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InFocus IN76 Play Big DLP Projector First Look

by John Schuermann March 13, 2006
InFocus IN76 Play Big DLP Projector

InFocus IN76 Play Big DLP Projector

  • Product Name: IN76 Play Big DLP Projector
  • Manufacturer: InFocus
  • Performance Rating: StarStarStarStar
  • Value Rating: StarStarStarStar
  • Review Date: March 13, 2006 19:00
  • MSRP: $ 2999


IN76 Connections & Picture Quality

When Ole Dame from InFocus approached us a few weeks ago and asked if we'd like to get a sneak preview of the new IN76 HD DLP Projector, we were only too happy to take him up on his offer. Not only is the IN76 one of the new generation of projectors that breaks the $3000 price barrier for true HD resolution with TI's DLP technology (list price on the IN76 is $2999, with a resolution of 720p, or 1280 x 720), it also represents the culmination of an intensive effort by the InFocus engineers to improve the quietness and design aesthetics of their front projection line. In those two design goals we've got to say that InFocus has succeeded admirably - not only is the new IN76 extremely quiet, it's also one very sexy looking projector, with smooth, rounded lines and a rich black and silver finish. The unit we received from InFocus was a production prototype, so it did not have the final software loaded onto it and will be further tweaked by the design team before it ships (please keep that in mind as you read my comments).

So, how is the picture and how does it compare to other 720p DLP and LCD projectors? That's exactly what we set to find out over the last week when we evaluated the IN76 on its own, as well as against a few other pieces - the InFocus SP-7210 (a higher end, Dark Chip 3 single chip DLP projector) and the Panasonic PT-AE900 (a very popular 720p LCD projector). As always, we invited anyone interested in seeing the IN76 to come along and add their opinions to our own (we hold these types of informal shootouts on a fairly regular basis, and we have a rather large crowd of folks here in Colorado who come just to check out the new pieces, or new comparisons of old pieces). All of the projectors were evaluated using HD clips that are great at revealing various projector strengths and weaknesses (we have a collection of clips stored conveniently on an HTPC we use for just this kind of evaluation), plus various HD clips off of a Dish Network DVR. Of course, we also ran some tried and true DVD clips to evaluate standard definition performance. All connections were made via HDMI, and all comparisons were done on a 123" Stewart Firehawk (although many times the projector images were zoomed down to 110" or smaller screen sizes, as very few projectors are truly bright enough to fill a 123" diagonal screen).

The New Chip

IN76 remote control First, a few words about the new 1280 x 768 DLP chip that Texas Instruments is supplying for the IN76 and other lower priced HD DLP projectors like the Optoma HD72 and Mitsubishi HC3000. This new chip was designed by TI as an inexpensive hybrid chip that is compatible with both high definition video display and computer desktop display. By turning off either 48 pixels in the vertical dimension or 256 pixels in the horizontal dimension, the projector manufacturer is able to hit their desired resolution of either 1280 x 720 (HD) or 1024 x 768 (computer/business applications), respectively. This is a clever cost saving measure in that only one run of DLP chips can supply both markets: home theater or business projectors. Not only that, additional cost savings are obtained in making the chips physically smaller, which allows for greater production yields. Now, this is important when it comes to home theater applications 舑 while this new chip is capable of high performance, it is NOT designed to compete with the higher end standard size Dark Chip 2 or Dark Chip 3 DLP chips used in projectors like the Sharp ZXV2000 and InFocus SP7205 (Dark Chip 2) or Optoma H-79, BenQ PE8720, and InFocus SP 7210 (Dark Chip 3). First of all, the chip is physically smaller, which translates into lower brightness and more "screen door effect" (visible pixels) due to the lower fill factor.

Also, none of the projectors using this new chip incorporate the 7 or 8 segment color wheel that was developed a few years back to enhance the reproduction of dark scenes. This was done by adding an extra dark green segment - sometimes two - to the color wheel. The IN76 uses the six segment color wheel design, while the Optoma HD72 uses a variation on the six segment wheel with an added white segment. The white segment added by Optoma and a few others is actually part of the "Brilliant Color" system developed by TI. Brilliant Color was designed to compensate for the loss of color saturation that occurs when adding the white segment to the color wheel. InFocus chose not to use the Brilliant Color system since it is does not provide a benefit for projectors without the brightness boosting white segment. Since InFocus is able to hit their brightness and contrast spec without the addition of the white segment, Brilliant Color was unnecessary. With the added clear segment Optoma can actually claim a seven segment wheel, but the clear segment is actually a carry over from the business projector world, where extra brightness is more important than deeper blacks (we'll have more on the importance of color wheel design later).

