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1080p Projector Review 2008 - Image Quality8

Posted on March 14, 2008 by Art Feierman

1080p Home Theater Projector Image Sharpness

This is just commentary on some of the aspects of sharpness and setup. Don't let it make you paranoid, these projectors all produce images that look nice and sharp, just some appear to be a small bit sharper than others. It's not a deal breaker for any one of these projectors. Sharpness, probably isn't the accurate term to use, as it implies more resolution. Some projectors have an image than seems soft, others seem crisper or more "razor sharp", but in reality, probably some of the difference isn't caused by the lens, but rather, whether sharpness algorithms are in play. They all pretty much resolve the same amount of detail, because the smallest details are still one pixel each and the lenses should be better than that. All these projectors have sharpness controls, which can give you the feel of more sharpness, but more likely, boosting the sharpness controls will oversharpen, and you'll actually lose detail.

A couple of things before we get started. The laws of physics pretty much dictate that the image in terms of focus, cannot have the same sharpness, over the entire screen. The reason is simple, the distance from the lens, to the center of the screen, is going to be different than the distance from lens to the outer edges. While better optics can minimize the loss in sharpness, figure that if you focus based on the dead center of the screen, than the edges are going to be visually softer, especially upon close inspection. At normal seating, I don't think any of these projectors, however, have enough loss that you are likely to notice it, unless you are looking for it, if at all, at normal seating distances.

Of particular interest is that focus will be a little more off, if your projector is in full wide angle zoom. That would be with the lens projecting its largest image, so the projector is closer to the screen, than when using telephoto zoom. Its one of the many tradeoffs in positioning. (The projector will put a brighter image on the screen, when its closest).

The more lens shift you are using, also probably means a touch more optical distortion.

Quicktip: My best recommendation is to go for the sharpest focus to be about 1/3 out from the center. That will insure that the focus is near its absolute best for a much larger area, than if you focus at the center.

Since this report is based on individual reviews, the oldest going back to almost a year and a half (Optoma HD81), it makes it difficult to split hairs. I'm just going to put these projectors into two groups. The projectors are listed in no particular order.

The Slightly Sharper Projectors: BenQ W5000 (and presumed, the W20000), InFocus IN82, All Optoma Projectors, the Mitsubishi projectors, the Sharp XV-Z0000, Sanyo PLV-Z2000.

The Rest: Both Epson's (I almost put them in the category above, as they are visibly sharper than my JVC RS1), The Sony VPL-VW40 and VPL-VW60, The Panasonic PT-AE2000U, and the JVC DLA-RS1, DLA-RS1x and DLA-RS2.

Home Theater Projectors: Best Overall Image Quality

As with judging skin tone quality, determining the best image - or should I say, Picture Quality, is very subjective.

It's sort of which projectors have the strengths you like the most, and the faults that bother you the least. That will differ from person to person. That said, there are real differences.

While I consider brightness to be a key factor in everyone's final decision when choosing a projector, for purposes of recommending projectors based on overall image quality, I have excluded brightness. It's up to you to reject projectors that don't have enough brightness for your screen size, room setup, and type of viewing (movies only, sports with a fair amount of ambient light, etc.)

Projectors in each category, are in no particular order. Price is not a factor, either.

Best of the Best: JVC DLA-RS2 - A no brainer. In my opinion, nothing else comes close, when you factor out brightness. By far, the best black levels, superb shadow detail, and it looks better, color wise, right out of the box, than most do after a basic calibration!

Next Best - still awesome, and a cut above everything else: JVC DLA-RS1, DLA-RS1x, Sony VPL-VW60. Of these three (two really, since the RS1x is an updated RS1), black levels are not quite as good as the DLA-RS2. The JVC's will give you excellent colors out of the box, while the Sony will require some effort to get them right.

Note, all the projectors above are LCoS - my how things change in a couple of years. Also, all of the projectors above, have one thing in common - none of them would be classified among the sharper projectors (sharpness is a factor). Still, they produce a picture, that is "a cut above".

Still Pretty Excellent: Sharp XV-Z2000, Epson Pro Cinema 1080 UB, Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB, InFocus IN82, Optoma HD81-LV, Sony VPL-VW40. All of these have better than average black level performance, with the Epson's being the best of the group. The Sharp, by the way, is also extremely impressive, but very, very pricy. Sharpness varies a lot in this group, as does black level performance - some of the trade-offs.

Merely very good: Panasonic PT-AE2000U, Sanyo PLV-Z2000, Optoma HD81, HD80, HD8000, Mitsubishi HC6000, BenQ W5000. These are all very respectable projectors, but typically weaker on black level performance than those above. Again, sharpness varies all over the place.

Still very respectable (there are no 1080p projectors that offer anything short of a most impressive image, when set up properly): Mitsubishi HC4900, Optoma HD803. It just goes to show you, for example, the Mitsubishi HC4900, while very sharp, has the worst black level performance, still when you consider its price, and brightness, this is going to be a top choice for many, especially those more focused on sports/HDTV, and TV, rather than movies.

That leaves one unknown, of the four projectors not actually reviewed (out of 20). The other three were easily put into one of these groups, since two were essentially identical to tested units (Epson Pro, and Optoma HD80, and the JVC DLA-RS1x, is simply an improved version of teh tested DLA-RS1.

The last projector is the BenQ W20000, which should have better black levels than the W5000, and should (hopefully) have less image noise. Assuming both of these are true, to some degree, the W20000 should end up in either the "Still Pretty Excellent" grouping , or even possibly in the "Next Best" grouping. If it is not a significant improvement over the W5000, then it ends up in the same group as the W5000 (logically), but that means BenQ is going to have a real problem selling it, since it is much more expensive than the W5000.

Had enough yet?

Next comes the usual General Performance section. It will, however lack much of what appears in the same section in individual reviews. For example, I won't go into menus at all, nor calibration or screen recommendations, as those are well documented in individual reviews.

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