Although Toshiba's TLP-ET1 isn't the only projector to break the £1,000 barrier, it's certainly the roundest! It has been built to form a practically perfect circle, with only the lens sticking out from the side of what we can thus assume is the projector's 'front'. This gives the ET1 a fun feel, which is reinforced admirably by a jaunty white finish and perky tilting foot 'stand'.
The projector continues to wear its living-room ambitions on its sleeve by including that most basic of home cinema stalwarts - a Scart socket. This is joined by component video inputs and a PC jack, showing that the mega-competitive price hasn't compromised connectivity needs.
Initially in fact, the low price doesn't seem to have compromised anything! The features list is much longer than we expected, including not only Faroudja's DCDi image scaling technology (for smoothing jagged edges), but also Faroudja's Truelife system for making motion look less juddery!
Progressive scan and high-definition pictures are supported and, rather bizarrely, the ET1 even carries Virtual Dolby audio processing! Most projectors don't bother with sound at all, and frankly, given how crap projector speakers sound, we reckon the no-sound brigade actually have the right idea! Putting Virtual Dolby on a projector seems the audio equivalent of the protagonist of our KIll Bill test disc handing out a few plasters to her dismembered victims!
The ET1 is exceptionally easy to set up, continuing its theme of fun over high-tech splendour. But as we settled down with Kill Bill, we started to wish that it might at least have got serious with its pictures...
Their biggest flaw is, perhaps predictably, visible LCD panel structure. The mesh effect over a picture really aggravates, and puts a barrier between the viewer and Kill Bill's swashbuckling antics. During the fight with O-Ren in her snow-covered mock temple, for example, the combination of expanses of white and panning cameras shows the LCD grid more obviously than on other projectors in this test.
Pictures also look a touch muted, lacking the brightness that usually gives LCD an edge over DLP. And detail-packed scenes like the texture-filled 'you remind me of Charlie Brown' restaurant sequence reveal the ET1 to be no great purveyor of fine detail - perhaps inevitable given the 858 x 480 resolution.
The news isn't all bad, though. For starters, the claimed contrast ratio of 600:1 actually looks conservative. The same snow-bound O-Ren tussle that highlighted the chicken wire effect also shows an impressive depth of field thanks to a decent - if hardly world-beating - black level response. Colours look quite sharply-edged, well saturated and natural, too, in spite of there not being quite enough brightness to let them really burst forth.
We really wanted to love the TLP-ET1. Anything delivering cinema-sized pictures for under a grand sounds good to us. And, if you're an undemanding user, or looking for something to use with a games console, it can be a lot of fun. But 'fun' only takes you so far. After all, even a popcorn movie like Kill Bill is a serious business...