Planar PD7150 DLP Projector

Sections: Home Theater, Video

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When it comes to home theater gear, Planar is a name you may not recognize. However, with the PD7150 projector, and other products such as their Xscreen display, Planar has decided to throw their experience into the competitive home theater market. If the PD7150 is any indication of what we can expect from Planar’s home theater line, we have a lot to look forward to.

The PD7150 is a 720p DLP projector featuring Texas Instruments’ DarkChip3 technology. At first glance, the machine has a high-end look, feel, and build quality. This seventeen-pound monster measures roughly seventeen inches square and is more than six inches high. In an age where every type of A/V component seems to be shrinking, the PD7150 is relatively huge.

Thanks to its vertical and horizontal lens shift controls, the PD7150 is a snap to set up. The lens motion is a little jerky, but once you get it dialed in, it’s unlikely you’ll have to touch it again any time soon. One of the most interesting and attractive features of this projector is its rear compartment for hiding your wires. On most projectors the inputs are flush with the rear panel. The PD7150 incorporates a nifty door that folds down to unveil a large cubbyhole and the jacks are recessed several inches within. For ceiling installations—the most likely scenario for this class of projector—this allows you to drop your power and video cables directly into the cubbyhole leaving the visible rear of the projector wire-free and uncluttered. Very slick.

On the subject of jacks, the PD7150 is well-equipped with composite, S-video, component, RGB and DVI inputs. On a projector, I prefer the sturdy thumbscrew connection of DVI to the loose and strain-prone fit of HDMI. However, with everything going HDMI these days, some may consider its absence here a shortcoming. It should be noted that the unit is HDCP-compatible, so you shouldn’t have any problems connecting HDMI source devices such as an HD DVD or Blu-ray Disc player. For my tests, I connected the PD7150 to my Playstation 3 using a Monster HDMI-DVI cable and there were no issues with the “digital handshake.”

Out of the box, the PD7150 performs exceptionally well. Using the default settings, which included a “Color Temp” setting of 6500K, grayscale tracking stays extremely tame across the board. Running through some test patterns, I made some minor changes to brightness and contrast, but overall there wasn’t need for much tweaking. While we’re discussing settings, I found it refreshing to see that primary “cuts” and “gains” could be adjusted by the consumer allowing for greater white balance; typically these settings are available to service techs only—if at all.

Moving on to some real content, I first looked at some 480i standard DVD material from my Panasonic RP91. Disney’s The Guardian has an attractive palette with some challenging scenes here and there. Overall, the image appeared smooth and film-like with plenty of punch in those Coast Guard oranges. Next, I broke out one of my favorite new reference discs: Buena Vista’s Blu-ray edition of The Prestige. On the PD7150, one word can summarize the experience: WOW! Deep, CRT-like blacks, impressive contrast and a gorgeous array of Victorian-era colors filled the screen. Sharpness and detail was also excellent, making it hard to believe this is only a 720p machine.

There’s no question the PD7150 is a formidable first effort from Planar’s home theater division. The question is: is it worth the somewhat hefty $5,999 asking price? A year ago, I would have said absolutely. However, even with its deep blacks and beautiful colors, the PD7150 is still a 720p machine that’s incapable of processing a 1080p/60Hz signal. (It does accept 1080i and 1080p/24Hz).

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