Digital Projection M-Vision Cine LED Series Projector Reviewed

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DigitalProjection.MVision-LED-Review.gifLED lighting in HD displays is all the rage these days for its impressive and efficient light output, not to mention its long term energy savings at the meter. I suppose it was only a matter of time before LED lighting found its way into the front projection market. But would it be as successful as its ultra-bright LED flat panel counterparts?

Additional Resources
Learn more about Digital Projection front video projectors.
Read this review of the Runco QuantumColor Q-750i LED Projector.
Read the Andrew Robinson review of the SIM2 MICO 50 LED front video projector.
Check out this resource page for the best video screens for LED front video projectors from the likes of Stewart Filmscreen, dnp, SI screens and many others.

In flat panel HD displays, LED lights are used in one of two ways: edge lit and local dimming. Edge lighting is commonly found in less expensive LED flat panel displays whereby the back lighting comes by way of LED lights arranged along the left and right edges of the display, firing inward. Local dimming on the other hand uses an entire matrix of LED lights across the entire width and height of the panel to achieve more uniform backlighting as well as being able to turn off certain LED's for better black levels and contrast. Obviously, front projectors can't really employ either of these two methods of LED lighting. Instead they have to opt for a single light source or lamp, or in the case of the M-Vision Cine LED (reviewed here), three LED diodes (red, green and blue) acting as a single light source. In the case of the M-Vision Cine LED, its three diode LED lamp churns out 600 Lumens, which is a very un-LED like brightness rating, considering just how bright and punchy LED HDTVs can be - but more on that later.

The M-Vision Cine LED is Digital Projection's first foray into using an LED light source in a front projection configuration. Better known for their commercial grade projectors, Digital Projection has come on strong as of late in the high-end home theater market, giving companies like Runco, JVC and even Sim2 (who also has an LED based projector) a run for their money. Digital Projection is best known for their outrageous Titan projector, but with the introduction of their M-Vision Cine LED projector, Digital Projection is out to prove that you can get all the performance their company is known for at a far more advantageous price. How advantageous? The M-Vision Cine LED retails for $15,995 with its standard zoom lens and $16,995 with one of Digital Projection's specialty, albeit fixed lenses. The fixed lens option uses slightly better optics than those found in the two zoom lens choices, hence the slightly higher price.

The M-Vision Cine LED is on the larger side when it comes to front projectors, like if you're currently using a sub-$5,000 Mitsubishi or Sony SXRD projector. However, among its true peers the M-Vision Cine LED isn't so unruly in terms of size. It measures in at eight inches high by 17 and a half inches wide and deep and tips the scales at a hefty 33 pounds. The M-Vision Cine LED's chassis is somewhat plain, featuring a semi-gloss, matte black finish with the slightest hint of a carbon fiber-like pattern across the top of the projector itself. In terms of overall style the M-Vision Cine LED isn't going to win any beauty contests, but as a good friend of mine once said, "You don't look at the mantle when you're poking the fire," and the M-Vision Cine LED is all about the fire, or in this case its LED lighting system.

In terms of connection options the M-Vision Cine LED has all of the usual suspects: two HDMI (1.3), component video, S-Video, Composite Video, VGA and a USB input to connect a computer mouse and to also facilitate firmware updates. The M-Vision Cine LED also has several 12-volt triggers as well as RS-232 support.

The M-Vision Cine LED has a native resolution of 1920 by 1080 and utilizes Texas Instrument's latest DLP DarkChip technology. However, unlike traditional DLP designs, the M-Vision Cine LED doesn't require the use of a color wheel, since the red, green and blue diodes can switch on and off faster than any color wheel/lamp combo, thus eliminating the dreaded DLP rainbow effect. Also, because of the LED's ability to rapidly shift from full on to off, the M-Vision Cine LED does not need to employ a dynamic iris. The M-Vision Cine LED has a reported contrast ratio of 10,000:1 with a modest 600 Lumen brightness rating. The M-Vision Cine LED's diodes are rated at 60,000 hours of lamp life, which equates to roughly 20 years of enjoyment at eight hours a day, a feat no traditional front projector can claim. The M-Vision Cine LED can be ordered or configured with a variety of lens options, the most popular being its two zoom lenses, though a fixed lens can also be had as well as a conversion lens (anamorphic without the sled). In its two zoom lens configuration, the M-Vision Cine LED can produce an image ranging in size from 40 inches to 224 inches with a throw distance ranging from 98 to 350 inches. The M-Vision Cine LED features both horizontal and vertical lens shift, which is handled manually via an included Allen wrench, but I'll talk about that later.

