1080p Projector Review 2008 - Performance03/14/2008 -Art Feierman
1080p Home Theater Projectors: General Performance
For purposes of this comparison, I have trimmed the list of topics to those most significant. Of course, more info on all topics is available on the individual reviews.
User Memory Settings
Lens Throw and Lens Shift
SDE and Rainbow Effect
Audible Noise Levels
Lamp Life and Replacement
Projector Screen Recommendations
Projector User Savable Settings
There is a lot of variation between projectors here, but all offer at least 3 user savable settings. JVC and Sony each have three, most have more, with the two Epsons holding the record with 10 each.
About half of all the projectors in this review, are now ISF Certified, which doesn't promise a better picture, just that at least two savable modes (ISF Day, and ISF Night) are set aside for professional calibrators to use, and that certain types of adjustments are possible. Being ISF certified doesn't mean you are going to get excellent color accuracy or anything, out of the box, just that it guarantees that a professional calibrator (which few people spend for) has the tools they need to do a good job, with the necessary minimum of controls. Almost all projectors have most/all of those controls, and many are hidden in password service menus - only for service techs or calibrators.
I should correct myself, not all projectors offer at least 3 savables, in the traditional sense (such as User, 1,2,3). Some, like most Optomas use recognition systems so that you can make changes to your colors, brightness, etc. from your DVD player, and it will remember that those changes are for that device, and you put in different settings for your cable box, and it remembers those when playing source material from that. The end result is the same. The ability to put in, and have the right settings for "most occasions".
Now that I own the JVC RS1, I will say from past experience, that I think for those that want multiple settings for different sources and ambient light conditions, may find only 3 savables to be a bit limiting, But, I don't really consider it an issue. However, if I had my druthers, I'd recommend manufacturers provide 4 minimum, and probably 6, which should satisfy everyone.
Home Theater Projector Remote Controls
This is another area where I'll refer you back to the individual reviews for more details. Perhaps the best thing to do, is explore what makes a good remote vs. a so-so (poor) one.
Of course, few people will base their choice on the remote control's performance no matter how good or bad. And there's always the option of using a room control system, or a good universal remote control, to get rid of the 5 minimum remotes, that most of us have.
Here are thoughts on what makes for a superior remote, in no particular order:
1. Good range. Mmost have no problems, but range is more important if you are shelf mounting, and/or have a particularly large screen, since the distances are greater. For example, I sit about 12 feet from my screen, and my JVC projector is shelf mounted 20 feet from the screen. Everytime I use it, I have to bounce the IR signal off the screen - requiring a range of 32 feet (and some surfaces, such as my gray firehawk, don't seem to bounce the signal as well as white surfaces in general).
2. Larger, well spaced buttons, preferably grouped in such a way, that you can feel your way around easily. Some of us have large hands, and are driven crazy by the tiny, packed in buttons found on some remotes, such as the remote Optoma uses.
3. A good backlight. Virtually every home theater projector's remote control is backlit. Some are very bright, some are dim, some are red, some are blue, some are orange, or yellow. Blue and red seem to be harder to read than white/yellow, and orange. But brightness is most important, some of these remotes are hard to read, even with the backlight on!
4. Any reset type buttons should be well isolated from other buttons.
5. A sculpted remote, so it fits better in the hand.
6. Having buttons for direct controls that you use often. Having separate mode, and source buttons is probably more important than having a button for sharpness, or contrast (although those that change their settings 3 times during the course of watching a movie would argue with me).
And the buttons themselves should have their functions printed on them, so that they can easily be read when your theater is fully dark.
Something rarely found, is also at least one button that glows "significantly" in the dark, so you can find it. I have the optional remote for the PS3. I can never find it. The remote is black, and no backlight, or glowing buttons.
If the remote is a big issue to you, consult the individual reviews. I'm not going to organize them here for you, but here are a couple of favorites and why.
Epson's remote controls: Excellent range, bright backlight, (orange) with all buttons labeled, so they light up, good spacing and organization, for "feeling" around.
JVC remotes: Not quite as good, backlight not as bright, range still good, backlight button not in a great place, different spacing would help.
Sony remotes: Similar to the JVC, but some buttons (Navigation, Enter, Input, and (strangely) the backlight button itself, are not backlit, Their rocker setup for the arrow keys doesn't have as good a feel as the traditional 4 button diamond most remotes use. Also, for those of us (including me) not doing our source switching through an AV receiver (or computer), the Sony has a single input button instead of discreet buttons for each source.
Optoma Remotes: Very small, very small buttons, but, at least a really bright backlight. More limited in range than most.
Pansonic remote: I mention this one because it is the only "learning" remote of the group. It can not only run your projector, but also three additional devices. It's also the only one to have an LCD display (small). Overall, it had good range, but is a bit cluttered with extra buttons (like channel up/down, and DVD controls), for those not interested in its universal functions.
