Projector Reviews

Your Holiday Guide To Five Great Home Theater Projectors Under $2000 – Part Two

The Optoma HD141X

We just published our review of the HD141X.  Optoma makes a few projectors specifically touted as gaming projectors.  This one isn’t in the GT series, but combines what you want for gaming, with good sports, TV and movie viewing at a truly entry level price point!

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Gamers, it has minimum input lag, demanded by most serious gaming folks. Unlike most of Optoma’s projectors that target gaming, this one is full 1080 resolution, rather than 720p.  That’s a huge plus considering the point of projectors is being able to have the the huge screen.  Like most of the other projectors listed here, the GT1080 is MHL compatible, and has sound built in.

You’ll likely spend $600 to $650+ online, and, possibly a bit more than that from your local “brick and mortar” dealer.

Read more about the images on the left, depicting lag time, in the review here.

The Optoma has a built in 10 watt speaker, and comes with a basic one year warranty, (no replacement program).  If your budget is tighter, look to one of Optoma’s 720p resolution gaming projectors such as the GT760 we’ve previously reviewed.

Looking less for a family projector for watching Frozen, or Transformers, and more for a “serious” projector that can do real justice to movies like The Hunger Games, Avatar, or Gone Girl, you’ll want very good color, excellent processing and a projector that can provide dark blacks on those very dark scenes.   You’ll still want a bright projector, for those 3D movies, but if you want what should prove to be a more refined picture you’ll want to consider one of these:

The Epson Home Cinema 3600e and 3500

Brand new, and about to ship, Epson’s Home Cinema 3600e (or it’s less expensive version, the Home Cinema 3500).

This pair of nearly identical projectors cost a bit more – officially $1699 or $1999 (depending on the version), look to be top performers. I just started reviewing the HC3600e, so the review will publish just a few days after this article gets published.  These two also have MHL, for those desiring that ability, but offer far better placement flexibility for easier installation, (including lens shift).  That helps for quickly setting up temporarily as well.  We’re looking for improved black level performance and other picture improvements compared to the HC3020 which is going away.

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What’s the difference for $300 you ask?  The more expensive Home Cinema 3600e also offers wireless HDMI, which could  save you some big bucks if it means not having to do extra work to run wires.  Hey, it’s a great convenience even if only a temporary setup on a table or outside on a summer night.

These two Epson home theater projectors are virtually identical except for the Wireless HD.  As with their less expensive projectors already mentioned, Epson provides a 2 year warranty with its rapid replacement program for both year.  You’ll just have to figure out whether the wireless HD is worth $300 extra.  BTW, if your budget is tight, get almost the same performance for $1299 with their base Home Cinema 3000, but know that it won’t have the MHL, or the built in speaker.   We’re expecting one of those to arrive shortly for review.  All have lamps rated to deliver between 3500 and 5000 hours viewing, and are relatively inexpensive.

Surfaces

OK, you are getting a projector, and you will either get by with the built in sound or invest in some level of surround sound system.  Note: If you are a “solo” act, you could go with some really good headphones.  Next question becomes where are you going to project the picture?

Three choices:  A Screen, A Wall, or Paint?  The trick to getting a great picture is to have a good surface to project the image on.

First choice should be a good screen.  They can be very affordable from under $200 for a portable screenFor $300+ you can get yourself a motorized screen, with many choices in the $400 to $800 range including some very large sizes.

Elite Screens 100” Starling Motorized (and Tensioned) Screen

Elite Screens is a well known, major seller of projection screens.  The Starling Tensioned screen is one of their premium motorized screens.  This particular motorized screen model has a MSRP of $599, but is often found discounted!  (Budget tight? Elite offers a number of less expensive motorized screens as well.)

Note that the most popular sizes for screens these days is 100” to 120” diagonal.  Remember that a 100” has exactly 4 times the display area of a 50” LCDTV!

Tensioning?  Tensioning is important if you plan to raise and lower your motorized screen.  Without tensioning over time the screen will stop being nice and flat, and you will start seeing that distortion when watching.  I strongly recommend that any motorized or pull down screen you consider, be tensioned!

Elite’s Starling 100” screen offers a matte white surface (1.1 gain), and comes with two remote controls!  Elite includes a 2 year warranty.  The screen retracts into its case when not in use.  Good news, you can order the Starling with either a black or white case, to best match your wall or ceiling.  Click here to find out more!

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An extra thought or two about screens…

If you are really serious, and have the room – that dedicated theater or cave, consider a fixed wall screen.  Since it’s always in view, most folks with family room or living room location have to deal with the “spouse factor” to get permission for fixed wall screen.   A Fixed wall screen is a good screen surface that attaches tightly to a fixed rigid frame for the most perfectly flat solution available. (usually with a wide black velour border).  You can find  110” diagonal fixed frame screen from under $400!

Finally, most folks go with white screens.  If your room suffers from some side ambient light, you might want to choose from different screen surfaces that will help out.  See our video on screen selection to learn more!

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