Which brings me to the remote. The M-Vision Cine LED's remote is great - fully backlit, intelligently laid out and easy to use and navigate. Once you've calibrated and adjusted the M-Vision Cine LED to your liking, you'll never use the remote for anything other than its power on and off functions. I love that.

The Hookup
The M-Vision Cine LED arrived shortly before I was to take off for another projector manufacturer's press event, showcasing their involvement with a famous Hollywood filmmaker as well as the unveiling of their own LED based projector. Not wanting to waste any time, I unpacked the M-Vision Cine LED and placed it atop a large bookcase in the back of my main theater. Normally, I mount all the projectors I get in for review to my ceiling; however since I was only going have a short time with the M-Vision Cine LED I didn't want to have to go through the hassle of having to remove it a few weeks later. By installing the M-Vision Cine LED atop my bookcase I was able to directly compare its LED system against my reference projector, the Anthem LTX 500 LCOS (D-ILA), which uses a traditional lamp for its illumination but also retails for about half as much as the M-Vision Cine LED.

Installing the M-Vision Cine LED atop my bookcase was easy enough, though if you prefer to ceiling mount your projectors I'd recommend employing the help of a friend or better still your dealer when installing the M-Vision Cine LED. Once placed, I connected the M-Vision Cine LED to my Integra DTC 9.8 processor via a HDMI cable from Transparent Cable. I connected the M-Vision Cine LED to the Integra's second HDMI monitor out, which would allow me to toggle between the M-Vision Cine LED and my Anthem projector with ease.

I currently have two screens in my reference theater; one being an 80-inch SI Black Diamond high contrast screen and the second being a 92-inch Screen Research drop down, which is made from a unity gain material. Because of how I had to install the M-Vision Cine LED I was unable to zoom the image far enough in to properly fill my 80-inch SI Screen so I used my larger Screen Research screen for the bulk of the review, switching between the two screens for focused tests and spot checking.

Once I had the M-Vision Cine LED placed and aligned to work on both screens it was time for calibration. The M-Vision Cine LED's zoom, offset and focus controls are all manual, as they should be. Image offset both horizontally and vertically is done via an included Allen wrench which is "plugged" into one of two small holes atop the projector's case but behind a small trap door that otherwise brandishes Digital Projection's logo. I got the image pretty much centered without having to use too much image offset, which as many of you are aware introduces keystoning. The M-Vision Cine LED offers no keystone correction of any kind for it would degrade the image quality and that's just not something Digital Projection is willing to do. A few twists of the Allen wrench here and there and I had a perfectly aligned image without any visible keystoning effects present. Next, I zoomed the image in and out until I had the edges butting right up to black fabric and velvet surrounds of both screens. From there I was able to access one of the M-Vision Cine LED's included test patters to dial in the focus. This entire process from un-boxing the M-Vision Cine LED to getting the image sized and focused appropriately took roughly 10 minutes.

Next, I fired up my Digital Video Essentials calibration disc on Blu-ray and began cycling through the various test patterns and pull-down tests as I dialed in the M-Vision Cine LED's black and white levels as well as color. I must say, out of the box, the M-Vision Cine LED is quite impressive and required only minor adjustments in my system before I was ready to begin my evaluation.

I would also like to point out that the M-Vision Cine LED has no "Dynamic" or "Movie" settings of any kind, which I appreciate for it lets me know that Digital Projection isn't using any digital trickery to "enhance" their image quality; instead their image simply is quality. You can create your own presets or modes and save them to the M-Vision Cine LED's memory but your starting point is always going to be the same.

Furthermore, features such as dynamic contrast and enhanced blacks are also largely absent, though the M-Vision Cine LED does offer two settings that mimic a dynamic contrast mode as well as enhanced black levels, though they're nowhere near as invasive as what you'll find in lesser, traditional HD projectors. Truthfully, they're somewhat difficult to find in the M-Vision Cine LED's menus, so I get the feeling Digital Projection would rather you not use them at all. I didn't, and neither should you. Also, the M-Vision Cine LED features no auto motion or 120Hz video processing that's become all the rage these days among HDTVs and even budget projectors, thank you Jesus.
Click to Page 2 for The High Points, The Low Points and The Conclusion.

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