Since it first hit the UK custom install world in the summer of 2007, US brand Planar has been busy doing a very nice job of keeping our jaws hanging open at its generally pretty spectacular LCD TVs and projectors. So as we strain to heave Planar’s huge, promisingly heavy PD8130 out of its box and onto our overworked projection stand we can’t help but feel a tingle of excitement. Especially as the PD8130 sits so high up Planar’s current range, nestling just below the current PD8150 flagship – a model we adored in an earlier review.
Although the PD8130 really is big, pretty much filling my arms as I carry it around – and I’m not exactly small! - it wears its bulk surprisingly well. This is thanks to a high-gloss piano black finish and an unusual design that would be almost circular were it not for a detachable connections cover making its rear taper out like the back of Darth Vader’s helmet.
A lot of practical thought has gone into this apparently ‘fun’ design, too. For instance, the cabinet limits stray light output to less than 50% of the brightness of projected black, features built-in sound dampeners and shock-mounted components, uses oversized fans for reduced noise levels, and angles the side vents so that any hot air is directed away from where you’re sitting.
We guess some people might take issue with the slightly plasticky feel of the PD8130’s finish, and the marginally awkward way the lens juts out of the projector’s front. But for us, weirdly, both these factors actually contribute to its distinctively quirky charm.
Once you’ve screwed off the PD8130’s connections cover, you find yourself faced with a solid set of connections. These comprise on the video side two v1.3 HDMIs, a component video port, a D-Sub PC port, an S-Video port, and a phono composite jack. To support its custom install focus, meanwhile, you get an RS-232 D-Sub control jack, a 3.5mm mono emitter input, and a 12V screen trigger.
Setting the PD8130 up is, perhaps, not as easy as it could be. For starters, while you can shift the image vertically, unlike the PD8150 the PD8130 doesn’t provide any horizontal image shifting – something which clearly limits the PD8130’s positioning relative to your screen.
There’s no keystone correction in the PD8130’s menus either. But then projection purists of the sort most likely to be interested in the PD8130 would doubtless argue – with some merit! – that digital keystone electronically manipulates the image, and so should be avoided at all costs.
I found it rather unhelpful and low-tech, however, that vertically shifting the lens requires you to use a supplied hex wrench to turn a screw underneath a pop-off cover on the projector’s top. We guess this approach is more robust and precise than just using some sort of easily turnable wheel knob, but, well, I’d probably have preferred the wheel option anyway…