The big-screen home-theater experience becomes truly cinematic with front-projection systems. They can deliver some of the impact of the movie theater by throwing an image onto screens 100 inches wide or larger. Boxlight's Matinee 1HD, marketed under the Studio Experience brand, is one of a new crop of front projectors capable of delivering that big picture for a price ($2,399 list) comparable to that of many rear-projection sets. But how good is that big picture, and what do you need to know to maximize its potential?
Editor's note: We have changed the rating in this review to reflect recent changes in our rating scale. Click here to find out more. The 1HD is nothing to write home about in the looks department. This compact black box has a flip-down door in the front that exposes the lens. Some of the most commonly used functions are also located on the top of the projector. The remote is small but well laid out and, to our great surprise and pleasure, almost fully backlit for ease of use in a darkened home theater.
At roughly 4.3 by 13 by 9.7 inches (height, width, and depth), the 1HD could easily be concealed in a hush box, making it invisible on the ceiling. This model weighs a mere 7.5 pounds, so taking it on the road is another option. Most front projectors have little if any convenience features such as picture-in-picture or a TV tuner, and the 1HD is no exception. However, it does have a number of setup- and picture-enhancing features worth mentioning. We were pleased to find that it offers both horizontal and vertical physical lens shift, which is something we have seen in only pricey DLP projectors up until now. This adds a huge amount of flexibility in the physical placement of the unit. Of course, there is also the obligatory digital Keystone correction, but we recommend that you make sure the projector is level relative to the screen; that way, you don't have to use this feature, as it degrades picture quality.
Four selectable color temperatures are available: Xlow, Low, Mid, and High, which range from a reddish, more accurate color temperature to a bluer, cooler look. There are also three aspect-ratio choices: Normal for 4:3 material, Zoom for wide-screen nonanamorphic sources, and Full for anamorphic DVD and HDTV signals. You can optimize all the sources coming into the 1HD with its six separate memory slots.
The unit is also PAL and SECAM compatible for use in Europe. More importantly, the 1HD is HDTV compatible. It will receive and display 1080i and 720p HDTV signals, but of course it scales them down to its native resolution of 964x544. Its wide-screen aspect-ratio chip is ideal for use with 16:9 screens.
Connectivity is somewhat limited with only one set of component-video inputs, which means you can't run progressive-scan DVD and HDTV sources into the 1HD separately. Other jacks include one S-Video input, one composite-video input, a 15-pin VGA input for computer hookup, and a service port. The main strength of the 1HD is its bright, colorful image. The primary colors of red and green looked exceptionally good for an LCD projector, and the color decoder was excellent, with no red push whatsoever. This means you will get excellent color saturation, especially with component-video sources such as DVD and HDTV.
We checked the Xlow Color temperature setting to see out-of-the-box grayscale performance and measured 7,300 Kelvin near the bottom of the grayscale and 8,300 near the top. After tweaking the grayscale with the projector's limited controls, we were able to get much closer to the standard of D6500; we measured 6,400 at the bottom of the grayscale and 7,400 at the top.
Video processing is where the 1HD falls down. Looking at all the jagged edges and moving lines during the opening sequence of Star Trek: Insurrection, we realized that the 1HD lacks the all-important 3:2 pull-down detection in video processing. A progressive-scan DVD player is a must have for this projector.
Black level, probably LCD's biggest drawback, is not great on the 1HD, but it's not as bad as that of some LCD projectors we've seen. After calibration, we sat back and watched some scenes from Training Day and Charlotte Gray on DVD. Color saturation was really good on chapter 31 of Charlotte Gray. Chapter 4 of Training Day looked OK, but since it is a 2.35:1 aspect-ratio film, you can clearly see that the black bars on the top and bottom of the image are dark gray instead of really black. HDTV from our Dish Network HD feed looked good, especially with bright scenes on the demo channel.