Viewsonic Pro8100 Home Theater Projector: Summary, Pros and Cons
All considered, the Pro8100, Viewsonic's first 1080p projector, is a very respectable performer, and with a few improvements, could easily be a top performer. This is a brighter than typical projector, and one with a strong "wow" factor, thanks to rich dynamic colors, better than average brightness, superb sharpness, and good contrast and black levels. All but the most critical folks will really like the overall package, and it is sure to dazzle you and your friends. Below, we'll consider the Pros and Cons, along with commentary as to how the Viewsonic Pro8100 stacks up against the competition!
Note 10/13/09: A long time back, after we reviewed the projector there was a reported firmware fix which at least partially improved the dynamic iris visibility issue. I have not seen an upgraded unit, but several readers report that it is definitely improved, though still not especially good.
Viewsonic Pro8100 Projector, Pros, Cons, and Typical Capabilities
Viewsonic Pro8100 Projector: Pros
- Brighter than most 1080p projectors in "best" mode
- Slightly brighter than the average 1080p projector in "brightest" mode
- Very good overall picture performance after calibration
- Good selection of inputs (including 2 HDMI 1.3 inputs with Deep Color support)
- Supports 24fps
- Very sharp image, one of the very best!
- Shadow detail is very good
- Excellent color management system, including gamma controls and 6 color adjustment
- Very good remote control
- Zoom, focus, and lens shift, are all motorized
- Digital image shift - letter boxed image can be moved up/down on the screen as needed
- Very good placement flexibility - better than the DLP's and comparable to most other 3LCD, and LCoS projectors, although not quite as flexible as the best
- Very quiet - one of the very best in this regard, and is quieter with lamp on full power, than most competitorswith lamps in low power.
- Physically good looking projector (but large)
- Three year warranty is excellent, but not the best, as few competitors offer 3 years, with either a loaner or replacement program included
The image above is from Planet Earth in HD on Blu-ray (a stunning disc set).
Viewsonic Pro8100 Projector: Cons
- Dynamic iris action is perhaps the most noticeable of any 1080p projector reviewed so far. Its "yo-yo" action will be a slight annoyance to some, and will be a deal breaker for most of those who are highly critical of image quality.
- Needs basic calibration to get best results
- Only two User savable settings
- More susceptible to image noise (white border on one side or top/bottom) around the image, which calls for engaging overscan (even sometimes on HDTV sources)
- Confusing menu system
- Only two HDMI (typical, but 3 is better!)
Viewsonic Pro8100 Projector: Typical Capabilities
- Lamp Life
- Black level performance
- Overall image noise
- Price performance when compared with other projectors sold only by "local installing dealer"
Viewsonic Pro8100 Competitive Aspects
The Pro8100 for the moment, at least, is the brightest of the 3LCD home theater projectors, when in its best movie watching mode. That will appeal to many. In "brightest" mode, it is on the bright side of average.
If however, you really need an especially bright projector, though, there are a few markedly brighter, including three direct competitors that are DLP projectors, the InFocus IN82, the soon to be reviewed, IN83, and the Optoma HD81-LV. Of course none of the DLP models comes close to matching the placement flexibility of the Viewsonic.
The Viewsonic though, is brighter than the JVC and Sony LCoS projectors, overall, every bit the match for the rest of the DLP projectors anywhere near its price.
Placement flexibility (zoom, lens shift...) is classic 3LCD projector, which is to say, very good. Its zoom lens doesn't have the range of some other 3LCD projectors, but it's still very good, and still, way better than any of the DLP projectors!
The fact that zoom, focus and lens shift are all motorized, is a nice touch, too.
Like the Epson UB series, the picture quality isn't as soft, film-like as some others, but it's close enough for my taste, and responds with a very punchy image, not as subtle as the Sony and JVC LCoS projectors, or the Panasonic PT-AE2000U. It seems to also exhibit the richness in the dark range that I like about the better Optoma projectors. Black levels are very good, but not first class. It still comes up short of the Epson UB projectors, and all the Sony and JVC competitors.
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While the black levels are very respectable, the dynamic iris is an issue. Its operation is often very visible, and costs the Viewsonic points in my opinion. There is more discussion about the iris in the General Picture Quality section on the General Performance page. At the Infocomm show when I met with Viewsonic, we discussed the issue at length. Where it goes, we shall see, but they definitely felt a firmware upgrade would be a possibility, if they can come up with improved iris performance. If that is happening, I will revisit the projector, since it is perhaps the only even remotely significant picture quality issue the Viewsonic displayed.
Among projectors in the general $5000 price range that are sold by local installing dealers, some of the direct competition includes the InFocus IN82, and IN83, BenQ W20000, and the Optoma HD81-LV. The Pro8100 should be similar in brightness, overall, to the BenQ (the only one with placement flexibility), but short of the others. None of these others can match the placement flexibility, they are all DLP projectors (only the BenQ even has len shift).
