InFocus might not be a household name, but if you're a fan of home-cinema projection, its ScreenPlay range will probably be a large blip on your radar. Starting off with a few simple models, it now has enough offerings to meet everything from the lowliest £1,000 budget right up to £10,000 three-chip DLP models.
The 7205 is mid-range in projector terms, but it's still way out of the reach of the casual buyer. Outclassing the crop of sub-£2,000 models by a considerable margin, the 7205 is a high-definition compatible projector, an important factor as these services and disc formats plan to launch in early 2006 (read our guide to high-def for more information). It might be the dullest looking projector of all time, but the 7205 is the first choice for those with an eye for quality home-cinema projection.
The 7205 has a large footprint, sitting low to the ground or ceiling (depending on how you choose to mount it). It's one of the dullest pieces of design we've ever seen -- we had to stifle a yawn as we opened the box and set it up. The front panel consists of a lens on the right and a handle that stretches across the rest of the panel, with air vents on each side and all the connections on the rear.
Connectivity on the 7205 is very good, and the long back panel is jam-packed with possibilities. We like that InFocus has included two sets of component inputs, so you can connect up a fancy DVD player and a games console and enjoy progressive-scan video from both. Progressive-scan images are much smoother than standard interlaced video, so it's best to use them where possible.
If you've recently made the jump to digital video (courtesy of a DVI or HDMI player like Denon's DVD-2910) and you can't look back, then you'll be pleased to learn that the 7205 is compatible, albeit in a slightly convoluted way. InFocus' M1-DA input will accommodate both DVI and HDMI, but you will need to buy an adaptor at a cost of around £20 for each separate input. It's annoying, but it allows InFocus to include support for both digital formats through the one input. If you're spending £2,500 on a projector anyway, you'd do well to consider an upgrade to your DVD player, and if you're buying from a specialist dealer, they might throw in a free converter. There's also an RS-232 trigger so you can wire the projector into a Lutron or AMX control system, and have a home cinema available at the touch of a (very expensive) button.
InFocus' remote control may be simple, but thankfully it's backlit for home-cinema use. It's small and has an LED on top so you can see when you're pressing a button. You can also switch sources, although the projector itself will handily search through video sources automatically when you switch it on.
Underneath that unassuming exterior is a solid projection engine. The DLP chipset is a 720p resolution DarkChip from Texas Instruments, which has been acclaimed across the industry for picture quality. It's fully 16:9-compatible, and will support resolutions up to 1080i, downscaling where necessary to fit the 1280x720-pixel chipset resolution. The chipset has also made leaps and bounds technologically, now offering a high 2,200:1 contrast ratio and a 1,100cd/m2 brightness.
InFocus has also implemented a new seven-segment colour wheel, with the promise of reduced rainbow issues. This happens when the human eye can see the individual components of the colour spectrum. The effects are dependent on the person, but it's very annoying to anyone who is sensitive to it. Thankfully, the results on the 7205 are minimal -- in the dark of a home cinema, it's noticeable if you flick your eyes from side to side, but it's not intrusive.
Before anything goes through the DLP chipset, it's processed by the internal DCDi image processing system from Faroudja. This image processing aims to bring more stability to the picture than the standard signal alone. We had no stuttering problems from PAL or NTSC material when using a multi-region DVD player, nor when we set our PlayStation 2 to 60Hz NTSC mode.
If you're using component inputs, then this picture processing is useful, but thanks to the inclusion of a DVI-compatible input, the picture quality isn't going to get much better. Lastly on the picture front, InFocus has employed a new glass lens made by Carl Zeiss, which it claims is the last key component in the projection engine. You can also adjust the lens for different throw ratios, and you might want to employ the services of a professional installer if you want to set everything up optimally.
Annoyingly, there are no speakers whatsoever on the ScreenPlay 7205, a mark of its home cinema intent more than anything. We doubt this will be a problem for most users, but it is worth mentioning. In fact, the 7205 kicks out very little noise of any type -- the fans are remarkably restrained. The simple design must be good for something, and air flow through the unit must be particularly good.
This projector is capable of great things when set up with a decent DVD player. The high contrast offered by the chipset reveals hidden depths and detail in your movies, not to mention giving the colours a lick of more vibrant paint. Everything looks so natural, and there's very little of the dreaded rainbow effect to be seen.
The projector is also very bright. We used the projector as a feature piece during a party, and as day turned to evening and we turned overhead lights on, the 7205 didn't kick up too much of a fuss. Now, we'd be mightily disappointed if you did such a thing when watching a movie, but the sign of a good projector is that it can cope in less-than-ideal conditions.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Nick Hide