Comparison of Four Entry Level Home Theater Projectors - Overview
6/29/2006 - Art Feierman
This comparison review is NOT the result of side by side testing of the four projectors covered here. Alow me to explain:
I originally reviewed the Optoma H27 when it first started shipping in the summer of 2005. At the time, I was truly impressed with the Optoma, in terms of performance and value.
The other three projectors were reviewed recently, starting with the BenQ W100 in mid-May. This was followed a couple of weeks later by the InFocus IN72, and finally by our Epson Home 20 review which was posted just last week.
In addition I requested that Optoma send me another H27, "to refresh my memory" which they did, and I used it briefly, including some side by side shots, with the Epson Home 20, before returning both.
The four projectors are:
Epson Home 20
The goal of this article is to summarize the strengths and weaknesses (including things like positioning the projector, and warranties) of each home entertainment projector relative to the others, to help readers figure out which will work best for them.
Remember, each of these projectors has a full length review posted on the site, that you can visit anytime for more detailed information.
Home Theater Projectors: Optoma H27, InFocus IN72, Epson Home 20, BenQ W100
Let's start with a brief look at current pricing trends on these four digital projectors.
Right now, the least expensive of these home cinema projectors, (it is being phased out) seems to be the Optoma H27, which someone emailed me, that they have found for as low as $699.
Epson's Home 20 tends to sell for $999, but they currently have a $200 rebate, and are also throwing in an 80" 16:9 screen. (unfortunately 80" is significantly smaller than the typical 92 - 100 - 110 inch diagonal screens that most home theater projector buyers prefer. Still, that works out to about $800 with the screen.
BenQ's W100, is also inexpensive. It is just starting to ship, and with an $899 list, I wouldn't be surprised to see it for less than $800.
Lastly, InFocus's IN72 has a minimum advertised price of $1299, but currently InFocus has a $300 mail in rebate, bringing it's price down to about $999, and still making it the most expensive of these digital projectors.
So, we have here three projectors priced closely together, and one, the InFocus, a step up in price.
Home Theater Projectors: Physical Differences
In this area, we are going to look at key physical attributes that relate to where you need to position these projectors to work in your room, with your screen (or wall).
Of the four home cinema projectors, three are DLP, the fourth, - the Epson, uses LCD technology. I mention this here, because it makes a significant difference in placing the projector.
LCD projectors, tend to have far more placement flexibility, than DLP models and that is true in this case. The distances quoted below for the different projectors all assume a 100" diagonal screen. If you choose a 110" screen add 10% to the distances, for an 80" screen, it would be 20% less...
In terms of front to back positioning, we'll start with the Epson. The Home 20 has a zoom lens with a 1.5:1 range. This allows you (for a 100" diagonal 16:9 screen, to place the front of the projector as close as 8 feet 2 inches, or as far back as 12 feet 4 inches.
By comparsion, the BenQ W100, from 12.3 to 14.1 feet
The InFocus IN72 positions from 12.8 feet to 15.4 feet.
And, lastly, the Optoma H27, from 13.6 feet to 16.4 feet.
So, in summary, the Epson has the most flexibility, but also, by far, the shortest throw zoom lens. It will tend to sit in the middle of your room, or towards the back, while the other three might be able to sit far enough back to sit on a shelf on your back wall.
So, break out your tape measure, it happens to be one of the most important tools in determining which projector will work best for you.
Next is the issue of lens shift. Typically, lower price (under $2500) DLP projectors do not have adjustable lens shift, and none of these three do. The Epson Home 20, though, does, and that means vertical (and to a lessor degreee horizontal placement flexibility.
The Epson Home 20 can be placed vertically, anywhere from just below the bottom of your screen surface, to just above the top.
(Note, all of these projectors can be ceiling mounted, or rear shelf mounted if the distances, etc. work in your room.)
By comparison, the Optoma H27, BenQ, W100, and InFocus IN72 need to be placed with the lens anywhere from a few inches below the bottom of the screen to a foot or more, depending on screen size, and how the zoom is set. In other words, they will work on a low table (relative to the screen) but not too low. If you are ceiling mounting, then they would be the same amount above the top of the screen surface. If I recall correctly the InFocus is the one that will sit closest to the bottom of the screen. The trend of late is to have more fixed lens shift, on entry level projectors, since many will never ceiling mount them, and it lets people place them on a low table.
So, in summary, the Epson has the advantage of being a mid-room projector, likely to sit in front of the viewer. The others will normally be behind you. It's a shame the Epson's lens shift is combined with such a short throw lens, because len shift really makes rear shelf mounting highly desireable, and the Epson isn't likely to sit far enough back to shelf mount, unless you have a really, really large screen or a very squarish room.
One more thing, most projectors use either three or feet for adjusting height. The exception here, is the InFocus, which comes with a pedestal base. Their base works very nicely, and looks good too. Ultimately, though all of them have the ability to adjust the angle or compensate for a non-level table.
There's a good chance, that, from the information above, you may have already elimiated one or even three of the four projectors. For example, if you need to place the projector fairly close, bingo, the Epson may be the only one that works for you.
If you wish to see more images of the projectors themselves, to see
Time to consider the image quality!