Posted on March 14, 2008 By Art Feierman
Click to enlarge. so close.
Excellent: Larger screens not a problem: Optoma HD81-LV. In reality, it stands alone, noticeably brighter than any other 1080p projector reviewed. The InFocus IN82 (300 lumens) is not too far behind, with about 1200 lumens in Best mode.
Very Good : JVC RS1 (over 750 lumens), and the RS1x (assumed) BenQ W5000 (and likely the W20000) with their non-dynamic iris all, or most of the way open. Mitsubishi HC4900 – for one of the lowest cost 1080p projectors, this one has some serious punch, with more than 650 lumens. Optoma HD81 – plenty of horsepower here, in Best mode, outputting a most impressive 674 lumens, although that dropped by more than 100 lumens after calibration – making it the least bright of this group, but still a bit brighter than any of the next group. JVC DLA-RS2 – like the HD81, it was almost 550 lumens, but, as an added bonus, thanks to the stellar black level performance, the JVC RS2 always seemed brighter (or rather, perhaps, more dynamic) when viewing, than the lumen measurement would account for.
Good: From about 400 to 500 lumens – this is where most projectors live. Epson Home and Pro Cinema 1080 UB (the Home version measured 468 lumens). Sony VW40 and VW60 for all practical purposes, the same as the Epson. The VW40 measured 8 lumens less than the Epson, and the Sony VPL-VW60, 25 lumens more (that’s too small to notice). Mitsubishi HC6000 – more of the same, at 449 lumens Panasonic PT-AE2000U – lowest in this group, at 388 lumens
Fair: Sharp XV-Z20000 – definitely a smaller screen projector measuring only 258 lumens. But it manages about an extra 130 lumens if you switch the Iris into medium mode. You’ll give up a little bit in terms of black levels, but the Sharp is still very good, in that regard, with this setting Sanyo PLV-Z2000 – with 363 measured lumens it comes up short of making the “Good” group. I should note, though, that Sanyo has devised an extremely watchable Brilliant Cinema mode, which isn’t as perfect, but still a very good Cinema mode. Those willing not to use the very “best” mode, will find they can choose from larger screens.
Light Cannons: Optoma’s HD81-LV is the champ, with a dazzling 2900 lumens once a Bright mode was created (it really doesn’t have an especially bright mode defined). Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB (and assumed, the Pro version) at just over 1800 lumens (but some awful colors), with some calibration though, it managed a far better image, and still cranked out just over 1500 lumens. InFocus IN82 (no surprise) also trips the light fantastic, with about 1500 lumens (over 1700 maximum, but like the Epson at brightest, it gains noticeable picture quality, by giving up a couple hundred lumens).
Very Bright Projectors (basically from around 1000 lumens to 1300 lumens): The BenQ W5000 (and likely the W20000) is the brightest of these. With Brilliant Color engaged, the W5000 recorded 1270 lumens. Brilliant Color takes it over the top a bit in image quality, but it’s just what you need to cut through some ambient light. The Panasonic PT-AE2000U (noticeably brighter than its predecessor), just barely makes this group by just breaking the 1000 lumen mark, and doing so has one of the better color balances of these projectors in their Dynamic mode. The Optoma HD81, another projector without a really defined bright mode, can muster out about 1000 lumens if you tweak it, and still have some respectable color balance (for a bright mode). Optoma’s HD8000 (and therefore also the HD80), managed a very respectable 1006 lumens, and there is room to push that up a bit further. I still don’t understand why Optoma really doesn’t provide a mode really optimized for maximum lumens (with reasonable color). Optoma’s HD803 did even better, with a measurement of almost 1200 lumens!
Projectors with Average Brightness: Let’s start with the Sharp XV-Z20000, while this projector is one of the least bright in Best mode, it is rather respectable in Brightest mode with almost 900 lumens. Brighter, is the entry level Mitsubishi HC4900, which puts out 962 lumens. Mitsubishi’s HC6000 ranks toward the middle of this group with about 750 lumens. The JVC DLA-RS2, comes in on the low side of the group, with its Dynamic mode at just 591 lumens, but its color accuracy is much better than most projectors in its brightest mode. Figure an extra 100 lumens is easily available if you push the green up, and do a few other things that most manufacturers have already done in their Dynamic modes. If you need the extra lumens, definitely take this approach. Sony VPL-VW60 isn’t as good (color balance) in Brightest mode as the default JVC RS2, but manages a few more lumens, even after you up the JVC’s output. Score 723 lumens for the Sony. JVC’s DLA-RS1 (and we assume the DLA-RS1x), clocks in at about 900 lumens, and produces particularly good color balance. You can push it for a few more lumens, but I don’t think I ever got it over 1000. Sony VPL-VW40: Measuring their Dynamic mode at different color temps, mostly the Sony stayed around 500 lumens (actually 568, but when I “improved” the color, it dropped just below 500 lumens). Thus, the provided modes are not noticeably brighter than Best mode. With some playing around, though, I was able to create a custom Dynamic mode, with a definite strong green push, of almost 900 lumens.
Movie Watchers, Only: One projector stands out as being the least bright, in its brightest mode: Sanyo PLV-Z2000 – Surprisingly, the Sanyo is dim compared to all the competition. I say surprising, because “usually” 3LCD projectors have a big jump in lumens from best to brightest. The Sanyo, however only jumps by a little more than 50%, just barely reaching 600 lumens. Worse, its brightest mode, Vivid, produces fairly ugly colors. Better is their Dynamic mode at 487 lumens, which is just average for all of these projectors in “best mode”.
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