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While most brands are tending to pull out of the intensely competitive UK projection market, US outfit Planar has decided to leap in -- albeit only really through the custom installation side of the market.
Whether this move turns out to be brave or foolhardy is likely to depend on the quality of its initial product wave -- a wave which kicks off with the PD7060: a £1,750 DLP projector boasting a promising specification for its money.
We've found in the past that US brands don't always 'get' the UK's aesthetic tastes. But Planar has hit the nail right on the head with the PD7060's delightful combination of a glossy black exterior with silver trim and a tastefully rounded shape.
It also delivers plenty on the connections side, with a healthy two digital inputs -- one straight HDMI and one universal M1-DA affair, a 12V trigger output for automatically kickstarting a motorised screen, plus a 3.5mm remote control jack, USB input and RS 232 port. These latter 'system integration' ports are crucial to the PD7060's custom installation credentials.
Surprisingly for a DLP projector costing just £1,750, the PD7060's heart contains Texas Instruments' DarkChip3 (DC3) DLP chipset -- something you'd usually expect to have to pay north of £2,000 to get. This chipset should deliver greater contrast and improved motion handling versus the DarkChip2 system usually found at the PD7060's price level.
Actually, the PD7060 delivers on far more of DC3's promise than we'd have dreamed possible for £1,750 -- especially given the projector's 'UK debut' status.
Especially outstanding compared with most projectors at the PD7060's kind of price level is the remarkable sharpness of its pictures. Even though the projector only uses a tweaked version of Texas Instruments' own DDP3020 image processing engine, Planar has somehow got its 1280x720-pixel resolution producing levels of detail and clarity that wouldn't look out of place on a high quality 'Full HD' projector.
The DC3 effect is evident, too, in the PD7060's seriously impressive black level response, which finds dark scenes looking heart-warmingly natural and immersive compared with the efforts of many budget projectors -- especially those using LCD technology.
What's more, the PD7060 produces its profound black levels without resorting to the forced look that causes dark areas to look hollow on lesser projectors.
The image is unusually bright for £1,750 too, which helps colours look vibrant and well saturated, while typical DLP issues like dot noise in dark scenes and fizzing noise over motion are remarkably well suppressed.
While the PD7060 eats HD for breakfast, the extreme sharpness of its pictures can be rather unforgiving of poor quality sources. We guess you could argue that's more the fault of the sources than the projector.
Otherwise, the only area where we might fault the PD7060's pictures is on its rainbow effect, as it's possible to see flashes of pure red, green and blue colour strips in your peripheral vision. To be fair though, this is only occasionally a problem and even then it's a problem which many people actually don't seem susceptible to seeing.
Our last concern with the PD7060 is that it runs rather noisily, meaning you may have to put it in some kind of housing unit if you end up having to place it near your seating position.
While we had no reason to doubt that Planar knew its projection onions, frankly nothing could have prepared us for what a great job the PD7060 does of unleashing the full potential of HD material. So if you're looking for a flexible, great performing but also stunningly affordable big-screen centrepiece for a proper home cinema set up, at just £1,750, your buck can stop right here.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Jon Squire