LED 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?
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 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.
I’ve recently been involved in several conversations surrounding the
differences between high-end home theater projectors and commercial
grade digital cinema projectors and how the differences are becoming
increasingly subtle outside of overall resolution. To test my theory I
cued up Pearl Harbor on Blu-ray (Disney) and chaptered ahead to the
scene where President Roosevelt, played by Jon Voight, is discussing
retaliation options with his cabinet and joint chiefs. This may not seem
like a likely sequence in which to test a projector’s image quality
given the spectacular 40-minute attack sequence that precedes it, but
it’s rife with nuances that test everything from black level detail,
image detail, color saturation, contrast and edge fidelity. Plus I like
this scene because I’ve actually seen it in its raw, in-camera form, on
through to its final theatrical master.
Starting with black level detail and contrast, the scene via M-Vision
Cine LED held true to the theatrical master. Voight’s suit in the scene
is not black, but instead a very rich, dark shade of gray made of large
wool fibers in a somewhat ungainly weave that appears, at times, to
have a pinstripe like appearance. Through the M-Vision Cine LED,
Voight’s suit was rendered with all of the textures and imperfections
intact and appeared as it did in the theatrical 35mm master I saw at one
of the many post production houses charged with preparing Pearl Harbor
for its theatrical release. Even in the shadows (remember the scene is
largely edge lit) the weave, texture and even stitching were visible
from my primary viewing position. In terms of sheer detail, another
great test can be found in this scene. Across the table from Voight sits
one of his Admirals who is largely in darkness. Lesser projectors are
unable to show a clear distinction between the edge of his uniform and
the surrounding darkness, not to mention individual red threads that
make up his various military decorations worn over his left vest pocket,
two items which the M-Vision Cine LED picked up on and rendered
Skin tones and textures throughout the scene were rendered
beautifully and naturally with detail reaching the pore level on the
actor’s faces. While I’d classify the scene as warmer in nature,
favoring the yellow end of the color spectrum, the M-Vision Cine LED was
still able to strike the appropriate balance among the scene’s other,
lesser hues like subtle blues and greens, without basting them in an
overall sepia tone. White levels were also rendered with aplomb,
maintaining strict composure even when blown out without leaning too far
to either the warm or cool end of the color spectrum. There were a few
instances where the whites picked up a more cool hue, but this was
deliberate and part of the director and colorist’s intent and not the
result of the M-Vision Cine LED being cool in nature.
Switching gears, I cued up the Fifth Element on Blu-ray (Sony Pictures),
which I swore I’d never do; however it was fresh in my mind having come
from a competitor’s demo so I wanted to see how the M-Vision Cine LED
stacked up. I chaptered ahead to the scene featuring Milla Jovovich
walking along the edge of a large skyscraper marveling at all the flying
cars. We’ve all seen this particular scene hundreds if not thousands of
times, that it’s probably permanently etched in our subconscious. Well,
and I know this is going to sound cliché, but you ain’t never seen it
like this. Through the M-Vision Cine LED the detail, color, depth, edge
fidelity and motion were crazy good and made the previous demo I saw on a
far costlier projector look as if it was being shown on one of those
new pocket sized projectors. The sheer depth displayed in the image was
insane and at times had me questioning the need for 3D. Who needs
glasses and expensive ancillary equipment when you can get 3D-like depth
and dimension (no, it doesn’t pop out at you) with boring old 2D HD? I
never use or watch The Fifth Element when reviewing anything these days,
however with the M-Vision Cine LED in my system I remained seated for
the entire movie.
I ended my critical evaluation of the M-Vision Cine LED with Pandorum
starring Dennis Quaid and Ben Foster on Blu-ray (Anchor Bay). Pandorum
is a sci-fi horror thriller about a voyage into the cosmos gone horribly
awry. The film features a wide variety of color palettes ranging from
black and teal to arid yellow and brown, depending on which part of the
ship our characters find themselves. Motion plays a large role in the
film, for the antagonists are captured in a quasi stop motion-like
manner, which is visually jarring and emotionally unsettling. Starting
with the color, which regardless of hue is always overly saturated in
Pandorum, the M-Vision Cine LED didn’t disappoint and proved to be the
best showcase of its DLP/LED makeup by far. Black level, contrast and
detail were again superb. Motion, be it camera or in camera was natural
and smooth with no signs of artifacts around the edges. In camera
movements, especially those of the antagonists, were appropriately
jarring and stilted as per the director’s intent, something motion
processing and uber high refresh rates seek to eliminate.