Again, this is not to say that this new chip is not capable of producing excellent high and standard definition home theater images - as our tests show, it clearly is - it's just that we want to make clear that there are definite benefits to be found by moving up each manufacturer's projector line.


The big news here is that InFocus has finally added a true HDMI connector, so no adapters are needed for those who have an HDMI equipped DVD player, satellite receiver, or cable box. Those familiar with the old InFocus DVI hybrid, the M1DA connector, will be pleased to see that it has returned as well. This is a good thing in more ways than one, since it means that the IN76 effectively has two HDMI/DVI inputs (for those not familiar, M1DA is totally adaptable to and compatible with HDMI and DVI). As an added bonus, the M1DA port allows user firmware updates that registered owners can download from InFocus' web site.

IN76 inputs

In addition to the HDMI and M1DA inputs the IN76 has component, s-video, and composite video connectors, making it compatible with just about any video source you want to throw at it. InFocus has also thoughtfully added a serial control port and a 12 volt trigger.

Powering Up

On first powering up the IN76, two things were obvious. First, InFocus has replaced their old boring standard blue logo splash screen with a new one that reflects the new color scheme seen in all their advertising - a rich conglomeration of reds, yellows, and oranges. Pretty striking when you turn it on! Secondly - and obviously, far more importantly - is how quiet this new design is. One of the few legitimate complaints leveled against the previous line of InFocus Screenplay projectors was the acoustic noise level created by the cooling fans, especially if they cycled up and down. This new design is MUCH quieter, and what noise that remains is of the soft, almost soothing "rushing air" variety. The only projectors that we have evaluated that are quieter are some of the three chip DLP designs (due to their lack of color wheel) and the Optoma H-79 (which sacrifices some high altitude capability as a result, since less air is moving to cool the projector bulb).

Picture Quality

The first thing we evaluated was HD performance, using some HD-Net material off of Dish Network. Our first impression was of performance typical of 720p DLP projectors 舑 in other words, the picture had the same look and feel we associate with 720p DLP, with no glaringly obvious differences from what we see in other projectors with the same technology. Colors were nicely saturated and there was plenty of detail in the HD images. Contrast appeared excellent, and the black levels were very respectable - in fact, blacks were some of the best we have seen from an InFocus projector (InFocus is rating the contrast ratio on the IN76 as 3000:1). Overall, it was a very impressive image with the typical "WOW 舡 factor you get when blowing up an HD image to the type of screen sizes that front projection makes possible.

On the downside, after watching it a bit it was clear to our more critical eyes that the image had a bit more "coarseness" than the pictures we are used to seeing from our reference projector, the InFocus SP-7210. In some ways, some of those in the crowd who owned Dark Chip 3 projectors like the SP-7210 were relieved to see that the IN76 could not deliver equivalent performance at half the price of a typical DC3 unit! Screen door effect was also a tiny bit more obvious - displaying the computer desktop revealed a "blockier" pixel grid in the screen icons than we were used to seeing on the SP-7210. This more obvious pixel grid and slight overall coarseness to the image we attribute clearly to the smaller chip size and lower fill factor. To put this in perspective, though, visible pixel grid with the IN76 is still going to be far less than what you would see on a typical LCD projector or a 480p DLP unit (like the ScreenPlay 4805 or Optoma H31).

In terms of brightness, the IN76 falls into the "brighter than average" category. InFocus rates it at 1000 lumens, but we have learned to take ALL manufacturer brightness/lumen claims with tremendous grains of salt. We are big advocates of brighter projectors, as so many people we talk to want to go with screen sizes of 110 舡 diagonal or greater, and many home theater projectors are not really suited for screen sizes much beyond 100". Based upon what we saw here, I would say that the IN76 would be good up to screen sizes of 110", but not much beyond that. While it looked plenty bright even when we filled the full 123 舡 screen we had at our disposal, we are always VERY mindful that projector bulbs dim over time. At 1000 hours, most projectors are outputting not much more than half of their initial out of the box brightness. So many times we have heard from people who have bought one of the dimmer but higher contrast projectors that their image has become quite dim as they pass 1000 - 1500 hours or so. InFocus is famous for making some of the brightest HT projectors on the market (their SP-7205 and 7210 projectors are among the very few units truly capable of properly lighting up a 123" or 135" typical 1.3 gain screen, for example) and the IN76 does appear to be the brightest of the current crop of projectors using this new chip.

