Kitting out your home cinema with a proper projector is about as close to nirvana as movie enthusiasts get - but the problem has always been their affordability.
You can spend literally tens of thousands of pounds on a box that makes a series of moving images flicker magically on your wall - which isn't something many of us really consider when LCD and plasma TV are affordable.
Busting that conceit wide open is the X10 projector from InFocus, a single chip DLP projector that can give you Full HD 1080p for just £1,099 or less - which not only makes it terrific value for money compared to its rivals, but also turns into in a very worth alternative for a regular telly.
The only catch is that the X10 is available only via the internet, so you'll have to set your mouse fingers twitching if you plan to buy. And at this price, its spec and features are also worthy of examination.
InFocus X10 vs InFocus iN80
The InFocus X10 is essentially a 'detuned' InFocus iN80 - a projector that's already won a string of five star reviews. In practice, there are four major differences between the two:
- The X10 has a slightly lower contrast ratio of 2,300:1 native compared to the iN80's 2,500:1 with maximum contrast using iris adjustment of 7,000:1 compared to the iN80's 7,500:1
- The X10 is less bright, boasting 1,200 ANSI lumens (peak) brightness, compared to the iN80's 1,300 ANSI lumens (peak).
- The X10 has a 2 year product, 6 months lamp warranty, while the iN80 has 3 year product warranty, with 1 year for the bulb.
- The InFocus X10 is £400 cheaper than the iN80 at £1,099 and £1,499 respectively.
In most other respects though the two projectors are the same: they both use the same first generation Texas Instruments DarkChip DLP; both have 7-segment colour wheels and Pixelworks Digital Natural Expression 10-bit video decoders.
Both the InFocus X10 and iN80 are also capable of displaying over 1.07 billion colours using Deep Color technology when teamed with an HDMI 1.3 source like a recent Blu-ray player or Sony's PlayStation 3.
Setting up and using the InFocus X10 projector is mostly a breeze. Its size and bulk (476mm x 148mm x 432mm, 6.4kg) suggests that it's best suited to ceiling mounting rather than for casual table top use, although there's a tilt-and-swivel table-top stand in the box.
Certainly the labelling for all your connectivity options suggests ceiling mounting is the preferred option - they're upside down when you stand the projector on its feet, but are obviously the right way up when you suspend the InFocus X10 from the ceiling.
Despite the keen price tag, InFocus hasn't stinted on your connectivity options either. On the back you'll find two HDMI 1.3 sockets - one using the standard HDMI port, plus a second that uses the 'universal' M1-DA / DVI port - plus component video, composite video and s-video connections.
The InFocus X10 also boasts infra-red, serial control and screen trigger ports so you can control it using a home automation system, or even trigger a projector screen to unfurl whenever the X10 is turned on.
InFocus X10 setup
Like all home cinema projectors, the InFocus X10 offers a good range of picture tweaking options including keystone correction, digital vertical image shift and automatic black level calibration.
It also has a great range of Gamma presets that enable you to adjust the colour balance of the projector so that it more closely matches the output from the source - e.g. movie, TV, PC, etc.
The InFocus X10 also includes BrilliantColor - a proprietary technology from Texas Instruments that enables you to boost the projector's brightness and colour saturation by checking the radio button on the X10's Windows-like menu system. Indeed all your option tweaks are available using the same menu system, with navigation controls enabled via the supplied blue-backlit remote.
If you want evidence of cost-cutting though you'll find it: the X10's table-top-stand is fiddly to use and doesn't feel particularly robust while the noise from the X10's fans is pretty loud at 33dB.
Team it with the PlayStation 3 and you could be forgiven that you're standing on the apron at Heathrow - at least until you're used to it, or the sound from your home cinema receiver and speakers kick in.
Long throw for bigger rooms
You'll have probably gathered from the X10's size, and noise that it's not really been designed for discreet table-top use - something that's confirmed by its throw ratio of1.85-2.22:1 - that's positively long for a home cinema projector, making it ideally suited to larger rooms than your average two-up / two-down postage stamp. Here's an example:
To get a 210cm wide display (equivalent to a 72-inch plasma), you'll need to place the projector between 3.5 metres and 4.06 metres away from the projector screen. That could result in you either having to install the projector behind you, or above you (on the ceiling) to enjoy its pictures at their best. This obviously puts it out of contention for casual viewing where the projector is plonked on a table at the front of a room.
For smaller rooms then, a short-throw projector like Toshiba ET20, which is available at Amazon for £599.99, might work better. You can find out how well the X10 would fit into your living space by using the InFocus Projector Calculator.
That's the feature set and setup taken care off, now here's the important bit - surely InFocus can't flog a 1080p projector for a grand and still deliver decent quality pictures, can they?
Yes, they can.
Fire it up and the InFocus X10 is capable of producing a deliciously rich and bright picture that packs in plenty of detail, especially with 1080p high definition sources.
Watch a movie like Casino Royale on Blu-ray and you'll be able to pick out every crease in Daniel Craig's craggy face, while marvelling at both Eva Green's deliciously pale, freckly skin and her curious make-up choices at the same time.
Uncheck the BrilliantColor options, and theX10's presentation will soon make your forget that you're watching a projector at all - you'll simply be enjoying the experience and the action.
There's scarcely even a jot of picture noise to distract you. Crank up the black levels by closing up the iris and you'll also be able to pick out plenty of detail in darker pictures of the area too.
Over the rainbow effect
In fact the only really jarring note in another otherwise bold and pleasing presentation is a slight tendency to judder with some camera pans and fast-moving action scenes but, to be fair, your average LCD TV is likely to fair far, far worse.
You'll also see evidence of the 'rainbow effect' - one of the less desirable side-effects of the way DLP projectors work, which momentarily throws up red, green, blue artefacts when you quickly move your head from side-to-side and / or in bright areas of the picture.
To be honest, the InFocus X10 suffered a great deal less from this than some of the other projectors we've seen - however rainbow effect affects viewers to different degrees, so that may or may not be a problem for you.
Overall, InFocus has achieved an astonishing feat with the X10. At around £1,000 it's not only a great value 1080p Full HD projector - it's also boasts the kind of the brilliant picture quality that should make its more expensive rivals weep.