How-To: HD projector wrap up and review (aka Part 7)

In our latest series of How-Tos(see: parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6), we built our own HD LCD Projector. Once the saw dust settled, we set it up in our home theater, cabled things up and hit the couch for a while. Now that we've spent some quality time breaking it in, it's time for us to wrap it up and give you guys the low-down on how well it actually works.

Before we could review the projector, we had to mount it. We borrowed an idea from our old CRT projector. The mounting bracket is held to two uni-strut rails by a pair of 2-inch long 1/2-inch bolts and washers. The pivot bolts are located along the center of gravity by a pair of T-nuts. With the uni-strut, the projector can be zoomed to the perfect position.

The metal halide bulb takes some time to ignite. The green LED reassures us that the system is powered up. The first caveat of usage is the start up time. It takes a few minutes for the metal halide lamp to warm up to full output.

Programming our TiVo remote was trivial. The projector responded to the first set of Samsung codes for power and input select. Once the power is programmed, the most annoying property of the MH bulb is revealed. The lamp needed several minutes to cool off before we could re-light it and finish programming the remote.

For our screen tests, we used the screen that we made using black out cloth. With the room lights on, the picture was much too dim. Bright scenes were easy enough to see, but darker video is unviewable.

Our camera exaggerates the difference a bit, but the center of the screen is certainly brighter than the edges.

The "screen door' effect is visible up close. We've found that it's not noticeable unless a very bright scene comes up. To give you an idea of how fine it is, check out the full screen shot below.

Here's what the full screen looks like from our Superbit edition of The Fifth Element. Despite the drawbacks of the large lens LCD technology we used, movies and TV look fantastic. The 1440 x 900 resolution of the LCD really pays off.

Our total cost was about $850 in parts (including long DVI and VGA cables) and around 60 to 80 hours of work. In other words, worth it probably only to few of you. Although, if we hadn't been writing it up, we probably could have finished it up quite a bit faster.

The final word on the DIY HD Projector: we'll give it a moderate rating. The high resolution produces excellent detail. The slight hot spotting in the middle might be mitigated by a bit of tweaking. (We hear that some DIY screen paint solutions work quite well.) Thanks to the large LCD surface, the screen door effect isn't noticeable 95% of the time. For cost effectiveness, you might seriously consider going with a smaller LCD and less expensive lenses. Considering the quality we've gotten, if you can keep the cost under $600, you're still getting a hell of a deal.