Despite the Cinego D-1000's relatively low price, its appearance doesn't disappoint. Yes, the front looks pretty utilitarian, even with the silver accent, and the silver-colored plastic volume knob on back feels a little chintzy. But considering the boxy designs of so many budget projectors, the D-1000's seems almost fancy. The plain black sub included in the package is typical low-end HTIB fare. The system's biggest design downfall is the credit card-style remote, which just doesn't cut it for an all-in-one system such as this. It's not backlit, and it relies heavily on multifunction keys, which became very confusing once we turned the lights off. We recommend getting a universal model to make the Cinego easier to use in the dark.
This projector's native resolution of 854x480 is exactly enough to display anamorphic DVD. All other sources, including 720p and 1080i HDTV, are scaled to fit the available pixels. If you want to watch high-def or standard television, you'll have to use an external tuner such as a cable or satellite box.
Controls are sparse. The usual picture modes aren't available, but there are gamma presets named Video, Film, Photographic, and RGB. Video is the default, and it's probably best to keep it there. Aspect-ratio controls are limited to Native, 16:9, and 4:3. Zoom modes would've been nice, but you won't miss them unless you're using the projector for more than just DVDs. As with most entry-level projectors, keystoning is vertical only.
Connectivity options include four minijacks (one subwoofer out, one stereo audio out, one stereo audio in, and one video in), one VGA-style computer input, and one coaxial digital audio output. The projector also comes with a full complement of breakout cables to convert the aforementioned minijack inputs for use with your choice of stereo RCA audio, composite-video, S-Video, and component-video connections, so you could hook up a gaming console without a problem.
Setting up the Cinego couldn't have been simpler--we simply put it on the coffee table and fired it up. It's designed to be placed below the screen and lacks any provision for ceiling mounting. We suspect most people will use the Cinego D-1000 in conjunction with a patch of white wall, but we paired it with a 96-inch-wide Da-Lite DaMat screen specifically designed to enhance contrast. RadioShack also sells an inexpensive 55-inch-diagonal screen for $99, which should provide a noticeably better picture than a wall would.
The projector was bright enough to fill the screen without straining, which was surprising for a unit this small. Compared to that of other DLP projectors in its class, however, its general home-theater performance was underwhelming. Out of the box, the projector's color temperature was extremely blue. We weren't able to perform a proper calibration, but after we adjusted brightness and contrast, the color temperature became even bluer--not entirely uncommon for inexpensive fixed-pixel displays. The projector's biggest problem, however, is a particularly bad case of white crush. To maintain any semblance of detail in white and bright portions of the picture, we had to sacrifice a significant amount of contrast, making the picture dimmer. Even afterward, it failed to show all of the detail in white areas.
Black-level performance was likewise disappointing. In "Chapter 3: Awakening," from Alien: Director's Cut, we could barely even discern the human bodies in the hibernation pods when the door to the hibernation chamber first opens. Then, when the lights came up in the scene, almost all of the details in the bright white walls were lost to the white crush, despite any adjustments we made.
The Cinego also suffers from the dreaded screen-door effect. Sitting a full two screen heights from the screen, we could clearly see the grid structure of the projector's pixels, especially in the brightest parts of the picture. We also noticed a strange ringing, not unlike that caused by overly aggressive edge enhancement. But in this case, three concentric rings shadowed onscreen objects. They were visible to some extent in all program material we viewed, from DVD to standard and high-definition television; this could signal some abnormality in the lens.
Speaking of HDTV, even with high-quality HD sources such as our DirecTV feed of HDNet, HD didn't look its best through the Cinego. Creeping noise was visible both in dark shadows and midtones. At the same time, white crush made brighter material appear somewhat flat.
The audio section of the Cinego is best compared to computer speakers circa 1997. The two speakers on the projector's back handle the mids and highs with little detail or finesse. In quieter scenes, the overworked cooling fan overwhelmed the audio, which was distracting, to say the least. The outboard subwoofer has gain and bass controls, which can be tweaked to provide some level of detail and mild bass extension. Don't expect miracles, however. Also, if turned up too far, the sub will degenerate into a chuffing monster.
Ultimately, however, the Cinego isn't about top performance. It's meant to be sold for convenience and value, and it provides plenty of both. If you already have some sort of audio system or want a more permanent installation, you'd be better off going for a dedicated budget projector such as Infocus's X3. But if you want a one-box system that you can tote around and set up easily, then the RadioShack Cinego D-1000 might be for you--especially since it's a couple hundred bucks less than competing DVD player/projectors, such as the HP ep9010 and the Optoma MovieTime DV10.
|Before color temp (30/80)||11,300/8,300K||Poor|
|After color temp (30/80)||12,800/9,200K||Poor|
|Before grayscale variation||+/- 3,300K||Poor|
|After grayscale variation||+/- 4,678K||Poor|
|Color decoder error: red||+10%||Average|
|Color decoder error: green||0%||Good|
|DC restoration||Gray pattern stable||Average|
|2:3 pull-down, 24fps||Y||Good|
|Defeatable edge enhancement||N||Poor|