Home Theater Projector Image Quality
Please remember, you'll find far more details relating to each home theater projector's actual performance, within the individual reviews.
Image Quality is what it's all about. The goal of just about all home theater projector buyers is to put an image up on the screen that pleases and impresses:
HDTV music video, from JVC DLA-RS1
For image quality, our primary concerns will be:
Out of the box color (without adjustment)
Naturalness of flesh tones
Black levels and shadow detail
Overall image quality ( "feel" of the projector). My partially subjective opinions on "film-like performance" ease of watching, and for lack of a better term, "wow factor" (some projectors just look good, and others make you think "awesome", even though they may technically be very, very similar).
Let's get started!
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1080p Home Theater Projectors: Out of the Box Color
$2000 and under 1080p Home Theater Projectors
There are only three projectors currently in this group: Sanyo PLV-Z2000 (typically the least expensive of the three), the Mitsubishi HC4900 (very close in price to the Sanyo), and the more expensive Panasonic PT-AE2000U, which barely made this category.
Our focus here, is on "best" mode - usually the least bright, but designed to be the most perfect for viewing movies.
Sanyo PLV-Z2000 projector
Pure Cinema mode is the "best" mode of the Z2000. Out of the box performance is definitely very good, not only compared to the other two, but to all of the projectors considered in this report. The measurements confirmed this. Except for white (100IRE), being a touch cool - around 7000K (ideal is 6500K), the other measurements (30, 50, and 80 IRE) were all within 100K of 6500K. This is definitely a projector you can fully enjoy using the out of the box settings for Pure Cinema. In all Cinema modes, there was anywhere from a touch to modest emphasis on green, but never enough to produce less than good color balance.
Mitsubishi HC4900 projector
Not quite as good as the Sanyo Z2000. My review unit was, overall, just a little cooler (more blue). The highest measurement of the color temperatures I measure was around 7200K. Overall, like the Sanyo, the HC4900 is very respectable without adjustment, and it has good color controls to make adjustments pretty easy. This is another projector that will satisfy the average owner, without tweaking, but just a little will further improve the color balance. The projector itself is also just a touch oversaturated, so you'll want to turn down the color by a value of 1 or 2, unless you favor the extra punch (but loss of naturalness), of a slightly oversaturated image.
Panasonic PT-AE2000U projector
Our first (pre-production) PT-AE2000U had some issues, but a subsequent PT-AE2000U sent to us, worked perfectly and provided for a better assessment of the out of the box color performance you could expect. With the full production version, out of the box color was also very good, also a very slight shift to blue (operative word here is "very"). Of the three projectors (I'm going on impressions at this point), I would give the Panasonic the edge over the other two, out of the box. Bottom Line: Between these three projectors, the level of out of the box color accuracy is actually more consistent than many more expensive projectors. None requires any real adjustment to put up an very good image on the screen. As such, out of the box color accuracy is not a defining issue in this class. There is far more variation in the brightest modes in terms of color accuracy. However, in that regard, both the Panasonic and the Sanyo are significantly inaccurate in brightest mode to require some real adjustment to get both a very bright image, and one that is also very watchable. The Mitsubishi, if I recall correctly needs far less "work" to optimize its bright modes.