Pro8100 Remote Control and Menu System
I like the remote. It's simple, completely backlit, and the labels, or icons, are on the face of each button - making it easy to use in the dark. At top are buttons for direct access to Picture Mode, Aspect Ratio, Color Temp, Lens Shift, Zoom/Focus and Keystone. The Navigation, Menu and Exit buttons are ergonomically placed - far more convenient than the Klingon-inspired menu system they control which is among the worst I've ever encountered. At bottom are the direct input buttons and direct access controls for Black Level, PCS control, Daylight Sensor, Overscan, HQV controls and Image Freeze.
The remote does not feature discrete on and off buttons for power, and in fact you must hit the power button twice in order to bring it back to standby mode. This is a bit of a pain for those looking to easily program projector On/Off functions into an IR-based remote system, but given the specialty retail outlets where the Pro8100 will be sold, I don't really see this as much of an issue, practically speaking. It’s just as likely that anyone getting the Pro8100 will also be having the unit configured by a custom installer - possibly as part of an RS-232C-based home control environment.
Getting Under the
Hood - The Menu System
The menu system on the Pro8100 is just awful. There are simple guidelines for user interfaces that should be followed in order to deliver ergonomic "best practices." ViewSonic adhered to none of these and has a system that is painful, lethargic and inconvenient to utilize. For any custom installers putting this projector into a home, you'll likely want to simply remember the best settings so you can save yourself the trouble of having to navigate the menu system as a user would in getting the best performance out of the projector.
To access the menu you simply press the menu button on the remote, or the hard menu button on the side of the projector itself. This brings up the main screen. From here you can arrow left and get the "Status", or overview of current settings, or arrow right and enter the Picture, Config, Advanced, Memory, or PCS (Precision Color System) menus.
The reason the menu is so bad is due to the disjointed nature of where submenu items exist, and also due to the difficulty in knowing when you are on a submenu, or accessing that menu's sub-choices. All you have to go by is a green highlighted "bullet" next to the item you are accessing. Add to this the fact that in order to get a custom Color Temperature you have to select the "User" setting under Picture/Colro Temperature and then configure the RGB Gain/Offset under the "Custom Color Temperature" submenu of the Memory menu (what?)! Why it is this difficult is beyond me - and what Color Temperature has to do with a Memory setting - and not the Picture settings - is anyone's guess. Add to that steps of +/-512 and you've got a ridiculously tedious system for getting grayscale/color temperature configured. The menu system is by far the worst I've ever used - but at least you can set the timeout function (too short by default) and access most of the features you'd expect. And lucky for ViewSonic I was able to get really nice results... it almost made up for the hassle... almost.
This menu provides your basic picture adjustments and is your first stop in setting Black and White levels. Of note, I found that my Brightness setting ended up around 44 - close to the default setting. The White Level, however dropped to 56, lower than the Default. The Pro8100 had no problem passing Blacker-than-Black signals from my reference Denon DVD-3930CI. I left Sharpness at the default of 50 and turned Overscan to 0%. Those with cableTV may want to store a setting with 5% enabled to get rid of those occasional flickering "data" lines you see at the top of the screen. If you somehow managed to rotate the projector mount so that it was crooked to the screen (assuming you couldn't physically adjust it) you can make digital rotation and vertical/horizontal keystone adjustments. The Pro8100 also has a holdover typically found on more business-centric units - automatic vertical keystone. I can't image this being used much in home theater, and as always we recommend any software-based keystone functions be disabled to avoid unnecessary blurring.
This is the place to set your basic configuration for things like the On-Screen Display (OSD), Auto Shutdown, Automatic Source Select, Lamp Mode (Eco or Normal), High Altitude mode and the Iris system. Unfortunately, the Auto Iris can only be set to On or Off. This means that you can't crank down the Iris and accept lower light while sacrificing brighter whites. You must either accept the Automatic Iris system or suffer through higher black levels should you decide to turn it off (Blacks are noticeably darker with the Iris engaged). This wouldn’t be such a bad thing if the Iris system were quicker. In my time viewing the picture on this projector I found the Auto Iris to be very noticeably delayed whenever the on-screen image would change significantly. It also had a tendency to "bounce" jumping up and down and then finally settling in where it wanted to be. In my opinion it simply needs more work. In the meantime, the ability to dial it in at a fixed position would be much preferable to simply turning it off.
Within the Config menu is a Daylight Sensor function. This can be set to Off, Auto, or Manual. Manual gives you the options of Low, Mid, or High. I found this function to be extremely subtle, but functional. It was off during my calibration and testing, however for typical use I switched it on since it only engaged when the ambient room light changed significantly.
The Advanced Menu isn't particularly advanced, save for the inclusion of some HQV-specific settings and a 5-setting Black Level control (we used Normal). The Picture Mode is where you'll select your default color mode for viewing images on the projector. We tried several of them to determine which would be the best initial setting. Here are our color temperature and luminosity results:
- Normal = 16.5 fL @ 6500K
- Vivid = 21 fL @ 6300K
- Cinema = 21 fL @ 6300K
- Professional = 18 fL @ 6400K
We forced the lamp into Eco mode and re-checked Normal and Cinema modes, which yielded
- Normal (Eco) = 13 fL @ 6850K
- Cinema (Eco) = 16 fL @ 6600K
For us it was obvious that the best initial setting is to use Cinema mode in Eco lamp mode and set the color temperature to Warm 1. A setting of Warm 2 measured 5200K - almost perfect for Black and White film viewing. Now this was out of the box - not bad, though I'd wager than any custom installer worth his salt will insist on doing a professional ISF calibration. And they should since we got even better results afterwards (see our Calibration section).
Tech Note: Do not engage the Blacker-than-Black mode unless this is the only way to get below black signal to the projector. We received below black info just fine with the Normal setting and the Blacker Than Black mode simply maps 0 IRE to black, artificially brightening the image and resulting in an incorrect default black level.
Under the HQV settings you have access to Detail Enhancement, Film Mode (auto is default), LTI (a luminance level "enhancer" and CTI (a chrominance level "enhancer"). I left both LTI and CTI off, nor could I seem to ever get any significant (ie perceivable) change in picture quality when using them. Regardless, anything thing that automatically adjusts color should be 'Off' in my book. Detail Enhancement is a nice feature, but the default setting of '5' is WAY too high. In fact, it introduces large amounts of noise into the picture. I'd recommend leaving this on, but set it to '2', you'll get a much nicer presentation overall and you won't miss any true detail in the process.
There is no noise reduction for HD sources on the Pro8100. This is unfortunate, however with any HD source the Noise Reduction submenu remains grayed out, eliminating both the Mosquito Noise Reduction (MNR) and the Block Artifact Removal (BAR) functions of the projector. Our suggestion would be to run anything that isn't HD as 480i to take advantage of these excellent features.
I was able to (painstakingly) set the color temperature from within the Custom Color Temperature submenu. Obvious to anyone but the menu designers, this is a silly place to put this function. You can store only two memory functions. I'd love to see a whole lot more of these. I can think of three settings I like for each projector I use: Day time, Night time, and Black & White film mode. With the Pro8100 you only have two Memory slots which will override any input or current mode selection.