Well, as great as being a first adopter can be, sometimes being a holdout can pay dividends too, which brings me to Digital Projection's M-Vision Cine 230 DLP projector. Retailing for a far more manageable $6,995, the M-Vision Cine 230 is the same projector as the Cine LED, only without the LEDs. The Cine 230 features the same chassis and matte black/faux carbon fiber finish as the Cine LED; in fact, all M-Vision series projectors are built into the same housing, which measures in at a little over 16-inches long by nearly 18-inches wide and seven inches tall. The Cine 230 tips the scales at a hefty but not unmanageable 26 pounds.
Around back, the Cine 230 has two HDMI 1.3a inputs accompanied by VGA/analog RGB (15-pin female), component video, S-Video and composite video inputs. The Cine 230 has a female USB as well as an IR emitter output (3.5mm stereo jack) and RS-232 inputs to aide in communication and control, be it via a computer or home automation system.
The Cine 230 is a single chip 1920 x 1080 HD projector utilizing Texas Instruments' latest DarkChip technology. With a reported brightness of 1,000 ANSI Lumens via its single lamp, and a realistic 3,000:1 native contrast ratio, the Cine 230 is ideal for dedicated home theaters featuring screens 120-inches diagonal (10 feet) and smaller, or for media rooms with ambient light considerations. The Cine 230's 230-Watt lamp is rated for 2,000 hours in its "normal" mode, though its life span can be extended when placed in "economy" mode.
The Cine 230 can be ordered and fitted with a few different lenses: a 1.56-1.86 lens or the more common 1.85-2.40 lens, both of which are manually adjustable via Digital Projection's Allen wrench system located under a small trap door bearing the company's name and logo. Don't mistake the 1.85-2.40 lens for an anamorphic lens, for it is not. To watch native 2:35:1 or 2:40:1 source material you'll still need to use an anamorphic lens adaptor like Digital Projection's own TheaterScope system or one from a third party such as Panamorph. Digital Projection does offer several M-Vision projectors with what they call Conversion Lenses, .8:1 and 1.25:1 versions are available. The .8 converts the standard 1.56-1.86 lens to 1.25-1.48:1, while the 1.25 converts the 1.85-2.40 lens to 2.32-3.0:1. Basically, these lenses allow for native 2:35:1 viewing without the need for an anamorphic lens adaptor, though that technology isn't offered here with the Cine 230 - a cost saving measure no doubt.
Which brings me to the Cine 230's remote. The Cine 230's remote is small, in comparison to other high-end projector remotes, features full back lighting, and is straightforward as they come. The Cine 230's remote isn't sexy but it is supremely functional with only the necessary controls present to get the maximum performance from the Cine 230 without having to thumb through menu after menu. In terms of pure functionality and ease of use I believe Digital Projection has the best remote in the business. Not that you'll be using it much, for once you've setup a Digital Projection projector about the only thing you'll ever need the remote for is for powering on the projector and powering it off when you're done, which I'm confident many will use a universal remote or home automation system for.
The Cine 230 arrived amidst a video projector orgy at Casa de Robinson, which included a two JVC-sourced D-ILA projectors as well as my own reference Anthem LTX-500 D-ILA (also a JVC to start). With three projectors installed in my house I had to summon my inner MacGyver to accommodate the Cine 230.
I ended up using a five shelf, free-standing steel shelving unit from Lowes which allowed me the ability to connect each of the four projectors to my system by placing two projectors, side by side, on each of the top two shelves. Normally, I would've mounted each projector to my ceiling using my universal projector mount from Omni Mount; however this was a rare and somewhat unique circumstance so more drastic measures had to be taken. The rig was incredibly solid and worked beautifully, for I had to employ less lens shift than was customary in my system had I ceiling mounted the Cine 230.
Once placed and centered on the shelf, I dialed in the Cine 230's alignment using the included Allen wrench, which when placed in one of the Cine 230's two adjustment holes allows for manual movement of the lens left to right and up and down. Once I had the image centered on both my SI Lunar HD .85 Grey Reference screen and Elite Osprey screen, I reattached the small plastic piece that covers the Cine 230's manual adjustment controls, thus "locking" them in place.
From there it was time to calibrate the Cine 230, which proved to be exceedingly simple thanks to Digital Projection's stellar on-screen display(s) and lack of digital or optical trickery that other manufacturers find so compelling. Using my Digital Video Essentials disc on Blu-ray I was able to dial in the Cine 230's image, which didn't take much, for its out-of-the-box performance was damn close to calibrated, at least in my viewing environment.
In total - setting up, aligning and calibrating - the Cine 230 took approximately one hour, though I'm sure few Digital Projection customers would be completing this task on their own for it's a job that would most assuredly fall on the dealer or custom installer's shoulders.
With regards to associated equipment, I connected the Cine 230 to my Sony Blu-ray player via Transparent High Performance HDMI cable. I used two screens in my evaluation of the Cine 230's performance: my .85 Lunar HD Grey Reference screen from Screen Innovations (SI Screens) and the unity gain, 16:9 screen that is a part of the Osprey Dual Tension Series Screen from Elite Screens. Both screens were 80 inches diagonal with a 16:9 aspect ratio resting approximately 11 to 11 and a half feet from the Cine 230's lens.
I began my evaluation of the Cine 230 projector with the Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz action comedy Knight and Day (20th Century Fox) on Blu-ray. Knight and Day features a warm, vibrant color pallette throughout with somewhat blown out highlights and slightly crushed blacks, though the blacks lean warm too. The Cine 230 reproduced Knight and Day's hyper-real color pallette with ease without enhancing it beyond what the colorist and director intended. Colors were rich, well saturated and above all accurate to the artists' intent. Skin tones looked incredible possessing wonderful texture and contrast without any excess grain or noise. In fact, I'm confident Cameron Diaz has never looked better, high praise for the cinematographer as well as the Cine 230. There was a natural sharpness to the image that, coupled with the vibrant colors and rich panoramic shots throughout the film made the image appear more or less like it was being displayed via a direct view HDTV than a front projector - especially when viewed using a high contrast screen. The Cine 230's reported light output of 1,000 ANSI Lumens appeared to be accurate, for regardless of which screen material I used I was always greeted with a dynamic, uniformly lit visual presentation.