Do You Need a 1080p Resolution Home Theater Projector?
The Battle Between 1080p and 720p projectors: Pricing
Home Theater Projectors - 1080p vs 720p: Pricing
This is the only place to get started, because selling price is going to be a huge factor for most people.
Today's 720p projectors start with entry level units (but with very respectable performance) from about $900, to a high price of about $4000 (for online brands). I'm not including in this "conversation" some high end brand - local dealer only - products, nor the 3 chip 720p DLP projectors which start at $10,000 and go to $30,000+.
Shown here, the other (besides the Mitsubishi HD1000U) extremely popular under $1000 projector, Optoma's HD70. Like the Mitsubishi, it is DLP powered, compact, and has rather limited placement flexibility compared to more expensive LCD models.
By comparison, 1080p projectors start at $3995 (with the Panasonic PT-AE1000U), less any rebates, and there are now at least 3 models selling for less than $5000, and most likely, a fourth model shortly.
Shown here, is the least expensive of this first crop of affordable 1080p projectors, Panasonic's PT-AE1000U. It offers extreme placement flexibility, and invisible pixels, but is definitely not one of the brighter projectors around, and its image offers respectable sharpness, but others are sharper. Still, an excellent overall choice, especially for the bucks!
In comparing price, first, there is an interesting anomaly. All the under $1000 (3 current models) 720p projectors are DLP models with limited placement due to zoom lenses with little zoom range, and no lens shift. By comparision the LCD 720p projectors, with their full range zooms and lens shift, start around $1500.
By comparison, the two least expensive 1080p projectors are LCD, and as you would suspect - have plenty of zoom range, and lens shift. Alternately, the 1080p DLP projectors start with street prices about $1500 more expensive, as of this writing (2/07).
The 2nd major 1080p LCD projector we have reviewed to date, is the slightly more expensive Mitsubishi HC5000. This attractive home theater projector is also the quietest, and produces an extremely sharp image. Pixel visibility is greater than the DLP projectors, but being 1080p, where visibility is already minimal, that shouldn't be an issue for buyers.
But, there are three technologies in play, not two. In addition to LCD and DLP, there are two major LCOS projector contenders. (LCOS is a reflective LCD - normal LCD's pass light through the liquid crystal, whereas LCOS reflects it back, in some ways similar to how DLP's work).
The two LCOS projectors are Sony's VW50 "Pearl", and JVC's brand new RS-1. Retail prices for the two are $4995 and $6995 respectively. By the way, Sony calls their LCOS technology "SXRD" which you have probably also heard in conjunction with advertising for their big screen TVs. JVC calls theirs D-ILA. I should note that both Sony and JVC have older and more expensive LCOS 1080p projectors still on the market, but we'll stick to these for now.
Here is an image of the JVC RS-1 which is just about ready to ship (2/07). Our review unit is expected next week. This $6995 3 chip D-ILA (LCOS) projector has been exciting people for months at trade shows, since it's first showing at Cedia 06 last September, in Denver. Invisible pixels, no rainbow effect, and amazing placement flexibility. It claims phenomenal contrast. LCOS projectors usually aren't very bright, and may not be quite as sharp as some others, (we'll let you know soon), but, this one should be on everyone's short list (for those that don't mind the price).
I should point out, that both LCOS projectors offer lens shift, and zoom lenses with a respectable amount of zoom range.
Now, back to pricing. With 720p projectors, as noted, if you have placement flexibility in your room, (that often means ceiling mounting), you can start at under $1000. If, however you need lens shift and for example, want to place the projector in the back of the room on a shelf, you'll need to move up to one of the LCD's in the $1500 - $2000 range. Alternately you can opt for a better equipped (than the entry level ones) DLP projector with lens shift, but you have just moved your pricing up over $2000 to over $3000.
