$2100 and under 1080p Home Theater Projectors
Sanyo PLV-Z700 projector
Sanyo’s PLV-Z700 is the least expensive 1080p projector on the market (to our knowledge). It is currently selling for close to $1500 at a number of authorized dealers. This Sanyo projector is their entry level 1080p projector, and has respectable black level performance, but no match for most more expensive projectors including their own PLV-Z3000. Typical of 3LCD projectors, it offers exceptional placement flexibility. A three year warranty is longer than that provided by most, more expensive projectors.
Mitsubishi HC5500 projector
The HC5500 is another entry level 3LCD 1080p projector (Mitsubishi has two more expensive models). The HC5500’s black levels are better than the weaker performers in this group, and actually pretty good when compared to other non “ultra-high-contrast” projectors. In order to keep the costs down on this entry level model, Mitsubishi went to a limited range zoom lens, significantly reducing placement flexibility. Their HC6500 (listed in the next Class up), has similar performance, but more placement flexibility. The Mitsubishi is noteworthy for its almost silent operation, and for a very sharp image. Overall, it provides very good image quality.
Optoma HD806 projector
The HD806 is almost a cross-over model – trying to work as a business or home theater projector. Black levels are, like the Sanyo PLV-Z700, very entry level, but the HD806’s claim to fame is being very bright, even in “best mode”. Still, in best mode, its black levels are barely a match for competing projectors in their brightest mode. Then there’s the slow color wheel speed, so more people will notice the rainbow effect. Consider it more of a family room projector (always some light) than a good choice for a dedicated theater. A classic DLP projector, it has limited placement flexibility with its 1.2:1 zoom range and no lens shift. Fan noise is fairly loud. While it is good in a family room, I often think that it would be more at home in a sports bar.
Epson Home Cinema 6100 projector
More lumens in best mode than the other entry level 3LCD projectors and more lumens than any of the others in this class, except for the Optoma HD806, and very close to the Optoma. The Epson offers the best black level performance of this group of lower cost projectors, in fact as good as, or better than, a few of the projectors in the next class up. The Epson offers lots of placement flexibility, and a two year warranty with exchange program.
InFocus X10 projector
A solid, entry level DLP projector. Black levels are not particularly noteworthy, but the InFocus offers an especially sharp looking image. (It’s a nicely styled unit too, for those who care.) It has limited placement flexibility, as is typical of most DLP projectors. On the downside, it’s also fairly noisy, as is also typical of many DLP models. It is, however, very good at color accuracy, producing some excellent skin tones, and its brightness, in both best and brightest modes, provides plenty of punch. While it’s true that black levels are its weakness overall, remember, InFocus makes three other, more expensive 1080p projectors, each with better black levels than the one below it. Of note, it is the only projector in this pricing group that is ISF certified.