Posted on March 1, 2013 Art Feierman
Note from the Editor: Greetings! We will be releasing our brand new “Guide to Buying the Right Home Theater Projector for You.” This guide will be more viewer-centric than product-centric, and will be a great asset during projector shopping! -art
Another year, another Home Theater Projector Report based on our projector reviews. Last year I started off by saying it was an exciting year. This year, not so much, although there are definite bright spots. For many brands, we saw projectors refreshed with new model numbers and some improved (or new) features, but fewer all new projectors or those with major redesigns this year.
Although there are new things and new features each year, we continue to see more home theater projector manufacturers switching to two year model cycles. For that reason, many projectors spoken of within these pages were in last year’s report as well. No matter! The important thing is that today, there are better projectors available than last year, in every price category, from sub-$1000, up to $20,000+. A new, better projector, and projector value, awaits you when you are ready to pull the trigger.
A brief note on Projector Reviews’ review philosophy. True, we do a lot of measuring, calibrating and reporting on those numbers, but when it comes to picking the winners, things get pretty subjective, we don’t add up points, for lots of categories. More, it’s based first on the viewing experience, performance/features which includes brightness…, and overall value proposition. That viewing experience, though has to be subjective, and it is perhaps the key component.
Let the games begin!
Above: Robert Downey Jr. in Iron Man 2, projector: Sony VPL-VW95ES
This 2013 projector report breaks projectors into the same three price tiers as we’ve used for the previous home theater projector reports – Under $2000, $2000 to $3500, and $3500+ . Last year’s report is available here, for those that wish to look back, a bit.
Again this year, for the lowest price “Class”, we’ll have separate Best In Class 2D and Best In Class 3D awards. This was very necessary, as for example in one price tier, the most impressive projector at 2D, has no 3D abilities. Better to have a best 2D and a best 3D, than to compromise on one projector that may not be the best at either. New projectors without 3D are becoming rather rare in the price range from $2000 to $20,000+.
There are ties. While there may not be two directly equal projectors, there are usually two projector that serve their owners equally well. Usually when there is a tie, each projector has some either a particular performance strength over the other, or a feature the other lacks that makes one a much better match for many users. Features such as Lens Memory, or Wireless HDMI would be good examples. As an example, some might choose the Panasonic PT-AE8000U for widescreen use. Others, with traditional 16:9 screens might choose the Epson Home Cinema 5020UBe, for wireless HDMI, as it might save many hundreds of dollars when wiring up your room.
We will start with three lists of the projectors in this report. These are our “classes”: Under $2000, $2000-$3500, and $3500+. Links will be provided to our specs page (with manufacturer data sheets) and of course to the individual reviews.
In the pages following, you will find a short summary for each projector. This includes quite a number of projectors from last year’s reports and even a couple in their 3rd year. A few of the older ones really aren’t that competitive any more, but some remain popular, and are still actively being sold. In a couple of cases though, really good projectors from previous years, managed an award this year, thanks mostly to significant price drops, to keep them highly competitive.
Many images of movie or HDTV scenes are placed throughout the review. All the images on this page, unless otherwise noted, are from Best In Class winners or Runner-ups. Those that are not, will be tagged, and are there primarily for comparison purposes.
I mentioned Special Interest awards. This award can go to just about any projector that I feel, though not fully mainstream, has something special going for it that still makes it an exceptional choice for a smaller group of potential owners. Typical are projectors that really work best on smaller screens. Or a special feature that some can really use, perhaps wireless HDMI, or for those who opening up their walls to run HDMI cabling is a bigger expense than the projector itself.
Finally, as always, we will add a limited number of direct comparisons between our favorite projectors within each class.
One tendency this year that started last year, is that we’re seeing a lot more projectors with additional brightness to handle 3D. Oh, there are still many underpowered 3D capable projectors, but there are more to choose from at are at least respectably bright on 100″ diagonal screens or even a bit larger.
As always this report only looks at projectors capable of native 1080p as a minimum. This year we have one true 4K projector in the report as well.
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