The Art of Home Theater Projectors

Update: Home Theater Projector Reviews and the Home Theater Report

Greetings all.

I’ve been a goodly number of emails or comments asking me when the big annual report for home theater projectors will come out, along with our Best In Class Awards.

The short version is, the 2011 1080p Home Theater Projector Comparison Report (it’s most formal name), will be out before the end of May.

Here’s the story behind that:

First it’s been a slow year for new home theater projectors.  Several companies didn’t introduce anything new last fall at CEDIA, of particular significance, Panasonic, BenQ, and Optoma (BenQ and Optoma had lower res, but no 1080p).  Many others only refreshed models with updated firmware, and minor improvements.  The Epson 8700ub, 8350, the Mits HC4000, the Sanyo Z4000, etc. are good examples.  They are all improved, but nothing earthshaking.  They have been seriously delayed.

Oh, there are some pretty cool new products.  Sharp expanded and improved their previously reviewed Z15000 into the 3D XV-Z17000.  JVC’s new models are mostly brand new product, Mitsubishi rolled out their HC6800, etc.  Those following JVC, know that there have been issues, and review units extremely difficult to find.  And so it goes.  With less comparative to write about, and with the hope of still seeing 2-4 important projectors in May, it seemed logical.

FYI, I’m also trying to land a Runco LS-HB (specs) projector. We’ve reviewed two of their LifeStyle projectors including the Runco LS-10d, their lowest cost 1080p 3 chip DLP.  The LS-HB, however, is relatively affordable, with a price point well under $10K.  The HB stands for High Brightness.  This projector, however is a single chip DLP, explaining the relatively low price.   It should prove to be much brighter than even the LS10d, and definitely the brightest true home theater projector in the upcoming report, if it makes it.  That Runco LS-HB, could prove to be the dream machine for those favoring sports and HDTV viewing over movie watching, thanks to some serious light output for a home projector.

Don’t despair, the head to head action is just between updates of last year’s projectors so that the big 2010 Home Theater Report’s competitive info hasn’t really changed much more than mentally adjusting the model number, checking for what improvements we spotted, and making your decisions using that report, and the current reviews…

That’s the skinny.   BTW, still no word back re the most asked questions, which are about the new JVC’s and if I’ll be getting another RS50 (specs) or RS60 (click for review) in to see about the brightness issue, or any others to review.  I am expecting to see JVC folks at NAB on Monday or Tuesday of next week.  I truly hope I have something to report.   BTW I fully intend to take  my light meter, on the outside chance that they have them setup, AND they let me measure brightness.

One more item:  For the next two – three weeks, don’t expect any brand new home theater projector reviews to be published.  All the new reviews will be for my Education report.

The home projector reviews will resume after that report.   If, however, an RS60 or RS50 finds its way here, I will take a break to finish the RS60 review by remeasuring and updating.  That’s it for now.  -art

News And Comments

  • Richard Beachey

    Art:

    Do you know if Epson has abandoned the “R” reflective LCD projectors (21000, 31000 and 61000) for this model year?

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

      Richard, I don’t think so. That’s about what I know, however. This time Epson’s saying almost nothing, well pretty much nothing. One thought I had was “whoa” maybe they’re holding it up to add 3D, but I now consider that a remote possibility. While Epson says their new R panels are not LCoS, they are almost certainly similar in many ways, since they are still Liquid Crystal, and reflective. I believe it took companies like JVC and Sony a while when they launched LCoS to get good yields on the panels.

      They even could have put it on indefinite hold due to the world economics, but that too is probably less likely that working out the manufacturing on a new technology. It only takes one serious snag to put things back by months.

      So, the bottom line is, let’s forget about the R series until CEDIA, or Epson decides to enlighten us. The longer we’ve been waiting, the more likely it would seem to me, to not show up until the next cycle. Of course I am wrong, about half the time, with this kind of guesswork. At least with panasonic they made a statement. We’re definitely staying in the home theater projector business, and are working on new product. I’d love to have Epson just say, “it’s just around the corner” or “don’t hold your breath, it’s coming, but its taking a lot longer than we anticipated.
      ahh the fun of guessing. -art

  • Gus D.

    Just asking if you’re going to get a review in for the JVC DLA-HD250PRO. I hear it’s a graet value on the market at the moment.

