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HolidayBuyer's Guide

Marantz VP11S1 review:

Marantz VP11S1

Connectivity options are fairly generous. Two HDMI digital inputs are the most important connections. There are also two component-video inputs, one S-Video input, one composite-video input, and one 15-pin VGA input for a computer hookup. The VGA, component-video, and HDMI ports can all handle 1,920x1,080 (1080p) resolution at both 60Hz and 24Hz, among numerous other signals. Finally, two 12-volt triggers for electric drop-down screens and masking systems, as well as an RS-232 control port are included. Out-of-the-box performance at the factory presets was fairly accurate, with a couple of exceptions. The grayscale, although close in the kelvin numbers (see the Geek box), was distinctly greenish at the bottom end of the scale, which is an issue we notice with a lot of high-end digital projectors. Calibration was relatively simple, with all of the necessary controls in the projector's Fine menu, and fixed the problem completely. Overall color accuracy was decent with one exception. The primary colors of red and blue are relatively close to the HD or ATSC references, but green is off the mark and somewhat yellowish making it look a little neonlike. Overall, that was pretty much our only gripe with the VP11S1's otherwise spectacular picture.

Black-level performance was among the best we've seen in a digital projector. The depth of black produced by the Marantz is deep, rich, and ultimately satisfying. Even really dark material on discs such as Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back looked convincing, clean and artifact-free. Chapter 8 of the HD-DVD version of Seabisuit, where Jeff Bridges finds Chris Cooper sitting around a campfire in the dead of night, was rendered with lots of subtle shadow detail, deep rich blacks, and almost no artifacts.

The clarity of the Marantz's picture when fed a good source, such as HD-DVD or high-def from a cable TV or satellite provider, will floor most folks. Its resolution capability continually impressed us throughout the evaluation process. The excellent lens, which is custom made for Marantz by Konica/Minolta, is certainly partly responsible for its delivery of extremely sharp pictures. In fact, in the one-chip category, the VP11S1's lens exhibits fewer chromatic aberrations than anything we've seen. We were pleased to find that both the component and the HDMI inputs delivered all of the resolution from a 1080i test signal. Unfortunately, we didn't have any 1080p sources to test it with, such as a Blu-ray player, but we expect 1080p performance will be equally sharp.

Good transfers on HD-DVD, such as the aforementioned Seabiscuit, were just staggering. Conversely, poor transfers such as Backdraft reveal that the transfer process in HD-DVD is as important as it ever was with any prior video medium. HD channels such as Discovery on my cable system certainly looked solid, but not as crisp as the best HD-DVD transfers. Color saturation was also quite impressive for a one-chip design. Colors from the excellent transfer of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory appeared to be almost wet with saturation.

One area where the Marantz is relatively weak is light output. With a rated light output of only 600 to 700 ANSI lumens depending on the Iris setting, the VP11S1 delivers considerably lower light output than much of the competition in this area. Therefore, you need to be very careful what screen size and material you mate with the projector. We recommend screen sizes ranging from 72 to 84 inches wide (6 to 7 feet) for optimum results with plenty of light output.

There is no question that Marantz's VP11S1 is one of the best 1080p resolution digital projectors money can buy. Perhaps the best direct comparison would be with the aforementioned Sony VPL-VW100 "Ruby" SXRD three-panel LCoS projector. Image clarity and color accuracy are definitely better on the Marantz, and black-level performance on both is a toss-up. Price is where the Sony wins in the comparison, as the VP11S1 runs about twice the cost at $19,999. If budget is not an issue and you want the best in this rarified 1080p front projection category--and you're not looking for a really large screen--then the Marantz is the projector for you.

Before color temp (20/80) 5,775/6,300 Good
After color temp 6,725/6,500 Average
Before grayscale variation +/- 244K Good
After grayscale variation +/- 58K Good
Color of red (x/y) 0.655/0.326 Average
Color of green 0.297/0.673 Poor
Color of blue 0.145/0.055 Good
Overscan 0 percent Good
Black-level retention All patterns stable Good
2:3 pull-down, 24fps Yes Good
Defeatable edge enhancement Yes Good

What you'll pay

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