InFocus ScreenPlay 7205 review

March 21, 2005

7205Just like the old Stones song says, ‘You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, well you just might find you get what you need’. What’s that have to do with a video projector review? Well I’ve been talking the talk for how many months now? About 11 or so, and I figured it was time to walk the walk and upgrade to a high definition capable projector. My ScreenPlay 4805 has served well, real well as a matter of fact; I’m honestly blown away at what a value it is, especially now that I have a reference point.

My main impetus for wanting to upgrade was my Mac mini, computer generated text was just too hard to read on the 4805, that and having Voom without a projector capable of even 720p just didn’t make sense any longer. I started my search for a new projector several months ago, in the process I considered the Sanyo Z3, and the Optoma H57 and 77 among others. But all through my search, I kept coming back to InFocus, for several reasons. InFocus just made sense to me, after all my 4805 hadn’t let me down once and I was more than pleased with its image quality. So I guess in a sense I just saw no reason to move away from the InFocus lineup.

Ok, now which InFocus? In all honesty once I read the initial specifications on the SP7210 it sounded like it was exactly what I wanted, same chipset technology as the 4805 (with higher resolution) and InFocus’s reliability. But the price… hey don’t get me wrong, I believe the 7210 Is worth every dollar of its $6499 street price, but it was just out of my budget.

What to do? Well the 7210 was actually responsible for what I wound up with in a odd way, the introduction of the 7210 meant that InFocus would have to lower the MSRP of the older 7205 accordingly, $4,999.99 to be exact (of course your street price mileage may vary) But would the older “Mustang” chipset reproduce the blacks I was accustomed to with my 4805? Let’s find out.

InFocus ScreenPlay 7205 Specifications:

• Native Wide Screen Aspect Ratio
• Native Resolution (1280×720)
• Mustang (HD2+) chipset
• 1100 ANSI lumens
• Weight 9.50lbs.
• 2000 hour lamp life (High Power) 3000 hour (Economy)
• 2200:1 Contrast Ratio
• DVI/M1 Input
• NTSC/PAL Capable
• Faroudja Deinterlacer
• 7 segment 5 speed color wheel
• 72mm filter thread insert

I won’t go into exorbitant detail about the 7205’s setup, but there are a few differences between it and the SP4805 worth mentioning. First off I had to move my mount about 5 inches forward of the previous location, no biggie, as I used 4 foot piece of uni-strut with 4 threaded inserts as a mount base, when I first installed my 4805. So repositioning was a simple matter of loosening the mount bolt, holding the entire assembly in one hand and pushing the insert a few inches forward with my other hand, and securing the bolt back into place, in its new position. All in all about a 15 minute operation, but there was another difference between the two projectors that made it somewhat more time consuming.

For my screen size the 4805 has an off-set of 10.87” whereas the 7205 has an off-set of 6.37”. So this meant that the 7205 had to be some 4 inches lower than the previous projector, again no huge deal as I use 3/8” threaded rod to suspend my projector, I ran to home depot, bought a new piece of rod and cut it to length, reinstalled and I was on my way. All in all I spent maybe $20.00 in new materials (nuts/bolts/threaded rod) not too shabby all things considered.

Initial impressions:
whoa this suckers bright. I don’t mean a little brighter, a LOT brighter, so bright in fact I had to turn down the brightness to around 43 (over the factory set 50) And it’s still bright, if a scene transitions to a image that’s composed of pure white, it actually makes your eyes squint. Some 7205 users (with smallish screens) use a neutral density filter, but I opted against this, as I felt I was able to wrangle the lumens to a tolerable level, by reducing the brightness and leaving on some ambient lighting in the room, this shouldn’t be a problem at all for users with a 92” screen or larger (the typical 7205 user in my opinion). I’m actually considering going up to a 88” screen, as I now have the lumens and resolution to warrant doing so.

Video Performance:
The majority of my source material for this review, was Voom satellite, hey I wont bore you with anymore Voom propaganda except to say if you have a HDTV, and can receive your local networks off-air, you owe it to your self to give Voom a shot, I consider it indispensable home theater programming. Anyway hey I don’t want to get off on a tangent here, but HDTV programming as a whole has gotten a lot better recently, take for example TNT-HD.

TNT Appears to be concerned with improving their HDTV offerings, whereas a month ago it was 480i up-converts of tired old sitcoms and second rate movies, tonight I watched a rather good looking HD transfer of Gladiator, which I can easily say looked better than the theater I originally saw it in. Aside from the TNT-HD logo and the commercials, it was really enjoyable, kudos to TNT-HD for the recent HD programming improvements.

Along those same lines of improvement, Cinemax HD’s recent airing of the Matrix: Reloaded, almost made the mind numbingly boring movie watchable. The detail was fantastic and total immersion was only broken by some pixilation likely induced by high winds and a little noise in the darker parts of the picture.

I also caught a little of ABC’s broadcast of ‘Minority Report’ in hi-def, this was the first time I can remember watching a film within a few months of a recent viewing and enjoying it so much. The combination of the excellent off-air broadcast and the 7205’s detail were really impressive.

Back to a little more Voom programming, I caught some footage of the Montreax Jazz Festival with Lisa Stansfield, which looked great on Rave HD. There was a clarity I hadn’t noticed as much with the 4805, it was as if the areas between objects were simply void of any information, i.e. Lisa standing at a slight angle in front of the drum kit appeared as just that, a person standing in front of something with no haze or artifacts between the two objects, that and the 7205’s punchy contrast level made for a near 3-D presentation of video.

Ok the SP7205 had more than proved itself with HDTV content, so I wanted to give a few DVD’s a shot. This is one area that made me slightly nervous about shelling out the thousands of dollars it would cost to upgrade from my 4805. My concern was, obviously I’d see an improvement with hi-def as the 4805 isn’t even capable of horizontal scan resolutions higher than 480 lines, but alternatively would the 7205 do anything for DVD playback?

My fears were unfounded as even with DVD playback the 7205 showed itself to be a real performer, we watched a few episodes of ‘The Shield’ Season 3 and they looked great (as great as that grainy video can look) Additionally we watched a few minutes of the Fifth Element, again the higher lumens output and contrast ratio were a welcome addition, great looking DVD playback as well.

The 7205 has more than satisfied my requirements in a projector upgrade, sure I would have preferred a 7210, (the ‘can’t always get what you want reference’). But I feel like I’ve done my homework and held out long enough that upgrading from the 4805 was warranted, given the recent 7205 price reductions. Is the 7205 perfect? Not really, the light spill while much less noticeable than the SP4805 is still present and it seems to be a tad louder than the 4805 (this might not be case in all systems, as in mine the 7205 is closer to my ear, where the 4805 was farther away). Aside from the ever so slightly higher noise level, I couldn’t be happier.

I’d like to make a quick comparison between the last three projectors I’ve had in my viewing room, first the SP4805, solid value and hard to beat for the price, secondly the Marantz VP-12S4, knockout performance in a single DMD DLP projector, the 12S4 offers a lot of performance and features and it should at the 10k+ price. Where does the SP7205 fall into this equation? Oddly enough I’d say right in the middle of the 4805 and VP-12S4, given the fact its retail is significantly less then half of the Marantz, and offers the same horizontal and vertical resolution, and similar light output levels, I’d say that the InFocus ScreenPlay 7205 is an obvious value.

Posted by Bryan Greenway | | Filed Under Projector Reviews, Reviews