You may well have never heard of Vivitek before. Although the brand is actually one of the biggest in the projector world, its only presence in the UK before now has been as an OEM supplier to other brands. But now Vivitek wants to try and crack the notoriously difficult UK market under its own name. On the evidence of the 1080p H1085 DLP projector, available for around £990, it's here to stay.
The H1085 certainly doesn't look like a projector that only costs £990. Its black surface is glossy enough to disguise the fact that it's actually quite plasticky, and its bold sculpting means it looks much better than the simple rectangular slab we expected.
Its connections are also better than expected, and include two HDMI ports, a D-Sub PC port, a 12V trigger output for controlling a motorised screen, and even an RS-232C port so that you can pipe the H1085 into a wider home-entertainment system. These latter two jacks in particular go well beyond what you'd expect from a budget projector.
Many budget projectors feature a built-in speaker these days, as does the H1085. Unsurprisingly, this speaker sounds pretty flimsy. It also delivers sound that doesn't appear to be coming from anywhere near the screen. The crowd sounds don't work too badly when you're watching a football match, though, and the built-in speaker makes the projector much easier to set up if you want to take it round to a friend's house.
Unfortunately, the set-up process is made more complicated by the H1085's lack of optical image shifting. This is hardly surprising given the projector's price, but we'd still hoped we might find it. The lack of optical image shifting will leave you dependent on digital keystone adjustment to get the edges of your picture straight. It's pleasing, then, that Vivitek provides a fairly intelligent auto keystone adjustment, to take some of the hassle out of this fiddly aspect of setting up a projector.
If you select one of the three picture presets, you'll be able to access a surprisingly long list of image adjustments. These include a colour-management facility, allowing you to tweak the gain, hue and saturation of the six primary colours. We also found the sliding-bar gamma adjustment and a flesh-tone adjustment useful.
Endorsed by the Imaging Science Foundation, the H1085 has been deemed flexible enough to have its settings professionally calibrated by an ISF engineer. You can expect to pay around £200 for this service. ISF support is practically unheard of at the H1085's level of the market.
Whups budget rivals
Following a reasonably short bout of calibration, the H1085 comfortably outgunned every other sub-£1,000 projector we've seen. Blacks are far deeper than usual at this price point, and there's also much less grey misting.
Colours are bold too, and high-definition pictures look startlingly sharp -- more so, in fact, than with the more expensive Epson and Panasonic projectors we've seen recently. There's not quite as much subtle detail in dark scenes as we'd expect from more expensive projectors, but pictures still look more textured overall than you've any right to expect at this price.
But, inevitably, the H1085 demands that you swallow the odd compromise. For starters, some people might feel distracted by a rainbow effect, whereby the DLP colour wheel causes stripes of pure red, green and blue to flit around your peripheral vision or over really bright image elements. The H1085 actually suffers less from this than the vast majority of other really cheap DLP projectors we've seen, but it's one of those problems that some people see more than others, so we have to mention it.
If you're planning on buying the H1085 to watch the World Cup, note that footballers appear to move around in a slightly stop-start fashion, due to some minor judder issues. There's also minor evidence of another DLP phenomenon: low-level dot crawl over dark colours.
Finally, the H1085 can make something of a racket if you run it with its lamp set to its maximum output. We'd strongly recommend that you always leave it set to its low output, unless you've got a great deal of ambient light to contend with.
We weren't expecting much from the Vivitek H1085, but we were pleasantly surprised. It looks better than we thought it would, and its performance rewrites the rule book about what's possible with a £990 DLP projector.
Edited by Charles Kloet