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Philips LC6231 Review

DT Recommended Product

Highs

  • Great value
  • quiet

Rating

Our Score 8
User Score 9

Lows

  • Cheaper solutions are on the horizon
Overall Philips has produced a competitive projector that should meet the needs of most entry level home theater enthusiasts.

Summary

Overall Philips has produced a competitive projector that should meet the needs of most entry level home theater enthusiasts.  Its real advantages are in value (due to its relatively low initial cost of $2000 – $2500) and the cheapest long term costs (due to its best-in-class lamp life).  Also, its first-in-class quietness is a distinct advantage in close quarters.  On the negative side, cheaper home theater projectors are available that are even more competitive in terms of screen resolution, intensity, and contrast.  Its native wide screen format will please many movie enthusiasts, and the continued price reduction should further fuel the growth in the projector market.  It is a great time for the consumer as the technology continues to make rapid strides while prices plummet.  Sub $1000 projectors are already arriving, causing many to consider ridding the family room’s 35″ CRT TV and moving up to the full home theater experience with a 100″ screen.  After all, why not?  Movie tickets are not getting any cheaper!

Introduction

A newcomer to the home theater projector scene, Philips introduced a widescreen LCD projector this year targeted squarely at the growing entry level home theater market.  With several first-in-its-class features and a competitive price tag, Philips has managed to squeeze its foot in the door of what seems to be the fastest growing segment of home theater.  But no one is happy to give up market share – and InFocus, Sony, Toshiba, NEC, Epson, and many others have joined in the mad dash to bring projector prices into the sub two-thousand dollar commodity range.  As prices continue to drop, many are seeing the benefits of projectors over traditional CRT screens, LCD flat panels, and plasma screens – namely better cost per image size while maintaining a minimal footprint.  Increased sales and competition have been excellent for consumers, and the last few years have seen rise to many technological breakthroughs and improvements in both competing technologies; LCD and DLP.  This has allowed for improvements on nearly every front – in resolution, contrast, intensity, color, pixilation, sound level, and size, all while the cost continues to plunge.  Competitive pricing has been most noticeable at the low end of the home market for projectors, although the projectors marketed towards business have continued on the same trend.   With a list price of $2500 the LC6231 can actually be found for less than $2000, a pretty good bargain for its features.

Features

The Philips LC6231 uses three .7″ 854×480 LCD panels to produce its image.  For those unaware of the competing LCD and DLP technology in projectors – LCD has been the mainstream technology until DLP emerged several years ago from Texas Instruments.  Since the arrival of DLP improvements have been made to both technologies and each continues to have certain advantages for which it remains competitive.  LCD projectors tend to have crisper images with better color saturation, and are generally brighter for a given lamp power.   Unfortunately they also can highlight the lines between pixels – an effect know as pixilation – which is apparent at lower resolutions.  Because the light goes through three LCD panels (for red/green/blue) – it is more difficult to produce a true black with LCD technology, making for a contrast that is generally lower than that of DLP.  DLP (digital light processing) projectors use a proprietary MEMs (micro electo mechanical) device from TI that acts as mechanical array of mirrors.  Each mirror reflects light through a spinning color wheel at the appropriate time for each pixel to give it the correct color and intensity.  Because each mirror can be tilted away, a very minimal amount of light can be reflected if needed, allowing for very high contrast.  Unfortunately because all light is reflected off the DLP chip and there is some absorption, and DLP projectors tend to be less bright for a given lamp power.  But the lack of intensity can be overcome with more powerful lamps, and overall the high contrast and lack of pixilation have caused the majority of home theater enthusiasts to lean more towards DLP.  That said, because of the LC6231′s LCD panels, expect excellent color and sharpness.  The LC6231 uses a native wide screen format of 854×480 (sometimes referred to as WSVGA) which – although lower resolution than some of its competition, is great for playing DVD’s or HDTV with a 16:9 aspect ratio.  Having a widescreen format by default can be excellent if the intention is to primarily watch DVD and HDTV because the image fills the entire LCD panel and no black bars are visible on the screen.  Should you need to play a typical 4:3 image (say your VCR or standard TV) the projector will still produce the image, but a significant portion of the screen will show up as “black” bars – or grey areas since there isn’t a true black.  Alternatively, projectors with a native 4:3 ratio will have “black” bars on the top and bottom when playing typical 16:9 movies.  Unfortunately there is no win-win situation if you intend to watch both 4:3 and 16:9 media.  To make matters worse, some movies are recorded at ratios other than these two.  The best bet may be to decide which media you will be viewing most often and pick a 4:3 or 16:9 projector accordingly.  For many, the LC6231′s wide screen format will be the preference because of the foreseeable industry move to a 16:9 HDTV and movie format.

