Nothing screams home theater more than a big screen. The bigger the screen the better right? In your home, you are only limited by the size of your room. Once you surpass a 70-inch diagonal screen, then you’ve graduated from a one box TV solution, into the realm of front projection. A projection system basically beams light from a projector onto a screen — creating images. It’s the same concept used in movie theaters to get the biggest picture possible. Why not emulate as much as movie theater experience in your home theater?
Front Projection Overview
Today’s front projectors are more affordable and versatile than ever. If you have done any shopping lately for projectors you will undoubtedly notice many confusing terms like DLP, LCD, ANSI Lumens, Contrast Ratio, etc. But it all boils down to displaying the best picture, so keep that in mind before you buy a projector based on specs alone. There are two main types of low cost projectors — DLP and LCD. Each type is inherent with strengths and weakness. Neither is 100% perfect but both can come very close.
How Big Do You Want It?
There are many projectors under $3,000. Most are lightweight, portable, and easy to setup. One very worthy contender is the Studio Experience Matinee 1HD, which retails for $2,399. The Matinee 1HD is about the size of a three-ring binder, and weighs about the same as a notebook computer, yet it is capable of displaying images up to 200″ in diagonal.
Worth a Look, Even With the Lights On
The 1HD is a remarkable little LCD projector. My first impression was very positive. It is much brighter with fewer visible scan lines than the more expensive Sharp DT-200 I previously reviewed. I was pleasantly surprised how well the Matinee 1HD performed with some of the lights on. The picture is still very viewable in ambient lighting conditions, although it performs best in a pitch-dark room.
Does HD mean HD?
You would think, with “HD” in the name of this projector that it is a high-definition (HDTV) projector. Unfortunately, the Matinee 1HD is not a true high-definition projector. I would classify it as an enhanced-definition (EDTV) projector, since its maximum resolution is 964×544. Don’t be alarmed though. It is HDTV-compatible and will accept HD signal sources. HDTV movies from HDNet and HBO-HD still looked very good, despite being scaled down. On the other hand, DVDs will not loose any resolution and they looked great. Since the projector lacks film to video conversion detection (3-2 pulldown), it is recommended to use a progressive scan DVD player for optimal results.
Out of the box setup was very straightforward. There are height adjustment feet on each side of the bottom of the unit for tilting upwards. You can fine-tune the height or horizontal alignment with dials next to the lens. There is a zoom lever encircling the lens, while the main edge of the lens twists for focusing. The 1HD can be placed on a stand or table, or hung from the ceiling.
Wish List and Features
The Matinee 1HD comes with a small, backlit-capable remote control for setting up the projector and controlling the on-screen menu. The remote was very easy to use, and the vertically tabbed on-screen menu clearly outlines all of the display options. The back panel includes inputs for component, s-video, composite, and VGA. However, there is no DVI input, which would have been nice for extra compatibility. I also would have wished for auto-sensing inputs, which makes the setup even easier for first-timers. Regardless, neither omission is a deal breaker.
For my setup, I placed the 1HD on a table, about 14 feet from the screen. The projector was aligned at the bottom center of the screen. I used a Stewart Filmscreen FireHawk and Vutec SilverStar screens. Both are 110″ diagonal 16:9 screens. (Stay tuned for my screen comparison soon).
Colors Great Out of the Box
Before I made any color adjustments, I watched for a week at the standard settings. I was more than pleased with the picture quality. Whites were especially bright, clear and crisp. Blacks were good although not as dark as I would have liked. Colors looked natural and skin tones appeared normal. Then I used the AVIA video calibration reference images to further tweak the picture settings. To my amazement, very little adjustment was necessary. After fine-tuning, I easily saved the changes to one of the four personal image settings. The minor tweaking slightly improved black level contrast, and added more detail.
Fan Noise Options
The 1HD takes about 30 seconds to warm-up before displaying a picture. Once it’s on, you will notice the fan running and how hot the back of the projector gets. Fan noise was louder than expected, and is really my only complaint about this projector. However, there is a “Lamp Mode” setting, which lowers the light output and almost eliminates the fan noise. Image quality is sacrificed, although it’s not a huge picture degradation, but noticeable nonetheless. Therefore, the image quality versus fan noise trade-off becomes a personal choice.
The Studio Experience Matinee 1HD is a great projector at a very competitive price. First time projector owners are sure to be pleased. It’s easy to setup and requires very little image calibration. Picture quality was most impressive for a projector at this price level. When you decide to buy a projector, the Studio Experience Matinee 1HD is highly recommended.
Excellent Color Accuracy
Viewable in Ambient Lighting Conditions
No DVI input
No 3-2 Pulldown
Loud Fan Noise in High Output Mode
Display Type: 3-0.77-in TFT Polysilicon LCDs
Resolution: 964 x 544 wide VGA
Colors: 16.77 million colors
Brightness: 700 ANSI Lumens
Aspect Ratio: 16:9; 4:3 compatible
Contrast Ratio: 800:1
Video: NTSC, NTSC 4.43, SECAM, PAL, PAL-M, PAL-N, 1080i, 1035i, 720p, 575p, 575i, 480p, 480i
Dimensions: 13.1″/33.2cm(W) x 4.3″/10.9cm (H) x 9.7″/24.6cm (D)
Projection Lens: 1:1.2 zoom ratio, F/2.03-2.34, f-21-25.4mm
Throw Distance: 3.6′-19.7′ / 1.1-6m
Diagonal Image Size: 30-200″ / 76.2-508cm
Keystone: Digital adjustment of +/- 20 degrees
Weight: 7.5 lbs / 3 kg
Inputs: 1-RGB computer, 1- RCA component video, 1-RCA composite video, 1-S-Video
Lamp Life: N/A Hours
Adjustment Options: 1-serial port
Accessories Included: Backlit remote control, RCA composite video cable, power cord, 1 extra lamp, and ceiling mount.
Warranty: 3 years parts and labor. 120 day or 500 hour lamp life.
Jaton PSD-7611K Progressive Scan DVD Player
Stewart Filmscreen FireHawk 16:9 110″ Screen
Vutec SilverStar 16:9 110″ Screen
Panasonic TU-HDSU20 DirecTV/HDTV Receiver
UltraLink Component Video Cable (6 meter)
Remember I am just one man with one opinion. If you own this product, or have a comment or question feel free to add your thoughts below.
Founder & CEO