacts. If you see them more easily than I do, you may still find them visible with the Pro9000. However, I see them more easily than most people, so if I don't see them at all, it's unlikely that you will. What I can say definitively is that the Pro9000 is better on this score than any other single-chip DLP projector I've ever seen, which is good news.
Setup and brightness
Setting up the Pro9000 is standard fare. The connectors for image sources include two HDMI ports, a VGA port, and both S-Video and composite video ports.
ViewSonic rates the projector at 1,600 lumens in its brightest mode, which would make it far too bright for cinema-dark lighting with the size of screen you're likely to have in a home cinema room. However, the brightest mode also has awful colour quality. That's not unusual, but it makes the brightest mode best avoided in any case.
The Theatre and Dark Room settings offer a lower brightness that served nicely for the 78in wide (90in diagonal) screen I used for my testing. Brighter presets were suitable for a room with some ambient light, like a living room at night. However, the Pro9000 is not a good choice as a home entertainment projector in, say, a family room that's flooded with light during the day.
During our tests with Blu-ray discs and with DVDs upscaled to 1080p, the Pro9000 did a reasonably good job in terms of image quality. With the Blu-ray discs, I didn't see any issues worth mentioning except for a minimal level of noise in large unbroken areas.
With DVDs, in addition to noise I saw just a hint of posterisation (shading changing suddenly where it should change gradually), but only in scenes that tend to cause that problem. With the default settings, I also saw some minor problems with shadow detail (details based on shading in dark areas). Adjusting gamma, however, improved shadow detail considerably.
One unusual touch for a home cinema projector is the Pro9000's built-in stereo sound system, with two 2 Watt speakers. The audio is both usable and loud enough for a small room if you want to set the projector up temporarily, but it's well short of the quality you'd want for home cinema or even home entertainment use. Plan on using an external sound system, naturally enough.
I'd like this projector a lot more if it included features like lens shift and a greater level of zoom. However, it delivers a suitably high quality image, little to no rainbow effect, and a hybrid light source that promises a low total cost of ownership. That's enough, despite the lack of some expected features, to make the ViewSonic Pro9000 a potentially attractive choice. It's certainly enough to make it worth a close look.
Manufacturer and Product
Analog VGA, HDMI
Composite, HDMI, S-Video
1600 ANSI lumens