Taiwanese brand Vivitek has hit the ground running in its recent bid to conquer the UK projector market, having already impressed us with both a strong sub-£1,000 budget model and a spectacular £10k three-LED flagship variant, labelled the H9080FD.

So we're intrigued to be looking at a mid-range model, the H5080, which is well built and glossy enough to avoid any accusations of ugliness, thanks to the symmetrically mounted lens.

But it is chunky. Its connectivity is unexpectedly good, though, thanks chiefly to its provision of not two, but three HDMis. The H5080 also handily provides two 12V trigger outputs, and both RS232 and USB ports to help the projector integrate properly into a wider home cinema installation.

These latter connectors could help the H5080 become a favourite with custom installers seeking an inexpensive but flexible big-screen option.

With this in mind, Vivitek also makes four different lens options for this lightbox, with one short and two long-throw options available, plus the standard mid-throw affair. Other handy setup tricks include very responsive horizontal and vertical image shifting, with straightforward manual zoom and focus rings around the lens.

Vivacious colour

The H5080 continues to offer good picture flexibility in its onscreen menus. There's a decent colour management system, for instance, plus a series of sensibly calibrated picture presets, plenty of gamma setting options, an auto-contrast 'DynamicBlack' system delivering a claimed 25,000:1 contrast ratio, plus Vivitek's 'ViviSettings' in-house video processing system.

The latter includes motion compensation processing, sharpness fine-tuning, and a Flesh tone setting that provides a quintet of 'base' skin colour options. Unfortunately, none of the settings actually benefit the H5080's pictures and, in many ways, actually make them worse.

This is particularly true of the ViviMotion system, which consistently generates unwanted side effects. Happily, with ViviSettings turned off, the H5080's pictures are really very good.

Particularly pleasing, given that the H5080 uses single-chip DLP technology, is how little the projector suffers from the rainbow effect, even during particularly challenging sequences such as the opening credits of Alien, where bright lettering sits atop dark backgrounds.

Making this all the more impressive is the fact that the 'gap' between the peak whites of the titles and the deep blacks of space is extremely wide, thanks to the machine's startling ability to paint rich, black colours within the same frame as bright whites and colours.

The H5080 also produces a very intense colourscape, with vibrant, punchy saturations during bright and dark scenes alike. Critically, though, these well-saturated colours seldom, if ever, tip over into looking forced.

With HD material, the lightbox produces a likeably sharp, detailed picture. Certainly rival projectors at the H5080's level, such as Epson's TW4400 and JVC's DLA-HD550, can deliver a crisper, more forensic HD experience. But we suspect some tastes might prefer the H5080's slightly softer scrutiny. The H5080 upscales SD material quite effectively, too, if you have to watch this from time to time!

Our complaints are few, but we must say it does run more loudly than we'd like, with Vivitek's 27dB claim feeling a tad conservative. And the pictures contain slightly more video noise than those of its best non-DLP rivals, too, with greenish grey dotting visible during dark scenes and an occasional slight fizzing to expanses of rich colour.

Finally, the H5080 doesn't run quite brightly enough after calibration to reproduce as much shadow detail as some rivals, though you might argue that its black level depth sufficiently compensates for this.

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