Note in regard to screen sizes: The right screen size is very much dependent on your planned seating distance to the screen as well as the brightness of the projector. The rule of thumb for a high definition DLP 720p projector like the IN76 is at least 1.5X the screen width. In other words, a 110" diagonal screen is 8 feet wide, so 8' x 1.5 = 12 feet back for your first row of seating. Any closer, and the pixel grid of the projector (the dreaded "screen door effect") becomes fairly obvious. High Definition 720p LCD projectors, with their moreeven more obvious pixel grid, generally require a 2X screen width seating distance to make the pixel grid "disappear" (110" diagonal screen = 8 feet wide x 2 = 16 feet seating distance for the front row of seating). The 1.5 rule for HD DLP has been based upon the previous HD2+ chips - since the pixel grid is a bit more pronounced with the new 1280 x 768 chip, a better formula for the IN76 and projectors like it may be 1.6 to 1.75 x the screen width if you do not want to see even a hint of screen door effect.

InFocus is also famous for being properly color calibrated right out of the box, and it looks like the IN76 follows in this tradition. Although the unit we had in here to evaluate was a pre-production unit without the final software, it appears that the colors are close to dead on, with the rich reds and greens that InFocus is famous for. One of our standard DVD tests clips is Chapter 23 of The Replacements. The football uniforms in this clip are supposed to be deep red, and the IN76 rendered them that way (so many projectors end up rendering the uniforms as a bright orange or reddish orange).

DVD clips looked very good, with the same richness of color and contrast we noticed on the HD clips. Due to the fact that we had the IN76 for just a limited amount of time, we didn't spend a great deal of time evaluating scaler/deinterlacer performance. Unfortunately, since so many systems we see these days end up having the scaling or deinterlacing done by the source (a cable box, a satellite dish receiver, an upconverting DVD player, etc), we feel that the internal scaler/deinterlacer is becoming less important to the overall performance of the piece from a real world perspective. This is unfortunate but true, since the quality of the processing can have a huge influence on perceived picture quality. Older InFocus projectors have used Faroudja processing and the new PlayBig IN series lineup is using Pixelworks processing, and the long and short of it is that there are advantages and disadvantages to both systems. From what we gathered from talking to the InFocus engineers, the Faroudja processing used on the Screenplay series does a slightly better job with 480i material (such as DVD and standard definition video) while the Pixelworks processor does a slightly better job of working with 1080i material. Bob Williams of InFocus did supply us with a list of pros and cons for each processor 舑 for those more technically curious, we have reproduced that below*.

For those who are sensitive to DLP rainbows, the IN76 exhibited very little in the way of rainbow artifacts.

Editorial Note: Faroudja vs. Pixelworks - Pros and Cons
Faroudja pros: Low angle interpolation is superior (flag test), mixed signal (film with video overlays) processing is better in some situations.

Faroudja cons: Limited to 8-bit video decoder due to strict timing requirements, Standard definition deinterlacing only, Not compatible with 3D comb filters (though makes up for it a lot with cross color suppression).

Pixelworks pros: 1080i film mode and per-pixel motion compensated video mode, Scaler is better at keeping detail intact when scaling, 10-bit video decoder, Very fast switching between film mode and video mode (bad edit detection), 3D comb filter.

Pixelworks cons: Slightly worse low angle interpolation, No 60 to 48 Hz frame rate conversion.