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

      I am now calling around to dealers to borrow one. JVC has advised that they have no review units. They have told me that since the projector was announced. though I figured they would change their minds (or Japan’s). Well, it seems that they still don’t (try to find a review in the US). So, I’ll go a borrowing. I would like to review it next month if I can find one.

  • Michael Lang

    Art,

    I am just wondering if you have heard anything about more powerful led based home projectors. Things seem awfully quiet in that front.

    also I know projector design has an ultra wide dlp chip which allows you to view 2:35 with out expansion optics. I think that is a much better solution and I am wondering if any other manufactures are going to introduce this chip next year.

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

      Michael, all I hear is that size is the current problem. With projectors you don’t have a large area a full backlight, or even edge light. A typical projector light source with a lamp has maybe 2-6 sq inches of beam coming out of a reflector assembly, not say the almost 10 sq feet of a 42″ LCDTV. Smaller projectors seem limited, so far, to about 1000 lumens. I’m sure we’re going to see some bright high end systems, but I’m thinking Christie, Digital Projection, and $20K and up price tags. Those projectors use chips many times the size of the ones in smaller projectors and the projectors can be huge – with a large area devoted to light source. I suspect we’ll see plenty of 5000 lumen projectors or more, but 5 pound 3500 lumen LED light source doesn’t seem to be here yet.

      Regarding 2.35:1 chips. I’ve been mentioning that for a couple of years. We had a discussion in Japan on a 3LCD trip a year and a half ago.

      I’m a huge fan of the idea. Keep in mind with internal 2.35:1 comes other issues, better optics required, etc… more compromise on HDTV size, etc… But I vote yes. And it’s a great way for manufacturers to have something new that keeps the volume price from falling so far as to reduce warranties, innovations due to dropping total revenues of companies. That’s always been the tech industry problem. If a company runs out of new things to add, sales and profits drop, and bye bye. -art

      On the other hand, I’ll be back at Infocomm in two weeks, and maybe I’ll be surprised. -art

      I expect

  • http://None Paul R.

    Art, what projector do you recommend for use when viewing PHOTOGRAPHY (color and B&W)? Here are some particulars:
    -Price: $1500-2500
    -Use: Digital photography in large room with 50 viewers
    - Res: 1920 X 1080
    -Ratio: Probably 16:9

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

      Paul R. Brightness vs room lighting conditions vs. screen is key. Is this a photography group? How big is the screen. White walls, dark?

      If great lighting control, and say a 100″ screen you can definitely go with a home theater type projector. Any number will work well, but you’ll likely want the ones that calibrate the best without costing too much brightness. Ultra high contrast – on the home theater side, you’ve got the Epson BenQ W6000, Epson 8700ub Mitsubishi HC4000, and others. Look to Canon for great color on a business projector, or one of the Epson’s but Canon uses LCoS for less visible pixels… Lots of choices depending a lot of your final details. -art

  • Eric

    Just wondering if you’re going to be reviewing the BenQ W1100 and/or W1200. They seem great value, but would really like to see your review before purchasing.

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

      Hi Eric,

      The W1200 arrived the morning I left for back east for some biz. I’ll be starting on it mid next week, so It will publish before month end! -art

  • http://Projectorreviews.com Joshua Soldo

    Hi Art,
    I am a long time follower of your site and a big fan. I am having a very hard time deciding between these 2 Epson projector options (I want to replace my Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 720):
    1. Epson 8700UB (has excellent on board video processing)
    2. Epson 8350 + DVDO Edge
    I have a dedicated home theater with a 106″ screen, but my wife does not like to sit in the dark so there are typically lights on in the theater when we watch TV or movies together. Pitch black is left for my personal enjoyment.
    Please advise which option is best.
    Best regards,
    Josh

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

      Hi Josh,

      Well, I personally would go with the 8700UB. Afterall, if you are like me, you’ll be appreciating those blacker blacks on the kind of content your wife is less likely to be watching (like sci-fi, over and over)… My wife Lori likes those movies, but she’s not a “re-watcher” to begin with, can’t understand how I can watch so much.

      While the DVDO brings some things to the party, if you were pretty happy with the image processing on your 720, just wait. If you are calibrating, yes, the DVDO will have an advantage, but I say, on that first really dark scene where the blackness really matters, the difference will be so much greater between the projectors, than anything the outboard processing can bring to the party in terms of better color etc… (you get frame interpolation for your sports with the 8700ub, Mike’s the DVDO guy, and I don’t recall if they are putting CFI in them these days.

