|(as tested) $30,295 PROJECTIONDESIGN.COM|
• Dual 300-watt lamps
• 2.32x zoom lens (other options available)
• Accepts 1080p/24 input signals
• Motorized zoom, focus, and lens shift
• Anamorphic zoom mode and trigger output for sled-mounted constant-height lenses
• Inputs: HDMI, DVI, VGA, RGB, component-, composite-, and S-video; RS-232C, USB, Ethernet, IR
• Dimensions 81∕4 X 191∕4 X 14 in; 38 lb
If I didn't know the Projectiondesign Avielo Optix front projector was designed by Norwegians, I'd have thought it was inspired by a joke from comedian Steven Wright: "I put a new engine in my car, but forgot to take the old one out. Now my car goes 500 miles per hour." That's the basic idea behind the Optix, but with lamps instead of engines. The Optix ($25,995 base price), a single-chip DLP design, houses two 300-watt lamps, for triple the horsepower of a typical 200-watt front projector lamp.
Why use two 300-watt lamps when you could use one 600-watter? Because the lamps can be used singly or together, and that flexibility opens up new possibilities. Although the Optix's incredible light output will benefit the few who have the space for 15- or 20-foot screens, you don't want such a bright picture in a typical home theater any more than you'd want a car that goes 500 miles an hour. With all the lights out (and your eyes' irises opened wide), the Optix's picture when in dual-lamp mode can be painfully bright to watch on a normal-size screen. But it's also so bright that you can comfortably watch it with all the room lights on - something that's not possible with regular projectors.
The killer app for the Optix is in a multi-use media room. Many such rooms have two video displays: a flat-panel TV for use during the daytime or when all the lights are on, and a roll-down projection screen for nighttime/lights-out use. (For an example of this kind of installation, check out contributing technical editor John Sciacca's feature "My DIY Home Theater Makeover" at soundandvisionmag.com.) That arrangement locks you out of the big-screen experience until the sun goes down. With the Optix, you can fire up both lamps and open the iris for daytime use, and then use a single lamp with the iris closed down for lights-out viewing. It's the perfect projector for events like Super Bowl parties, where leaving the room lights on facilitates conversation and easy beer-grabbing.
The Optix is adapted from Projectiondesign's Cineo line of digital cinema projectors. As a result, the menu options are two or three times as numerous as one would encounter in a typical home projector. Projectiondesign also hopped up the Optix's optics. Your installer selects from six lenses, depending on screen size and the distance from the projector to the screen. My review sample came with the $4,300 EN-11 Signature Series zoom lens, which is the least expensive and most commonly used model. For fans of CinemaScopestyle 2.35:1 movies, an optional $12,995 anamorphic package features an Isco anamorphic lens in a motorized sled.
Combine the Optix's surprisingly compact chassis with its prodigious power and the result is a lot of heat. You can feel the hot breath of the projector's industrial-strength fan from 8 feet away - and you can hear its noise from the next room. The presumption, I assume, is that your installer will mount the Optix in a soffit, behind the back wall, or in a ventilated "hush box." Another apparent presumption on Projectiondesign's part is that anyone who can afford a $30,000 projection rig is going to run their home theater with a third-party touchscreen remote. The remote supplied with the Optix works fine, but the presence of a built-in laser pointer shows that it wasn't designed for family use.
Projectiondesign obviously built the Optix not to hit a certain price point but to please professional custom installers. When it comes to the physical aspects of installing a projector, this one's a dream. The remote-controlled lens-shift, zoom, and focus mechanisms move slowly but precisely, making it easy to get the image positioned perfectly. The back panel has a full set of controls as well as an LCD display that provides all sorts of operational information. Tiny LEDs illuminate the jack panel for easy hookup.
Most projectors require a trial-and-error calibration that involves several cycles of measuring, adjusting, and remeasuring. With the Optix, the technician measures a few parameters, enters the results into the projector, measures some different parameters, and then enters those results into the projector. From there, it calculates and makes the necessary adjustments automatically.
Once I understood the process and mastered the SpectraCal CalMAN calibration software that Projectiondesign recommended to aid in setup, the procedure was simple. At one point in my evaluation, I made an error that required complete recalibration of the projector. No problem: I hit the factory reset and, in about 5 minutes, had the Optix dialed in. With other projectors, the same task might have taken an hour.
I paired the Optix with my usual 72-inch-wide, 16:9 Stewart Filmscreen StudioTek 130 screen - but only because that's the screen I use for all the projectors I test. In a realworld situation, using this projector with such a small screen is as silly as putting a turbocharged V8 in a Hyundai Accent.
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