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Still commonly regarded as a luxury for the cinema, pub or arty student flat, projectors have nonetheless been quietly improving and dropping dramatically in price while the world fixates on flatscreen. Thanks mainly to Texas Instruments' pioneering DLP chipset, which is making LCD projectors more or less redundant, the cost of good-quality projectors has fallen as low as £1,000 -- quite amazing considering the technology inside them and the cinematic benefits they give to movie viewing.
InFocus has also been chipping away at this market for a couple of years, and under its ScreenPlay brand it has brought this superb 5700 down to around £2,000. The 5700 boasts a fantastic picture quality, which simply can't be beaten at this price, in addition to a quiet fan and all the connectivity you need. However, the importance of high definition is very, well, high at the moment, and although the projector will scale down hi-def and accept HDCP signals (thus ensuring Sky HD compatibility), the resolution is not high enough to offer all the benefits. Anyone interested in a projector for movies will not find a better deal for under £2,000, but those with their eyes on the future might want to hold on just a little bit longer.
The 5700 mixes both old and new to form a very stylish piece of equipment. The chassis is based on the standard projector template, but the fan grilles are well placed so that the maximum amount of air flow is possible. This is very important, because the machine can keep under 30dB of fan noise. It is whisper quiet and unnoticeable over the average cinema soundtrack. The nicest touch is the handle that has been formed across the front of the projector -- if you don't have a case, you can just cover the lens up and carry it directly over to another room or house. The top of the case also includes the same set of buttons as the remote, which is useful in case you lose the miniature zapper.
Considering that this is a projector and of quite small proportions, the variety and number of AV connections is very good. First off, there are two sets of component inputs, which are both progressive-scan compatible, meaning you can connect a DVD player and a games console to the projector and enjoy a very vivid and smooth picture. The same can be said for the DVI input, which you may want to take advantage of with a PC and make a presentation or photographic slideshow. The advantage of using this connection for video, though, is you're keeping the video signal in the digital domain.
Just like an LCD or plasma TV, a projector is a digital display, so you'll get next to no artefacting if you invest in one of the new DVD players from Denon or Samsung. Of course, if your PC is a little more antiquated you can also use the VGA input. An RGB Scart adaptor will allow you to use the most common equipment with the projector, while an RS-232 input means you can be a little bit more adventurous and wire the projector up to a home-control system. You can also connect up older devices with the composite input and two S-video sockets. While another Scart input would be on our wish list, projectors with more than one are extremely rare, and all in all we can be pleased with the luxuries that have been offered, namely the extra set of component inputs.
The remote is incredibly small and offers very few buttons, which is good because everything is navigated through the on-screen menus. It's also backlit, but the button to activate this is tucked around the side, and we have to say that we didn't even notice it during reviewing. Serves us right for not reading the manual.
The 5700 uses a native 16:9 DLP chipset, codenamed Matterhorn. It earns InFocus some brownie points thanks to the fact that it's tailored to the European market. The resolution of the chip perfectly matches that of PAL material (such as Freeview broadcasts and Region 2 DVD movies), so the projector is not having to scale the image up or down. This is probably one of the reasons that the projector looks so good across all sources, although by the same token it also limits it from producing a high-definition picture.
The lamp life is also ample. It will last for around 3,000 hours at low brightness or 2,000 hours at full brightness. On the full brightness setting the cooling system has to work a bit harder and the noise is more noticeable, so unless you're in a light-filled room you should keep it on the lower setting. Replacement bulbs cost around £350, which is expensive when you consider that average television viewing is approximately 1,000 hours per year, but if you're using this as a dedicated home-cinema projector, you should be able to get a good few years' use from it.
Likewise, the throw distance is ample for a projector at this price, with a 1.38x manual zoom/focus lens producing a 100-inch diagonal image from between 5 and 6m away. The average user will probably need to have the projector around 3m away to reach an image size that will really make an impression. There is some slight light spillage from the lens itself, which you can notice if you're using the projector in optimum conditions. However, there's very little of the rainbow effect to be seen (where you can see the colour spectrum if you move your eyes across the image, although some people are more susceptible to this than others).
The visual preset modes allow you to tailor the picture to adapt to movies and other sources, but we found the best settings were out of the box -- one of the only occasions where the Digital Video Essentials test disc resulted in only minor tweaks. If you're using the projector to display all your video sources then its ability to automatically jump through its inputs and find a signal is a real help.
The 5700 produces an absolutely stunning image, to a level that seriously defies expectations. What really impresses is the level of detail and colour that's on offer, even from Freeview. The internal Faroudja DCDi processing does a great job with interlaced sources, producing smooth motion and very little artefacting. And the colour is absolutely out of this world -- reds are unbelievably vivid, while skin tones remain beautifully natural. The result is a picture that's almost good enough to touch, and one that could easily compete with units of over £1,000 more.
The quoted contrast of 1,400:1 isn't particularly impressive, but it's adequate enough to cope with being used on a white or grey wall. Shadow detail can be made out in most instances and the blacks don't look especially greyed out. If you're prepared to budget in about £1,000 for a decent screen (from Stewart or Projecta), you'll really be in home-cinema heaven. The brightness, on the other hand, is superb and you definitely don't need to be in a completely darkened room to use it. Thankfully, this means you can take the projector round to someone else's house without worrying about using it in their living room.
Edited by Mary Lojkine