Mitsubishi remotes: Laid out nicely, but limited range
InFocus remote control: Small, very few buttons compared to most, InFocus has always gone with the idea that less is easier. The blue LED lighting works pretty well, with the lighting very bright, but the blue, offsetting the ease of reading. Also InFocus puts symbols on the remote's buttons and text near the button. I favor the text be on the button, so it reads easily when lit up. InFocus puts the backlight button on the bottom - like a trigger, a very nice touch.
BenQ remote: Large, well spaced, good backlighting, reasonably long range. A BenQ sat where my JVC currently sits, and I was always able to get a bounce, even though it's probably weaker than some, as I had to pay more attention to where I pointed it, to be sure that the projector would see the signal.
Lens Throw and Lens Shift
Consult the individual reviews for specific info for each projector, but here are some of the relavant distinctions:
Those with vertical lens shift (horizontal is important to few folks) include: All the LCD and LCoS projectors. In addition the two DLP BenQ's have vertical lens shift, as does the Sharp XV-Z20000.
That leaves only the five Optoma projectors, and the InFocus IN82, without!
Zoom lens range
All but the DLP projectors have zoom lenses with lots of range. All the DLP projectors have the same 1.2:1 zoom except for the Sharp XV-Z20000 which sports a 1.35:1 zoom. That may not sound like a large improvement, but it can really make a difference if you want to shelf mount.
In most rooms a 1.2:1 zoom is only going to give you front to back placement flexibility of 2-4 feet, depending on the size of your screen. For example, you'll get just over 2.5 feet range on a 100" screen. By comparison, all of the projectors other than DLP models have ranges from about 7.5 feet to about 11 feet, for the same sized screen.
More specifically, all 3LCD, and LCoS projectors, have at least 1.8:1 zooms, except for the two Mitsubishis with 1.6:1 - (which is still far, far better, than any of the DLP's).
Excellent: (with zoom ratios of 2:1 to 2.1:1) this group has tons of placement flexibility: The Panasonic PT-AE2000U, Epson Cinema 1080 UBs, all three JVC projectors,
Very good: The Mitsubishi and Sony projectors: The Mitsubishi models with their its 1.6:1 zoom still provides plenty flexibility, and Sony VW40 and VW60, split the difference with 1.8:1 ratio. I considered putting the Sonys in the Excellent range, since 1.8 is still very impressive, but the Sonys starts with a little shorter (closer) throw distance than most of the others, as a result, it can't be placed quite so far back, and that may limit it for some wanting to shelf mount on their back wall.
Fair: You know the answer here: All the DLP projectors
Projector Lens Shift
The large majority of these projectors have at least vertical lens shift. Once again, most of the DLP projectors lack vertical lens shift, and all of the others have it.
Of the DLP projectors, the Sharp XV-Z20000 and the two BenQ projectors - W5000 and W20000, offer vertical lens shift. That leaves six without - five Optoma projectors, and the InFocus IN82.
The three DLP projectors with vertical lens shift all offer the same or less than those with the least lens shift among the rest. All three can be placed anywhere from even with the top of the screen to even with the bottom. Almost all of the others can go a bit higher and lower than that.
As to horizontal lens shift, it's handy for a sloppy installation (mounting the projector slightly left or right of where it should be, and for those who really need to put the projector somewhere not in the middle. Most with horizontal lens shift (except the Sony projectors) can have the projector at least a foot or more, off center, for a 100 inch screen. (Sony's adjustment is minimal - good for the fixing the "sloppy mounting").
Please note, the more vertical lens shift you use, the less horizontal is available, and vice versa. Thus, if you need to mount your projector a foot or more off center horizontally with a projector with horizontal lens shift, you will have far less vertical lens shift to work with.
Combining both Lens Shift and Lens Throw here is how I rank them:
Excellent: All JVC, All Epson, Panasonic PT-AE2000U, Sanyo PLV-Z2000
Very Good: All Sony and Mitsubishi projectors
Good: BenQ W9000 and W10000, Sharp XV-Z20000
Poor: All Optoma's and the InFocus IN82
Rainbow Effect and ScreenDoor Effect
DLP projectors use spinning color wheels and can cause a very small percentage of people to see rainbows. It's simple, if you can't see rainbows, no problem. Of those susceptible, some are more than others, some see them almost any time a fast moving bright object moves across a dark background, or the other way around, some only notice it occasionally, and of those, many report head movements trigger it (I am slightly susceptible and agree, and add to that, also I seem more susceptable when tired). Talk about head movements, one person recently emailed me (he may have been kidding), that about the only time he sees RBE, is when munching on popcorn (and its fast moving objects...)
Screen Door Effect is caused by the fixed pixel structure creating mild distortion problems on fine textures (such as the grass on a football field), but is not really an issue with any of these projectors, since the pixels of a 1080p projector are so small. Still, the less visible the pixel structure, the less likely of ever encountering the screendoor effect. It is possible to detect it on the Epsons and the Mitsubishi, the two LCD projectors with their normally more visible pixel structures, if you sit pretty close. Still, this also should not be an issue for anyone.
