The Art of Home Theater Projectors

Home Theater Projector Comparison Report – 1080p Projectors 2010

Greetings all,

Well, sorry, I lied again.  I posted on the site that the big home theater projector report for 2010 would be up before I left for NAB.  Sadly, when I set down the computer at 4am Monday, so I could drive up to Las Vegas for the NAB (national association of broadcasters), it wasn’t even close.  At that point I probably still had 15 hours of writing left.

Only managed to squeeze in a couple of hours of writing of the home theater projector report  at the show.  But, I returned late last night, from the show, and am now back at the grind.

I’ve got a tight window.  I have to leave town again Saturday, (tomorrow) before noon.  Heading to the Coacella music festival for two days.  Plan to catch a lot of good bands, including Muse, Tom Yorke (without Radiohead, but with..?), The Dead Weather (Jack White), MGNT, Gorillaz, Pavement, and many more.  Coachella is a great music festival, and I’ve managed to get there 8 of the last 9 years (or is it 7 of 8?).  And did I mention that my daughter (HS senior), is the lead tonight in the opening of their high school musical (Curtains -for those who have heard of it, one of less well known recent broadway shows.).  That’s at 7pm.

So, I’ve got exactly 6 hours (plus the morning) to get this up.  Here’s the plan.

The Home Theater Projector Report – 1080p projectors – 2010 (the new official name – hopefully google will like it better than the old name:  2010 1080p Projector Comparison Report, and send us more warm bodies to read and click.

Since I was unable to get the report out on the 14th, I figure I owe you a little something for your patience, so, I’m going to list the major award winners, for you, right now.  Of course you guys, my “regulars, fans, stalkers, friends”, who read most of the reviews shouldn’t be particularly surprised.

Here, they are, with links back to their reviews.  The very first pages to post will include the full Winners page, with multiple paragraphs on why each one won.  (Same format as last year).

Where I’m still behind, is in writing the Home Theater Projector report’s head to head comparisons (0 of 12 written, 5 mapped out), and finishing the Image Quality page, still missing the Overall Image Quality, and the HDTV sections.

And about 3 more hours of dropping in images.  Not much time, which is why I’ve ignored the blog since late last week too. Sorry about that.  middle of next week I’ll try to get provide some answers to comments.  Sometime today, I’ll at least post all the comments that have come in, but answering some of them will have to wait.

OK, that’s it, but thanks for reading the blog and site.  Here are the Best In Class, and Best In Class, Runner-Up awards for this year’s Home Theater Projector Comparison Report – 1080p Projectors – 2010.   There are some Special Interest awards too, but I’ll save those for tomorrow.

From the Top:

Home theater projectors:  Best In Class – Premium Class: $3500 – $10,000:

JVC DLA-RS35 projector: Yes, Alice, putting all the best components in one box really does make a difference, unlike the pill your mother gives you…  which as the song says, does nothing at all.  I’ll give you a clue – while the blacks might be a little better than the DLA-RS25, the near perfect convergence, is the magic.  This JVC  RS35 is the sharpest looking LCoS or 3LCD home theater projector, I’ve ever seen, and rivals a lot of those single chip DLP projectors. Wow!

You will ask, so I will answer now.   If I was replacing my RS20 this year (nope, decided to hold off at least until the end of 2010, to see the next generation), and both the DLA-RS25 and DLA-RS35 are in my price range, I WILL spend the extra for the RS35, based on my viewing experience of both.

Home theater projectors: Best In Class, Runner-Up – Premium Class  (tie)

JVC DLA-RS25 - It’s the next best thing, based on my criteria, yes, there are other projectors sharper, but, the blacks… and the great color…

InFocus SP8602 - Surprise!  From the “new” InFocus, and all new projector, great color, good blacks, and if mounted properly, tons of lumens… compared to the others in this class.

Home theater projectors: Best In Class – Mid-Price Class: $2000 – $3500

Epson Home Cinema 8500UB (OK, are any of you surprised?)  - Good best mode brightness, lots of lumens for sports HDTV and ambient light, and unmatched black level performance anywhere near the price.  Third generation to take top honors in this price range.

