DLP projector

24 Dec 2003

Product: HP VP 6100 projector
Price: €1,856

How about a projector for Christmas? Not so long ago video projectors were big ugly brutes that demanded the strength of a weightlifter to carry and the patience of a saint to set up. Not only have these problems been tackled full on by manufacturers like Hewlett-Packard, it just so happens that they have been cracked around the same time as emergence of a burgeoning home cinema market.

These big beasts are no longer the sole preserve of PowerPoint presentations and make a thrilling companion piece to DVD players in the home. Hook them up to a player, or a TV for that matter, and suddenly you discover that size does matter. A 100in. diameter screen becomes viable in even a modest living room — albeit with a bit of re-jigging of the furniture. It becomes very hard to switch back to a conventional TV screen.

Make no mistake, projectors are staking a claim as crucial component in the home cinema set up. Naturally, as in all things electronic, there are different types of projector technology that make the buying decision a little more complicated.

The Hewlett-Packard VP 6100, for example, is a DLP (digital light processing) model as opposed to an LCD or three tube projector. This means the picture will be delivered with a better contrast range and less obvious pixellation, but the downside is a weird visual side effect, a kind of ‘rainbow flash’ that will bother some viewers more than others. It’s an inherent flaw in DLP technology but is less visible on the VP 6100 than on other models we’ve tested.

At €1,534 (excl Vat), the VP 6100 is almost an entry-level machine, but don’t let that put you off. It packs a lot for the price, though you wouldn’t think so to look at it. The most striking thing about its livery is its minimalism – this is projection without the hassle. You have the uneasy feeling you must be missing something until you start to play with it and discover just how intuitive it is to use.

Standard socketry offers the full range of connectivity options including a computer port for laptop presentations. But that’s not what we’re interested in here. For home cinema, there are composite video plugs as well as an S-video socket for souped-up picture quality. There’s also a built-in 3-watt speaker but you’d be barmy to have anything to do with it. The thing to do is route the audio through your sound system and leave the onboard speaker disconnected.

Having plugged it in and made the connection, automatic source detection make easy work of finding your picture. Step through the on screen display, from either the superslim infrared remote or via the small cluster of buttons on top of the machine, and you’ll be able to make your tweaks. These include selecting the aspect ratio (for widescreen or conventional 4:3) but it’s the keystone controls that are a real selling point. Projecting the right alignment used to be a real headache and eat up time. Now it’s a relatively painless process.

The VP 6100 produces a brightness of 1500 to 2000 lumens (a unit of measurement of light) and there’s a richness to the image that gives a real sense of cinema. Weighing in at only 3kg the projector can be ceiling mounted as a permanent fixture or taken out and only used for special occasions. That said, it’s hard to imagine that you’ll ever want to watch movies on a traditional TV screen if you have this little box of tricks in your house.

A word of warning. Once the kids have hooked up their games console to the projector you’ll be in for a never-ending battle to prevent games characters taking up permanent residence on the wall of your living room. Top tip: tell them it doesn’t work with games.

All up, the VP 6100 delivers the goods though the caveat of DLP technology – that nagging rainbow effect – may irritate you enough to persuade you that an LCD projector is the best way forward.

By Ian Campbell