Home Projector Comparison Report: Summary
4/20/2013 - Art Feierman
Home Theater Projector Comparison Report - Summary
Congratulations! You have just about made it to the end of our Guide to Choosing the Right Home Theater Projector for Your World! You should certainly be ready to make the right decision as to which projector will best light up your life.
I will take this space for a quick summary and a tale or two. I'm hoping my own experiences here will help clarify things for you. Your situations won't be exactly the same as mine, but there may be useful similarities.
Budget, and your room, are the first two ingredients in making the right choice. Deciding what you like to watch, and when you will be watching it, is key for those without a dedicated room with great light control. I, myself spent 3 years in one house, with a large screen in a high ceilinged room, with all off white surfaces - floors, ceiling and walls. The room had lots and lots of glass.
I had to live with watching just about anything I wanted during the daytime, except for movies, and the occasional awesome astronomy content. The room had blackout shades on all the windows, but without the channels that make them light tight. The blinds themselves were blackout material, but light comes in around the shades and window frame. There are some images in the report showing that room with the off-white walls, and later with rust colored walls, (after I finally convinced my wife that we could still have a great looking great room without light walls.) BTW I considered our room to be a "multi-media" room after doing the walls rust color (and also darkening the ceiling somewhat). Note that while black levels were still somewhat compromised after darkening the surfaces, and that movie viewing became possible in the daytime, those dark scenes still wouldn't "pop" with the amount of ambient light on a typical day with the shades fully lowered.
Life - and your projector decision is relatively easy if you do have a dedicated room with very good lighting control. Almost every projector can do 2D in that type of room on screens up to 120 inch diagonal with a projector that only has about 500 lumens in best mode! Oh, you'd want more when friends are over for sports or TV, but then all home theater projectors have more than 500 lumens, but there are quite a few that can't break the 1000 lumen level, even in their worst modes. You guessed it, projectors with less than 1000 lumens maximum, are usually far better off in a dedicated home theater.
In multi-media rooms, spare bedrooms, and livingrooms, in most cases it's best to have a brighter projector. With many home theater projectors - and most home entertainment projectors capable of at least 1200 - 1500 lumens (in their brightest modes), those will usually suit you better, but it's your call. Consider, personally, from a practical standpoint, putting a typical JVC projector (which tend to top out at about 650 to 900 lumens calibrated, and not much more at brightest, in a less than ideal room only works great if the screen is smaller, or you are strictly using it at night.
In fairness, I owned (at different times) two different JVC projectors with similar brightness to these numbers, while watching in that room. And at night, once the walls got painted rust, they worked out awesome. That was in part to having an excellent screen for the job - in my case a 128" Stewart Firehawk G3. If I had instead, the Stewart Studieotek 130 I currently use in my dedicated home theater, it would have been a disaster. It would have been brighter, but all that ambient light from the sides would have destroyed the picture quality. Why did I get the JVC's? I wanted the best picture quality I could find, for my budget, and I wasn't concerned about the picture quality, except at night!
In the daytime, I could get by, certainly I could easily watch my sports, even if there were no reasonable blacks, and the image didn't really pop, but even my sports were more than watchable, just not as good as could be. Monday Night Football, by comparison, was awesome, with no light sneaking in from around those shades.
I, of course had a solution for my sports during the daytime. While my JVC projectors (first an RS1, then an RS20) were ceiling mounted, being a reviewer, I always have other projectors around that I'm working with. Typically I always had an Epson, often a Panasonic, plus whatever I was reviewing at the time (another 2-3 projectors). Rarely did I not have a projector, that offered 1500 lumens or more in it's brighter modes, so I would usually fire up one of those for my sports. If I didn't, I'd move myself, and anyone joining me into the second room, which was my testing room, and much closer to being a true theater for daytime sports viewing.
Here's the thing. Every year I have a Superbowl party (it's been 16 years in a row). Of the 7 superbowls in that house, I never once used either of the JVCs for the superbowl party. I always brought in something brighter. Both models of JVCs topped at below 900 lumens. It just wasn't enough for a good party on that sized screen.
Now however, when I had similarly bright projectors here, and ran them in my home theater, I could watch sports or movies day or night, no sweat, thanks to all the dark surfaces and full control of ambient light coming from my windows. With good lighting layout, I can turn on 7 50-65 watt equivalent LED lights (down facing) in the back half of my room, plus some light allowed to come in from my shuttered windows, and and still have eye popping sports viewing with friends, without being stuck in an anti-social "cave" environment.
3D is a tough call. I'm as huge a fan as any projector reviewer out there. I own dozens of Blu-ray 3D and perhaps 60 hours of recorded 3D off of satellite. Just remember you need more starting brightness to have an acceptably bright picture. For example, in the awards, we favored the Sony HW50ES over the JVC DLA-X35. There were several reasons for favoring the Sony and a couple for favoring the JVC. But the big difference was 3D brightness.
Again, choose wisely!
All Home Theater Projectors Winning major awards in this report
Winners are listed by Award. In the case of ties, they are listed alphabetically.
Entry Level Projector Class - Under $2000:
Best In Class Award, 3D and 2D Only: Sharp XV-Z30000
Best In Class Runner-Up, 3D and 2D Projector (Tie): Acer H9500BD
Best In Class Runner-Up, 3D and 2D Projector (Tie): Epson Home Cinema 3020
Best In Class Award, 3D and 2D for Best Value Proposition: BenQ W1070
Best In Class Award, 2D Only for Best Value Proposition: Epson HC8350
Best in Class - Special Award, 2D Only: Panasonic PT-AR100U
Mid-Priced Projector Class: $2000 - $3500:
Best In Class Award (Tie): Epson Home Cinema 5020UB/e, Pro 6020UB
Best In Class Award (Tie): Sony VPL-HW50ES
Best In Class - Special Award: Mitsubishi HC8000D
Best In Class - Special Award: Panasonic PT-AE8000
Premium Priced Projector Class: $3500 - $10,000
Best In Class Award: Sony VPL-VW1000ES
Best In Class Runner Up Award (Tie): JVC DLA-X75R
Best In Class Runner Up Award (Tie): Sony VPL-VW95ES
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