Cinematrix PSM-1 Review

Discussion in 'Projectors, Screens & Video Processors' started by Boris Blank, Jan 4, 2002.

  1. Boris Blank

    Boris Blank
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    I'm no expert and I'll call it as I see it. So on with the review;

    What is it?
    The PSM-1 video scaler is a module that is inserted into certain types of DVD player to capture the players display signal straight off the MPEG board and upscale it to pre-set (but user selectable) resolutions that are then output through RGB(HV) BNC (or phono if required) connectors on the back of the DVD player. A small "dongle" type switch is also installed at the rear of the player to select the various pre-set resolutions (basically line-doubled, tripled, quadrupled) or custom resolutions can be made if requested (there is also a specific resolution for Sony VW-10/11HT users). The upscaled RGB signal (progressive for both PAL and NTSC) is output via the BNC connectors to your projector. The functions of the existing scart, component, s-video, etc, connectors remain the same.

    How is it Installed?
    The installation requires that the DVD player be sent to an authorised installer who will insert the module, make the necessary modifications to the player, test it and return it. Expect turnaround time to be about 2 to 3 weeks (its a major job).

    How does it work?
    The user inserts a DVD into the player as normal, and depending on the DVD, can select the resolution to be displayed, you can, amongst other things, upconvert a letterbox (non-anamorphic) disc to 16:9 anamorphic or display a 4:3 full frame image as 4:3 in a 16:9 anamorphic display. The dongle has 8 dip switches which are used for all the above functions as well as allowing users to tweak sharpness and anti-aliasing but these last 2 functions are best left unused as they introduce artifacts. The dongle is in process of being replaced by an infra-red remote control, in practice I don't find the dongle a problem, rarely using it once set.

    OK, enough background, whats the display like!?
    I've previously used a Quadscan and a Radeon powered high-spec HTPC (PowerDVD 4) for my projector (Barco 801s) and of the 2, the Quadscan I found produced the worst image and was limited to 50/60hz, whilst the HTPC produced the best image, but the HTPC suffered from panning judder no matter how hard I tried to get rid of it and was just plain inconvienent to use (although it was fun fiddling). The PSM-1 (installed in my Pioneer 737) produces an image easily as detailed as the HTPC and possibly better (although I am not yet fully convinced of this as testing didn't reveal anything astoundingly different between the two). The playback is judder-free, very detailed and clear. I have not seen any jaggies or combing which plagued earlier versions of the PSM-1. The dreaded upsampling chroma bug (which my DVD player has) is nowhere in sight - I'm either blind or its impact is far less than horror stories suggest or the PSM-1 is able to suppress it. The PSM-1 is limited (at present) to a 50/60hz display. NTSC material plays perfectly, PAL does suffer from slight flicker (or shimmering) which affects CRTs only. The flicker isn't too bad, akin to what I occasionaly see on my tv - I suspect i'm a bit suseptable to it as my g/f can't see it. A/B testing between the HTPC and the PSM-1 at 720p revealed that the HTPC colours looked better (although I later tweeked the CRT to make the PSM-1 picture the same as the HTPC) but the HTPC judder meant blind-testing was a joke. If nothing else, the PSM-1 beats the HTPC for sheer convienance alone, never mind heat and noise intrusion which (some) HTPC's suffer from. Upconversion of letterbox dvd's is superb, again easily matching the HTPC's ability to do so. Titanic, which I extensively use to test upscaling of the HTPC, looks gorgeous with none of the HTPC's judder.

    Great, whats it all cost?
    Approx. £460 (700 euro's) , plus you will need to send your player to the installer at a cost of approx £20. I had to wire transfer the money so add in anoth £15 or so for bank charges. (My installer ITC in Holland, has credit card facillities but a problem meant I had to wire transfer the money- no real hassle at all).

    Conclusion
    For £460, the PSM-1 module has to be the bargain of a life-time. Nothing, nothing can beat it for value and quality. I have spent over a year fiddling with HTPC and still never got it quite right (even after throwing more (wasted) money at the problem). A good quality scaler can cost upwards of £3000 - £5000, the PSM-1 at a fraction of that cost produces an image easily on a par with HTPC (which itself is acknowledged as being up there with the big boys). Drawbacks, yes, of course there are, you can only scale the DVD itself, no external input and PAL 50hz has (minor) problems on CRTs. [BUT - the PSM-1 is shortly to be replaced by the PSM-2 which will have multiple refresh rates as standard, use newer scaling/deinterlacing algorithms, can self calibrate the display grayscale via an optional mini camera and (possibly) scale external sources - cost will be approx £1000 to £1500] The PSM-1 was designed to be upgradable so current users of the PSM-1 should be able to swap-out to the PSM-2 (although this has not been fully confirmed] For me, the PSM-1 is the wonder of wonders, its cheap, does the job fantastically and does it unobtrusively. I wish I'd bought it a year ago, I feel I have wasted time and money on my HTPC. For some, the main limitation of the PSM-1 will be that it can't scale anything other than the DVD player, for those, like me who primarily watch DVD's this is not an issue but if it is, then buy a second-hand Quadscan or use your HTPC for Sky, Xbox or whatever.

    Bottom-line - get it!

    Many of you know my thoughts on the cost of scalers and how the parts can't possibly justify the extortionate prices charged! Having seen the PSM-1 in the flesh, I can honestly say that for once I am truely satisfied that it provides excellent value for money - it doesn't cost much more than some high-end GF3 video cards and given the labour involved, its a genuine 100% bargain!!

