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Trying to forget that the H9080FD is essentially a debut product for a whole new projection technology, I have to say I had high hopes for its performance as I settled down with a few favoured Blu-rays to hand. But despite these hopes, I really wasn't prepared for just how good the H9080FD turned out to be. In fact, the projector is so outlandishly accomplished that it's difficult to know where to start. Eeny, meeny, miny, mo… Ah, contrast it is, then.
Basically, the H9080FD delivers the most sensational contrast performance I've seen from any projector aside from - perhaps! - SIM2's C3X 1080. And that projector costs more than 20 grand…
At one end of the contrast 'spectrum', the H9080FD delivers stunning black levels deep enough to at least rival and possibly outgun the class-leading black levels of JVC's top-level D-ILA projectors. What's more, these rich, deep, yet also natural and detail-packed blacks can be delivered without calling in the optional Dynamic Iris system, ensuring that the image looks perfectly stable at all times.
At the bright end of the contrast spectrum, meanwhile, the projector proves it can produce some remarkably pure, clean and bright peak whites. And it can do this even within the same frame as the pitch blacks we've already mentioned.
Again, this facility to deliver high bright points right next to deep black points reminds us of JVC's D-ILA technology. But crucially the H9080FD manages to deliver this cinematic treat with much more apparent brightness than the JVC models. This means that a) the image looks more dynamic, and b) the H9080FD should be able to drive a considerably larger screen than JVC's still-outstanding efforts.
Another area where the H9080FD scores over even JVC's mighty D-ILA models is colour response. Saturations are markedly richer and more dynamic, yet this is achieved without compromising a remarkable sense of tonal naturalism and subtlety. I was hugely impressed, too, by the balance of the projector's colour palette, with no particular tones looking over-dominant.
You can, of course, screw colours up royally if you faff around with the colour space and gamut controls - as well as the dubious BrilliantColour system - without at least a basic understanding of what you're doing. That said, while we'd always recommend a trip to the colour management tools if you're brave enough, the H9080FD is to be congratulated for having superb 'Auto' settings for many of its features.
This is particularly true when it comes to frame rate calculation, with the projector doing an excellent job of auto-adjusting its refresh rates to suit different types of source so that they don't suffer unduly with judder. The projector's 'cleverness' in this respect is down in no small part, I suspect, to Vivitek's decision to equip the H9080FD with Gennum's latest 9450 video processing engine, with its highly respected de-interlacing and scaling abilities.
This scaling quality is particularly evident when you're watching standard definition, which the H9080FD manages to upscale to its Full HD native resolution quite brilliantly, with much greater sharpness than we usually see, much less noise, practically no jagged edges at all, and colours which look pretty much as dynamic and natural as those witnessed with HD.