The ScreenPlay range of projectors has been a successful venture for manufacturer InFocus, with a selection of models that now range from the low end to the super-expensive 3-chip DLP models. The 7210 sits somewhere in the middle, with high-definition compatibility delivered from a brand-new DarkChip 3 chipset.
The result is an excellent projector that brings high-value performance and features. Picture quality is excellent, with rich colours and smooth imaging, especially through the HDMI or component inputs. The projector is mundanely designed and noisy at times, but if you're looking for something to go at the centre of a decent home-cinema setup, the ScreenPlay 7210 will do your movie viewing proud.
Like nearly all the ScreenPlay range (bar the gorgeous 777), the 7210 isn't a looker. It's average-sized, has a dull, grey finish and air vents along the side to keep the innards as cool as possible. Everything you need to control the projector is on a panel of buttons along the top, but there is a backlit remote control as well. The foot at the front of the projector increases the angle of the light cannon, so you can place the unit on your coffee table. It's also easy to carry around, thanks to the handle moulded into the front.
The 7210 is more than capable of taking on all next-generation AV equipment. In the short-term, you'll be able to hook up a component video-equipped DVD player as well as an Xbox 360, as there are two sets of HD-capable component video inputs. And if you plan on upgrading to a Blu-ray player or Sky HD later in the year, you can plug in any High-bandwidth Digital Content Protected (HDCP) video feed via InFocus' proprietary M1-DA slot. It's annoying, as you have to buy an adaptor for DVI or HDMI, but at least the projector supports both, so next-gen compatibility is assured.
If your AV collection is more standard than high definition, then the 7210 still has plenty of inputs to accomodate. You'd never want to use the composite video input, because of its low quality, but there's one available if you want to rig up your iPod, for example. S-Video is a more servicable option, and a good choice for connecting your camcorder. If you've got a laptop you can connect directly into the VGA socket, although this isn't a business projector, so it's more likely that you'd want to hook up your media centre PC. There's no RGB Scart input, but you can connect up with a component adaptor if you wish.
If you have a custom-designed home cinema setup, you may have a central control system that you interact with via a touchsreen monitor. If so, the projector will tie in to your system perfectly thanks to the RS-232 connection. The remote control is small, perhaps tiny enough to be lost down the back of your sofa, but it is backlit so you can use it in the dark of the home cinema.
Inside the 7210's simple chassis is a multitude of home cinema delights. The beating heart of the projector is the new DarkChip3 chipset, a new development from Texas Instruments. The 7210 is one of the first projectors to include this chipset, which is capable of some very impressive stats. The 2,800:1 contrast ratio is particularly high, offering plenty of shadow depth and ensuring that colours appear natural. It also has a 1,280x720 chipset, meaning you get perfect, line-for-line 720p video.
The 7210 also features a seven-segment colour wheel, a Zeiss lens and a respectable 1,100 ANSI Lumens brightness. The latter means that you don't have to worry about using a fully darkened room to watch movies in, but if you're spending this amount of money then you should make an effort to get the best out of it. Aside from the chipset, you might also wonder what your money is buying in terms of technology. Faroudja's latest DCDi image processing is the answer to that question, so if you're a movie buff who likes to import NTSC DVDs, there isn't any motion artefacting.
Setup of the 7210 is a breeze -- indeed, when we turned it on for the first time and plugged our Xbox 360 in, it cycled through all the video inputs automatically until it found a signal. Zoom and focus are manually adjusted via rings around the lens, with keystone adjusted digitally either from the remote or on the projector itself. The life of the bulb is approximately 3,000 hours on the Eco mode or 2,000 during normal operation, and a replacement costs around £400.
Features-wise, this adds up to a projector that can't be faulted. It's fully high-definition compatible (720p) through the digital M1-DA connector or the component inputs, and it will scale 1080i sources should it need to. Fan noise can be an issue -- the speed they turn at seems to change intermittently, which like the rainbow effect is only annoying once you notice it. If your preference is for the gung-ho action of The Matrix over a drama such as Brokeback Mountain then you won't notice it, and it's certainly nowhere near as bad as the Xbox 360.
Firing up the projector with some high-definition video produced some of the nicest images we've seen from a single-chip DLP projector. The black level really gave the Narnia trailer a sense of depth, and the detail level was superb on static images. Rainbow effect is minor but noticeable if you're looking for it, and the brightness level means the 7210 can cope with minor ambient light.
If you're into gaming, then driving round the streets of New York in Project Gotham 3 on a 2m screen will get you just as excited as any home-movie usage. The image was extremely colourful when originating in high-definition, progressive-scan 720p from the 360, and there was only a small amount of grain during movement. A highly impressive all-round performance.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Nick Hide