- The Good: Extremely easy setup; portable; can be extended easily to become the heart of a full home theatre; affordable; accepts various types of video input; built-in DVD player; built-in keystone correction; built-in speakers; short-throw lens; great image quality.
- The Bad: Fan can be heard in quiet movie scenes; controls not very intuitive; no backlight on remote; runs hot, particularly when DVD drive is spinning; image falls short of true high-definition.
- The Verdict: One of a new wave of relatively low-cost, no-hassle projectors that will bring big-screen home theatre to the masses.
Big, big home movie screens aren't just for videophiles any more.
Until recently, consumer video projectors were basically aimed at people spending huge sums of money to build dedicated home theatres - rooms with a high-end audio system, built-in big screen and a permanently mounted projector. Products like Optoma's MovieTime DV10 are changing all that.
The DV10 is a DLP (ie. colour-wheel) projector that sets up in under a minute, but is portable enough to go pretty much anywhere. It has a built-in DVD player and speakers, and can project images up to 30 feet across. It can even be connected to a more permanent home theatre surround-sound system with a single RCA or optical audio cable. And it can be tossed in a closet when you're not using it.
In other words you can use it in a dedicated home theatre, turn your living room into a temporary cinema, set it up in the back yard for an outdoor movie night, or take it to the cottage. And you can also put it away in about a minute when the show's over.
The last part is what appealed most to my wife. I've been negotiating to upgrade our 32-inch cathode-ray-tube-TV to a real big screen system for years, but the standard reply has basically been that (besides the cost), she doesn't want a huge screen or lots of gear dominating the living room, whether it's a plasma TV, widescreen television or a permanently mounted projector. Her idea of what makes up a "comfy living room" space is very different from mine, obviously ...
The MovieTime DV10 is the type of gadget that may finally get me my big-screen wish. First of all, you don't need a permanent installation, as I mentioned, because this projector is specifically made for quick setup in a room that isn't a dedicated home theatre. The curved-top MovieTime measures 14.5 inches wide, 4.6 high and 10.7 deep, and weighs in at just under eight pounds, so it's easy to move and store.
It's also childishly simple to set up - this is a projector that's truly designed for the non-techie viewer. Put in on a coffee table and aim it at the wall or pull-down screen, plug in the power cable, insert a DVD disc, hit the on button and turn the focus ring until the picture is sharp. That's it. You can have it out of its case and be watching movies within a couple of minutes, including warm-up time for the bulb.
The DV10 has an excellent short-throw lens that's designed to work from a coffee table in front of the viewer as well as from farther back. The throw ratio is 1.26-to-1.41:1 (distance/width), giving you a five-foot-wide (60-inch) image when placed just under seven feet back from the screen, for example, or a 10-foot-wide image when it's placed about 13 feet back. If you have a big enough projection surface, it's rated for up to a 30-foot-wide image at a 16:9 aspect ratio.
The projector has a zoom adjustment, too, which gives a bit of flexibility in terms of where you place it. Typically the zoom gives you a couple of feet of play - you can put the DV10 roughly where it needs to be for the screen size you want, then you can fine-tune the size to match the screen precisely using the zoom rather than inching the projector itself back and forth.
Since it's made to be used from a coffee table projecting upwards, as well as from a higher mount where it would have a more straight-on vantage point, the projector has built-in keystone correction (plus-or-minus 16 per cent). This means it tilts the projected image so that even when projecting up at a steep angle, the resulting image on the screen will be square. And the big plus: The keystone correction buttons are right on the infrared remote control, so you can fine-tune it from the couch.