InFocus SP8600 review
It might look more like a business projector than something aimed at the home cinema market, but the InFocus SP8600 makes up for its plain design in other areas – particularly with its price. For less than £700, it’s one of the best equipped entry-level 1080p models we’ve seen.
Beyond Full HD video, you also get plenty of inputs to connect plenty of devices. Two HDMI ports, VGA, composite, component and S-Video are all present, as is the 3.5mm and stereo RCA audio inputs. Extras include a 3.5mm audio output, a 12V screen trigger, USB input and RS232 serial port - bonuses we rarely see on entry-level projectors.
Connectivity and price aren’t everything, of course – once we’d hooked the SP8600 up to our reference equipment, it became clear that image quality was no match for a more expensive system. Because it uses DLP, the rainbow effect is almost inevitable. In this case, they were more noticeable than usual. The black and white intro to Casino Royale was almost unwatchable, and we could still easily spot the effect in colour scenes. It wasn’t enough to completely ruin the experience, but you’d be disappointed if it was your first projector.
Diving into the menu system to try and improve the picture, we were happy to see a wide selection of options: brightness, contrast, colour, sharpness and tint can all be customised and saved to three user pre-sets. There aren’t many preset picture modes to choose from, with only Normal, Bright and Movie on offer. All three were either far too bright or muted the colours, so you’ll have to tweak the settings yourself for the best viewing experience. There are no motion-smoothing settings, just digital noise reduction. We noticed a few motion artefacts in fast-moving scenes, which makes the SP8600 less than ideal for watching sports or playing games.
There’s a full set of buttons on the unit itself, but we found it much easier to use the credit card-sized remote control. Despite its diminutive dimensions, it includes in the most important functions such as source, freeze and keystone settings. Naturally for an entry-level DLP model, the lens is controlled manually, so keystone effects are purely digital.
If you’re looking to save some money on a home cinema setup with the SP8600, don’t omit a dedicated speaker system. The built-in 3w mono speaker is underpowered and useless for watching movies. The good news is that we didn’t notice any fan noise – the SP8600 remained very quiet throughout our testing, even after several hours’ sustained use.
Even at this price, it’s difficult to recommend the SP8600. It might have more inputs and outputs than more expensive projectors, but it can’t compete in terms of picture quality, particularly if you’re susceptible to the rainbow effect. We recommend paying the extra for a better all-rounder such as the excellent BenQ W1060.
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