Planar PD8150 Home Theater Projector: Summary, Competition, Pros and Cons
Welcome to the world of premium single chip DLP projectors sold by local dealers only. Planar, which also owns Runco and Vidikron, offers projectors (Runco's) that can cost upward of $100,000. Planar sees the Planar projector lineup primarily as their idea of an entry level projectors, that their high end dealers can sell to those less rich, or those needing a lower cost model for a second room (kid's bonus room?).
The PD8150 is the flagship of Planar's single chip DLP lineup, and a very worthy one. With a $7999 price tag (and probably no discounting), one might expect it to be a poor value proposition compared to big name, high volume projectors from the likes of Panasonic and Epson. Truth is, the PD8150 projector is expensive, but provides quite a bit of value for the high price.
In fact, it is right up there with the best of the other 1080p projectors we've reviewed. It has its strengths and weaknesses, like all projectors, but it's mostly strengths, as picture quality is excellent after calibration.
The only "major" flaw is the limited brightness in "brightest" mode, when you need lumens to fight ambient light, and that "flaw is typical of many of the highest performing projectors, notably the JVC's and the Sony's, none of those are appreciably brighter (if at all), and most dimmer, in brightest mode.
Time to consider strenths and weaknesses of the PD8150 projector.
Planar PD8150 Projector: Pros, Cons, and Typical Capabilities
Planar PD8150 Projector: Pros
- One of the best projectors in terms of out of the box color accuracy
- Even better color and overall image quality, after calibration
- Brighter than average in "best" mode
- Extremely sharp image
- Vertical and horizontal lens shift
- Extremely good black level performance
- Very good shadow detail
- Two HDMI 1.3 inputs, full support for 24 fps, Deep Color, etc.
- Support for an anamorphic lens
- Extremely quiet operation
- Long life lamp - 4000 hours in economy mode, for low cost of operation
- Good looking projector (physically)
- ISF certified with the usual ISF Day, and ISF Night modes
- Low image noise
- Runs 24fps content at 48hz
- Comes with a cable cover to hide the connections - a real plus for ceiling mounting
- Good price performance compared to other local dealer sales only projectors
Planar PD8150 Projector: Cons
- Moderately noisy, typical of DLP home theater projectors. At full power, loud enough to bother those that consider noise to be an important issue
- Well below average brightness in "brightest" mode, although Adaptive Contrast and Brilliant Color can help a bit
- Could use an extra two or three user memory modes
- Menus have small type which may be hard to read at normal seating distance
Planar PD8150 Projector: Typical Capabilities
- Below average brightness in "brightest mode"
- Lamp life in full power mode
- 2 Year warranty is typical, although longer than some competitors, shorter than others
Planar PD8150 Projector: Competitive Aspects
Here are brief comments on how the PD8150 projector compares to a few of the other higher priced projectors. I will not get into the much less expensive projectors, as most of those have new models, including the Panasonic PT-AE3000U, the Mitsubishi HC7000, Epson Home Cinema 6500 UB, and Pro Cinema 7500 UB, and the Sanyo PLV-Z3000, which are just starting to ship or will be year end. The first of those, the Panasonic we start reviewing next week. To compare the Planar against the older models that are now being phased out doesn't make much sense. To see how the PD8150 compares with the new releases, check out those reviews when published.
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PD8150 vs. InFocus IN83
These are two excellent projectors. Both are sold only through local dealers. The InFocus has a strong advantage in terms of brightness, so will be favored by those with larger screens. In terms of natural color, I have to give the InFocus the slightest advantage, but we are talking close.
On the other hand, the PD8150 seems to have a small advantage in black level performance. In addition to that, the Planar is definitely more flexible in terms of placement, with more lens zoom range, as well as offering an optional shorter throw zoom. Vertical and horizontal lens shift is another big factor in placement, and the Planar has them, the InFocus does not. Both have two year warranties.
