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Entry Level Home Theater Projector Comparison: Summary

Posted on June 29, 2006 by Art Feierman

I will be brief here, with just my general conclusions based on the earlier sections, and the individual reviews. My focus will be on matching consumer profiles to the best projectors for their situation.

The first key thing, though, is placement, because this can easily eliminate one or most of the projectors.

For example if you need the projector close, or need a lot of height flexibility, the Epson meets your needs and the others may not work at all. Of course if you are ceiling mounting, in the vast majority of rooms you can place the projector whatever distance works best for the projector. It's trickier when you want to put it on a table, and of course, if you want it on the back wall, you are very limited by the placement distance

Profile: Hard Core Movie Watching:

Your profile is that you are looking for an under $1000 projector.

I should note, if you could afford a $1500 outlay for the projector I would strongly recommend that you consider the next higher up class of projectors, such as those featured in our "under $2000" comparison, all of which are higher resolution, offering HD 720p resolution vs. these at 480p.

Further, you don't mind tinkering and adjusting the projector, your goal is the best image possible. Ease of use is mildly important, but secondary.

Your first choice is probably going to be the IN72 projector. Overall it offers the best picture, by virtue of its advantage in black levels, plus lots of control of the image.

Close behind is the Optoma H27 as long as they are still available. Also offering plenty of control of the image, it's close but can't quite match the black levels, but has a very rich, saturated image, that some may prefer. As noted, it needs adjustment out of the box, but that's OK for this profile user. And the Optoma has that extra year of warranty, and a much lower price tag.

Quicktip: Here's a related thought - you could consider this: If your budget is really tight, saving close to $300 on the Optoma over the InFocus would allow you, perhaps to buy a better screen, or a screen vs. using a wall... Believe me, the Optoma on the right screen should produce a better image than the InFocus on a white wall.

Because of Epson's pixel visibility, I'll have to put the BenQ W100 ahead of the Epson, despite lacking sophisticated color adjustment controls.

And the Epson last, due to pixels, black levels and generally lower contrast.

Profile: Movie Watching, Keep it Simple

With the same focus on a great image, but not wanting to fiddle with the equipment, the order changes slightly.

First, the InFocus IN72 for all the same reasons

Next, the BenQ W100, although it's picture cannot quite match the InFocus or Optoma's it is plug and play simple to use, has very good out of the box color, and it is definitely more affordable than the InFocus.

Despite the Optoma's colors needing some adjustment, I'd still have to recommend it next over the Epson, again because of pixels and contrast/black levels.

Profile: Performance Oriented, mix of Movies, and TV/HDTV, including sports

On no, it's the InFocus again, and if sports and some ambient light are an issue, it separates itself from the Optoma which isn't as bright in bright modes when you need them. After that, it's going to be a tough call between the BenQ - the brightest of the DLP's and the Optoma, which lacks a little horsepower. Since I still write (image) performance into this profile, the Epson ends up last.

Profile: Big Screen, minimum bucks

If keeping the price down is the #1 thing, that's something we can understand. But the answer will depend on shifting prices.

Right now the Optoma seems to be the least expensive (under $700 some places?), but, the Epson with it's free screen and rebate put you into a projector and screen for less than $800.

The BenQ will be next, and if price is your thing, the InFocus is definitely a couple hundred or more than the competition, and out of the running.

Profile Ambient light situations, gaming and sports viewing, movies too

but a multi-purpose projector for a multi-purpose room, you are willing to sacrifice movie image performance for other benefits, besides, if you can't fully darken your room, you lose all the differences in terms of black levels and shadow details that make the InFocus, for example, superior, to, say, the Epson.

If you are viewing in rooms with more than a little ambient light - especially if you like sports or gaming, the Epson has the brightness advantage in its best modes. This would also help with movie viewing, but brightest modes do not perform as well on movies, and the Epson's black levels won't be as good as in best modes, which already aren't as good as the others. In fact if you can live with the pixel visibility which probably isn't an issue for gamers, or even regular TV/HDTV viewers, the Epson should be at the top of the list.

If the Epson doesn't suit you because of pixel visibility or room placement, then next, I would recommend the InFocus, or the BenQ, mostly depending on budget, and finally the least bright - the Optoma.


Of course, now you have to make the final decision. Work your way through the room you plan to use, and figure out if any of the projectors is automatically eliminated, after that, don't forget warranty, price performance (spending less on the projector, gets you better other equipment on the same budget), and even things that might come into play such as esthetics. For example, the InFocus is sure the prettiest, and the Epson makes decent attempt at style, whereas the BenQ and Optoma are basic boxes.

Also, try to determine if you will be using a HT receiver with source switching, and, if not, does the projector you want, have the inputs you need.

Lastly, is this a long term purchase, or a "first pass" with the intent of upgrading in a couple of years. For example if you are looking for the long run, I would say, spend the most you can now, to get the best of these. (Or, if you can spend even more to move up to the HD level projectors.)

Good luck and good hunting -art

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