Crystal View CV-HD720P DLP Projector Reviewed

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For decades, buying and owning a video projector was a lot like owning an exotic car. Like a Ferrari, they can be pricey, temperamental, but resolutely high-performance. The advent of inexpensive digital projectors based on Texas Instruments' Digital Light Processing chip radically changed the landscape, making buying a projector a lot more like buying a PC. Where once a handful of companies offered projectors, now there are dozens, some with seemingly very little difference between models.

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Buying the chip at the heart of today's best DLP projectors, the "Mustang" HD-2, is kind of like buying a Pentium 4 what you surround it with will probably determine how happy you are with the device. Go cheap and, well, you get what you pay for. Because building a good projector is more difficult than building a good PC, the margin of difference, in terms of performance and how easy it is to use, is a lot bigger.

That's why the first digital projector from Crystal View immediately got our interest. Unlike some of the mass market PC companies selling data-grade projectors kludged into a home theater product, these guys are old-time cathode ray tube projector guys -- a specialty that is every bit as much art as it is science. The first big tip-off that this is not a refugee from WalMart is the fact that it has a real outboard video processor: the CV-NNR1. It converts your video, be it from DVD, cable satellite or wherever, to perfectly match the projector, instead of an inexpensive circuit board inside the projector.

Unique Features - One glance shows you the most obvious difference between the CV-HD720P and most other DLP projectors: it's sexy. While the gorgeous Ferrari red unit pictured here is distinctive, our test unit was a sleek black--a better fit with my Imaging Science Foundation training anyway. Darker exteriors are always better for video performance in terms of gear that appears in your theater. While most units will probably end up black, Crystal View will make one in virtually any color you want. Just send them a color swatch and they'll match it.

But like the beauty queen with an Oxford degree, there's a lot more than just cosmetics going on with this impressive enclosure. Unlike some projectors, this one is quiet and doesn't leak light all over your room. At a claimed 28dB (I never could get it that loud in my theater, maxing at a near silent 27dB), it's the quietest DLP projector I've ever tested--impressive considering how many moving parts DLP projectors have. Think whirring color wheels, fans and the like.

One other geek note: the color wheel (a spinning disc used by a DLP chip to create color) has been specially modified to address a chronic problem with such displays: difficulty in reproducing deep, rich reds. Because of the changes, the CV-HD720P is actually able to meet broadcast studio standards for color reproduction. That means, if properly calibrated, this projector can reproduce colors exactly the way the director intended.

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