Piano Avanti HE-3200 DLP Projector Reviewed

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From Mini-Me to the Junior Mint to Travel Scrabble, it's often true that good things come in small packages. In keeping with this adage, PLUS Home Theater has released their newest small wonder: the Piano Avanti HE-3200 digital projector.

For some time now, projectors have had the stereotype of being ultra high-end components; out of reach for the average movie lover. The Piano is poised to challenge that stereotype, offering high-end picture quality at a very reasonable $3,299. For the same price as a bulky rear projection television, the Piano can deliver a better picture up to 20% larger in size. As a matter of fact, after seeing a Piano in action, it's hard to imagine how big-box television makers are still in business at all.

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Unique Features
The Piano is powered by Texas Instruments' Digital Light Processing (DLP) technology. DLP projectors are traditionally capable of very high light output and vivid colors, but relatively disappointing black levels (when corn- pared to CRT projectors). While these characteristics are true of most DLP projectors, the Piano is a bit of an anomaly.

Light output from most DLP projectors is typically around 1000 ANSI lumens. The Piano's output is 450 lumens. This specification suggests that the Piano is not bright enough. However, when you consider the facts that most CRT projectors only output around 230 lumens, and they are the benchmark for front projection quality, it puts things in perspective. The Piano is more than bright enough, but to obtain the best possible picture it requires the room be mostly dark.

The Piano features a remarkable "dual mode" DLP chip allowing optimal resolution in both 4:3 and 16:9 formats. This chip provides for a DVD/HDTV resolution of 848 x 480. Because DVD outputs 480 horizontal lines, widescreen DVDs can be displayed by the Piano with no scaling required. This unique configuration results in an exceptionally sharp and steady picture. If you're in the market for a new "big screen," then you've probably got at least a partial interest in watching HDTV. You'll be happy to learn that the Piano has full support for high-definition inputs, including 480i (interlaced DVD), 480p (progressive DVD), 720p and 1080i (HDTV).

The Piano offers a 1.2x adjustable zoom lens. This means that you can manually adjust the picture size +/- 20% using a small wheel near the projector's lens. Unfortunately, the zoom wheel sits flush up against the focus control, which makes both adjustments rather difficult to make. Thankfully, once you get your settings dialed in, you should rarely (if ever) have to change them again.

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