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Entry Level Home Theater Projector Comparison - General Performance

Posted on June 29, 2006 by Art Feierman

Ease of Use

Each of these projectors offers about the same level of difficulty to take out of the box, plug in, and connect the cables. If you are totally clueless about component video, HDMI, and other connections, I'll suggest you read the manuals, and the startup guides. Ultimately there are only 2 - 3 things to plug into a home theater projector, if that many, beside the power cord.

Many buyers will have a home theater surround system that may or may not switch video sources for your projector. If it does, you probably will have only one source - the receiver, being plugged into the projector, plus power. If you don't have a receiver, you will plug your DVD player, cable/satellite box, and possibly game machine orVCRs in separately.

From a standpoint of remotes and menus, each of these projectors, once set up, requires little adjustment. Most notably you may want to change settings in going from movies, to the type of viewing where you are likely to have some light on in the room, like watching sports, or playing a video game. All four of these projectors allow you to change directly from the remotes, from modes like Cinema or Movie to TV or Bright, or Dynamic (the terms will vary from model to model)

When It comes to the menus and navigating of them, I would have to consider the Epson the best, followed by the Optoma and BenQ. However with the BenQ, you don't get any access to "advanced" color controls, etc.

BenQ W100

The limited advanced menu features is a strength and a weakness of the BenQ W100. It is the "plug and play" projector of the group. It works best for people who don't want to fiddle with settings, tweaking, etc., but just want to plug in and watch.

The matching Remote control is downright excellent. I may be biased, as I own the top of the line BenQ projector, the PE8720, and it uses the same remote, (but mine has more buttons). The remote is great! It's large, buttons are well spaced out (even for large hands), the backlight is very bright, and buttons are organized intelligently. And also important, the remote has lots of range. I could bounce the signal off of my screen and have the projector pick it up easily over 30 feet away (total). Nothing worse than a weak remote that requires you to turn around to adjust the projector (assuming you are sitting in front of the projector, which should be true with three of the four projectors (except the InFocus).

InFocus IN72

Menus are plain looking, and very deep in terms of layer of menus, not what I consider ideal. There are a great number of adjustments you can make, in almost all areas, so while you learn your projector, keep the manual handy. (It's manual is on CD, and is a pretty good manual - that's a complement - however a hard copy manual would be a real plus.

The accompanying remote is small, and LED lit, it even can double as a LED flashlight (not a bad thing at all, I used that function many times, while taking notes). Overall I found the remote to be excellent, with one reservation that applies to the remote and the control panel, and for that matter, InFocus'es methods of navigation.

Let me explain. Most remotes rely on a menu button, plus four arrow keys for navigation, an Enter button, and usually an escape, or other button that moves you back up toward the first level menus. This is true of the other three projectors. Not so the InFocus. They use a 4 button system instead of 7. Once you bring the menu up, there are just up and down arrows and an enter. To move back up a level, you have to select "Previous" off of the menu you are on. This takes longer, and generally is a mild pain, by comparison. I think it also tends to force InFocus to have more menu levels. It's not more difficult to understand, it just has you doing a lot more clicking, to get the same job done. For example you might be on an advanced menu, on the 8th item down where you just made an adjustment. Now you want to go to the previous menu, so you hit the up arrow 7 times to get to previous, then hit enter. With the others, one button does it. That said, you will spend the vast majority of your life watching content, not playing with the remote, so don't let this be a deal breaker if the InFocus otherwise looks best for you.

Optoma H27

Nothing wrong at all, with the menus, or their organization, however, the remote is weak, in terms of range, and the backlight not very bright. Since the remote is well laid out, the backlighting shouldn't be a problem, as it's not that bad, and you'll quickly learn where the most often used buttons are. (You'll also learn quickly that any button lights up all the buttons).

It's the range that bothers me. When I reviewed the unit, most of my watching was in my viewing room - which is fairly large, and my screen is 128" diagonal. I did not completely fill the screen, but I still couldn't consistantly get a good bounce off of the screen to the remote sensor on the front of the projector - that was about 25 feet total. I found the range to be pretty much limited to 20 feet total. (note my screen is a gray surface - with a white surface screen, the bounce may be longer).

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