Comparison of Four Entry Level Home Theater Projectors – Overview

Our next set of images is from a HD source. Keep in mind, though that these are not HD resolution projectors

Boathouses - HD from D-VHS tape

InFocus IN72
Optoma H27
BenQ W100
Epson Home 20
InFocus IN72
+Optoma H27

You’ll note from the two sets of images above, that the BenQ W100 has the strongest blue content. Of these projectors, none were calibrated for these shots, except the H27, for which a very basic calibration was done when originally reviewed, and the results of those numbers were used for the shots taken recently with the unit Optoma sent me for this comparison. (As expected, the calibration numbers from the original, are not dead on). There is variation from projector projector within any brand, due to variations in the lamps, etc. I found my original settings to be a little strong on red, at the expense of some blue.

Two more sets of images – First a look at black levels with a scene of a starship from the 5th Element, and then one more look at flesh tones, with an image of Gandalf.

In the starship image you can easily see the difference in black levels (although you will mentally have to adjust for the differences in brightness, and that there are 3 different frames between the 4 images). Please note, in each of these sets of images shown on this page, the images shown here may not be the exact same image found on the original reviews, as here, I picked from the bracketed images, the ones that were closest to the same exposure.

The 5th Element - Starship - (DVD)

InFocus IN72
Optoma H27
BenQ W100
Epson Home 20
InFocus IN72
+Optoma H27

My conclusions here, are that the IN72, definitely has the advantage, and the Epson Home 20 definitely has, by a noticeable margin, the least black, blacks. The Optoma is falls between the InFocus and the W100, however I should note, that only the Optoma offers AI frame by frame adjustments.

Unfortunately, the DVD player’s pause or frame advance icon on the screen definitely affects the AI. Since that pause indicator is full white, the Optoma cannot adjust the overall scene for enhanced blacks while the pause indicator is on the screen. Otherwise the lamp might dim, reducing black levels. My general observations are, that while actually watching the scene, the Optoma H27 does produce blacker blacks than I can capture when paused. Still, it does not match the InFocus, but ends up definitely closer to the InFocus than the W100. With the Epson, you’ll note, that there are also less stars visible, however, it is probably the least overexposed of these projectors, but in normal viewing it does not reveal the starfield as well as the others.

Lord of the Rings - Gandalf (DVD)

InFocus IN72
Optoma H27
BenQ W100
Epson Home 20
InFocus IN72
+Optoma H27

As you can see, each of the four Gandalfs is a little different. Which is best? Tough call, especially if you consider that they are from exposures taken at different times, and not exactly the same. The InFocus appears to have a higher gamma, tending to make Gandalf’s face not quite as bright.

For out of the box, performance, I would personally have picked the BenQ W100 as the best in this case. With the settings changes I mentioned for the Optoma, it is probably the best as far as this scene. The InFocus, however looks extremely natural, but doesn’t lift the mid-tones, making it look like the scene was shot on a day that was not bright, whereas the other projectors all capture that “sunshine effect” as I like to call it.

Bottom line on all of this, each projector does a very impressive job on all these images, but the Epson comes up very short in the black level/shadow detail area.

The Optoma tends to give the images the best handling of bright scenes in terms of gamma, as noted on Gandalf, and the Boathouse HD scene. The InFocus is superb on blacks and has the most natural flesh tones, out of the box, by a small margin.

This is one reason why I often indicate that many buyer’s final selection may well be based on factors other than pure image reproduction. Each of these projectors does a very respectable job in image quality when viewed separately. When images are compared, you see differences. In reality, though none of these projectors could claim to have the best result consistantly across the four test images here, let alone, if I provided more image comparisons.

So start factoring in those other issues – positioning the projector, rainbows, screen doors, pixel visibility, etc.

 

OK!

The next section – General Performance, will go over a few other differences between these four home theater projectors that may affect your final decison.

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