IN76 Comparisons & Evaluation

InFocus IN76 vs SP-7210

Apples to Different Apples

In some ways, it was more instructive to compare the IN76 to other pieces to get a real feel for its performance, and comparing the unit to the SP-7210 was quite interesting, since they both share the same basic technology. At our shootout, we had about 9 people here in addition to Brad and I (who run these things), and the general consensus was that the 7210 was brighter, smoother, and richer in depth and color than the IN76. This stands to reason, as the 7210 uses a Zeiss lens, the top of the line Dark Chip 3 DLP chip from TI, and a seven segment color wheel (incidentally, most of these same upgrades 舑 with the exception of the Dark Chip 3 - are available in the InFocus SP-7205, which splits the price difference). As mentioned above, the Dark Chip 3 is a higher grade chip capable of greater contrast, less dithering, higher brightness, and greater smoothness thanks to its greater fill factor and more polished mirror surface. The improvement in brightness and smoothness was the most obvious upgrade when we powered up the 7210, even though our demo 7210 has over 800 hours on the bulb. I want to stress, though, that this is not one of those 舠 night and day 舡 improvements that you hear about, but it was clearly visible. Another more subtle improvement was in the way the 7210 handled dark scenes. Thanks to the seven-segment color wheel of the 7210, there was greater color depth and detail in dark scenes and far less dithering in dark areas of the picture. Dithering artifacts look like 舠 crawling ants 舡 when you get up within a foot or so of the screen, and are only visible in near black areas of the picture. This is the result of all of the DLP mirrors toggling on and off trying to reproduce various dark shades of grey. From normal seating distances, though, the 舠 crawling ants 舡 are not visible, but one can perceive a slight graininess to darker images that projectors with a seven segment color wheel lack (the seven segment color wheel adds a dark green segment to the original RGBRGB six segment wheel. The extra dark green segment allows for more accurate color reproduction in dark video, and reduces the dithering artifact).

Of course, the 7210 is also roughly twice the price of the IN76 and is a bit noisier as well, so whether the advantages are worth the difference in price is a personal decision. For someone wanting the very best performance that does not want to make the jump to three chip DLP, though, the difference is clearly there to see.

IN76 vs. Panasonic PT-AE900U

This was another instructive comparison, as the price of the InFocus IN76 puts it directly in competition with the HD 720p LCD projectors currently on the market. This brings us first to our take on the whole 舠 DLP vs LCD 舡 argument which rages in the front projection world.

We admit to preferring DLP over LCD for a large number of practical reasons as well as picture quality issues. As dealers, we can honestly say that LCD projectors have been more trouble-prone than their DLP counterparts, with problems ranging from dead pixels to dust blobs raising their ugly heads far more often with LCD than with DLP. There is also the issue of LCD panel breakdown, which was dramatically (but admittedly unfairly) illustrated in a test done a few years ago by TI and Munsell Color Laboratories (we may tackle that one in a separate article). It's instructive that many DLP projector manufacturers are willing to cover dead pixels under warranty, while most LCD projector manufacturers consider dead pixels "normal wear and tear" or require something like 6 dead pixels in a row before considering it a warranty issue. In fairness, we'd like to say that we've seen less problems with last few generations of LCD projectors, however, they have not been on the market long enough to develop a true track record.

That aside, our main concern here is with picture quality. Normally, one of the big advantages of DLP over LCD is that the pixel fill factor is greater on DLP and that the "screen door effect" is much less on DLP as a result. The Panasonic AE900 is unique in that there is almost no screen door effect at all. Panasonic has developed a technology called 舠 Smooth Screen 舡 that uses an optical system to blur the edges of the pixels, resulting in a very smooth image will almost no visible pixel grid. As a consequence, images on the Panasonic AE900 appear a bit soft compared to other LCD projectors, which are generally know to have a "hyper-sharp" quality that some find appealing, while others find unnatural or cartoony.

The end result it that the Panasonic is the one LCD projector that has less screen door effect than the IN76, where that would normally not be the case. In this regard, the Panasonic has a smoother image than the IN76 and it is possible to sit closer to the screen without seeing any visible pixel grid. If one were comparing the IN76 with an Epson, Sony, or Sanyo LCD projector the opposite would be true, since generally speaking screen door effect is considerably more pronounced with LCD.

In terms of color accuracy, the InFocus bested the Panasonic in the critical area of reds and greens, where the Panasonic looked a bit limey in the greens and orangey in the reds. The Panasonic also had a bizarre color shift to the image - the right side of the image was reddish and left side was greenish. This was quite obvious with the computer desktop and in any scene with solid fields of color, like the HD Ireland documentary we had up with its blue skies and green hills. This may be an issue with our particular sample, and I have to admit never having noticed it before (it's one of those things that is difficult to 舠 un-see 舡 once it's been seen). Overall, though, the Panasonic has a very pleasing color palette, it was mainly that the InFocus was more accurate with certain hues. Of course, most of these issues can be corrected with a good ISF calibration, but we feel it is a definite plus in the InFocus'favor that it is so accurate right out of the box.

