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There's a new category brewing: the all-in-one home theater, which combines a front projector, a DVD player, and speakers. A handful of models have already come out, including and HP's ep9010 Instant Cinema, which costs just a little more than this MovieTime DV10 from Optoma ($1,500 list). All these units have the same concept behind them: plunk the projector down on a flat surface--say, a coffee table--plug it in, insert a DVD, and you're ready to throw a big picture up on the wall or, preferably, a home-theater screen.
Optoma's entry in this category, the MovieTime DV10, uses a DLP chip with a native resolution of 852x480. That's short of HD resolution, which starts at 1,280x720, but the projector can handle HDTV input signals. Before we get into picture quality, though, let's talk for a minute about the unit's design.
The nice thing about the Optoma MovieTime DV10 is that it's compact, although not quite as small as the Cinego. Weighing 7 pounds, it's easy to move around, and it comes with a protective canvas carrying case. Setting up the projector was a little harder than it should have been. First off, it's designed to sit about a foot below the bottom edge of the screen, so unless you have a relatively high screen and low surface for the DV10, such as a short coffee table, you may find yourself having to compromise by raising the back of the projector. We had to stack it on a DVD to get it to the right height--the tiny adjustable feet just didn't extend far enough. Of course, once you get it right, you'll be able to set it up that much quicker the next time (we could usually set it up in a little more than five minutes).
The Optoma has a very short throw lens, meaning it's designed to create as large an image as possible from as close as possible. We have no problems with that, but we'd appreciate a longer zoom control to provide more flexibility in placement. With the short 1.11:1 manual zoom, you'll probably have to move the projector itself back and forth to get the right-size image.
The remote is adequate, but we were disappointed by the lack of backlighting for the buttons. You'll also have to get used to the separate buttons and setup menus for the projector and the DVD player. That's a little irritating. Also, the DVD player is loud when you first load a disc, and the projector runs toasty, blowing hot air out its side (be careful to watch little kids around it).
Those gripes notwithstanding, the Optoma MovieTime DV10 is overall a nifty little home-theater system. Most people will use the projector primarily to watch DVDs. But you can connect an HD set-top box via the included component-video adapter, which plugs in to the RGB connection. That RGB port also accommodates PCs, and you can plug in video game consoles through component or S-Video ports or the basic composite connection. On the audio side, the DV10 has an optical output for those who want to plug it in to a more substantial sound system.
We found the Optoma's image quality a relatively pleasant surprise--certainly a step up from the Cinego's. The MovieTime DV10 includes a number of presets. While Movie mode delivered the best image for home theater, we significantly improved on it by making some manual adjustments.
Out-of-the-box grayscale at the 0 color-temperature setting was fairly inaccurate, tending toward blue in darker images and redness in brighter ones. After we calibrated the grayscale with the user menu's color-temperature controls (dubbed True Vivid for no discernable reason), the grayscale was somewhat more accurate but not nearly as much so as we'd have liked. We tried the various gamma settings and settled on 1, but none of them could cure the bluer darks. Color decoding wasn't especially accurate, and we had to reduce the color control to avoid infusing skin tones too red and grass areas too cartoonishly green, for example.
The Optoma's ability to deliver relatively deep blacks impressed us, but note that you'll have to turn Bright mode in the menu to Off in order to achieve them. After we did so, the initial spacescapes from the Alien DVD appeared suitably inky, and the difficult images looked relatively clean. For example, we noticed little false contouring, seeing instead smooth gradations from light to dark as one of the explorer's helmet lights faded into the darkness. Naturally, we saw some visible pixel structure--a result of blowing up a lower-resolution image to fill a 96-inch screen--and a few DLP rainbows appeared in areas where very bright and very dark areas were adjacent.
Although test patterns revealed that the projector truncated vertical resolution a bit, we noticed no untoward softness during the opening scenes of the Vertical Limit DVD. As the climbers hang against the rock face, we could make out individual fissures and cracks, and close-ups of the doomed father's half-shaven face were suitably stubbly. The Optoma had no trouble with our 2:3 pull-down test, rendering the canoes from Star Trek: Insurrection with no moving lines. Geometry was solid, although the top edge of the image bowed a bit, and we saw some fringing along white lines at the extreme edges--both results of imperfections in the lens.
The sound? Well, let's just say if you don't expect all that much from the DV10's built-in 5-watt speakers, you'll think they're passable. We did feel the sound was better than that of the RadioShack Cinego. As long as you don't turn up the volume too loud, you'll be able to follow a movie just fine without shuddering. Less discerning listeners, we noticed, had no trouble immersing themselves in the films we watched.
|Before color temp (20/80)||10,232/6,825K||Poor|
|After color temp (20/80)||9,259/6,199K||Poor|
|Before grayscale variation||+/- 988K||Poor|
|After grayscale variation||+/- 660K||Poor|
|Color decoder error: red||-10%||Average|
|Color decoder error: green||+5%||Good|
|DC restoration||All patterns visible||Good|
|2:3 pull-down, 24fps||Y||Good|
|Defeatable edge enhancement||Y||Good|