There must be something in the water this week. For hot on the heels of what will likely be one of the best value TVs of 2011, Samsung’s PS51D6900, we now find ourselves spending quality time with what has a very good chance of being the biggest projector bargain of 2011: the InFocus SP8600.
InFocus’s cautious return to the UK home cinema projection market has already impressed us recently in the shape of the SP8604, which basically delivered at least the same level of performance as Vivitek’s very-similar H5080 while costing hundreds of pounds less. But with the SP8600 InFocus has come up with a model that has the potential to bring home projection to the masses and make InFocus a household name.
The bare facts about the SP8600 are almost irreconcilably impressive. So we’ll lay them out for you as clearly as possible. First, it costs just £799. Including VAT. Next, amazingly for such a cheap product, InFocus is so confident about the SP8600’s build quality that it offers with it a 5-year parts warranty, 3-year labour warranty and even a 1-year lamp warranty.
Next, despite its price it sports not only a full HD resolution from its DLP optics, but also a six-segment (as in, RYGCMB), three-speed colour wheel. And the chipset at its heart is a DarkChip 3 (DC3) affair rather than the older, less contrast-rich DC2 model we’d have expected.
This helps the SP8600 claim a very healthy (for the entry level part of the market) 5,000:1 contrast ratio despite the projector also claiming a startlingly bright 1800 Lumens of light output.
Keeping that £799 price firmly in mind again, the SP8600 also has two v1.3 HDMI inputs, a 12V trigger output, a UNISHAPE lamp that adjust the lamp output characteristics in sync with the separate colour wheel segments, Texas Instruments’ BrilliantColour system for richer colour saturations, and the well-respected Pixelworks DNX 10-bit video processing engine.
Even its lowest running noise of 26dB and maximum lamp life of 4000 hours are better than you would expect with such a cheap projector.
In keeping with most very affordable projectors nowadays, the SP8600 carries a built-in speaker so you can use the projector without needing a separate sound system. Inevitably the sound from this is pretty flimsy, and leaves you with audio that doesn’t sound connected to the pictures. But it’s still a handy backup for emergencies.
Needless to say there are a few compromises to swallow, which we’ll get to later. But the stuff we’ve covered so far already makes the SP8600 look a couple of hundred quid underpriced.
Inevitably the SP8600 isn’t a particularly gorgeous projector. But its matt black finish is sensibly restrained given the likelihood of the projector being positioned on a coffee table in front of a normal viewing position; its sculpting is reasonably cute and ‘domesticated’; and its footprint is small enough to be practical but large enough to control fan noise.