You might have noticed what seems like a sudden influx of high price, high performance projectors which use three DLP chips.

In such a projector, the output of the light source is split into three primary colours - red, green and blue - with each separately processed by a dedicated DMD (Digital Mirror Device) before the colour streams are recombined and projected.

The benefits over a standard single-chip projector, the only DLP type available until recently, are a much brighter picture, and one that doesn't require the uncomfortable expedient of a colour wheel, which adds noise, mechanical complication and some visual artefacts.

The downside at the present state of the art is bulk - and cost.

The latest-generation of triple-chip projectors are based on a basic reference design developed by Texas Instruments. While individual suppliers may seek to gain an edge by claiming to tweak various elements the reality is that they all use the same HD2 1,280 x 720p DMD (not the newer HD2 or the Darkchip high contrast variants).

The same basic core Faroudja deinterlacing and scaling is used too. At least with the current first-generation three-chip DLPs, the real differences are in other areas: the optics and light engine, the menu system, interfaces, overall styling and price.

Three-chip bargain

With the important caveat that prices are almost infinitely fluid, the 777 currently appears to be the least expensive of the three-chip DLPs, by a margin of £3,000-£5,000.

Furthermore, as InFocus is one of, if not TI's biggest customer for DLP hardware, and the company has a well established track record of driving prices down, it is unlikely to relinquish this position readily.

'A mesmerising beauty' says the InFocus product guide. Well if your definition of beauty extends to things nautical, you're in luck. The 777 may have been named after an aircraft, but the bottom section has a rather startling keel-like profile. But the 777 is big. Comparable to other three chippers, but big nonetheless.

One strength of the design is that there are seven lenses available, all with powered zoom, and most with powered focus and a motorised lens shift in both planes (vertical and horizontal).

Two are designed for rear-projection applications, and with the lens shift facility the projector can be positioned well off axis laterally as well as vertically. The odd looking light blocker/shield that obscures part of the lens when viewed from the front reduces flare when the lens is used with a large offset, a known problem with some three-chippers, including early samples of the 777.

Sockets galore

The 777 is well equipped with inputs, (eight in total) which include twin S-video and component inputs, an M1-DA (a USB compatible auto switching analogue/digital interface which works over extended cable lengths, and for which adaptors are available for HDMI, DVI, VGA and component/progressive) and VESA (RGBHV and HD component).

The 777 also features ScreenPlay's favoured D5 input (the Japanese Scart, for which a standard Scart adaptor is included), which is used on most of its models and can be adapted to work with most digital signals. Two 12V triggers allow for screen drop and 4:3 masking.

First impressions are of a full contrast picture, bright enough that in subdued lighting, with curtains closed but no blackout during daytime use, a 2m projected image was subjectively as bright and as punchy as a Philips 26in CRT-based TV of recent vintage.

As long as the screen itself looks fairly dark under ambient lighting, this is a projector that doesn't demand a complete blackout for casual use. Of course, picture quality improves if you can manage a complete blackout.

Other than brightness, the main impression once the projector had been properly set up is of a very deep, almost three dimensional image, related in part to the ultra-sharp focus of the foreground casting backgrounds into more obvious relief, though the sharp focus has the unwanted side effect of showing DVD-Video MPEG2 decoder artefacts puffing away.

720p from D-VHS is much better, and gives a cleaner, more stable and credible result, with a reduced rate of motion artefacts. The level of detail from the 777 is very high - higher with 720p which, let's hope, we shall all be enjoying in the not too distant future courtesy of Sky's high-def roadmap.

But the real point of this projector is bright, clean pictures with exceptional colour fidelity, and good shadow detail to help make the most of film material shot under available, and wonderfully vivid, yet subtly graduated bright picture areas (skies for example).

Filmic and cinematographic were the words that immediately sprung to mind. Video noise is exceptionally low, and deinterlacing and scaling are of a high order. With no colour wheel, audible noise levels are also low, and the projector was unobtrusive in most situations.

Flawless

It's just not possible to flaw this model. Using the TI reference design, it's at least as good as other currently available three-chippers, and may even be better than some of them due to the more comprehensive picture setup facilities, and its (slightly) less onerous cost.

There's no doubt that the ScreenPlay 777, as a picture performer, is at the cutting edge of projection technology. To see it is to want it.