      Then also, you are currently up and running. It’s only 3.5 months until CEDIA and next year’s crop is announced – and some shipping. In other words it’s getting late in the buy cycle for someone who doesn’t have an urgency to flee from the traumas of watching a 37″ LCDTV. -a

      All

  • http://miniprojectorreview.net/ mini projector review

    Eric
    “Just wondering if you’re going to be reviewing the BenQ W1100 and/or W1200. They seem great value, but would really like to see your review before purchasing”

    I would also like to hear from those projectors…

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

      Hi Vjtalka! Yes, I’ve got the W1200 fired up right now, as I’m writing. Look for the review next weekend or right after (holiday weekend). -art

      I’ll do a usual “first look” blog, in a couple of days… -art

  • http://n/a Joe

    I am just wondering how a $2000 projector like the Epson 8700UB compares to more expensive models from Runco and other manufacturers. I went into a demonstration room trying to see differences from the 8700, and I could not distinguish its picture quality in a light controlled room from others. Thank you

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

      Hi Joe,

      Well, in part, that’s why we do an annual report. That said, the 8700ub is only a minor update over the 8500ub. Check out the current comparison report, there’s enough comparing this projector to that one, etc. to answer your questions.

      But the bottom line… The Epson can match the black levels or beat them of anything I’ve seen from Runco. On the other hand, every Runco I’ve looked at, produces more natural looking color and skin tones than any Epson post calibration… The Epson does a great job, but that’s Runco’s thing… gorgeous looking skin tones, great color overall. Every runco we’ve even looked at, looked great out of the box, even if brightness and contrast settings could use a little tweaking. Bigger differences though are brightness, support, etc. -art

  • http://miniprojectorreview.net/ mini projector review

    Hello Art Feierman, that´s great! I just read your first look review. Can´t wait to see the full one. Definetely will keep my eye on.
    Cheers !

  • Jerry

    Art,
    I came across this site while looking for a review of the Epson 8350, and I have to say yours is probably the most comprehensive and thorough of any I’ve found – thanks!
    I’ve owned a Panasonic AE700U for 6 years, and have overall been pleased with the picture, but now the unit will need $900 in repairs due to using an aftermarket lamp (original went at about 1300 hours)that (supposedly) has damaged the power supply and ballast. My question is, is a new unit like the Epson 8350 worth the extra $400 it will cost over getting the 700U repaired? I have a dedicated home theater with no ambient light and a 106″ Da-lite Cinema Contour screen, and watch mostly sports and movies in the theater room.

    Thanks for your help.

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

      Hi Jerry,
      Assuming you don’t have to sell the kids to come up with $400 – absolutely. the short version – you get:
      Brighter, Higher resolution, better blacks, a lamp that they say will last 5000 hours at full power, and a shiny new 2 year warranty on everything, plus if there is a problem, Epson ships you a replacement – the next day… On the other hand, you fix your Panny, and only what was fixed gets a new warranty, and probably for 90 days maybe a year… Other than finding the $400, I can’t think of a good reason not to. I can’t think of anything that a PT-AE700 will do as well as an 8350. – ok? -art

  • Rick Rasberry

    Art, you are the man! Thanks for responding to my question regarding brightness and the HC7000 vs the 8700UB. I have a problem with my current projector (Sony VPL VW-100) hopefully you can give me some pointers. The original bulb lasted about 900 hrs as advertised. I purchased a new bulb ($900) and installed it. After about 100 hours on the new bulb the projector began displaying a message to ‘replace the lens filter’. I cleaned and replaced the filter to no avail. I then order a new filter from Sony and installed it. This didn’t solve the issue either. I called Sony support and after a few “turn it off and on’s” they gave me a number for a local repairman. When the repairman found out the model he informed me he only repair Sony TV’s!

    I have removed and reinstalled the new bulb and filter. The projector continues to ask for the filter to be replaced and then shuts off after 60 secs. I have combed the manual and talked to Sony a couple times. This has be going on for 6 months.

    Any tips/solution short of the old Discount Tire (toss it through the window) would be appreciated.

    P.S. the one year warranty expired 1 1/2 yrs ago.

  • bill papadimitriou

    heelo all, has the 2011 1080p Home Theater Projector Comparison Report been uploaed as yet ?