One of the things that the Panasonic excels at is color saturation in dark scenes, which is where most other LCD projectors fall down, giving murky bluish grey blacks and washed out colors (this was very apparent in a recent shootout we did with the Sanyo Z4 舑 the Sanyo looked almost black and white compared to the Panasonic when displaying dark scenes). Even so, in this area the InFocus clearly did better, with deeper blacks and a sense of three dimensionality that the Panasonic lacked. In the night scenes of HBO's excellent HD transfer of SPIDERMAN 2, the InFocus had more saturated colors, deeper blacks, and greater depth to the image than the Panasonic, which looked flat in comparison. On the other hand, the Panasonic had a smoother look to the darker sequences, probably due to the dithering noise on the IN76. In fact, picture smoothness would be the one area in which the Panasonic was superior to the IN76, while the IN76 excelled at contrast, deep blacks, and three-dimensionality.

In terms of brightness, the Panasonic has three picture modes that vary greatly in light output. The most accurate setting in terms of color accuracy and with the highest contrast, 舠 Cinema 1 舡 , puts out the least amount of light. Compared to this setting on the Panasonic, the IN76 was considerably brighter. The Panasonic also has a mode called 舠 Dynamic 舡 which has tons of light output, but the grayscale is all blown out and the picture is extremely blue and oversaturated, plus blacks are crushed (we have our own name for this setting 舑 we call it 舠 Garish Mode 舡 ). In the middle we have 舠 Normal 舡 mode, which strikes a balance between brightness and accuracy. At this setting brightness was roughly equivalent between the two projectors.

What about picture artifacts? Both technologies are known for their artifacts, DLP for dithering noise and rainbows, LCD for fixed pattern noise, vertical banding, and motion blurring. Most of the new LCD projectors we've seen exhibit very little in the way of vertical banding (vertical streaks in the image), and the Panasonic is no exception. It's there if you go looking for it, but usually only in solid fields of color, especially if there is a moving camera (the vertical banding and fixed pattern noise are visible as 舠 dirtiness 舡 in solid fields of color like blue sky 舑 it looks almost like streaks on a dirty window). Motion blurring is also almost a thing of the past when it comes to LCD. While older LCD projectors had quite a bit of blurring on fast moving objects, the AE900 exhibits very little of this artifact. The IN76 had no motion blurring that we could see. The most obvious artifacts on the two projectors were dithering noise on the IN76 (visible as slight graininess to dark scenes) and vertical breakup on the Panasonic (a 舠 stair-step 舡 like effect visible on objects moving vertically or diagonally, almost like a deinterlacing artifact).

Of the crowd we had helping us evaluate the IN76, by a show of hands no one saw DLP rainbows Rainbows 舑 for those not familiar - are caused by the fact that single chip DLP projectors throw colors onto the screen sequentially rather than all at once. Some people see this as flashes of rainbow colored light out of the corners of their eyes. Brad and I could see them if we went looking, but, like vertical banding on LCD projectors, why go looking?

What was occasionally obvious on the Panasonic AE900 was the operation of the dynamic iris. Since LCD panels are fairly low in contrast by their nature, some manufacturers try to boost contrast by using a variable iris that opens or closes depending on the overall brightness of the image it is trying to recreate. If the Panasonic is trying to display a dark scene, for example, the iris closes down, letting out less light in order to create a deeper black. During bright scenes the iris opens up, letting out more light. In this way, Panasonic and others can claim high on/off contrast ratios. The problem comes in during scenes with variable brightness 舑 the iris control software needs to constantly monitor and vary the overall brightness to compensate. During scenes that would vary greatly in their content of light and dark, sometimes it was obvious when the dynamic iris was at work, as the overall brightness of the scene would vary as it played out. Some people are more susceptible to this than others 舑 for me, it is quite distracting. Since the IN76 does not use a variable iris to enhance contrast, the InFocus displayed none of this characteristic.

On another, more practical note: the Panasonic, like all other LCD projectors, has a dust filter you need to take out and clean every few months to prevent dust from getting into the optics (which shows up as 舠 dust blobs 舡 on screen). Like most (not all!) DLP projectors, the IN76 has sealed optics, so there is no need to take the projector down to blow out a dust filter.

Practical Concerns

The InFocus IN76 is a medium throw projector. For example, for a 100 舡 diagonal screen, the projector needs to be mounted between 11 to 14 feet back from the screen wall. InFocus provides a screen calculator for anyone wanting to try various screen size and projector combinations.