    Links
    This is my installers's site, please note, I have no connection with ITC other than being a happy customer; http://www.itccomp.nl/htwebf/ITCHT/index.htm It contains more info on the PSM-1. Frank Doorhof, the owner, is a real nice guy and will assist with any questions you may have. ITC are based in the Netherlands - there are no UK based installers although I think Gordon mentioned that Maratavision were considering taking the UK franchise. Based upon my own and others experience with Frank, I would highly recommend him as he is VERY experienced with regard to the PSM-1 module.

    Here are links to pictures of the PSM-1 (in French, use Babelfish to translate);
    http://www.boostercorp.com/article/view/17/2/1 There are numerous different pages packed with information here but you will need to search the site to get to it.

    A link to a forum run by ITC which answers questions on the PSM-1 amongst other things;
    http://www.xsorbit.com/users/J.A.F._Doorhof/index.cgi?board=ITC

    Finally, a link to the manufacturers site;
    http://www.cinematrix.de/

    As a postscript, I have had a crappy start to the new year, first off the green tube of my projector developed a flicker which has so far eluded all attempts to correct it and, to cap it all I dropped the DVD player which has since popped its clogs. So, no DVD watching until the players repaired and the projector problem gets sorted! Bummer eh!?

    Any questions (or flames!) fire away!
    Regards,
    Paul

    Whoaaaa! Credit where credit is due! I forgot to mention, I first heard of the PSM-1 over a year ago from Uncle Eric who has extoled its virtues from the moment he received it - if anything, he has underplayed just how good the PSM-1 actually is. A good find Eric!
     
  2. BruceG

    BruceG
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    of the PSM-1, Paul, but methinks you're in for a lot of questions!

    I guess I should be asking Frank, but do you get any lip-sync problems with the Cinematrix mod? I ask because I seem to be one of those people who see it, and it bugs the hell out of me.

    Cheers,
    Bruce
     
  3. Boris Blank

    Boris Blank
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    Hi Bruce,
    Good question - nope, not seen any lip-sync problems at all. I can spot lip-sync at 50 paces and its one of my pet hates! Although I have not specifically looked for them I'd see them in an instant if they occurred. Nope, quite safe and I've certainly not heard any reports of the problem (and I've read just about everything there is to read about the PSM-1).
    Regards,
    Paul
     
  4. Couch Potato

    Couch Potato
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    If you dont want to be without your DVD player Cinematrix are offering a Sony 7700 multiregion with PSM-1 for $1094 the link is here

    Steve
     
  5. Jeff

    Jeff
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    It sounds OK, but if you can't change the software on it every week where is the fun? :D
     
  6. Boris Blank

    Boris Blank
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    LOL, I know what you mean but it got to the point where I was spending more time fiddling with the HTPC rather than watching movies. I kept waiting for the next big software breakthrough that never came!
    Paul
     
  7. uncle eric

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    Hi Paul,
    Thanks for the mention. I must admit it astounds people that you can pop in a disc and virtually scale to whatever you need without any messing around whatsoever. Not only that, its performance far outdoes its price. This is not a 'you pay for what you get' product. I would also suggest that this is THE bargain in the world of Home Theater. Has been for some time.

    *Note, this is still the worlds only multi scanning DVD player. Though there have been rumers of an immenent mainstream 720p player, it seems to have disappeared with Lord Lucan and Shergar*


    Best Wishes
    Eric
     
  8. Tony Gamble

    Tony Gamble
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    I've just been pointed to this newsgroup and am very impressed with the comments about the PSM-1.

    Does anyone know if there is anyone in the UK using it on a Panasonic 42PWD3 - or similar?

    Rgds

    Tony

    London SW6
     
  9. uncle eric

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    Tony,
    Welcome to the forum.
    Excuse my ignorance but is the Panasonic you mention a Plasma?

    Best Wishes
    Eric
     
  10. GearHead

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    I'm also definitely interested in this combination of PSM-1 to Plasma. Frank at ITC, you were going to post something about this. How about it ?

    Allan
     
  11. Guest

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    :)
    At this moment we have no experience with Plasma's, sorry.
    However IF your plasma's can accept 720P, 480P or even 960P it should be no problem.

    I'm however more than willing to try to programm a PSM-1 on a Plasma, who's plasma can I borrow :)

    Greetings from Holland,
    Frank
     
  12. Tony Gamble

    Tony Gamble
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    Yes, Eric,

    The 42PWD3 is a plasma.

    Maybe we could set up a demo/test in London if someone from Holland could bring the kit over?

    Rgds

    Tony
     
  13. uncle eric

    uncle eric
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    Tony,
    No problem with me.

    Eric
     
  14. LeeS

    LeeS
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    Couldn't someone with a modified unit just pay someone with a TH42 a visit, hook the two up and see if it works? I'm keen to find out myself as I plan to buy one in a few months.
     
  15. Guest

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    The problem is, that there are MANY different programmings possible, and your dongle only supports 8.

    Also on some display we have to make some adjustments to make the picture 100%.

    I'm willing to try it on a Plasma, but London is a bit far for a trip arround the clock :).

    Greetings,
    Frank
     
  16. Tim Cooper

    Tim Cooper
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    Eric,
    Well impressed with your eqipment list give us first refusal on the shinco willya:D :D :D :D :D
    Tim
     
  17. uncle eric

    uncle eric
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    Tim,
    Sorry mate but thats not even mine. Its on loan from Ian J :rolleyes:

    Best Wishes
    Eric
     

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