Picking the Winners – the best projectors in each price range

As I point out over and over again, in reviews, rarely (can you say never), does a projector come along, that is simply best at everything, even within these somewhat narrow pricing tiers. As an excellent example, consider the JVC DLA-RS1, which last year took top honors in the over $5000 category, (I own the JVC.) It truly was a breakthrough product when it hit the market in Q2-07, but still not the best at everything. For example, offsetting its unmatched black level performance, excellent out of the box color accuracy, placement flexibility, and extremely bright “best” mode, is its softer than average sharpness, lack of a standard computer input, and for that matter, one projector was substantially brighter (the Optoma HD81-LV – although this Optoma didn’t start shipping for a couple more months). Other minor issues come into play, as well, but no time for that here.

Nia, from House of the Flying Daggers, Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB.

The other aspect of primary importance, is meeting core needs of buyers. For example, no single chip DLP projector can be the best for everyone, due to some folks suffering from Rainbow Effect (RBE), and others who need to shelf mount, which most DLP projectors aren’t designed to do. Conversely, some folks are bothered by motion blur, which doesn’t affect DLP projectors, but some see in 3LCD and LCoS projectors, whose LC (liquid crystal) panels are slower than the DLP chips. Then too, some are driven crazy by projector audible noise. In this group the quietest are typically 3LCD, but not all of them are quiet, whereas DLP tend to be the noisiest. But, again, there are exceptions.

My point is, that while one projector may be excellent at many things, it may be disqualified by some buyers because of their specific requirements. As a result, there needs to be a choice of “best projectors” in this report, so people still have a usable recommendation even if one of our favorites won’t work for them.

As a result of “no perfect projector”, we will be giving out “Best In Class”, and “Runner-Up” awards in each price category, and an occasional “Special Interest” Award. This means, perhaps 9 rewards out of 20 projectors considered. Click here for a list of the winners!

Bottom line – it’s still your job as the potential buyer, to consider some of the disqualifying attributes, immediately toss out those projectors from your consideration, and choose the best choice from the remaining ones. Life is much simpler that way.

Panasonic PT-AE2000U, displaying a scene from Casino Royale.

Normally each review starts with an overview of the projector, then our “Physical Tour” of the unit. For the Comparison Report, we’ll skip the overview (you can visit each projector’s individual review), and look at the hardware attributes.

1080p Home Theater Projectors: Physical Comparison

Click here to enlarge. So close. There are three major areas of consideration: Two concern how and where you can place the projector in your room – zoom lens throw, and variable lens shift. The third area is the “input” panel, which we will refer to as “Projector Interfacing”; what you can actually hook up to the projector, as well as things like screen triggers, command and control interfacing, etc.

Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB (the Pro version is black)

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Home Theater Projectors: Zoom Lens Attributes

Click here to enlarge. So close. Once again, the projectors separate clearly into two groups here. There are the DLP projectors – all the Optomas and BenQs, the lone InFocus, with very limited range – only 1.2:1 zoom ratios. Then there are the LCoS and 3LCD projectors, of which the Mitsubishis offer 1.6:1 and the Sonys 1.8:1, while all the rest offer 2:1 or 2.1:1. Even the Mitsubishi’s 1.6:1 is a very respectable amount of range, that likely will not limit their sales.

This means that for a typical 100″ diagonal screen, where you can place the projector in terms of distance on the above mentioned Optoma and BenQ projectors varies by only about 2 feet front to back. That means that DLP projectors are mostly limited to ceiling mounting, not shelf mounting. More on this topic, as well as Lens Shift will be found on the General Performance Page

Panasonic PT-AE2000U

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