Another important mounting consideration to keep in mind 舑 the IN76 has a fixed lens offset, meaning that the projector needs be placed at a specific height in relation to the screen. Using the above 100 舡 screen as a reference, the IN76 would need to be mounted with the lens approximately 7.5 inches ABOVE the top of the picture area of the screen. Some other projector manufacturers (such as Panasonic and Sanyo) utilize a lens shift feature, which allows the image to be adjusted up and down by using either a manual or electronic control on the projector. Although many people feel that having lens shift is preferable, we respectfully disagree. With almost all lens shift projectors, the lens can be NO HIGHER than the top of the screen. That usually means a long extension pole down from the ceiling to the top of the projector and the projector hanging down a foot or two into the room. Projectors with lens offset, on the other hand, are designed to be placed higher than the top of screen. In most installations that means the projector can be mounted flush with the ceiling, up and out of the way. The only time this becomes a problem is if there is a soffit or low hanging light fixture between the projector and screen, in which case lens shift offers more flexibility

IN76 Production Model vs. Pre-Production

I've been playing with an actual production IN76 for the last week or so, and found enough differences in performance from the prototype I reviewed that we felt an update to this "First Look" article was definitely justified. Here is a brief rundown of the differences I found:

In my initial assessment, I stated that the IN76 had an overall "coarseness" to the image, with a picture that was a little grainy looking especially with dark scenes (this was most noticeable when compared to our reference SP7210). With the actual production unit, this is almost totally gone. Fill factor is still slightly less than projectors using the HD2+ chip, but the difference is almost invisible in actual use. At the right distance from the screen (again, a minimum of 1.5X the screen width for a 720p DLP projector like the IN76) the picture from the IN76 was smooth, clean, and colorful. When we played the new HD trailer for Pixar's Cars , the only comment we heard from the group helping us evaluate it was - "WOW" and that was repeated over and over again.

Of course, computer animation always looks good on just about any kind of display (this is why whatever happens to be Pixar's latest DVD release is always the demo of choice at CES, CEDIA, and in many dealer showrooms), so we played some live action HD content as well. The trailer for Akeelah and the Bee was a great test for shadow detail and contrast, and once again the picture looked tremendous, with great depth and dimensionality.

In fact, this is where we noticed how much of an improvement the IN76 was over the Screenplay 4805 we originally had in the same demo room. With every clip we showed, the IN76 impressed us with its smoothness and contrast, while in comparison the 4805 looked flat and the black levels were clearly lacking. For anyone wondering whether or not the IN76 is a worthwhile upgrade to the 4805, we can enthusiastically say yes. While there is a substantial increase in resolution going from 480p to 720p, the most obvious improvements were in contrast/black levels, brightness, and the audible noise level. Due to the boost in contrast, blacks appeared very deep - some of the best ever in an InFocus projector - and the picture just "popped." (For those a bit put off by the price tag of the IN76, keep in mind that the IN74EX has identical contrast and brightness specs to the IN76. While the resolution is lower - 1024 x 576 vs 1280 x 720 - keep in mind that the human eye perceives brightness and contrast well before it perceives resolution, so at $1000 less the IN74EX will offer many of the same performance upgrades as the IN76).

So, how would we compare the IN76 to the other 720p projectors in the InFocus lineup? Since we get this question all of the time, I feel it is worth addressing. The SP7205 and SP7210 are still about 15 - 20% brighter than the IN76, so they would still be the projectors of choice for screen sizes over 110" or rooms with high ambient light situations. Dithering noise in dark scenes is still less visible with the 7205 and 7210 due to the presence of the seven segment color wheel, but this picture artifact is only really obvious if you are very close to the screen. In terms of contrast, the IN76 can hold its own with the 7210 and actually beats out the 7205 by a small margin (of course, the 7205 is brighter and has richer greens, so that also factors in to the equation). My previous comments regarding the 7210 vs. the IN76 still stand, however - the 7210 still has a smoother, more saturated and refined image, but the performance difference is not quite as dramatic as it was previously.