In terms of overall performance I found the M-Vision Cine LED to be a
superb overachiever, one capable of displaying the filmmaker’s true
vision without any unnecessary enhancements or gimmicks. Standard
definition material, be it DVD or broadcast was also impressive and far
more natural and analog in nature than through LCD based projectors,
evident when watching 21, starring Kevin Spacey on DVD (Sony Pictures)
and viewing old episodes of 24 (Fox) via my AppleTV. The M-Vision Cine
LED won’t make SD look like HD but it doesn’t make it unwatchable
Lastly, I’d like to touch upon the M-Vision Cine LED’s light output,
which seems to be a bit low at 600 Lumens by today’s standards. I found
the M-Vision Cine LED’s light output to be more than adequate and at
times even a bit much in my room. Throughout my time with the M-Vision
Cine LED I got the feeling it wanted a bigger screen that the two I had
on hand. While I wouldn’t recommend using the M-Vision Cine LED with a
screen larger than say 140 inches, I wouldn’t shy away from it either,
for its 600 Lumen rating feels conservative even on my unity gain
screen. In comparison to my Anthem projector, which is rated at 900
Lumens, the M-Vision Cine LED was noticeably brighter on both my SI and
Screen Research screens from the same distance. Speaking of screens, the
M-Vision Cine LED performed beautifully on my unity gain Screen
Research screen, which is bound to please the purists out there.
However, when viewing material on my high contrast SI Screen the image
was taken to another level. Though it did crush the blacks a bit, the
added pop and perceived brightness more than made up for it. Ultimately,
I ended up calibrating the M-Vision Cine LED for both screens and
saving them as separate user presets for on-the-fly comparisons. For
myself, I preferred the M-Vision Cine LED/SI Black Diamond combo and
would welcome the chance to demo both on a much larger scale-hint-hint.
The on-screen menus are oddly laid out, making the appropriate
selections tricky at times thanks to their highlighting method. The
menus are largely a middle shade of gray with the text falling either
slightly lighter or darker than the surrounding window; however when you
highlight something it either becomes marginally lighter or darker than
what it was before, making you wonder if you’ve selected anything at
I would’ve liked to have seen some sort of motorized or automated
lens cover on the M-Vision Cine LED. Motorized lens covers are becoming
more and more common among even budget projectors and while noisy and
slow, they really do help keep your optics clean.
The M-Vision Cine LED does take a fair amount of time to warm up and
lock onto an incoming signal. In comparison to my Anthem projector the
M-Vision Cine LED took, on average, 10 seconds longer to lock onto an
incoming signal via HDMI. It’s not the end of the world, nor is it a
problem exclusive to the M-Vision Cine LED; it just takes a bit longer
than most. On the flip side, once the M-Vision Cine LED has locked onto
said signal it is far more stable, something I was able to test
thoroughly thanks to my craptastic AT&T U-Verse service.
The M-Vision Cine LED from Digital Projection is not an entry-level
projector. The M-Vision Cine LED, with its roughly $16,000 asking price,
is a decidedly high-end affair aimed at the discriminating home theater
enthusiast and/or videophile. That being said, with its longer than
thou lamp life (60,000 hours) and superior optics, it very well may be
the last projector a potential customer would buy, which if you break it
down makes it a far greater value proposition that say a mid-level
An average mid-level projector using a traditional lamp will run
approximately 2,500 hours (if you’re lucky) before needing to be
replaced. 2,500 hours at a retail price of $6,000 means you’re paying
$2.40 per hour where as the M-Vision Cine LED will run you 27 cents. Now
I know this comparison is a bit like comparing apples to oranges but
consider that a replacement lamp on said mid-level projector will set
you back $369.00. You’ll replace a traditional lamp 24 times to equal
the M-Vision Cine LED’s 60,000 hour reported lifespan; 24 times $369
equals $8,856 making the total cost of ownership for the mid-level
projector almost equal to that of the M-Vision Cine LED. At eight hours a
day times 365 days in a year you’ll be replacing the lamp on a
traditional projector every year versus every 20 or so with a M-Vision
Cine LED. Add in the fact that a mid-level projector can’t hold a candle
to the M-Vision Cine LED in terms of image quality and you begin to see
what I’m on about.
Now, I’m not trying to make a case not to buy a mid-level projector
or even a projector that you can afford right now. However, if you’re in
the market for a serious piece of videophile pornography and are
considering projectors in the $8,000 to $12,000 range, I’d urge you to
demo the M-Vision Cine LED, for it may be worth it to you to save up a
few more pennies until you can afford it. If you’re shopping for a true
cost-no-object projector, one that can reach prices in excess of $25,000
or more, I’d also urge you to check out the M-Vision Cine LED, for it
has the potential to save you money both now and in the long term, not
to mention it will probably embarrass costlier rivals in terms of sheer
If it were my money I’d be hard pressed to justify spending more or
looking beyond the M-Vision Cine LED from Digital Projection, for I
found its performance and daily livability in my system to be virtually
• 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.