Home theater projectors: Best In Class, Runner-Up – Mid-Price Class: (tie)

LG CF181D projector: Ahh, a new player.  Tons of lumens, really great on color. Blacks could be better, but, if they were in the same “class” as the Epson, the LG would have been the likely winner of the Home Theater  this year.

BenQ W6000 projector: Another light canon, but this time DLP.  Different from the LG, but in many ways the same: Brightness, good placement flexiblity, etc.  But the BenQ has that DLP look and feel, and has a really sharp image, as, for the most part, only single chip DLP’s can.

Home theater projectors: Best In Class – Entry Lvel  Class: Under $2000

Panasonic PT-AE4000 projector - The Panasonic snuck into the entry level price class with its $1999 price (just barely!)  The rest of the competition in this class just couldn’t match the black levels and the most extensive feature set of perhaps any projector in this review.  Still could use a few more lumens, but hey, it’s “entry level”.  Doesn’t look like it though.  It completely lows away the really low cost $999 projectors.

Home theater projectors: Best In Class, Runner-Up – Mid-Price Class (tie):

Mitsubishi HC3800 projector – No dynamic iris, no lens shift, limited placement flexibility.  Actually not much but good blacks, really sharp image, and extremely bright best mode performance. This projector sizzles – that is, that pop and wow factor that blows away your friends.  Better blacks than any other “affordable” DLP projector I’ve seen, without a dynamic iris, it blows away the $999 models, for a few hundred more.  It may be simple but it looks great, especially for the bucks.

Epson Home Cinema 8100 projector – Better than last year’s Winner, in this class, but except for value proposition, it just can’t compete with the Panasonic PT-AE4000 projector. This lowest cost 1080p Epson projector, has very good blacks for a non ultra high contrast projector, good best mode lumens, and lots of brightest.  Great placement flexibility, and great warranty.

But, back to my comment about the value proposition.  As I’ve reported many times, the cost difference of owning the Epson vs the Panasonic is huge.  Since both projectors will almost certainly be run with lamp on full, heavy users (40 hours a week) will save about $500 in lamp costs, for every 2 years of use.  So, at 4 years, the Epson will have cost less than half.  I do the math in the review and in the Home theater projector comparison report.

That’s all for now (could have written one comparison in the time I took for this, but I owed ya!)

Hang in there.  Remember, Home Theater Projector Comparison Report –  most of it tomorrow before noon, pacific time (US).  -art

News And Comments

  • Bruce

    Art,

    In your reviews of individual projectors, you gushed over the OPtoma HD8600. However you dont say a word about it in the awards? Overlooked by accident, not good enough, testing to see if anyone is paying attention????

    thanks for addressing this!

    Bruce

    • http://www.projectorreviews.com/members/lisasonfeier/ Lisa Feierman

      Hi Bruce,

      Well, it didn’t pick up any of the report’s awards, they are a lot tougher than getting a Hot Product Award. At the price point we’re talking about for the HD8600 and competitors, they all should be pretty fine projectors… The competition is fierce, and (by my take – and it seems, most other reviewers), the JVC’s tend to dominate.

      Anyway, There should be paragraphs about the projector in the various report pages.

      The main thing though is while otherwise a very good projector, I just found the dynamic iris to be annoying to have on, a little too often for me to do a whole lot of watching with it. Despite sharpness, etc., without the dynamic iris engaged, the blacks while still respectable, are not competitive with most in this class. I have essentially served notice to various manufacturers that I consider “too visible” dynamic iris action to be an immediate award killer. Sure, not everyone will care, but I’d rather have only “decent blacks and a non-intrusive iris, or no iris at all” than better blacks and a frequently annoying iris action. (Also note, It was only the 2nd “new” projector in this price range, that had been reviewed for this report, other than the Planar – now well into its 2nd year.)

      I pretty much gave everyone the heads up. BenQ, Mitsubishi, Epson, Optoma, Sony, etc. For this year’s report, I had significant iris issues with most Optomas (as I have in previous years), with the BenQ W6000, and the InFocus 8602.

