Marantz VP-15S1 review

Marantz pushes DarkChip3 projection to the max with its latest Full HD projector

TechRadar Verdict

It's weight could be an issue for some, but the stunning image quality will win you over


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    Remarkable clarity and accuracy

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    excellent build quality

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    great processing


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    six-segment colour wheel may produce rainbow effect

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The Marantz VP-15S1 is the second Full HD projector we have seen from the company.

The hugely impressive Marantz VP-11S1 originally sold for around £10,000 - this artfully downgraded sibling comes in a full £4,500 cheaper. That's like getting a 65in plasma TV thrown in for free...

The massive die-cast aluminium chassis, that set the Marantz VP-11S1 apart from every other DLP projector in terms of build quality, is used again here.

You get the same retractable metal feet and the same chunky metal lens collar. The Marantz VP-15S1 also weighs in at a ceiling-testing 13kg. The only visual difference is the colour.

New home cinema technology

Light-absorbing matt black bodywork gives the Marantz VP-15S1 its menacing good looks, and houses the DarkChip 3 DLP chipset.

This is currently the best DMD (digital micromirror device) that Texas Instruments makes, but it is controlled this time by a new algorithm and an image processor made by Gennum.

The light path has been reshaped to fit the optics made for Marantz by Konica Minolta, which makes the Marantz VP-15S1 just a little bit bigger.

A versatile projector

Installation of this product is best left to the professionals. It uses a medium-to-long throw ratio lens, so ceiling-mounting behind the viewer is probably best, although in a longer room, it could be overhead, so make sure you're ceiling beams are up to the job.

Of course, the Marantz VP-15S1 is equally happy standing on a table and pointing up at a screen. In this case, the height-adjustable feet come in handy and there's an optical lens shift dial for vertical alignment.

If you need it, there is digital keystone correction to make the image square on the screen too. With no horizontal lens shift, it's important to stay perpendicular to the screen, though.

Dual HDMIs on offer

Air intakes at the side and underneath suck in cool air and blow it out through a vent at the front, while all of the input connections are to the rear. There's no DVI input this time, but there is a VGA socket for computers and two HDMI ports.

The main controls are all located on the Marantz VP-15S1's back. Each button is roughly the size of a ten pence piece, so they're easy to find in the dark. Most people will use the backlit remote control, though.

The user interface isn't as refined as a Panasonic or Sony menu system and the window itself is rather small. What you do get is plenty of opportunity to fine-tune the picture. This is one of the most customisable projectors on the market, and there are no less than 18 user presets.

If you have the time to programme them all, they should give you an ideal preset for every eventuality.

Stunning high definition

The Marantz VP-15S1 created quite a stir when it debuted at last year's CEDIA Expo, outshining some considerably more expensive competition, so it was with some excitement that I began the audition.

With the Marantz VP-15S1 calibrated and the lights dimmed, I was keen to see how the picture quality looked with a standard-definition DVD player; in this case the Marantz DV7001 seemed appropriate. The short answer is: very good.

Standard-definition can fall apart on a 100in screen, but this PJ's upscaling is so effective you won't feel embarrassed to revisit your favourites. Marantz has reverted to a traditional six-segment colour wheel for the Marantz VP-15S1, instead of seven, but this hasn't impacted on vibrancy.

Perhaps it makes the projector more susceptible to DLP's traditional nemesis: rainbow effect, wherein flashes of red, green and blue register in the corner of your eye. I noted it a couple of times, but it was the exception rather than the rule. Unless you are one of those people particularly prone to the effect, it really won't be an issue.

Amazing Blu-ray pictures

The black level is impressive. The police uniforms in Hot Fuzz appear really very black indeed, yet hint at detail and texture in the shadows. A less contrasty projector - our real world measurement rates it as 550:1 - would have trouble picking out the creases in Simon Pegg's jet-black trousers and the line of his lapels.

Connecting a PlayStation 3 and upping the resolution to 1080p naturally improved the picture quality considerably too - after all, this is what the Marantz VP-15S1 was designed to do. Images exhibited breathtaking clarity. With the PS3 outputting Blu-ray at 1080p24, the visuals really shine. Picture structure isn't visible at all.

Relentless image quality

There's no shortage of clever video-manipulation going on inside the Marantz VP-15S1. The Gennum GF9351 silicon provides the same VXP processing as that seen on earlier Marantz projectors. It also supports the DeepColor standard available as part of the HDMI v1.3 specification.

Marantz has turned up the brightness for this projector and the 1,000 ANSI Lumen lamp even allows viewing when there's a modicum of ambient light in the room (although the perceived contrast is improved substantially if you can blot it out).

The remastered version of Blade Runner is a marvel and long overdue, but with the constant fog and rain, it's still a relentlessly difficult movie in terms of picture quality and it takes a projector of this calibre to display it properly.

For example, the tricky opening scene, as the camera pans over a futuristic Los Angeles skyline, is notoriously murky and difficult to resolve. The Marantz VP-15S1, however, easily manages to differentiate the skyscrapers and hover-cars below.

Marantz's attention to detail

I was constantly impressed by the projector's wonderful sense of depth and realism. All too often with cheaper Projectors, the background becomes blurred or filled with noise, whereas here, the detail continues.

For example, The Bourne Ultimatum on HD DVD has some frenetic and visually confusing opening scenes that are unlikely to look great on most home cinemas, but pause the top-down view of London in the third chapter and you can see every window of every building.

It's this kind of attention to detail that gives the whole performance an added dimension.

The night-time Speeder chase from Star Wars: Attack of the Clones (DVD), also manages to appear suitably three-dimensional. This may not be the brightest or highest contrasting projector on the market, but it manages a sublime realism that betters nearly everything else I've seen over the past twelve months.

A star projector

There are some practical issues which could be improved. The PJ doesn't have a separate junction box to manage all of the cables - something installers are keen on - and the weight of the metal chassis doesn't make the job of ceiling-mounting any easier either.

Conversely, the model is well-connected and runs relatively quietly. Marantz has gone to great lengths with the hermetically-sealed mechanics to eliminate fan noise.

In the end though, it's the blistering image quality that's makes this projector a star.

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