Epson Home Cinema 705HD vs. Panasonic PT-AX200U
How does the Home Cinema 705HD stack up against the aging, but highly successful Panasonic PT-AX200U?
To start with, there's a price difference. The approximate difference in street price is about $250 at this time. That makes the PT-AX200U approximately a third more expensive. When it comes to price, though, for those planning to use their projector quite a bit, the Epson is far less expensive in the long run, as its lamp costs $249, instead of $349, and it lasts twice as long at full power. Over a long life, the Panasonic will likely cost twice as much.
On the other hand, if your budget allows, the Panasonic has a number of advantages, and we'll start with those. Placement flexibility is definitely a big advantage for the Panasonic, with its 2:1 zoom lens, and lens shift. The Panasonic can easily be ceiling mounted, or shelf mounted in the vast majority of rooms. By comparison, the Epson can be ceiling mounted or placed on a tabletop, but due to the lack of lens shift, and a relatively short throw lens, it can't be shelf mounted in the rear of your room.
The Panasonic definitely also has an advantage in terms of black levels. When it comes to sharpness, the two projectors are roughly comparable, but thanks to Panasonic's SmoothScreen Technology in the PT-AX200U, the pixel structure is essentially invisible. You might say that the Epson looks a tad sharper, but with the pixel visibility, the Panny has the advantage.
Both projectors - post calibration have very good color accuracy, although the Panasonic is the more accurate.
The Epson projector, however, is not without its advantages, (besides the low cost). It's a very small projector, easy to move from room to room. It also has a small built in speaker, which can come in handy for a quick setup (don't expect any great sound to come out of it), and that too may come into play for folks planning to use the Epson in more than one room.
The Epson also can double as a low cost business projector, thanks to its stellar brightness, although the Panasonic isn't that far behind, when comparing "brightest" modes. Still, the Epson is definitely a size smaller, and therefore more suitable for portable business use.
Lastly, the Epson comes with a better warranty. Two years versus one, and, for both years, the Epson has an overnight replacement program should the projector need warranty repairs.
The Epson is a very low cost "typical consumer" product, while the Panasonic appeals more to the enthusiast on a budget.
Epson Home Cinema 705HD vs. Optoma HD71
The Optoma HD71 is one of two 720p projectors that the company more than a year ago. The HD71 is the more expensive of the two (and typically a couple hundred more than the Epson), although there is a significant variation in price from dealer to dealer.
Like the Panasonic above, the Optoma definitely appeals more to the enthusiast.
Both projectors have similar, limited placement flexibility.
When it comes to brightness, the Optoma HD71 is bright, but definitely not as bright as the Epson. The Optoma, post calibration produces about 750 lumens while the Home Cinema 705HD does over 1500 lumens when both are in "best" mode. In "brightest" mode, the difference is similar, with the HD71 at approximately 1180 lumens, compared to the Epson's 2132 lumens. Any way you look at it, the Epson is far brighter, even though the Optoma is brighter than most. A big win for the Epson Home Cinema 705HD.
The Optoma has the advantage, however, in black level performance. I said this about it in its full review, "while black levels aren't spectacular, by any means, the overall product performed very well, in this regard". The Epson, on the other hand is pretty basic in terms of black levels. The improvements over last year's 700 still don't get it up into the HD71's class in terms of blacks. Fairly close, but, definitely not there. That makes for a noticeable win for the Optoma in this area. Both have very good shadow detail, but the Epson in this case is slightly better (as is often the case with projectors with only so-so black level performance).
The Optoma has more image color control than the Epson, but both do very nice skin tones, and are very watchable.
When it comes to warranty, the Epson's two years with overnight replacement both years easily bests the Optoma's standard one year warranty. I consider this very significant because projector repairs out of warranty can be expensive.