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

      still writing it. The awards, and first two pages will go live sometime tomorrow (Saturday, probably evening).. -art

  • Chris Smith

    First off, I wanted to say thank you for the site. You guys have kept me from making a $1500 mistake right off by explaining lens shift.

    I am completely new to projectors here, outside of the one in my conference room at work, I had no knowledge of them. But with my 46″ LCD TV starting to go out, and the desire to go with something bigger, when seeing price vs. price between projectors and larger TV’s, it became obvious which direction I would be going.

    I have finished out my basement myself, and decided on a projector at the last minute which leaves me with my hybrid entertainment room. I was able to finish out a hole in the back wall that separates another room, and run some hdmi cables back through the walls/roof there from my entertainment corner, as well as a power outlet, so the cords will be nice and hidden. The issue there was unless I wanted my screen at the floor, my need is something with lens shift as the ceiling at that back wall is only about 6.5′ high across the length of the room, vs. 8′ in the rest of it (ventilation runs through that little area).

    My wants.
    Lens shift
    “good” (the word is very relative) black levels.
    Enough brightness I can watch something with dimmed lights, especially sports. Ambient lighting is no issue at all, no windows in this room, but paint isn’t ideal on the walls (tan walls, white ceiling)
    Budget of under $2000 all combined (screen plus projector)
    Decent zoom features (hoping for 110 inch projected from 15′ away, but want the ability to adjust)
    1080p for blu ray/PS3 gaming
    Not having to get a new 200 dollar bulb every 3 months
    Good responsiveness (heard lag on some projectors is bad when playing games)

    My things I don’t really care about:

    3D. I am a little interested, but wife gets that queasy feeling, not worth the extra money as of now.
    Speakers/size/portability no need, got the surround sound wires in the walls, plenty of room at the mounting area.

    So with that in mind, I keep seeing one name popping up here, and that is the Epson 8350, which was one of your award winners last year, and caught my attention and hasn’t let it go. I am wondering if there really is another option to think about here, or if I did convince the wife that another 500 bucks for 3d was worthy (upset at no lens shift on the 3010), what would be a few good options in your opinion based on my likes and needs that I could look further into.

    Again, I love the site, and thanks so much for the help already

    Chris

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

      Hi Chris,

      For the price, with Lens shift, the Epson will be very tough to beat. Sure, there’s an even brighter Panasonic – the new PT-AR100U, but that’s priced around $2000.

      As to gaming, I’m not sure, but one of my gaming bloggers measured the 8700UB (the big brother, with better blacks – my personal fav, for under $2K if you could find one at an acceptable price. While the Epson’s aren’t the fasting things around for gaming, they are apparently fast enough. Scott S, one of my gaming bloggers, owns the 8700UB (which should perform as well as the 8350 – noting that the more dynamic features, the greater the lag time, so CFI, for example (smooth motion) also adds a fair amount of lag. Scott S, is most pleased with it for gaming, even though even less lag would be better. He’s serious about it, builds his own superfast computers, and plays strictly PC’s not consoles. I figure if it works for someone who has spent huge amounts of hours playing games at top levels, it should work for the rest of us.

      The 8350′s blacks are “good”, but not “ultra high contrast” like the 8700ub (who’s blacks with the iris off, are roughly comparable to the 8350 with the dynamic iris working. That 8700UB is a step up for sure. The thing is, they are officially discontinued. Per a conversation with Epson, most dealers will be out in the next 30 days. That may mean you can find a great deal, or it may mean (since it’s so popular) that the few dealers that still have them, figure there will be plenty of demand. Failing that, for the huge difference in price, the 8350 only gives up those better blacks, CFI and their dynamic sharpening: Super-Resolution. For me, only the black level difference is really significant, between the two, the other extra’s are really minor for most. Either should serve you well.
      The one other possibility is the now closeout on the BenQ W6000, another favorite of mine. There you can get black levels closer to the 8700ub than the 8350, and you’ll have your lens shift. This was a $2000 – $2500 priced projector for the last year and a half, but I see one of my advertisers selling it for about $1500. hell of a projector for $1500… Placement issues (less zoom range, etc.) notwithstanding, I would have to buy the W6000 over the 8350, budget allowing. BTW, the BenQ is exceptionally bright, but it’s lamp lasts only about half as long as the Epson’s so more cost down the road, (and it draws roughly 50% more electricity when running (for you green fanatics). -art