      Of those 4, three took me seriously, apparently. InFocus and BenQ took me very seriously, and immediately started working on improvements. The improvement on the BenQ W6000 was downright impressive. The InFocus SP8602 (review posted just 2 weeks ago), I have been assured, has a dynamic iris fix in process right now, though I haven’t seen it yet. I will take the manufacturers’ word unless I have reason to believe otherwise. I have found that between iris, CFI, CMS, and other areas which can be “easily” improved with firmware, that when a manufacturer says they will have an improvement (“fix” – but they don’t like the term), to deal with my issue, they have always come through, to my satisfaction. In this case, though, Optoma hasn’t responded.

      So, bottom line, if you don’t watch a lot of the type of scenes I describe, such as conversations, in a darkened room, where the iris yo-yos a bit, lighting and darkening the walls as if someone was off-stage, playing with the room’s lighting dimmer, then otherwise, it really is a nice choice. The thing is, I have no reason to believe (from Optoma), that the iris will be improved, during the life of this model.

      Without thinking it all through, if the HD8600 had an iris I liked, it would have been slugging it out with the VW85, and the InFocus (with their promise), as I was deciding on the 2nd Best In Class – Runner-up award.

      Remember, my awards are subjective. I have my ideas of what’s most important, etc. I try to write so people with other preferences, can sort through the field and find the right one for them. It’s like the description of our Hot Product Award: A projector who’s overall performance and feature set are sufficient to make it the best choice, for at least a small, yet significant number of end users.

      And that’s the story… I talk to the product manager at Optoma every couple months, etc. I’ll keep on him. If there’s an improvement, I will get one in and report on it, and update the review if there is a significant change.
      -art
      ps. this was what I wrote about the iris in the summary:

      I have but one serious complaint, and that is the dynamic iris. Optoma – hear me – per our discussions, the HD8600′s iris really should be improved. At this price point, no one wants to turn off the dynamic iris and give up a whole lot of black level, but at the same time, the iris is readily visible on a lot of slower, medium to dark scenes. It doesn’t scream “FLAW” but it can be noticeable.

      I strongly suggested to Optoma that they take another look, and see what they can do to improve the iris action, to make it a bit less disturbing at times.

      Other than the iris, this projector puts up an image that most will rave about. Keep in mind, we tend to really get nit-picky with these better projectors. For that reason I warn you now: Even with all the quibbling, this is a particularly fine projector.

      With an improved iris, the HD8600 would pretty much impress just about everyone except the most jaded of us. With the current iris action, though, we have a projector with otherwise excellent performance, that’s still impressive, but not living up to its own potential.

      And that last paragraph, is, of course, why the InFocus, ended up beating it out, and, had the InFocus not committed to an iris upgrade, then the Sony VW85 would have gotten that other Runner-up…

  • clyde rickard

    looking forward to details but still interesting to see prices leverage downward–for example there are open box deals for rs2 at $2700.00 –would you say that offers better bang for the buck performance in the 2000-3000 range over the epson 8500ub?

    • http://www.projectorreviews.com/members/lisasonfeier/ Lisa Feierman

      Hi Clyde,

      Well, there are always changing prices, open stock deals, etc. Sorry, but this is mostly a “one person” shop. It’s up to you guys to keep an eye on such things, and plenty of websites to help, if the projectors are sold actively online. And once in a while there’s even a drastic price change that makes a real difference. (The Viewsonic Pro8100 is a good example, started out around $4K, and all of a sudden, under $1500, as they changed marketing strategies, for whatever purposes).

  • William

    Art,

    I’ve been meaning to ask you for some time about the Vivitek 5080 (or BB’s version of it for a $500 premium, the 5082). I haven’t seen you comment on it (or maybe I’m just not looking hard enough or perhaps just skipped over it). From what we’ve been discussing over on the AVSForums, (http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=1199562) it’s esentially an Optom HD8600 but @ over half the price (w/ the same guts?) and different processing. Hvae you any info to share? Thanks.

    William

    • http://www.projectorreviews.com/members/lisasonfeier/ Lisa Feierman

      Hi William,

      A number of folks have asked. I’ve finally emailed some folks at Vivitek. I will report when I learn something. -art

  • Jonathan

    Art,

    Thanks for your great reviews and blog. Using your information, I chose a Panasonic PTAE-4000U for my HT room.

    One thing that influenced my choice was the Lens Memory (Anamorphic lens emulation) that was described in the review. I would like to go with the 2.35:1 screen as explained in the review, and just have the black bars fall above and below the screen.

