Even if you've only got a rudimentary understanding of the world of home cinema projection, you'll probably realise that DarkChip4 – as sported for the ﬁrst time in the UK by the InFocus IN83 – is a Big Deal.
As the very latest chipset developed by Texas Instruments for use in DLP PJs, it carries some resonance; some might argue that it even represents a key stage in the evolution of home cinema picture quality.
DarkChip4 chipsets employ a darker wafer in their design, and improved mirror lithography, to deliver contrast ratios as much as 30 per cent better than their predecessors.
Not that we've been crying out for greater contrast. Earlier iterations have certainly satisﬁed even the most demanding of cinephiles.
While the insides may be different, there's little which surprises about the exterior of the InFocus
IN83. Essentially it looks like all the other models in the range: a roughly circular hunk of glossy black kit sat on an unusual foot mount, upon which its entire body can rotate and tilt.
In theory this pedestal should make it exceptionally easy to get the IN83's pictures correctly positioned on your projector screen. However, although I once appreciated the sheer novelty value of the pivoting foot design on previous InFocus models, the more I see of it, the more I'm irked by how difﬁcult it is to make really small precision movements, especially when tilting the image in the vertical plane. Just as well there's digital vertical image-shifting on hand as a back up, together with keystone correction.
Another slight set-up disappointment ﬁnds the IN83 only offering a 1.2x optical zoom, meaning you might ﬁnd it quite challenging to accommodate in your room. Talk to an installer about this, or check out the InFocus image size calculator at www.infocus.com/ calculator. In short, this is a projector designed for larger rooms, something reﬂ ected in its quite astounding brightness.
Connectivity is good. There are two digital video inputs (one v1.3 HDMI, one M1-DA multi-purpose socket with v1.3 HDMI adaptor); a component video input; two 12V trigger outputs; an RS232 port; and a Niles/Xantech-compatible 3.5mm minijack for system integration.
The IN83's key claimed speciﬁcations include a native contrast ratio of 5,000:1 and a typical brightness of 1400 ANSI Lumens (peaking at 1600 ANSI Lumens). What's more, the contrast level can be upped to a mighty 15,000:1 by manipulating its manual iris feature. That said, in virtually all circumstances the iris should be closed down rather than opened up.
Comparatively, the DarkChip3-based IN82 claims a native contrast ratio of 4,000:1 rising to 12,000:1 via the iris, and a typical light output of 1200 ANSI Lumens.
Other high-end feature attractions include the facility for the projector to be professionally calibrated by an Imaging Science Foundation professional; colours preset to the D65K level best-suited to video playback; the option to add a 2.35:1 Prismatic anamorphic lens (with suitable image-processing built into the projector); and the widely acclaimed DNX 10bit image processing system from Pixelworks.
There's little doubt that the DC4 silicon gives the IN83 a superb black level. It really is a notch beyond anything witnessed on the IN82. With the manual iris set to between its 55 and 64 levels, dark parts
of a picture, such as the blacks of the police uniform the T1000 replicates in the recent Blu-ray release of Terminator 2: Judgement Day, simply look blacker than they do on DC3 rivals.
Yet, despite the extra blackness, there seems to be more subtle shadow detail in dark corners, which helps images maintain a greater sense of realism and scale. This is perhaps thanks to the way the DarkChip4 system allows greater black level depth to co-exist with enhanced brightness levels.
To my eyes, though, the InFocus IN83 sings not through its black levels, but its colour ﬁdelity, aided
by Texas Instruments' BrilliantColor system for improved colour vibrancy and saturation.
When up and running, the tricky jungle hues of Apocalypto on Blu-ray are rendered sublimely, combining an expansive-but-subtle palette with the sort of immaculate blends I'm coming to expect from the most high-quality Full HD video displays.
I've seen the vast majority of sub-£4k projectors on the market right now, and I don't think any of them can hold a candle in colour terms to the IN83.
In fact, so accurate and cinematic is the IN83's combination of greyscale and colours that it's
difﬁcult to believe you can get hold of one for just £3,500.
Hi-def image clarity is outstanding. Every pit, pore, jungle leaf and strand of panther fur shines through on the exceptionally-sharp Apocalypto platter.
Motion resolution is also excellent, pictures look sharp and ﬂuid, and, as a ﬁnal feather in the IN83's cap, it does a cracking job of upscaling standard-deﬁnition sources, with great sharpness, and natural colour retention.
The Speeder chase from the Star Wars: Episode 1 DVD, for instance, is rich with detail and colour.
But just as with great power comes great responsibility, with great contrast comes great... rainbowing.
Eye of the beholder
While the issue of colour shift on single-chip DLP is very much a matter of taste and susceptibility (some people seemingly don't spot it all), it has become less of an issue of late. I've auditioned excellent DLP models using DC2 and DC3 chipsets where it merits only a passing comment. But with the arrival of this DC4 model, it once again dominated conversations in our Tech Labs.
First, even though the InFocus IN83 employs a seven-segment colour wheel, it would appear that
the ultra-high contrast delivered by the IN83 rather exacerbates the rainbow effect, where stripes
of colour ﬂit around over extremely bright (usually black and white) parts of the picture.
The ﬁrst reel of Batman Begins (Blu-ray) became a kaleidoscopic torture test for the projector. From the ﬂipbook monochrome DC opener to Bruce Wayne's tumble into the family well, and the subsequent 'rock' sequence, chroma fringing is rampant. This left some of the team wondering just how desirable super-high levels of contrast on a single-chip DLP projector actually are.
Our advice is it to close down the iris to minimise the effect. More importantly, make sure you get
a full-on demonstration of the InFocus to see if DLP rainbow is an issue for your peepers.
Also, in keeping with other projectors in the IN series, the IN83 runs rather noisily (at around 30dB), making it something you may need to contain in a soundproof housing if it has to go near your seating position.
See for yourself
There's no doubt that the InFocus IN83 is an outstanding performer. The model offers breathtaking detail and creates images with tangible, almost three-dimensional depth.
As a high-performance PJ, it absolutely demands an audition. That said, we suspect we'll be returning to the issue of brightness and single-chip rainbows again, as more models come to market sporting DC4 technology.