Piano Avanti HE-3200 DLP Projector Reviewed

Published On: April 18, 2003
Last Updated on: October 31, 2020
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Piano Avanti HE-3200 DLP Projector Reviewed

The Avanti HD-3200 is one of the first high-quality, budget, portable projectors. It only weighs 4.4 pounds but its got a zoom lens, lots of placement options, and a bright picture. We're smitten already.

Piano Avanti HE-3200 DLP Projector Reviewed

By Author: Home Theater Review
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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.

Additional Resources
• Read more video projector reviews from HomeTheaterReview.com.
• Explore projector screen options in our Projector Screen Review section.

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.

Read much more on Page 2

PlusPiano-Avanti-HE3200-DLP-Review.gifInstallation/Setup/Ease of Use
Upon first seeing the Piano, you can't help but think of words like "tiny," "sleek," and "cute." The Piano weighs only 4.4 pounds and practically fits in the palm of your hand. My review unit had an attractive silver finish, but the Piano is also available in black, white, yellow and red. Its size and design make you wonder if this projector can really deliver or if it's simply a dressed-up toy. After spending a week with the Piano, trust me, this is no toy.

The Piano can be placed on a table or mounted from the ceiling, either in front of or behind a screen. The Piano's remote is small but effective, allowing you to change the source, aspect ratio, and display for each installation type. Since the projector's infrared eye is on the back of the unit, a ceiling-mount behind you could pose some logistical problems. Fan noise is negligible; the Piano runs very quiet. As with any digital projector, the Piano requires the periodic changing of its bulb. Piano bulbs last for 1,000 hours and cost $259. Most projector bulbs tend to last closer to 2,000 hours, but they also tend to cost around $400.

The Piano sports inputs for DVI-D, RGB, and S-Video, as well as component video. The "Y" jack on the component connection can be used for composite video if necessary, but that is by far the least desirable option.

Color setup and picture adjustment were a tad confusing and the user manual leaves quite a bit to be desired. However, it wasn't long before I had what I thought was a beautiful image on screen. Like the zoom adjustment, these are, for the most part, "set it and forget it." Each input on the Piano retains its own color settings, which is a huge plus.

Thanks to its dual-mode DLP chip, the Piano is able to handle 4:3 signals, such as satellite television, extremely well. Watching an episode of Ed at 80" wide, I was amazed at the picture integrity. I quickly became engrossed in the show and just enjoyed my time in Stuckeyville.

After connecting the Piano to my JVC progressive-scan DVD changer, I immediately popped in Blade II. A common complaint about DLP projectors, especially when compared to CRT, is their inability to render a deep black. I firmly believe that black level is the single most important issue when it comes to creating a good picture. The Piano's black levels are nothing short of extraordinary, especially considering the price. The dark and dingy streets of Blade's nameless city exhibited wonderful depth and contrast.

Next up came ole faithful: the Superbit edition of The Fifth Element. With the Piano, The Fifth Element leaped off the screen. Colors were bright and beautiful. The bustling cityscape in chapter 8 generated a diverse and wonderful color palette. My only complaint in the color department was a distinct orange bias in the red channel, which is not uncommon with digital projectors. Leeloo's hair in The Fifth Element is a poor test, since it's orange to begin with, but the American flag in Armageddon made this problem more apparent. All things considered, a redder red would be nice, but I wouldn't let it stop me from buying the Piano on account of its numerous other strengths.

Due to its lower light output, the Piano does not do well when pushed to project an image wider than 80". The screen I used during my evaluation of the Piano was a 16:9 Stewart Firehawk (see sidebar) measuring 80" wide. There was a slight degradation in picture quality, and colors lost a bit of their pop when I moved from a 70" to an 80" wide image. As I grew the image beyond 80", picture quality began to fall off sharply. If I were purchasing a Piano for my own home theater, I would pair it with a 72" wide high-contrast screen and sit 10-12' away from the screen.

Final Take
For anyone looking to enter the world of front projection, the Piano is a great place to start. Extra points must be rewarded given its ability to render an extremely convincing black, its support for HDTV and progressive DVD, and its sleek and low profile design.
The icing on the cake? It's an absolute steal at $3,299, compared to other projectors of this caliber.

The Piano falls shy of a perfect score due to its inaccurate rendering of the color red and its inherent screen size limitations. The Piano was designed to project a big image, not a giant one It was designed for use in a mostly dark room. If you can stay within these reasonable constraints, the Piano will make you very happy and I give it my wholehearted recommendation.

Suggested Retail Price


Additional Resources

• Read more video projector reviews from HomeTheaterReview.com.
• Explore projector screen options in our Projector Screen Review section.

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