The 2014 Best Home Theater Projectors Report

This year’s 2014 best home theater projector report puts the top 1080p projectors head-to-head to compete for our Best in Class Awards.

Best in Class Award Winner

Click for this year’s winners!

In selecting our category winners – Best in Class awards, we considered all the home projectors we’ve reviewed in the past year, as well as those projectors reviewed in the previous year or so that are still current in manufacturers line-ups.

The current year’s projector “season” started last September with announcements of new products at the annual CEDIA show in the US, and IFA in Europe.

Most unfortunately, for home theater enthusiasts the past 11 months saw less new home theater projectors than any year in recent memory.  Mind you I don’t normally get to review many projectors over $10,000, so I’m not counting those.  Basically I get to Runco or SIM2 every couple or three years.  Only Sony has been the exception, in that they always really want me to review their new true 4K projectors.  That makes sense, I should note, as their new, true 4K projectors are selling for prices that easily compete with the low ends of those high end companies’ 1080p projectors.

Best Home Theater Projectors Report Overview

Images above, in order: Captain Pike from the Sony VPL-HW55ES, sailboats from the Epson Home Cinema 5030UB/Pro Cinema 6030UB, 4K feather from the Sony VPL-VW600ES, Katniss from the BenQ W0170, and NFL logo from the Epson Pro Cinema 4030.

Once again we have organized our analysis into three Classes:  Under $2000, $2000 – $3500, and $3500+.  One of these days I’d like to have two more categories (Under $1000, and Over $10,000, but there just aren’t enough projectors to go around to split things up, unless I start reviewing $30K+ projectors on the high end, which, quite honestly, the manufacturers are reluctant to provide to reviewers, perhaps out of fear that some reviewer might say, “nice $50K 1080p projector but this $8K projector is pretty close in overall performance.” you get up to the many variations of expensive – over $30,000 projectors built by the likes of high end companies Runco and SIM2.

On the low end – under $1000, there are plenty of projectors but many are still lower resolution – 720p.  It should be noted that we consider only projectors with 1080p native resolution or higher. This report and awards are not about sub $600 lower resolution gaming projectors, nor the bulk of pico and pocket projectors, almost all of which are 720p resolution or lower.   Want one of those pocket projectors for home entertainment?

While “pocket’ – LED projectors are starting to appear with 1080p resolution, so far they just aren’t competitive in terms of picture quality and value, compared to lamp based projectors.  That may change by next year, in which case, we’ll consider those in next year’s report.

In other words, we’re focused on projectors that appeal to people who’s interest is into high quality pictures for movies, sports and HDTV. That said, we do test most of the home theater projectors for their lag times, and mention how they should do at gaming.

This Year's Crop of Projectors

On the right: The Sony VPL-HW55ES, Epson Home Cinema 5030UB, Sony VPL-VW600ES, BenQ W1070, and Epson Pro Cinema 4030.

In this past year, the real surprise was the limited number of new under $2000 projectors that fit our Class requirements.  So far we haven’t considered most “pocket” LED projectors to be serious enough to be considered in the home theater awards.  And of course, we’re just starting to see projectors in that class come out with 1080p resolution.  Most are 720p or lower.  On the other hand, the new crop of $2000 – $3500 projectors was only slightly smaller than previous years.

Why so few?  One reason is Mitsubishi, who quit the projector business last October.  While we did review a projector of theirs last summer that would have otherwise been eligible for this report, there’s no point in giving an award to a projector that’s no longer available.  Typically, Mitsubishi was introducing two or three home theater projectors every year.

 

Then there’s Panasonic.  For the first time in possibly a decade, Panasonic did not launch any new home theater projectors.  Prior to this past year, they’d bring out a new “top of the line” AE series projector every year (the last one – still current is the PT-AE8000U) , and usually a high brightness one – most recent being the PT-AR100U.  Let’s say in normal times they would have launched two projectors last year.   Epson as the largest seller of HT projectors had their usual large line-up of new projectors, and Sony did their part with three new models.  Optoma had some new ones, but we only got to two of them, as it seemed more of a challenge getting review units than in the past.  BenQ had a couple too, but they kept their popular W1070 in the lineup for another year, although “versions” of it that had been available in Europe and elsewhere the year before made it to the US this year.  BenQ did release the W7500.

JVC, a very frequent award winner, kept one projector in the lineup from the previous year.  They introduced three new ones (two are essentially identical with the premium one getting the best components.   Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to obtain any review units from JVC at all.  The one I did bring in to review was lent to me by a dealer.  We calibrated it at no charge for the customer that was buying it.  Win-win, but I still prefer to work with manufacturers when I can.

All in all, we did perhaps 5 or 6 less projectors in the past year, than the year before.  Such is life.  Including current projectors that carry forward from last year’s report, for this year’s awards we considered more than 25 reviewed projectors.

About This Year’s Best 1080p Home Theater Projectors Report

For this year’s report, as usual, we’re changing things a bit.  Gone will be a lot of the discussion of how many projectors in each class have this feature or that, instead replaced by some straight forward charts.

Also we’re going to do less on summaries of the reviews.  We’ve always linked back to the full reviews.  This time, we’ll link back to the full review, and if there’s a more recent summary, such those in our recent comparison of four $2000 to $3500 projectors, we’ll also link to that.  More importantly, we have a number of head to head comparisons, not just the 6 in our recent comparison article of 4 projectors, but some others, such as the Epson 5030UB vs the Panasonic, and the same Epson going up against the Sony HW55ES.  In some cases, for convenience we’ll even link to the summary page of the full review as well as the first page.   For many, our reviews’ Summary pages should suffice for those curious about projectors that didn’t make the awards cut.

Most commentary will be focused on the why a projector picked up a Best in Class or Runner-up award, with minor commentary on the projectors that didn’t pick up one of those awards, even if they have a Hot Product or Special Interest award.

Let’s get going!

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