    Here is my question. I am painting my screen on the wall. I am deciding on the size of the screen based on my viewing preference. I’ll calculate the optimum size but then use my eyeball to determine what I like best. I will do this by looking at movie images. Then I plan to mark the size I like and then paint the screen.

    Using this method to determine screen size, do I need to do anything to the projector to get the result explained in the review? Or is everything automatic?

    If I use a 2.35:1 ratio movie, do I mark for the screen just where the image is and not where the letterbox bars are? Then paint that dimension screen. That makes sense to me, because then after I paint, if I played the same movie, it would “fill” the screen and the letterboxing would be above and below. But then when I play any other ratio movie, say a 16:9, will the projector automatically adjust and fill the screen?

    Hope my question makes sense and sorry for the lengthy post!

    I appreciate your work!

    Jonathan

    • http://www.projectorreviews.com/members/lisasonfeier/ Lisa Feierman

      OK, here’s the ticket. since the Panny is inherently a 16:9 device, without an anamorphic lens:

      You will end up projecting constant height. In one mode you’ll have your 16:9 height. Put on some 16:9 content. That will be constant. You’ll position the projector so that you can fit a 16:9 image to that height, but with the zoom lens sufficiently neutral to telephoto. Then when you want to watch 2.35:1 – you will increase size with the zoom (shifting to wide angle) until the bottom of the movie image (not the letterbox) hits the bottom of the “screen”. The unused letterbox will hit the wall below (and above) your “screen” if that area is light colored it will visibly show the letterbox just as if you had a 16:9 screen… If your wall is dark, you shouldn’t see it.

      So, ultimately, the top and bottom for the actual 2.35:1 image and the top and bottom for a 16:9 image will be the same line. When you zoom, the vertical of the 2.35 grows to fill the area that was previously filled with the letterbox. I’m being repetitive. Realize because you need a lot of zoom to go back and forth, the amount of placement range you have left to work with, is about half. You’ll figure it out… -art

  • Andrew Carlson

    I’m sorry to use this blog as a means to try to find the right projector for me, but I was hoping you guys might be able to help me out. The entry level awards you guys posted goes up to $2,000. I am a measly college student and I have a budget of about $1,300 to spend on a projector. I would love to get 1080p and I want to use it for movies/T.V. mostly. I know that there are good entry options at $999 and good options at $1,999, but can you guys help me to find one in my budget that you think might work well.

    Thanks so much

    Andrew Carlson

    • http://www.projectorreviews.com/members/lisasonfeier/ Lisa Feierman

      Hi Andrew,

      I’ll stick with my picks in that price range – the Mitsubishi HC3800 and the Epson Home Cinema HC3800. Both should be at or below your price point by now. The Epson’s are built like a tank and have the longest life lamps out there (and low cost) and better warranty. The Mits is sharper, has less placement flexibility but a good deal more brightness for movies. For sports and other stuff (gaming too), the Mitsubishi is also brighter, but with the Epson having better color. Knock them both down to “second brightest mode” and they are similar in brightness and color accuracy. That gives the overall brightness advantage to the Mits. We discuss these two and others at length in our 1080p Projector Comparison Report

  • Lilia

    HI!
    My name is Lilia and i work for a nonprofit senior center. We are curently looking for a projector for our Bingo games and I have been looking around on Craigslist for them. To be honest, i have NO IDEA what im looking for or which kind i should invest in. Please please please if anyone reading this could email me, and give a little advice. The money we spend would be from donations and so i absolutly must make sure we are buying to right thing.

    Lilialouise7@aol.com

    Please dont send spam. Just give a little help..

    Thank you!
    Lilly

    • http://www.projectorreviews.com/members/lisasonfeier/ Lisa Feierman

      Hi Lilia,

      Will try to help, but you really need to provide more clues beyond you need it for a senior center, and money is limited. Give a ballpark of what you think you can spend. Also, a little about the room lighting, and how big a screen, or piece of wall, do you plan to show this on…. (The bigger the image, the brighter the projector you need, or the better lighting control. You can even find good brand new projectors from about 500 (but mostly from $600.

      How are you going to interface to the projector? Are you running a bingo game from a computer? If so, tell a little about the computer, such as its resolution, windows, Mac, etc. -art