The InFocus ScreenPlay SP8600 is a remarkable piece of equipment. It's a fully featured DLP projector, quiet in operation, that blasts bright, high-quality video on to your screen in full 1080p resolution, all at the startlingly low price of £799.

The InFocus ScreenPlay SP8600 is by far the least expensive 1080p projector in the InFocus line-up and, as such, lacks the glossy finish, sweeping curves and fancy design details often found on pricier home-cinema devices.

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While we've nothing bad to say about the InFocus ScreenPlay SP8600's solid build-quality, its boxy, matt-black appearance leaves it looking rather like a standard boardroom projector and certainly the ugly-duckling of the range.

This is because the InFocus ScreenPlay SP8600 isn't the product of the InFocus design team at all. In fact it started out as another projector altogether, the Vivitek H1080FD. However, InFocus hasn't simply re-badged Vivitek's design.

Although the two projectors are externally similar, InFocus has made several very important internal upgrades – to call them tweaks certainly wouldn't do them justice.

At the heart of the projector the Vivitek's 0.65in DarkChip 2 DLP engine has been upgraded by InFocus to the 0.65in DarkChip 3 DMD.

Video processing is one of the key areas where budget projectors can so easily fail when pitted against their more-expensive counterparts. Thankfully, the SP8600 has added a Pixelworks DNX 10-bit video processor which ensures that video displays smoothly and without artefacts.

The SP8600 can also play back 1080p/24 content at the native 24 frames per second for that authentic film-like look.

Rated at 1800 lumens, the SP8600 is in fact rather bright for a home-cinema model. Such projectors are usually considerably dimmer than those designed for typical business or educational use. This extra brightness helps ensure that you don't need to turn your living room into a darkened cinema environment before you can watch daytime TV.

It also means you can still use the projector in a boardroom or classroom scenario without worrying too much about your lighting. You'll need to select the Bright mode to do this, which does reduce colour quality quite considerably. A built-in 3W mono speaker is also included, which is could come in handy for short instructional videos and presentations.

A wide range of inputs including VGA and a pair of HDMI ports, ensure you can hook up a variety of devices at the same time, switching between them using the remote control as needed.
At this price, you don't get expensive-to-implement features such as optical lens shift or motorised lens adjustments. Zoom range is also rather narrow, meaning your positioning of the projector will be less flexible and you may have to rely on quality-sapping digital keystone adjustments to set up your picture correctly. Many users might also have hoped for 3D support but here be none.

The supplied remote control is also a tiny, sub credit card-sized affair with cheap non-backlit buttons that aren't much fun to use in a darkened room.

Performance of the InFocus SP8600 is impressive. Despite its hybrid-looks and low price, we were in no doubt that this is a bone fide home-cinema projector. Images are crisp and clear, motion is smooth and contrast is good, although we would have liked a little more depth in the shadows. Yes we've seen better full-HD renditions, but only from much more expensive projectors.

Our only real concern is that bugbear of DLP projectors, the so-called rainbow effect. With the projector's three-speed colour wheel proving more susceptible to the phenomenon than some faster-moving wheels, this reviewer found the level of coloured artefacts following moving objects somewhat distracting. This is, however, a rather subjective effect which you may not notice at all. We urge you to try out an SP8600 for yourself before making a purchasing decision.

With the lamp running in Normal mode, the projector is specified as operating at a 26dBA whisper, while placing the lamp in Boost mode increases this to an audible, but still relatively hushed 30dBA.

These figures compare favourably with much more expensive projectors. You'll also get up to 4000 hours of use from the lamp if you steer clear of that Boost option – it's actually 33% longer lamp life than the equivalent Vivitek projector.

InFocus ScreenPlay SP8600: Specs

  • DLP technology projector
  • 0.65in DarkChip 3 DMD processor
  • six-segment colour wheel (RYGCMB)
  • 1080p native resolution
  • 1800 lumens brightness
  • 5000:1 contrast ratio (on/off)
  • throw ratio 1.6 – 1.92
  • max Zoom 1.2x (manual)
  • digital keystone correction (vertical only)
  • 230W lamp
  • operating noise (standard mode) 26dB
  • lamp life: 4000 hours (boost mode)/2500 hours (standard mode)
  • lamp replacement cost £140
  • 2 x HDMI 1.3 with Deepcolour support, Component Video, S-Video, Composite Video, VGA
  • RS232 control port
  • mono speaker with 3W amp
  • infrared remote control
  • 170 x 71 x 135mm
  • 3.4kg
  • 5-year warranty, parts (excl PSU, fans, colour wheel and light tunnel)/3-year labour and remaining parts
  • 1-year lamp
  • DLP technology projector
  • 0.65in DarkChip 3 DMD processor
  • six-segment colour wheel (RYGCMB)
  • 1080p native resolution
  • 1800 lumens brightness
  • 5000:1 contrast ratio (on/off)
  • throw ratio 1.6 – 1.92
  • max Zoom 1.2x (manual)
  • digital keystone correction (vertical only)
  • 230W lamp
  • operating noise (standard mode) 26dB
  • lamp life: 4000 hours (boost mode)/2500 hours (standard mode)
  • lamp replacement cost £140
  • 2 x HDMI 1.3 with Deepcolour support, Component Video, S-Video, Composite Video, VGA
  • RS232 control port
  • mono speaker with 3W amp
  • infrared remote control
  • 170 x 71 x 135mm
  • 3.4kg
  • 5-year warranty, parts (excl PSU, fans, colour wheel and light tunnel)/3-year labour and remaining parts
  • 1-year lamp

OUR VERDICT

We've seen budget 1080p projectors before, but few are able to offer the level of quality and features required to go beyond mere resolution and deliver smooth life-like moving images. The InFocus SP8600 takes such tasks in its stride and is available for less than the Vivitek H1080FD upon which is it based. This is a truly excellent projector at the £799 asking price.

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