The Art of Home Theater Projectors

Restructuring our home theater projector reviews – feedback welcomed

Greetings all,

In studying our visitors’ habits while reading my projector reviews I have noticed several patterns.  I believe they call for a review redesign, and I’ll appreciate getting feedback before implementing changes in about a week.  

The two items that are “of concern” are these:

Relatively minor – it’s surprising to me – but only about 30% of a review’s readers ever visit the warranty page.  This is a shame, as in many cases warranties vary widely.  It’s not unusual for a group of competing projectors to have some with only 1 year warranties, others with 2 years, and a few with 3 year warranties.   Since projector repairs – out of warranty, tend to be very expensive one would think people would want to consider the differences, and the potential, down the road, possible costs. 

Of greater import, however, is that virtually all readers start with our first page – the  index.php page of a review –  the one that contains Overview and Physical Tour, etc.

But only about 70% of those readers ultimately make it to our Summary page – the last page of the review, which currently contains not only a general summary, but a list of strengths and weaknesses of a projector, and how that projector compares to the competition.  Having lost about 30% of readers before this point is concerting to me, so I’m looking to roll out a new organization for the home theater projector reviews.

This is what I have in mind: Putting our conclusions up front.  Also, making it much easier to jump to any particular topic, so those in a hurry, or lacking interest in an area, can get the information they are looking for, more directly, and quickly.

It is my hope to switch to a new format next week, (10/26), with the first review to use it, to be the Panasonic PT-AE3000U review, publishing before month end.

Current structure:

Overview
Image Quality
General Performance
Warranty
Summary, Pros/Cons/Competitive

Most of you are familar with this layout, so I didn’t bother to break out all the anchor sections in each.

For the potential new layout I’m also listing some of those anchor sections since I’m looking to move some of them around (Bullets indicate separate pages, indented represent some of the major topics included on that page:

  • Main Review page
       Brief Overview, Basic specs
       Pros and Cons
        Summary:  Analysis and Recommendations
  •  Image Quality
      Out of the Box Performance
      Black Levels and Shadow Detail Performance
      Overall Picture Quality
  • Physical Attributes
      Tour of unit (includes (control panel, inputs, remote control, menu)
      Lens Throw and Lens Shift (plus anamorphic support, other related info)   
  • Projector Performance
      Brightness
      Sharpness
      Measurements and Calibration
      Key compatibilities (ie. HDMI version, support for 24fps, Deep Color, frame interpolation (96/120hz)
      Image Noise 
  • Special features of note (relatively unique ones)
  •  Projector Competition
  • Warranty
 An outline similar the one above, would appear on each page.  In addition, likely adding a link at the end of each topic, pointing to the index back at the top of that page.   That means readers will be able to jump right to Projector Brightness, Calibration, Projector Competition, or Black level/shadow detail and other topics s from any page in the review.  And get back to the index quickly by clicking, instead of scrolling.
Ultimately this format will put all the key “general information” including recommendations, on that very first page, for those not up to navigating through the full length of the reviews.  Or those that just want to get the “big picture”.
We will finalize the new review layout this coming week.  OK, it’s time to put in your 2 cents, if you have suggestions.  
thanks -art


News And Comments

  • Cory Potts

    Hey Art,
    I think a format change is warranted given your statistics. I think the first page should give readers a general overview of all parts of the projector. Several home theater publications have recently done away with ratings systems (1-10; 5 stars, below average/avg./above avg. etc.) with huge backlash from their readers who want a more visually detailed summary, just a thought.
    If it were me (and it isn’t), I would do the first page exactly as you have described except that I would also add in 1-2 sentences about warranty, special features, mounting flexibility, significant shortcomings (probably outside of the pros/cons). Try to get all the major dealmaker/dealbreaker info. on that first page for “joe sixpack” so he makes an informed buying decision, and save the longer, more thorough explanations for the later pages so those of us who really want to obsess over the finer points can (We’ll probably skip the first page and read it last anyway).

    Keep up the great work,

    Cory
    Austin TX

  • Harley

    As far as the warranty page: I’m only personally interested in the warranty if I’m currently in the market for a projector. I read every review on your site, and constantly keep up on the projector market. But I only buy a projector every 3 years or so (until the day when I find that “perfect” projector and quit upgrading, ha ha.) When I’m just keeping up, I rarely read the warranty page, because it’s not relevant unless I’m actually in the market.

