InFocus' recent decision to slice around a third off the price of its hugely acclaimed Screenplay 7205 is one of the most aggressive cuts we've seen in a long time. But does it instantly make the 7205 the bargain of the year or is it just a bid to eke some extra life out of a model that's past its sell-by date?
The 7205 first appeared in August 2004 - a long time ago by projector standards. Until very recently it was the flagship of the single-chip Screenplay range,but with the recent launch of the £4,500 7210 model, boasting the very latest Darkchip 3 DLP chipset, the 7205 clearly had to be either dropped from the Screenplay range or else reduced sufficiently in price to justify its existence beneath the new 7210. So let's see if it still has what it takes to warrant £3,500.
It certainly looks dated. The drab colour scheme and largely shapeless, chunky chassis don't exactly illuminate your coffee table. There is, at least, a little practical kudos, though, in the shape of a very comfortable and robust carry-handle moulded into its front.
Connectivity still holds up very well in today's increasingly digital world. Leading the way is an M1-DA jack - a sort of 'jack of all trades' connector that via adaptors is able to take HDTV component, computer, and USB connections, plus, crucially, DVI or HDMI digital video (with HDCP support).
This latter digital option makes the 7205 fully primed for Sky's upcoming high-definition broadcasts, as well as digital feeds from the new breed of HDMI/DVI-equipped DVD players. If only a few more other projectors and TVs of last year had showed such forethought...
Other jacks worth mentioning include a couple of component video jobs, two 12V trigger jacks and a 15-pin PC feed.The 7205 also comes with an RGB Scart adaptor, making for effortless connection of, say, a Sky digital receiver.
Inside the box
A scan of its internal specifications again proves how ahead of its time the 7205 was, since it can still hold its head up today.The Texas Instruments DLP chipset at its heart is an HD2 affair - a chipset that's still turning up in most new high-end and mid-range projectors today.
What's more, this chipset boasts a native widescreen resolution of 1,280 x 720. Add this to the digital input and the 7205's ability to handle all the key HD picture systems, and remarkably, you've got a projector that meets all the true 'HD Ready' criteria recently decided upon by industry body EICTA.
Other key specs are a claimed contrast ratio of 2,200:1 - which just about holds up against rival £3k machines - and a very respectable brightness of 1,100 ANSI Lumens. A proprietary seven-segment colour wheel, meanwhile, promises both natural colour tones and a reduction in DLP technology's common rainbow effect and motion noise issues.The presence of Faroudja's FLI2310 DCDi video processor also promises immaculate, unjagged edges and a brighter, smoother image.
Although it's clearly built to an uncompromising specification, you don't have to be a rocket scientist to get the 7205 up and running. As with all good DLP projectors, even an absolute novice should be able to get the 7205 squirting out pictures within just a few minutes of unboxing it.
The 7205 is a decently flexible beast. During set-up, the available optical zoom gave a fair degree of image size leeway - though it could still present a slight problem for people with really small living-rooms.There are a number of interesting and helpful (if you're brave enough to tinker with them) image adjustments at your disposal too. These include a selection of handy gamma presets, overscanning and a number of Faroudja options: Truelife, Chroma Detail, Luma detail and Chroma Delay tweaks.
Watching the 7205 in action, it's easy to see why so many reviewers went doolally over it when it first came out. Still particularly outstanding, even by today's standards, is the greyscale response, as it seemingly effortlessly portrays even the subtlest of colour tone shifts and blend gradations. This breathes fantastic new life into the dark corners of pictures that appear as hollow, lifeless voids on many rival machines.
Also easily up to modern standards are the 7205's colours, which combine vibrant, rich hues with an immaculately natural tone. Flesh, in particular, is completely free of the old green undertone still seen on some DLP projectors today.
The worth of that proprietary colour wheel design, meanwhile, manifests itself in excellent suppression of DLP's tendencies to produce fizzing over moving objects and near-subliminal pure colour bands in your peripheral vision (the 'rainbow effect').
Elsewhere we can report impressive fine detail levels, which are happily achieved without any attendant grain, dot-crawl or forced edging. In fact, noise in general is seldom to be seen.
In fact, remarkably, there's really only one area where the 7205 reveals its age: its black-level response. Don't get us wrong,dark picture areas certainly look black enough to give the picture depth and solidity, and you never find yourself squinting through any of the grey murk that characterises low-contrast projectors. However, at the same time there are newer projectors at around the same price point that paint their darks even blacker - while still retaining texture and greyscale.
There's no doubt that the 7205 is still a seriously talented, eminently watchable projector that remains among the top four or five in its new price bracket. Yet the slight black-level issue means it's not the absolute best - a fact which, to our mind, means that it would only become a true bargain if you can find it on sale with yet another £500 hacked off its price. Keep 'em peeled.