On the other hand, those 3LCD projectors do have slightly visible pixel structures for those sitting very close, which you might barely notice on movie credits, large stationary white (or near white) areas, and titling in general. Epson has the newest generation of 3LCD panels, and I should note that they seem to be less visible at any distance than last year's Epsons, or the current Mitsubishi which are still using slightly older LCD panels. I doubt however, that it will be a deal breaker for anyone but those most extremely pixel adverse.
Review continues below this advertisement.
No real issue with any of these projectors, but a number of them do leak small amounts of light, that can hit the screen and around it. I do not test, and I assume that projectors with lots of lens shift, or no lens shift, but a lot of lens offset (the DLP projectors) being used, probably throw more extraneous light out the lens than those with less. With white walls by your screen, you can see light leaking from the JVC projectors and all the Optomas. The Epsons are pretty clean, as are, I think, most of the others, although I comment in each review.
Audible Noise Levels
For those really after the absolute best environment for their viewing, fan noises (and dynamic iris noise, and DLP color wheel whine), can be an issue. Almost all projectors are very quiet to effectively silent when in low lamp mode, as their fans run much quieter. It's when you use full power lamp mode that some get noisy enough to be noticed, and annoy some folks on quiet scenes, and a few are noisier still.
For this reason, for my listings below, the operative parameter, is noise while the lamp is running at full power (bright).
Excellent: Both Mitsubishi projectors, Panasonic PT-AE2000U, Sanyo PLV-Z2000
Acceptable (to almost all): Both Epson's All JVC's, Both Sony's, Both BenQ's, InFocus IN82
Worst: All Optoma's, Sharp XV-Z20000
Review continues below this advertisement.
Home Theater Projector Brightness
In last year's report, I had brightness measurements for "best" modes in the Image Quality section, and for brightest modes, here. This year, I moved everything into the Image Quality section, for better or worse. If you skipped that page, click here.
Lamp Life and Replacement
I will only note that almost all of these projectors rate lamp life around 2000 hours in full power.
Sony, and Sanyo, however, don't provide a rating for their lamp. Right or wrong, I'll assume 2000 hours in full power, that should be close. If you are worried, call them, as I tried, but they just won't quote lamp life.
Most of these projectors claim lamp life of 2500 to 3000 hours in low power mode, but not all, JVC for example says 2000 hours - either way. Mitsubishi claims a staggering 5000 hours on their projectors, in low power mode.
When it comes to replacing the lamp, many of these projectors can do it without unmounting (if you are ceiling mounted).
Those that can change the lamp without unmounting:
Both Mitsubishi projectors, the Panasonic PT-AE2000U, both BenQ projectors, all JVC projectors, Sanyo PLV-Z2000, both Sony projectors.
Those that do have to be unmounted: Epson Home (and Pro) Cinema 1080 UB, all Optomas, the InFocus IN82
Sony's VW50 has a bottom lamp door, it is slightly away from the mounting threads for a ceiling mount. Best I can say is that with the right mount, you may not have to unmount the projector to change the lamp. Consult with your dealer about the mounts.
Projector Screen Recommendations and Projector Calibration
For projector screen recommendations and calibration, visit the individual reviews.
Last year, I felt general image noise was more than acceptable on all the projectors. Not necessarily perfect, of course. This year, that's not the case. Sporting definitely more image noise than any of the others is the new BenQ W5000, in fact, that is its single biggest flaw, and a major reason it didn't beat out the Sony VW40 in the awards.
In terms of the processing, most companies use 3rd party solutions, so for example, Optoma and JVC use Gennum processing, while Silicon Optix and Faroudja are found in others. It's hard to keep them all straight, as some manufacturers don't actually promote who they use.
Home Theater Projectors: Summary of General Performance Issues
In considering how to summarize, I quickly realized that ranking them doesn't really accomplish much. For example the Optoma would score rather low due to lens shift and zoom lens, as well as remote, etc. But for those ceiling mounting, lens shift and zoom lens issues may not be important - either it will work in your room or not. Or consider the Sharp and the Sanyo, the least bright projectors, an issue for many, but probably not an issue for those looking at screen sizes of 100" diagonal or less (larger with a high gain screen).
For this reason, I've made no attempt to rank general performance. Instead, I leave it to you, to intelligently figure out which of these performance items are deal breakers. For example, if you want to shelf mount in the back of your room, with a large screen (110" or more), you can quickly eliminate about half of these projectors - all six without lens shift, and the least bright remaining projectors which includes the Sanyo and Sharp projectors. If you are sensitive to the Rainbow Effect, then also scratch the BenQ projectors and the IN82 from your list.
Then, of course there is price. So for most of you, it becomes a process of elimination. Figure out which projectors just won't work for you, and then choose from what's left.
That's it. Now, I strongly recommend you visit the Warranty page (by far the least read, of the five pages in each review). Warranties vary widely, and repairs can be very expensive. I think it's worth a few minutes of your time. You know what they say: Let the Buyer beware!