Viewsonic Pro8100 1080p 3LCD Home Theater Projector Review: Overview
Updated 3/24/2010 - Much has changed. the Pro8100 is still out on the market, almost 2 years later. The huge difference though, was that, when launched, the Pro8100 sold for almost $5000 and was only sold by local installing dealers. Apparently that didn't move the volume, so Viewsonic changed strategy. These days, it seems to be selling for under $1500, by online resellers, and that sure changes the value propostion for a projector like the Viewsonic Pro8100.
I also had pointed out, in this review, that the dynamic iris action was too visible (annoying). Viewsonic advised they have improved it, and over the last year, I've received several emails from owners, mentioning that the iris has been improved and that it really is much better, so ignore my warnings about the iris limitations.
Is the Pro8100 worth it's new price point? Probably, but also performance has improved quite a bit in the last two years. It should be a fair competitor for the Epson Home Cinema 8100, the Mitsubishi HC3800 and other projectors in its price range. If the feature set, and placement flexibility work for you, then keep in mind, at it's new price, it probably would have to be considered to at least have a very good value proposition. -Art Feierman
Original publication date: 6/23/2008
The Viewsonic Pro 8100 home theater projector is Viewsonic's first stab at a 1080p projector. Overall, the Pro8100 is a very nice projector, but it does have a couple of issues. While it isn't a "best in class" quality projector, it definitely has some strengths and will have appeal for some groups of buyers.
- One of the brightest projectors in "best mode", though there some are significantly brighter
- Quieter than average
- Dynamic iris action is more visible than on other projectors, a serious weakness for many
- Sold through local installing dealers
- One of the most expensive of the 3LCD 1080p projectors
- Especially sharp image
- Very good warranty
- Very long lamp life in eco-mode
For those of you who follow my blog, we started with one Pro8100 projector, but had reason to suspect it was defective, due to an extreme noise situation, unlike any I've seen before, that cropped up during one viewing session. However, after powering down and up again, it never reoccurred. We requested a second Pro8100, which arrived a week later. This one behaved just fine, but delayed this review slightly.
The Viewsonic Pro8100 is one of the few 3LCD projectors that is sold exclusively (per Viewsonic) through local dealers, with no online sales allowed.
Note: 10/13/09 - this seems to have changed. The Viewsonic now seems to be available online for $1500 or less. My how things change! -art
Only the Pro version of the Epson UB - the Pro Cinema 1080UB, comes to mind as another "local install only" 3LCD projector (Epson offers the almost identical Home Cinema 1080UB through selected online dealers). The point is, most of the projectors which are sold through local install dealers only, are DLP, or LCoS. Bottom line, if 3LCD type projectors work best for you, and you are working with a local dealer, this one is going to be one of very few to choose from.
Most notable, when first powered up, was generally good out of the box color, but the image tends to be significantly oversaturated. Of course turning down color saturation is about the easiest correction anyone can do, so I won't hold that against it at all.
An interesting option, are different color tops, including burgundy, as an alternative to the standard glossy black finish:
Viewsonic Pro8100 Projector: Basic Specifications
Click here for full specs, and access to a .pdf of the Viewsonic's projector brochure.
Native Resolution: 1080p (1920x1080)
Brightness: 1000 lumens
Zoom lens ratio: :1.6:1
Lens shift: Motorized, Vertical and Horizontal
Lamp life: 3000 hours low power (eco-mode), 2000 hours at full lamp power
Weight: 19.8 lbs. (5.1 Kg)
Warranty: 3 Years Parts and Labor
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Viewsonic Pro8100 Projector - Physical Tour
This Viewsonic is definitely the largest 3LCD home theater projector I've seen in a great many years. The Pro8100 benefits from its large size by being a very quiet projector. The center mounted, motorize focus, large lens, that is probably partially responsible for its size, allows the projector to produce a very sharp image. The projector also has a front infra-red sensor. There are two adjustable, drop down feet, whose release buttons are low on the sides, by the front of the projector. The Pro8100's 1.6:1 zoom lens provides a good amount of placement flexibility. For a 100" 16:9 screen, the front of the projector can be placed as close as 10 feet 3 inches, and as far back as 16 feet 6 inches.
Moving to the top of the Pro8100 projector, there's nothing there but the power and indicator lights. This is due to the control panel being mounted on the right side (if you are looking from the front of the Viewsonic). The control panel:
The control panel is designed to be pretty unobtrusive. The Power button is the usual press one, for on, two for off.
From the back, first is the Power button, and below it, the Menu/Exit button. Moving toward the front are 5 keys in a diamond configuration - up, down, left and right buttons, with the Enter button in the center. Forward of those buttons are three more, Source, then, below Source, are both a Lens Shift button, and below that button, Zoom/Focus, as those lens controls are all motorized.
That takes us to the back of the Pro8100, where the input panel is located. This Viewsonic projector is pretty well endowed with inputs. From left to right there are, an RS-232 input for command and control, as well as a USB input. Below those two, are a 5Volt jack for powering other devices, and a 12 volt screen trigger, to operate appropriately equipped motorized screens. Moving to the right, next comes a pair of HDMI inputs which are HDMI 1.3, and support Deep Color. After those, comes a standard HD15 connector for the usual analog computer input. Two rows of three color coded RCA jacks input Component video sources, and of course (and to the far right), the obligatory lower quality S-video and composite video inputs. A rear infra-red sensor, and the power receptacle finish off the back panel.
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My only comment regarding the input panel, is that, in this day and age, I would have rather seen a 3rd HDMI input, instead of one of the component video inputs. After all, that's the way the world is going, and few AV receivers offer three HDMI inputs, which means you may need to count on the projector if you have more than a couple HDMI sources (not uncommon these days). In all fairness, very few home theater projectors offer three HDMI's with two pretty much being the standard (although there are still a few with only one).
The image above is from the Blu-ray HD version of Planet Earth. The Viewsonic delivers totally believable, and extremely well saturated reds in this underwater photo.
Overall, the Pro8100 home theater projectors are one of the larger projectors out there for the home, even though there are ones larger still. If physical size is an issue, there are many projector alternatives that are perhaps half to one quarter the overall bulk. Many of the most direct competition for the Viewsonic, however are similarly large, including the Sony and JVC entries. By comparison, the best of the 3LCD projectors so far, the Epson Pro (and Home) Cinema 1080 UB is at most, perhaps 1/3 the bulk - almost tiny by comparison.
The Viewsonic Pro8100, is definitely a physically good looking projector with the lights on, and I imagine it is particularly striking with the optional burgundy top cover, for those with a room where that would look good.
Time to get serious about home theater, and talk about the Pro8100 projector's image quality.