Planar PD8150 vs. JVC RS1x and RS2
I own the RS1. I've watched the two, consecutively. The Planar is sharper, has a touch better shadow detail, while the RS1x has the black level advantage. It's not huge, as the Planar is pretty good, in this regard, but the JVC is so good, that the difference is immediately noticeable. They are very similar in terms of brightness. The JVC also has a big advantage in terms of price, and even better placement flexibility, with its 2:1 zoom compared to the Planar's 1.3:1. Both are film-like, but I'll give the JVC the slight advantage, while, on the other hand, that difference in sharpness, adds more life to HDTV broadcasts of live events.
The RS2 has the best black levels around (so far), but it isn't as bright as the RS1 or the Planar. The RS2 should have more appeal, despite the same modest image softness, with the hard core enthusiast, but the Planar is just a great projector for those that want something that just looks great.
Planar PD8150 vs. Sony VW60
I tend to classify the Sony VW60 as most similar to the RS1x, but have favored the JVC. Following through on that, I'll say the Planar is overall, the better of the two, but they are both in the same class. I'll leave things there, as the VPL-VW60 is being replaced with the VPL-VW70 which I should have reviewed before year end.
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Planar PD8150 vs. Optoma HD81-LV
Pretty much all aspects of picture quality belongs to the Planar, as does placement flexibility. It's more film-like than the HD81-LV. These two projectors though, aren't likely to be direct competitors, as the Optoma is the brightest projector around, with easily double the brightness of the Planar in "best" mode, and even more advantage in brightest modes.
Planar PD8150 Home Theater Projector: Summary
You normally pay a premium for projectors that are not sold by local dealers, and it can be argued that this projector is not as good a value as some of those. On the other hand, you pay that extra from a quality local dealer, to get a level of support and service that you just won't find with online projector brands. There's serious competition out there, including the brighter InFocus IN83, but, that said, there are always trade-offs between good, competing projectors. In this case, the Planar also has its advantages, including placement flexibility and better black levels. To give you an additional perspective, consider the Planar PD8150 compared to the JVC DLA-RS2, arguably the best under $10,000 projector by many. The JVC is significantly better at black levels (that's true compared to any other projector), but is noticeably dimmer and has a softer image. No doubt there is a "perfect" projector out there, that is best at everything, but if you can't live without that, you better plan on adding another "0" to the price.
I have mentioned repeatedly, that the PD8150 is not overly bright, in brightest mode, but want to point out, for those of you who do not scour every page of my reviews, that I also point out that their combination of Brilliant Color plus their Adaptive Contrast, really can cut through ambient light rather well, and despite the brightest measurements being under 900 lumens, when I was watching football, it behaved more like a projector with 1200 or so lumens. (There is a price, in shadow and highlight detail, but those are the first things to disappear with a fair amount of ambient light).
As I am finishing off this review, I can report - with six 1080p projectors hanging around here, I've now managed over 50 hours viewing on the Planar - and I never put in that many hours on a review projector, unless I'm impressed.
Planar PD8150 Projector: Bottom Line
The Planar PD8150 is a high quality projector for those that have fewer budget limitations than most. Its picture quality is very natural, almost understated. It has not one significant flaw that I could detect, when it comes to image quality. With more lumens than most projectors, when in its best mode, it can handle larger screen sizes for movie watching although limited brightness in when set for maximum, will tend to limit screen size a bit, for those who want to watch a lot of TV and sports with some lighting on.
If you have the budget, and your idea of how to have a great home theater is to find a reputable local dealer, consult with them, and have them install everything into your room, then the Planar PD8150 is definitely one of the best under $10,000 - so far. So break out that check book, or AMEX, let the dealer do their job, and organize a party for when the installation is completed, so you can impress your friends, and pat yourself on the back for being wise.
Let's say it's a very good overall projector, but better still when placed in a dedicated home theater. Despite the higher than most price, I really had no problem awarding the Planar PD8150 our hot product award, as it is one of those projectors that does it all, really well, and doesn't disappoint. Kudos!