The extra contrast even helps colours look more richly saturated too, and perhaps most unexpectedly of all, motion looks slightly more convincing, be it camera pans or soldiers running through barrages of enemy fire.
Honestly, we hadn’t expected the differences to be this pronounced.
Shifting to a Blu-ray, the image boost from the VMC1080 is still there, if slightly more subtle. Here the greatest difference can be seen in the shadow detail obvious during dark scenes - a result again, we suspect, of the VMC1080 somehow allowing the projector to realise a little more of its native contrast.
The picture looks a touch more detailed too, colours are a touch richer, and again, motion handling seems slightly more natural.
Being able to noticeably boost the performance of even a £10k projector like the Mico 40 with a bit of kit costing just £170 really does seem like good value.
Turning to the 65in Panasonic TV (which we’ll be reviewing soon, we promise!), there’s still a definite nudge up in quality with the VMC1080 in play, but it’s not as pronounced as with the projector. There’s a small contrast expansion, and a touch more precision with detail, especially when the camera is moving.
Again, this is at its most pronounced with MW2 play, but Blu-rays look better too. Though here the main differences seem to be in colour saturation and, pleasingly, a reduction in video noise levels. The VMC1080 even improved 3D playback a little, making images look a touch cleaner and smoother - though the VMC1080 can’t get rid of the occasional moments of crosstalk that even Panasonic’s plasmas suffer with to some extent with 3D.
Finally, there’s the 32in Humax TV. Predictably the VMC1080 struggled the hardest to make its presence felt here. There’s a touch more colour richness and a touch less noise to be seen, but the screen’s basic lack of contrast seems beyond the VMC1080’s abilities to improve, and at this screen size we struggled to discern any tangible benefit in terms of extra detail or clarity.
The VMC1080 isn’t a miracle worker. It can’t make a rubbish screen average, an average screen good, or a good screen great. It’s also a real shame given the current shift towards two-pin or fixed power cables that it can only support kettle leads.
But it certainly can introduce incremental but surprisingly discernible picture quality improvements, with the size of the increment increasing in proportion to the size of picture your display device produces. This is in itself much more than we’d necessarily expected the VMC1080 to deliver, and makes it look pretty good value too when you consider how little £179 is in relation to the amount you might have splurged out on your big-screen TV or projector.