CEDIA 2006 Home Theater Projector Report: New 720p Projectors
Dozens of Hot New 720p Home Theater Projectors - By Manufacturer, With Comments:
Just one 720p home theater projector! Panasonic demonstrated their new PT-AX100U projector, in two rooms. The first demo room, a fully darkened theater, and the second in more of a family room environment with the ability to vary the brightness widely to see how the PT-AX100U performed. The projector looked great with movie content in the dark, and had the brightness to handle moderate ambient light, in the other room.
With the PT-AX100U, Panasonic is the first major player to come out promoting a "brighter" home theater projector, in this case rated 2000 lumens. They share the idea that many users need the extra brightness, because they don't want to "be in the dark" for all content. A dark room is ideal for movies, but most people don't want to be in the dark for watching sports, TV, or video gaming. Also, many potential home theater buyers, do not have dedicated theater rooms, and can't do a good job of darkening their viewing room while the sun is up.
The PT-AX100U will replace the best selling home theater projector on the market, their PT-AE900U (click for review). There are a number of additional refinements, including 6000:1 contrast, that should make the new Panasonic a big time contender in the under $2000 market. Like it's predecessor, the PT-AX100U offers a 2:1 zoom lens, and lens shift, making it suitable for ceiling mounting, tabletop or placing on a shelf at the rear of your room. Look for our review before end of September.
Optoma had a HUGE Cedia show when it comes to rolling out new, aggressively priced 720p home theater projectors! At the entry level, the Optoma HD70 home theater projector sets the bar for entry level projectors, as their new HD70 is the first shipping, under $1000 HD resolution projector. Look for our overview of the HD70 to post late on 9/19 or 9/20.. The HD70 claims 1000 lumens, and a 3000:1 contrast ratio, or 4000:1 with their ImageAI processing engaged! The HD70 also sports Texas Instrument's Brilliant Color circuitry for rich, dynamic colors.
Moving up one step in quality, Optoma's HD73 home theater projector is replacing the Optoma HD72, one of my all time favorite projectors. With an anticipated selling price of $1999 when it starts shipping in November, it is rated 30% brighter than the HD70 and offers a number of improvements in image quality. No doubt it will prove to be a worthy successor to what has been the best under $2000 DLP projector on the market.
The HD7300, is replacing the HD7100. The HD7100 has been, by far the least expensive home theater projector to sport the Darkchip3 DLP processor. New for the HD7300, is an outboard processor featuring Gennum VXP processing. Gennum's processing has been key to the excellent reviews that Marantz's higher end VP-12S4 has received (including ours). The HD7300, however, is expected to sell for under $3000, while the Marantz has been selling for almost $15,000 and has just dropped its price to $10,999. The HD7300 looks to be a superb bargain, for those looking for the richest colors and blackest blacks in a 720p resolution projector.
Sharp Projectors :
The high-gloss white finished Sharp DT-500 home theater projector has a MSRP of $3299. (I expect it will sell for significantly below that). It uses the TI Darkchip2 with Brilliant Color (and 1280x768 resolution), claims 1200 lumens and a 4000:1 contrast ratio. It also sports a 5X color wheel, whereas many of the lower cost DLP projectors use a 4X wheel. This faster speed wheel, means that an only an extremely small segment of the poplutation will be able to detect the rainbow effect. The DT-500 uses a dynamic iris (opens and closes frame by frame to adjust brightness), to acheive the impressive 4000:1 contrast ratio. No variable lens shift, but, then none of the lower cost DLP projectors are offering lens shift.
Mitsubishi was also showing its XV-Z12000 Mark II, their top of the line, feature laden 720p projector with lens shift.
Sanyo wasn't at CEDIA. Their newest entry, rumored for a couple of months, was not yet available to show. The PLV-Z5 is the designated name for their new home theater projector, but no specs released. I can tell you that it will use 3 LCD panels. The projector is expected to ship in October. We'll add info to our site on the PLV-Z5, as soon as we get it from Sanyo. If I had to guess, though, expect a slight increase in contrast, but a really significant boost in brightness. The Z5 will slug it out with the Panasonic PT-AX100U for dominance in the LCD segment of the under $2000 projector market.
BenQ showed one new entry level 720p projector, their W500, scheduled to ship late November or December. The W500 is targeted to sell for $999, making it the only other 720p projector (besides the Optoma HD70) at the show with a sub-$1000 price point!
The W500 is rated at 1100 lumens and 5000:1 contrast, and a quiet 28db. They did not have a working demo W500 projector. Unlike the lower resolution W100 which we reviewed, and had a great price point, but was weak on black level performance, BenQ promises that the W500, is not only aggressively priced, but will provide dramatically improved image quality performance, which will hopefully rival the excellent picture quality of their PE-7700.
Mitsubishi showed their new HD1000U, with a $1495 MSRP (not street price)! The HD1000 claims 1500 lumens, and a 2500:1 contrast ratio. Even better the Darkchip2 DLP chip they are using features TI's Brilliant Color. Although I doubt the HD1000U will have a street price close to Optoma's $999 HD70, it looks to be a step up product, with a seven segment color wheel, and near silent 25db in low power mode. It should price between the HD70, and more expensive (but more similar projectors from Optoma, etc.)