    Generally I really like the format how it is. Could be that I’m just comfortable with it. I do always read at least the first page, the image quality page, and the summary. General performance I read if I’m curious about something like fan noise, and like I said, I only read the warranty page if I’m shopping.

    The risk of putting the summary page up front is that more people will read the first page and skip the rest of the review. But for those people, you’ll be doing them a service by saving them time, in exchange for not providing them with as much information without taking the effort.

    Overall, good work on the site, and I’ll stick around whether you change the format or not.

  • UltraNerd

    One of the reasons for me to skip pages is that not every review is equally interesting to me. For high-priced products I am looking for information on the added value compared to lower-priced products. For budget products I want to get an idea of the concessions that have been made. Prices of projectors are dropping all the time and such information helps me decide if I can lower my budget and still get a product that I consider to be good enough.

    Although you did not explicitely mention it in your outline for future reviews, I trust there will also be a method of going to the next/previous page in a review. Jumping to any part in a review will help when I try to get a global picture, but for the extra interesting reviews I prefer a ‘continue reading’ option.

    A small summary combined with a list of pros/cons on the first page would be great for me, but I also like the idea of reading a conclusion or some ‘final words’ after I have finished reading a review.

  • Bert

    Hello Art,
    I’m curious to know if there are any new DLP projectors coming out anytime soon? From what I currently see, most of the newer projectors are LCD based and I tend to prefer the image of a DLP projector. In closing, keep up the good work, we really appreciate the time and effort you put into each and every projector review.

    ******************

    Greetings Bert,

    The fall (post CEDIA) is when most of the new 3LCD projectors hit the market, but not all. Of the large DLP home theater projector manufacturers, new product releases seem to be spread out, throughout the year. Optoma released a couple new projectors in the spring, and they are due for a couple of more releases, but nothing imminent. BenQ was supposed to release the W5000 and W20000 in the spring, but the W20000 arrived just a couple of months ago. As to the CEDIA channel only brands – like Marantz, Runco, SIM2, they still rely on CEDIA as an announcement platform, but many such projectors don’t hit the market for many months. On the LCoS front, both Sony and JVC announce at CEDIA, with both shipping new models by year end.

    Mostly, though, BenQ, Optoma and InFocus seem to be random in general, as to when their new models come out, while with 3LCD, probably 80% of all new models ship between August and December.

    That’s just the way it is, this year. Next year, you never can tell. -art

  • Nathan

    I would like to say thanks for your endless hours of reviews. I consider your opinion to be the most objective and unbiased out there. For my 2 cents, I would appreciate an expanded Projector Competition section because to me that’s the bottom line. What are the pros & cons of Projector A vs. Projector B. vs. Projector A Previous Generation. Thanks again, I will be using your reviews (almost exclusively) on the new Panasonic PT-AE3000U vs new Epson Home Cinema 6500UB vs old Epson Home Cinema 1080UB (at clearance prices) to make my first projector purchase.

  • Mike Hutchins

    RESTRUCTURE

    Hi Art,

    I like your ideas about the restructure, however, I prefer the competition discussion in with the Summary section. Specifically, I believe it should be a part of the pros and cons with the strengths and weaknesses compared with its competitors. This will help readers place a probably unknown projector into a context of potential known projectors. This discussion is too valuable to bury toward the end of the review and should be kept on the first page.

    Otherwise, I believe your changes are a reasonable response to the short-attention-span epidemic that worsens every year.

    Keep up the good work. You provide an invaluable, objective source of information in an arena of hype and hyperbole.

    Best Regards,
    Mike

  • Claus T. Wiebe

    Hi Art,

    Like the others, I refer to your reviews multiple times. First for information and secondly for referrals to questions on the AVS Forum.

    I agree with your proposed change of the Overview page change to the “Main Review Page” (Overview + Summary?). However, for me the most important sections (which I look at/read multiple times) are the (1) “Image Quality”, and (2) “Projector Performance” parts. I do think that the “Lens Throw & Shift” should be in the Projector Performance section.

    I would then combine the remaining “Tour of the Unit” with the “Special Features” section and combine the “Competition” + “Warranty” sections. Those two parts are ones that I would refer to if I’m really serious about the particular PJ (or for reference purposes).

    Good luck with your new format decision, whatever it may be.

    PS — The way the first section starts (with links to the other pages), makes it easy to go directly to the section I want to look at at the time (after I’ve already read the whole review.