Several key features distinguish the LC6231 in the face of growing competition.  One such feature is its extremely quite fan.  At 27dB it is the most quite projector we have seen on the market, and could be extremely beneficial if the intended platform is a table in the middle of a room, close to the viewer and at ear height.  The fan noise is a common complaint for projectors in general, but we hardly noticed it on this Philips, even when sitting within a few feet from the fan.

Another feature that stands out is the 6000 hour lamp life expectancy.  This is roughly double that of almost all other lamps, yet its extended life is not reflected in the replacement lamp price.  At the current rate of development we would expect to see most projectors become outdated before becoming functionally obsolete, but for those interested in the long run, the 6000 hour lamp does greatly reduce the operating cost.  In fact, it may not need replacing at all before technological advances warrant the purchasing of a new projector.  At a typical 8 hours / week it would last over 14 years.

Brightness is measured at 1000 ANSI – which like resolution is perhaps a bit low for the price range.  Contrast is 400:1, also on the low side.  A six Watt speaker is built in to provide audio in a pinch, but any home theater enthusiast would likely keep it on mute.  Still – this is more audible than most laptops and if watching movies or giving presentations on the go it could come in handy.  And even at six Watts, it is higher power than most other similarly priced projectors.

Features Continued…

A handy remote is included which allows easy access to all the on-screen menus.  An even handier, backlit touch-screen remote is optional.  Unfortunately the lack of ambient light optimal for viewing the screen is not optimal for viewing the remote, so we recommend either memorizing the buttons on included remote, or buying the touch-screen version.  Many times during viewing we were forced to turn on the lights to find the necessary button, which can be rather distracting.  Another downside to the included remote is the complexity involved in switching aspect ratios.  It could have been as simple as adding a single button.  As it is currently, one has to scroll through two pages of menu options before reaching the aspect ratio.  This is rather inconvenient if switching between DVD (16:9) and VCR or other 4:3 devices regularly.  The menus themselves are very self-explanatory, a definite plus.  The image can be inverted to allow for ceiling mounting, and brightness, contrast, sharpness, and all other settings are easily accessible.

At 8.1 lbs the LC6231 is on the light side for LCD projectors.  It has a fold out handle to simplify transportation and is fairly compact

Another positive feature is the multitude of inputs available – thanks to inheriting the same platform/design as its close cousins, the more business oriented bSure Sv2 & Xv2.  Inputs include progressive component video, S-video, a single RCA for video, two for audio, and a SVGA connector for a computer.  Also it has USB & PS/2 connectors for a mouse & 3.5 mm stereo jack.  A single button on the remote allows for quick swapping between inputs.

Setup and Installation

Setup is much simpler than would be expected for a couple thousand dollars worth of electronics.  For home video simply connect the three component in RCA connectors if you have them (or S-video or standard single RCA if not).  Turn on the power, push the input button until the video input you have connected is highlighted, and begin watching the movie.  Adjust the zoom and focus manually on the lens and adjust brightness if needed on the menu.

Conclusion

Overall Philips has produced a competitive projector that should meet the needs of most entry level home theater enthusiasts.  Its real advantages are in value (due to its relatively low initial cost of $2000 – $2500) and the cheapest long term costs (due to its best-in-class lamp life).  Also, its first-in-class quietness is a distinct advantage in close quarters.  On the negative side, cheaper home theater projectors are available that are even more competitive in terms of screen resolution, intensity, and contrast.  Its native wide screen format will please many movie enthusiasts, and the continued price reduction should further fuel the growth in the projector market.  It is a great time for the consumer as the technology continues to make rapid strides while prices plummet.  Sub $1000 projectors are already arriving, causing many to consider ridding the family room’s 35″ CRT TV and moving up to the full home theater experience with a 100″ screen.  After all, why not?  Movie tickets are not getting any cheaper!