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Your Holiday Guide To Five Great Home Theater Projectors Under $2000 - Part Three

By Art Feierman
We've got two more great projectors left, for your consideration.   The first one is a change of pace.  It's an LED projector from ViewSonic, the PLED-W800.  Then comes our last of the five, the Panasonic PT-AE8000U, a hard core "home theater" projector, that when first launched sold online for $2999 but now comes in under $2000.

Up until now all of these projectors have been very bright – in fact all claim at least 2000 lumens, while basic “home theater” without 3D really needs only 500 or so lumens of brightness.  3D, though gobbles up over half of the brightness, so that’s why most new 3D projectors these days offer at least 1000 lumens maximum.

I only mention that because the small LED projectors now top out at 1000 lumens, most with a lot less. The pico projectors are rather small , and pocket projectors (both terribly inaccurate descriptions, of course).  The advantages of this class of projector are solid state LED light sources that last 20,000 hours or more.  No lamps to replace.  Of course you do pay more, upfront, for that technology.  On the other hand, a huge benefit of these projectors is that they are physically far smaller than traditional lamp based projectors, making them ideal for portable use.

Pico projectors are typically too dim to tackle screen sizes bigger than 40 inches, and are relatively low resolution, but today’s larger pocket projectors come in standard HD resolution of 720p, and we’re starting to see some full 1080p projectors in this class.

Our last “stocking stuffer” is one of these larger “pocket” projectors.  They can be used for gaming, movie viewing, sports, and are just as commonly used as portable business projectors.  Choosing our 5th projector from the field of LED projectors was not easy, but a combination of price, performance and features narrowed it down to two, and we selected:

The ViewSonic PLED-W800 LED Projector

For our LED projector pick we have a brand new projector from Viewsonic, the PLED-W800.  (links to Viewsonic's site, with more info and pricing).

This projector is so new that as we publish this it's still about a week from first shipments in the US!   (Update:  It is now shipping.)  We've reviewed the older PLED-W500 so we have high expectations for this WXGA resolution (that's 1280x800, which means it is essentially - in terms of the home market, a 720p HD projector.  MSRP is $920, but expect significant discounts.  The best indication of that, is that on Viewsonic's own site, their store is offering the projector for $709!   Viewsonic tells me I'll be receiving one of these for review, in mid-November.

Before I forget, there's also a less expensive (and less bright at 600 lumens)  PLED-W600 you can check out.  It's another nice stocking stuffer, but for those who's budget tops out at $599.

The Viewsonic PLED-W800 claims 800 lumens. 120,000:1 contrast (very impressive numbers) can't wait until one arrives for review.  In the meantime, Viewsonic has posted a Youtube video as well:  Viewsonic PLED-W800 video.

The PLED-W800 mobile projector  may be what you are craving for this holiday season, Serious projectors don't get much more portable than this - at least and be able to have some respectable brightness.  But besides weighing in at less than 2 lbs, it has a whole lot of other things going for it!

It's footprint is nice and tiny as well, measuring about 6.9 x 5.5 inches and 2 inches tall.  Although wireless isn't built in, it is optional.  The W800 has an LED light source and claims up to 30,000 hours of life!   This Viewsonic is very adaptable.  It's suitable for home use, including gaming (we'll measure input lag times when I review it), but it is also very capable as a very portable business projector.

The W800 has MHL giving it great smarts, and has an SD card slot,  a built in player that handles images, videos, and even Microsoft Office documents, pdfs and more.

The PLED-W800 should make one outstanding stocking stuffer this holiday season.  If you are really lucky, the stocking it ends up in, will be yours!

Now if, instead you are looking for a projector for a dedicated home theater, check out our next featured projector:

The Panasonic PT-AE8000U - A True Home Theater Projector

Our last featured projector is Panasonic’s PT-AE8000U.  This “Panny” is definitely a home theater projector first, although it’s bright enough to venture into some less than great rooms, or tackle sports with some lights on.

This Panasonic has been on the market a couple of years now, but, if anything, it’s offering better price / performance today, than when launched.  You see, back then, it was a few bucks below $3000 and now, less than 2 years later, it’s dropped $1000 in price.  $1999 puts it at the top of the price range, but then, it’s got a lot going for it.  How much?  Two years ago it received our Best in Class award, for projectors in the $2000 to $3500 price class.

Click Image to Enlarge

What you get for your money, is some very impressive performance, very good black levels, plenty of lumens, lots of preset color modes, and a zoom lens with lots of range, that offers motorized zoom and focus.  It’s the only one of our five projectors here that supports Lens Memory, which means it works well with Cinemascope screens – that is the widest screens, which tend to be purchased by folks who are focused on movies, rather than sports, TV, or gaming.

As the awards received would suggest, this Panny, Panasonic’s flagship home theater projector, offers excellent picture quality.  A two year warranty is standard.

Update:  Panasonic launched an excellent holiday promotion that will run from 11/1/14 through 12/31/14.  During that time, purchase from a authorized Panasonic projector dealer and get a $100 rebate, AND, a third year warranty.  (Note, Panasonic's warranty has a maximum number of hours use, as well as an expiration date, which unusual.)

The PT-AE8000U supports all the major 3D formats, but no 3D glasses are included.  Affordable 3D glasses are available from under $20!  This Panny has always been considered an excellent projector, but now that it’s under $2000, the value proposition is even better than before.  You’ll want to click here to learn more!

"Wrapping it Up"

Tis the season – to move that 42” LCDTV into the breakfast area, and get serious about enjoying movies, sports and HDTV, or maybe that new game console!  According to one company, US sales of home projectors is about 200,000 units a year.  It’s a tiny drop in the bucket compared to LCDTVs, but that’s because we projector enthusiasts keep it a secret.  Now it’s your turn.

That raps up our Holiday Guide to some great under $2000 projectors.  Got a bigger budget, check out our second guide, for those spending upward of $2000 for a projector.

Happy Holidays from Projector Reviews!

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