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Marantz VP-11S1 1080p Single-Chip DLP Projector

Part 1

November, 2007

Kris Deering

 

Specifications:

  • Imaging Device: One 0.95" 1080p
    DarkChip3 DMD  (DLP)
  • Brightness: 600/700 ANSI Lumens
  • Contrast Ratio: 6500:1
  • Gennum VXP Video Processing
  • Lens Shift: Vertical Only
  • Lens: Konica-Minolta
  • Inputs: Two HDMI (1.3a), Two Component, One S-Video, One Composite, One PC
  • Accepts 480i, 480p, 720p, 1080i, 1080p60, 1080p24
  • MSRP: $19,999 USA

Marantz

Introduction

Last year I had the opportunity to review the Marantz VP12S4 720p DLP projector. I've seen quite a few 720p projectors over the last few years, and the S4 was definitely one of the most impressive.

While I did ponder using the S4 as my new reference display, I knew that 1080p DLP projectors were right around the corner, and purchasing in a 720p display might not be the wisest long-term investment. While 720p is still very good, I needed the 1080p native resolution for reviewing scalers and next generation video players.

1080p DLP

Last year, Texas Instruments launched their new single chip 1080p digital mirror device (DMD). 1080p is not new to DLP, but for awhile, tricks were employed to get this level of resolution.

The latest DMDs actually use a panel that consists of 1920 mirrors horizontally and 1080 mirrors vertically. That amounts to a massive 2,073,600 pixels of information on the screen. This also represents the highest level of HD in the ATSC specification.

Until now, most digital displays have been limited to 720p (1280x720) which was a nice step up from standard definition but short of the full capabilities of HD. Broadcast television and cable have been delivering a mix of HD content including 1080i and 720p but have not jumped to broadcasting 1080p as of yet.

1080p is essentially a progressive version of 1080i. This is very similar to what we saw some years ago when progressive scan DVD players came out. 1080i uses interlaced fields that update 60 times per second, so really you are only seeing about 540 lines of vertical resolution on the screen at any one instant. This is only about 60 more lines than what you see from a progressive scan SD DVD player (640x480), but you still get significantly more information in the horizontal domain. DVD uses 720 lines of horizontal resolution while even 1080i displays use the full 1920 lines of the HD specification (as long as the display can actually resolve it). For a detailed explanation of the differences between all of the various resolutions, check out our article on 1080p.

When I compared the image quality of the 12S4 to the 11S1 on the same screen, I was surprised by the differences. The first time I tried the comparison I had a 78" diagonal screen. Sitting at about 1.8x from the screen (1.8 x screen width) there was a slight difference in resolution, but it wasn't as big as one may think. It came down to the smallest details in the image, but I think some people would have been hard pressed to see enough difference to justify the expense. Moving on to a 120" diagonal screen and sitting about 1.5x away, the difference was far greater. There is no doubt that the larger the image you display, the more resolution becomes a critical factor. With the 720p display I could start to see pixel structure resulting in a more "digital" look. Fine detail was also a bit smeared when compared directly to the 11S1. The 12S4 still performed better than I would have expected, but the 11S1 definitely had the more refined, detailed image.

The biggest improvement to my eye was the lack of motion blur in the image. My chief complaint with the 12S4 was the subtle amount of image blur I would see with fast motion from side to side. It only did it on occasion, but it did it enough to be distracting. The new 1080p DMDs use a completely different motor to drive the panels, and they are a lot faster. I used a couple scenes where this motion blur was particularly noticeable, and it was completely gone with the 11S1. I would have justified the upgrade from that alone.

The Design

The 11S1 is very similar to the 12S4 in form and function. The chassis is just about identical with the only really difference noticeable being the color of some of the plastic. This is a rather large DLP projector and it is also quite heavy. A custom Konika/Minolta lens is used (like the S4) and this projector has the same manual vertical lens shift and manual focus. I was a bit disappointed with the fact that Marantz didn't include a powered focus with the 11S1, but the manual adjustment does allow for a finer adjustment than some of the projectors I've used in the past. This is important if you want to use the full potential of the optics.

The back panel is also identical to the S4. Marantz has provided two HDMI inputs (1.3a compliant), two component inputs, and support for S-Video and Composite video. An RS-232 port is also included along with a VGA input. There is a small light that can be toggled on or off for connecting in the dark, a feature that I found quite handy.

The biggest thing missing in the 11S1 compared to the 12S4 is the integrated colorimeter. The VP12S4 had a colorimeter built in to a lens cap for calibration of gray scale. While this meter wasn't highly accurate, it did provide the end user with an option when a professional calibration wasn't desired. Marantz decided not to include this lens cap and removed the software allowing the calibration. While it isn't a deal breaker for me in any way, I am surprised that they opted out of this feature considering the price point of this projector. While we always recommend a professional calibration by a trained and certified calibrator, it was a convenient way to hold over until that could be done.

Go to Part II.

Copyright 2007 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity

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