Oct 1, 2006 12:00 PM, By Jeff Sauer
Rear-projection TV boasts large viewing area in a sleek, slim frame.
Let's face it — typical, stocky rear-projection monitors just aren't as sexy as thin and sleek panels. They're usually big, often less attractive monoliths that stand in the middle of a room, rather than hang comfortably on walls and blend seamlessly into rooms. But everybody knows, too, that when it comes to visual fulfillment, size matters. Optoma's new BigVizion display is big — up to 100in. on the diagonal. But even better, for both the client and the custom installer, it's got some serious mojo.
That's because the BigVizion ($29,999) is a rear-projection display that's designed to blend seamlessly into a room — much like those lavish flatpanels, except bigger. Sure, in some ways it's straightforward rear projection, built on a Texas Instruments DarkChip3 single-chip DLP six-segment color wheel imaging system. Still, this is no ordinary RPTV. The BigVizion has a large viewing area, but a custom-made 0.5X short-throw Fresnel lens gives it an installation depth of just 30.5in. Even better for the installer, it's a custom build-out, yet a very efficient install.
Optoma sells three versions of BigVizion: 80in., 90in., and 100in., priced at $22,999, $24,999, and $29,999 respectively. All have that same 30in. installation depth. The size differences are primarily to accommodate different rooms and spaces, thus yielding uses as diverse as conference rooms, cruise ships, home theaters, and public signage.
THE BIG PICTURE
BigVizion is comprised of three pieces: the optical 1.8 gain projection screen, a large mirror, and the projection assembly. That assembly, while mounted on a single, long-installation “rack,” includes a separate I/O and scaler module, also sold separately as Optoma's HD3000, built on Gennum's VXP GF9350 image-processing chip. It allows BigVizion to accept and process a wide variety of single types and resolutions, while affording the physical space to include a broad array of input types.
In fact, aside from the single RS-232 communication port, it has at least two of just about everything — including RCA composite, S-Video, 3xRCA component, and 5xBNC component/RGBHV ports. Even more interestingly, there are three HDMI inputs (plus one loop-through) for digital connectivity from multiple sources. The entire I/O image-processing module connects to the BigVizion projector via a 24.75ft. HDMI cable (included), thereby allowing you to physically place it either inside the BigVizion cabinet alongside the projector or outside the cabinet elsewhere in the room for easier connections to AV components.
Because of its size, the BigVizion is definitely a custom install (no web sales here), requiring the construction of a cabinet for the unit. The preparatory build-out amounts to little more than a straightforward closet, with a 2"×4" wood frame and drywall construction, and a 100in. (or 80in. or 90in.) hole in the front for the projection screen. Optoma's installation guide has all the measurements you'll need to have the space ready when the BigVizion crate arrives.
Each of the BigVizion's three pieces is shipped in its own individual section of a custom-built wooden crate, and the entire unit is shipped to arrive together at the install. Unlike a larger plasma or LCD panel, the BigVizion requires no special steel-reinforced mounts beyond what comes with the unit. That's because hanging a glass projection screen and mirror are ultimately much lighter than hanging an entire flatpanel — especially a plasma.
The best part for the installer is that delivering a BigVizion unit to a client can be either a highly efficient in-and-out install job, with a very pleasant margin, or a highly stylized one with custom cabinets or shelving or flashy bezels that show off your creative installation muscle. And, once installed, the BigVizion is completely front-serviceable.
IS IMAGE EVERYTHING?
Naturally, with a rear-projection unit of this size — particularly one of such limited depth — you're going to expect a little bit of pin-cushioning in the top edges of the image, if not some focus and softness issues along the sides. And, indeed, the unit I tested — an almost final release pre-production model — had a little bit of both. Neither was extreme, and that's a testament to Optoma's custom Fresnel lens. On the other hand, the focus issues I saw were more pronounced on the left side of the image than the right, suggesting that one or two more revisions of that lens might solve much of the problem.
My color and grayscale measurements were about what I expected from a single-chip, rear-projection DLP. I measured full on/off contrast at 5718:1 and ANSI checkerboard contrast at 216:1. Grayscales were smooth, but pretty much lost any detail below about 25IRE to 30IRE — an awkward reality of Texas Instruments' unmerciful quest for one big contrast ratio number for the spec sheets. Colors were good, especially yellow, but were skewed toward blue by a high color temperature of about 16,000 degrees Kelvin. Color temperature was nicely consistent between shades of gray, although it fell off by a little more than 15 percent toward the edges of the image.
Overall, the image quality of the BigVizion is very good. Not surprisingly, that's particularly true with high-quality HD source material, but Optoma's image processing did a very good job scaling up and smoothing out SD material too. It's great when image processing maintains high quality, but it is arguably even more important for it to hide the inevitable flaws on lower-quality source material, such as satellite or cable TV, on such a big screen.
Still, perhaps the best part of the BigVizion is that it's upgradeable. You can potentially upgrade just the projector for a fraction of the cost of the entire system — for example, when Optoma moves to TI's full 1920-horizontal “1080p” chip, or if Optoma augments the HD3000 scaler with a newer image processing chip. Heck, if you scratch the screen, you can even replace just that. Try that with one of those sexy plasmas or LCDs.
Future-proofing should be a selling point for the client, because the technology won't get obsolete, and also for the dealer/installer, because it will afford a continuing relationship with a good client. And that's the real beauty of the BigVizion. Sure, it's got a pretty picture and the size to satisfy at a fraction of the price of a large panel, but it's a product that can beget a rewarding dealer-client relationship for everyone involved. There aren't many products out there that can make that claim anymore.
Company: Optoma www.optomausa.com
Pros: Large viewing area blends into space, easy custom install, upgradeable.
Con: Some minor pin-cushioning in the corners and image softness on the edges.
Applications: Anywhere a slim display is needed.
Price: Ranging $22,999 to $29,999
Maximum resolution: 1920×1080
Contrast ratio: 10,000:1
Scaling: 1080i/1080p de-interlacing
Black detailer: Texas Instruments DarkChip3
Aspect ratio: 16:9
Lamp type and life: 180W P-VIP, 4,000 hours
Optics: 0.5X short-throw lens
Video compatibility: 480i, 480p, 576i, 576p, 720i, 720p, 1080i, 1080p
Computer compatibility: 4:3/16:9 SVGA (800×600), XGA (1024×768)
Color wheel: Six-segment
Rough opening for 100in. screen: 91 11/16"×54 13/16"× 30 1/2" (W×H×D)
Warranty: Three years for the frame and mirror, one year for the light engine and components, and six months for the lamp.