Lastly, I wanted to get in a word about screen choice. Our most recent tests of the IN76 were done on two screens on opposite sides of the price spectrum - a 100" DNP SuperNova (one of the new "black" screens almost impervious to ambient light, at $3889 list one of the highest priced screens available) and a very inexpensive 106" Da-Lite Model B pulldown with High Contrast Matte White material. Choosing the right screen material for both the projector and the room you intend to put it in can be just as important as the projector choice itself. 'Light control' as it pertains to front projection does not just mean being able to pull down the shades and turn off the lights. A truly light controlled room is one where not only is there an absence of light, but one where the walls, ceiling, and furnishings are a dark color (optimally flat black, but in the real world that almost never happens). Putting any projector on a white screen in a room with white walls and ceiling will cause the picture to wash out almost as much as a room with lights on or window shades open. What happens is that the light from the projector bounces off the screen, then off the side walls, ceiling and floor, and then back on to the screen to wash out the picture. This is easily demonstrated - next time you are in a totally darkened home theater with light colored walls, notice how much the walls glow and are lit up by the light reflected off the screen. All of this "light pollution" comes back to wash out the image on the screen and destroy contrast and black levels. This is why we are such fans of screens like the Stewart FireHawk, DNP SuperNova and - to a lesser degree - the Da-Lite High Contrast Cinema Vision/HC Matte White. These are all screens that help maintain contrast levels in real world home theaters by rejecting room reflections and ambient light (by real world home theaters I mean rooms that do not have dark colored walls, ceilings, and furnishings).

When we compared the picture of the IN76 on the two materials, differences in the image were obvious when even the smallest amount of ambient light was added to the picture. In our totally light controlled demo room, with dark green walls and blackout shades, the two screen materials looked pretty comparable. The DNP looked a bit more dynamic due to its higher gain, but black levels were similar. As soon as we turned up the lights or opened the shades even the slightest bit, contrast started falling off rapidly on the Da-Lite material, with the blacks getting washed out almost immediately. The DNP held the black levels much better than the Da-Lite, as did the piece of Stewart FireHawk material we had on hand.

The point here is that many people judge projectors by their contrast ratios (as they should, as long as they take manufacturer claims with a large grain of salt), but unless you have the type of room or screen that can deliver those contrast ratios, the point almost becomes moot.

The bottom line here - if asked for a screen recommendation for the IN76, or any other projector - is that the actual environment in which you place the projector is going to be the determining factor in which screen is best for you. If you have a room with some ambient light or a room with light colored walls, ceiling, and furnishings, a screen like the Stewart FireHawk is going to deliver a much higher contrast picture than a typical white screen. On the other hand, if you have the perfect home theater room (in other words, a totally dark room with dark colored walls, ceiling, and furnishings) and you intend to watch in total darkness, a white screen may be the ideal choice.


The InFocus IN76 seems to have exactly the right features at exactly the right price point. It makes a great entry level high definition projector for someone who wants DLP technology and an excellent true 720p HD image without breaking the bank. In comparison with the LCD competition at the price point, we feel the DLP based IN76 to have a superior image in most regards plus what we have found to be a more reliable technology. While the picture of the IN76 is not quite as bright or as smooth as what can be found on higher end DLP projectors using the larger Dark Chip 2 or Dark Chip 3 DMDs (including Infocus' own SP-7205 or SP-7210), it is also considerably less expensive, sexy looking, and very quiet to boot! Since the unit we had to evaluate was a pre-production model, we look forward to taking another look at it when the actual production models start shipping. If we find any performance differences at that point, we will report on them here!

By John Schuermann of www.integrityhometheater.com

InFocus America
27700B SW Parkway Avenue
Wilsonville, OR, USA 97070-9215
Fax: 503-685-8976

The Score Card

The scoring below is based on each piece of equipment doing the duty it is designed for. The numbers are weighed heavily with respect to the individual cost of each unit, thus giving a rating roughly equal to:

Performance × Price Factor/Value = Rating

Audioholics.com note: The ratings indicated below are based on subjective listening and objective testing of the product in question. The rating scale is based on performance/value ratio. If you notice better performing products in future reviews that have lower numbers in certain areas, be aware that the value factor is most likely the culprit. Other Audioholics reviewers may rate products solely based on performance, and each reviewer has his/her own system for ratings.

Audioholics Rating Scale

  • StarStarStarStarStar — Excellent
  • StarStarStarStar — Very Good
  • StarStarStar — Good
  • StarStar — Fair
  • Star — Poor
Detail and ResolutionStarStarStarStar
Contrast and Black LevelsStarStarStarStar
Color ReproductionStarStarStarStar
Calibration OptionsStarStarStarStar
Build QualityStarStarStarStar
Ergonomics & UsabilityStarStarStarStar
Ease of SetupStarStarStarStar
Remote ControlStarStarStarStar