    Thanks for great reviews (an industry best, IMHO).
    - Claus

  • Julian

    Thanks for thinking of this rework. I try and read everything you write and I agree that sometimes a product totally is out of one’s market. Even then the review remains interesting when thinking about price/performance but the details like the remote control button layout and warranty are easily skipped. As a result I would move those parts of the physical tour that are non-bang-for-buck (i.e. non-functional) torwards the end.

    One change I have noticed and love is the colour triangle accuracy graph. With a grey scale graph as well, it would be much easier to see where the saturation compromises happen. Would this make sense given not all screens are equal shades of grey?

  • John

    Hello Art,

    I’ve been a long time fan of projectorreviews.com. I’ve got this huge collection of dvd’s, so for me (and others), it’s really important to know how well the image upscaling is on the new 1080p projectors and how they stack up to eachother concerning that issue. That would be something I would want to look for in every next 1080p review.

    Thanks and greetings,
    John (from Belgium)

    ****************

    Hi John (from Belgium),

    Ahh, I understand. Truth is, though, I spend very little time watching “low-def” I too have an extensive collection of DVDs (although my Blu-ray count is up to about 75 now).

    My attitude is that to take maximum advantage of a good projector, you need an excellent source. By Blu-ray or even HDTV standards, DVD doesn’t really qualify, in my opinion. My take is that yes, we have to watch standard DVDs for some time yet, as we buy and build Blu-ray libraries (or future HiDef downloads?) But generally the picture quality is so much better on Blu-ray, that it’s hard to worry about relatively small differences in handling of standard DVD.

    On occasion I’ll run into a projector that is weaker than most at handling standard DVD, and comment on it, but mostly I find them to do a very good job, without using upscaling DVD players. Most projectors, I would say, do a better job of upscaling than the “average” upscaling DVD player, but I do not own an upscaling DVD player that takes the image to 1080p. My old Oppo upscaling player upscales only to 720p. Thus, that is a bit of conjecture. When I do check, however, I typically find that my PS3, which can upscale, does not do as good a job, as letting the projector I’m testing, handle the upscaling. -art

  • Adam

    Art,

    I get confused whether the brightness you measure is at the “middle” or “telephoto end” of the zoom range. Could you please be sure to make it clear in your reviews? Thanks!

    Also, I always like to see comparisons–both to the competition and to the lower and higher models. (i.e. it this one worth the extra $1000 over the cheaper models; is this 720p “almost as good as” the 1080p models, etc.)

    Thanks for all of your time!

    **************

    Hi Adam,

    Brightness measurements are always at the mid-point, unless otherwise specified. Rarely do we even measure the extremes of the zoom.

    Your point about including 720p models, in the comparison section is a good one. I’ll keep that in mind. However, let me just say this. Other than brightness, the best of the 720p projectors in things like black levels, etc. are barely the equal of the least of the 1080p projectors. In other words manufacturers are focusing 1080p projectors on performance, and 720p the shift is towards brightness.

    My general belief is that if you have the bucks, by 1080p. Afterall, we’re dealing with large screens so you can appreciate the extra sharpness of 1080p projectors on hi-def content.

    Almost every projector reviewed in the last year, however will impress just about anyone who has never had a projector based system.

    And lastly, some people get their first projector, then get the bug. Once they see how good their projector is, and how much enjoyment it is providing, they start craving even better. Most of you probably can figure out if you are one of those. If so, you have launched on a never-ending quest for better, usually only tempered by budget. (That’s why I have so many regular readers!) -a

  • Mike Keating

    Hi Art,

    For your information I was just reading your latest review on the Panosonic PTAE3000U at your new review page and ran into a problem with it. I would go down your review and click on the next link and instead of going there I would find myself looking at a page of all the Panosonis projectors. Their was no link letting me out so I would hit my back button to go to your colum of links. Then if I hit on one of the links let say recommended screen size it would take me back to the Panosonic Projectore page. I tried this several times with different links with the same results and finally went to the home page and started over. It worked fine until I would try and skip over a review to another one and it took me back to the Panosonic Projectors page. Then I would have go back to your home page and start all over again. Thanks for the reviews.

    ******************

    Hi, should be all fixed now. Sorry about that. Finally got it all posted about 4am, and checked most of the links. Time to shoot my webmaster, as he built that whole new page linking menu. -art