Epson displayed their new Cinema 400, which I recently reviewed. The Cinema 400 is due to replace the existing Cinema 550, at a new, significantly lower price. The Cinema 400 is powered by 3 Epson LCD panels, and is, I believe the brightest affordable home theater projector currently shipping (the new Panasonic may proved to be brighter, we'll have to wait to see). The Cinema 400 is brighter and higher contrast than the older Cinema 500, claiming 1500 lumens, and a 5000:1 contrast ratio.
Also shown is the previously announced Epson Pro Cinema 810, which should be shipping shortly, and will eventually replace the Pro Cinema 800, which we reviewed a year ago. The new Pro Cinema 810 comes in two versions, and has many improvements, starting with a new sharper lens and much higher contrast. The Pro Cinema 810 has a Minimum Retail Price of $2999. In addition, Epson launched the Cinema 810 HQV, featuring a separate outboard processor for simpler installation and enhanced performance, featuring Silicon Optics HQVprocessing (found in some home theater projectors selling upward of $20,000). The Pro Cinema 810 HQV has a Minimum Retail Price of $5999. Other specs for both models, include 1600 lumens, and 10:000:1 contrast ratio! Both offer the maximum in placement flexibility with a 2.1:1 zoom lens, and an extraordinary amount of lens shift control.
I should note that Epson also upgraded it's all-in-one projector solution with built in DVD and speakers. The original, the MovieMate 25, which has been around since late 2005 is replaced by the improved MovieMate 30. The MovieMate 30 (with its new silver finish) is also a 480p device (so really doesn't belong in this report, but you'll have to live with that). It offers 1200 lumens, but most notably it adds a VGA port so this MovieMate can work with computers. The MSRP is $999, and optional screen and subwoofer are available (MSRP's $249 and $89 respectively). Great fun for portable projection and for the kids bonus room!
InFocus rolled out their new IN78, a Darkchip3 DLP powered projector, as the new top of their line for single chip DLP projectors. The SP777 ($14,999), their 3 chip model, is still one of the best projectors we have ever seen. The IN78 claims 1000 video optimized lumens and a 3500:1 calibrated contrast ratio. I look forward to reviewing it. Most home theater projector manufacturers rate their projectors in brightest mode, not best video mode, so it will be interesting to see how the IN78 matches up in brightness, contrast and image quality against projectors claiming more. I have reviewed InFocus home theater projectors in the past and found their numbers to be more conservative than most.
InFocus advises that the IN78 will only be available through local InFocus authorized dealers and not on the internet!
Sony did not introduce any new 720p projectors, although I am led to understand that the VPL-HS51A will now take on the VPL-HS60 name used outside the US. I do not know if any performance increases come with the name change. If so, they should be evolutionary, not a new projector, with new capabilities.
Marantz unveilled their VP4001, a Darkchip2 DLP projector at the lowest price ever for a Marantz home theater projector. This new Marantz projector boasts 6500:1 contrast and 1200 lumens, and uses TI's Darkchip2 1280x768 DLP chip. The projector will be sold by local, authorized and Marantz trained dealers, and is designed to allow custom installers to easily calibrate and maximize performance for the buyer's room requirements.
Suggested Retail Price is a mere $4099, thousands less than any previous Marantz home theater projector.
Marantz continues to offer their VP-8600 another, more expensive home theater projector with 720p resolution that lists for $6499.
Entering the home theater market for the first time, this specialty display company introduced 3 720p projectors (and also a 480p entry level model). Planar will be selling projectors only through local dealers so don't expect to see any online pricing. The entry level 480p lists for $1299 (and 900 lumens). The Planar PD7010 is their entry level 720p projector with 1000:1 lumens, their $2999 PD7060 jumps to $2999 and 3500:1 contrast.
Planar's top of the line 720p projector (they also launched 2 1080p's) uses the Darkchip3 and offers 900 lumens and a 4500:1 contrast ratio.
Planar, like many high end manufacturers is selling only though local specialty dealers, and therefore is likely to be more conservative in terms of specs, than the mass market projectors sold on the internet. A new player in home theater - good luck to them. (It's a tough market!)
720p Home Theater Projector Wrap-up:
OK! As you can see, plenty of new 720p resolution home theater projectors, with prices from $999.
The sweetspot for the masses will be from $999 to $1999, but there are plenty of higher end performance 720p projectors, from over $2000 to about $6500. Then, of course are the truly expensive ones, including 3 chip DLP's that provide amazing performance, and are still a great price/performance value for those seeking the best image quality, but not needing (sitting far enough back) the extra resolution of 1080p projectors.
Almost all of the projectors mentioned are shipping between now and year end, with a few already shipping and most becoming available before the end of October.
I didn't cover them all. M any of the high end companies showed existing or new 720p projectors, including Runco, Vidikron, projectiondesign, Digital Projection and more. I wanted to get this posted ASAP, so am skipping those for now.