Four Great Home Theater Projectors Compared
Click on each image to view it larger.
1. The Fifth Element Secretary, different sizes for same relative brightness – for color, image noise comparison
2. The Fifth Element Starship image, (converted to B/W) different sizes for same relative brightness, for black levels, with HD91 dynamic black off (since any On setting has visible dimming action, this lets you compare with it off, since Sony has no iris action – lacks an iris). This creates an Apple to Apple comparison of black levels.
3. Casino Royale Bond Train – color – HD91 with Dynamic Black turned on for comparing dark scene “wow” and “pop” – black levels and dark shadow detail
Cost of Ownership
But, let’s get back to the comparison at hand. Both projectors have 3 year warranties.
Optoma is officially $1500 more expensive, but no lamps to replace.
Will that save you money? Consider:
Cost of two replacement lamps – approximately $600 for Sony, which would provide totals of 6000 hours if always run at full power, or 15,000 hours in eco mode, which approaches the 20,000 rating on the HD91’s LED light engine.
The issue, of course is that with 4K growing in popularity, and the genuine need for 4K for projector users (it’s not like you need 4K for a 42” LCDTV), we suspect that many, probably most owners will replace these projectors within 3-4 years. We’re coming up on a transition point, as we did with the arrival of early commercial HDTV.
Here’s something to think about, in Japan, they expect to be broadcasting, not 4K, but true 8K by 2020 – that’s less than 6 years out.
Physically, the Optoma’s definitely a good bit smaller, but that’s probably about right, since it’s most likely going to end up in smaller theaters. Both are good looking, sculpted projectors.
When it comes to 3D, The Optoma comes with an RF emitter (we recommend RF), the Sony has built in IR, but I recommend the XPAND RF emitter. I’ve watched some of the same 3D content with the internal IR and IR glasses, and with the optional RF emitter with RF glasses. I won’t get into it here, but the picture is better on the Sony with RF. On the other hand, as impressive as it is, the HD91 is even cleaner. The trade-off though is brightness. I would recommend the VPL-HW40ES over the Optoma because 3D eats up lumens, and the HD91 just doesn’t have many to spare.
Bottom line on the Optoma vs. the Sony
Bottom line overall: The Sony is simply better at most things, and it costs less. It’s particularly better at color and black level performance, but also brightness, and (with the optional RF glasses and emitter, 3D (thanks to sheer brightness).
The Sony has less notable “flaws,” in that it has no dynamic iris to notice, compared to the Optoma’s slow lamp dimming. Also, when it comes to image noise, the Sony, not as good as its big brother, is still perhaps a touch cleaner in basic background noise, although they can be about tie when both are running their dynamic detail enhancement functions. One area where the Optoma is a little better is motion noise. On slow panning of 24fps movies, the Sony has more visible judder.
The Optoma HD91 should hold its calibrated color accuracy longer, have less lamp drop off in brightness (lamp dims until replaced, then bright again, repeat cycle), and have no lamp replacement or filters to worry about at all. Overall the Optoma, I believe, is quieter (the Optoma doesn’t really have a low power mode), when both are running at brightest. The Sony in low power mode might be a touch quieter, but the Optoma is quiet enough even at full power, where it is quieter than the Sony.
If LED light engines are your thing, you aren’t going with a very large screen, and you are a big fan of the “look and feel” of DLP projectors, go right ahead and score yourself an HD91.
For the vast majority of us though, at current pricing, the Sony is simply a much better value, and of the two, it’s the one that’s at home in living room family rooms, bonus rooms, etc., in addition to the dedicated theater/caves.
If you can’t decide, my suggestion is go Sony, pocket the savings, put that toward your first true 4K projector in a couple or three years!
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