Viewsonic Pro8100 vs. Epson Pro Cinema 1080 UB
Here the Pro8100 faces off with what I consider the best of the 3LCD home theater projectors to date. The Viewsonic definitely scores some points. Not only is the Pro8100 about a third brighter in "best" mode, but it also produces a slightly sharper, or should I say, crisper, image. I like both the Epson, and my own JVC RS1, but, while the difference isn't great, I wish they were as sharp as the Viewsonic.
On the other hand, the Epson has better out of the box performance, and the best black levels of any projector but the JVC models. Further, the Epson out muscles the Viewsonic in brightest modes, returning the favor, by being about 1/3 brighter.
I'll give the Viewsonic the slight edge in shadow detail, and it has other benefits. It is quieter and, while I don't consider it an issue, there has been some occasional complaint by owners about the audible noise the Epson's iris makes (the Viewsonic's iris is essentially silent).
Overall, I have to go with the Epson for the majority of buyers for the slightly better overall picture quality (especially black level performance), but those needing the extra lumens in "bright" mode, and those that are more noise adverse, will find the Viewsonic to have an advantage.
Viewsonic Pro8100 vs JVC RS1x
Here too, the Viewsonic has a slight advantage in brightness, but this time, in "brightest" modes. On the other hand, the RS1x is more film-like, and has significantly superior black levels. Audible noise is not an issue for either, and the JVC has no flaws even remotely as significant as the Viewsonic's "yo-yo" dynamic iris. The Pro8100, however, produces a slightly sharper, crisper image. Considering that the JVC DLA-RS1x is less expensive, like the Epson Pro Cinema 1080 UB, it has a real advantage over the Viewsonic, except where lumens are critical.
Viewsonic Pro8100 vs JVC RS2
The RS2 simply put, is the best projector in the price range, although more expensive. In this case, the Viewsonic has the brightness advantage in both "best" and "brightest" modes, and has the edge in sharpness, but, after that, it's all JVC! I see the RS1x, not the RS2 as the direct competitor for the Viewsonic.
Viewsonic Pro8100 vs InFocus IN82
Very interesting. Both are very sharp, with the Viewsonic possibly having a slight edge. Black levels are roughly comparable, but the Viewsonic's current dynamic iris workings are a detriment. The InFocus has a significant advantage in brightness. The Viewsonic's key strength compared to the IN82 is in placement flexibility, although, I suspect, that since both are sold by local installing dealers, most of both will be ceiling mounted, and the placement flexibility advantage will therefore be mitigated in most cases.
Viewsonic Pro8100 vs Sony VPL-VW60
Here, the Sony, overall has the advantage, except in sharpness (although not a big difference), and brightness. The Sony is more filmlike, has better black levels. The difference in sharpness, as with most of these comparisons is a component, but not enough to sway most to the Viewsonic.
The brightness difference, however is significant, and will woo many potential Sony buyers to Viewsonic, especially if the dynamic iris action on the Viewsonic is improved in a future firmware release!
Viewsonic Pro8100 Home Theater Projector Summary
It keeps coming back to that dynamic iris. While its action is more visible than any other projector I can think of, it isn't unpleasant, as the image tends to adjust from one scene to another. If the next scene is brighter, the iris opens, everything gets brighter still, then the iris adjusts further, closing down a bit. The result is overshooting, and the "yo-yo" effect. Equally significant, it is a very sensitive iris, and continues to adjust within a scene to the slightest changes in the scene's bright areas, so its actions in some scenes may be detectable more often, than not.
While its iris action is visible, I don't find its action to be as annoying as some others, but it will drive the highly critical folks crazy! Most of the rest of us will be perfectly content.
If Viewsonic improves on the iris action significantly, the Pro8100 becomes a very formidable competitor, able to do battle with a wide number of competitors, thanks to its sharpness and brighter than average image. It will not, however get buyers who need maximum brightness, as there are still a few projectors significantly brighter, unless the physical placement becomes a determining factor.
Viewsonic Pro8100 Projector Bottom Line
Bright, sharp, good shadow detail, respectable but hardly exceptional black levels, and a good warranty, which is not a bad place to start. Excellent overall color and image richness after a proper calibration.
The Viewsonic's overall image fits more into the "lots of pop and wow factor" than the more subtle "film-like" group of projectors, but that's not a bad thing at all. Some seek perfection in an image, others want an image that just looks great, with a lot of sizzle, and the Viewsonic will definitely appeal to the "sizzle" crowd. The price is a bit high, compared to projectors sold online, but, the price is definitely in line with other projectors sold only through local installing dealers. A very impressive first effort, solid, but for a couple of flaws that keep it from being a top contender. If Viewsonic improves the iris performance by firmware, the Viewsonic Pro8100 becomes an extremely formidable projector!