There’s a relatively new variable in terms of projector sharpness and detail, but the basics first they are simple:
Single chip DLP projectors have a distinct sharpness advantage over other technologies, including 3 chip DLP projectors that are far more expensive. This is due to the limitations on how well you can converge the light from three separate panels.
If you are watching film based movies you can will likely see some difference between competing single chip DLP projectors and their direct competition using other technologies. But you probably wouldn’t notice unless you were comparing. On the other hand, switch to all digital 1080p content and the higher frame rates, and the difference will be a little greater.
There are cases of different quality optics, but generally optical distortions are not a problem. Every once in a while we notice a projector that is a bit darker in the corners than most others, and some projectors are better at maintaining a sharp image in the center and the corners at the same time.
Some of today’s three panel projectors have extensive digital correction for mis-aligned panels. It can visibly help but it’s not going to really make the projector truly sharper.
Another hot new item are advanced detail and sharpness enhancement controls. These newer capabilities are more sophisticated then the traditional sharpness controls.
We discuss these dynamic controls in in our Special Features section. You’ll hear them mentioned as dynamic detail enhancement or dynamic sharpness. Various manufacturer’s names for their controls include Reality Creation, e-Shift2, Super-Resolution…
The point is, you can get a greater sense sharpness and detail with this new generation of controls. Reality Creation (Sony) is the best I’ve seen so far, and it can definitely fool you into thinking it’s as natively sharp as a good single chip DLP. Upon close inspection you can see you are looking at slightly different content being displayed, as Creation changes the data. A really good dynamic enhancement/sharpness capability is a very good thing for 3LCD and LCoS projectors. Just don’t push it too far.