Some of the players:
720p Projectors: (prices shown are best estimate of street prices)
Mitsubishi HD1000U: DLP, (under $1000 selling price) limited zoom range, no lens shift, significant offset
Optoma HD70: DLP, (under $1000 selling price) limited zoom range, no lens shift, significant offset
BenQ PE-7700: DLP (around/below $1500), zoom with moderate range, no lens shift 0 offset
Sanyo PLV-Z5: 3LCD, (around $1500 with rebates...) huge zoom range, lens shift
Epson Cinema 400 3LCD, (under $1600 before rebate), v. good zoom range, great lens shift
Panasonic PT-AX100U: 3LCD, (around $1600 after rebates) huge zoom range, lens shift
Mitsubishi HC3000: DLP (around $1500) similar to HD1000u, better black levels
Sony HS-51A: 3LCD (over $1500) (HS60 outside the US), very good zoom range, lens shift
Optoma HD72: DLP (over $1500) limited zoom range, no lens shift, significant offset
Optoma HD73: DLP (under $2000) coming soon same as HD72 basically, but Darkchip3 DLP
Planar 7060: DLP (under $2000) just shipping, limited zoom, no lens shift, Darkchip2 modest offset
Sharp XV-Z3000: DLP (over $1500), limited zoom range, no lens shift, moderate offset
InFocus IN76: DLP (under $2000), moderate zoom, no lens shift, moderate offset
Optoma HD7100: DLP (under $2500) moderate range zoom, lens shift, Darkchip3 DLP
Optoma HD7300: DLP (around $3000) moderate range zoom, lens shift, Darkchip3, external processor box (Gennum processing)
BenQ PE-8720: DLP (around $3500) moderate zoom range, lens shift, Darkchip3 (sold for over $6000 a year ago!)
Samsung SP-H710AE: DLP (around $3500) moderate zoom range, lens shift, Darkchip2
Of course there are others out there not listed here, but this should give you a full taste. All of these projectors have been reviewed by us, except the not quite released, but imminent, Optoma HD73 and HD7300.
As you can see, there are no shortage of home theater projectors from under $1000 to $3000+ of the 720p variety. All of these are available online, except for the Planar 7060, and theoretically, the InFocus IN76 (except that it's not hard to find online).
Moving to the 1080p list of projectors - first the list is much shorter, and I think I cover every under $10,000 list price 1080p that is shipping:
1080p HD Projectors:
Panasonic PT-AE1000U: 3LCD ($3995 or less), huge zoom range, lens shift (Least expensive)!
Mitsubishi HC5000: 3LCD ($4495 or less), huge zoom range, lens shift
Sony VW50: SXRD (LCOS) ($4996 or less) moderate zoom range, lens shift
Over $5000, under $10,000
BenQ W9000: DLP (well under$6000 - least expensive DLP) limited zoom, lens shift
BenQ W10000: DLP (about $6000) limited zoom, lens shift
JVC RS-1: D-ILA (LCOS) (under $7000), huge zoom lens, lens shift
Optoma HD81: DLP (under $8000), limited zoom lens, no lens shift, outboard processor
SIM2 D80: DLP (under $10,000) moderate zoom lens, no lens shift
Lots of models, mostly 3 chip DLP's but not part of this discussion.
One of the most talked about 1080p home theater projectors is Sony's "Pearl" - the VPL-VW50 (nice name)! Relying on LCOS technology, like the JVC (Sony calls theirs SXRD), the Sony is less expensive than the JVC. It has invisible pixels and produces a touch soft image, but overall performance is Wow! As I'm posting this, article the Sony VW50 review is about half way done, and I am impressed! Especially considering the $4995 list price.
What's this all mean to you?
You may need the placement flexibility of an LCD or LCOS projector. Figuring out what projectors will actually work in your room is a great place to start your hunt.
QuickTip: The sooner you decide whether you want/need your projector ceiling mounted, on a table, or on a rear shelf, and whether the zoom lens of any given projector will work for your room, the sooner you can eliminate a number of possible contenders.
Better to do that first, than get all excited about a particular model, only to figure out later that it won't work in your room.
So, if you need an LCD projector with a lot of placement flexibility, your starting price for 720p is about $1500, and it's over $3500 for 1080p.
If, however, you can place one of the entry level 720p DLP projectors, then of course, it's under $1000 vs. $3500+.