1080p Home Theater Projector Comparison Report – Image Quality18

Epson Home Cinema 8100 Home Theater Projector

The Epson is well rounded for HDTV and sports. True, its maximum under 1400 lumens is only 2/3 of the BenQ (the brightest), but still healthy and one of the brighter projectors (in “brightest mode) in the entire review. Very good blacks get the job done for movies as well, but defintely work on those darker Discovery HD scenes. Hey, I pulled down my JVC this Superbowl, and put up the more expensive Epson UB (same brightness, mostly same everything, but black levels – which in this case didn’t matter), for our annual party.

If I have one complaint about the Epson for sports and all digital content from HDTV and it’s one shared with every LCoS and LCD projector under $9990 – and that is, it could be a touch sharper.

There would have been no noticeable difference between the 8100 and the UB for the entire day’s viewing. I worked out great. It filled my screen, with some shades partially open. My JVC would have required them all closed to be comparable. Made for a much more fun party, having those lumens. BTW, in the 2nd half, when the sun is no longer coming into the room, I changed the Epson Home Cinema 8100 from Dynamic (brightest) to LivingRoom mode (2nd brightest, with still about 1100 lumens. With that mode, color became very good, (get’s rid of some excess green).

Not that my audience would notice! Hey, it’s a key reason I like the 8100, it’s versatile, and pretty bright when you need it.

Mitsubishi HC3800 Home Theater Projector

To watch sports you’ve got a “brightest mode” when needed. That said, the HC3800 in “best” mode, with Brilliant Color on (you would definitely have it on if you have some ambient light in the room, even a little), manages to put out about 950 lumens You get an extra 200 in brightest mode which will help when needed. Color is still pretty good in “brighest”. Ok, it’s not a blinding amount of lumens, but a healthy amount. The clean black level performance and very good color, combining with a really sharp image, makes this a sweet ride for sports and HDTV. It can look truly exceptional for the bucks on all that Discovery HD, etc. content. I really like this projector!

Optoma HD20 Home Projector

Yes, the HD20 is more of a Home Projector, than a Home Theater Projector. It’s not really the price, but the performance. The HD20 has a faster color wheel than the other under $1000 projectors, and they offer their ImageAI dynamic brightness (which I find to be too distracting, I wouldn’t use it), so it “feels” like a dedicated home theater projector. What it really is, is a home projector (family room, bonus room, spare bedroom), for those with smaller screens. It doesn’t have the lumens to fight ambient light on larger screens as it still has just less than 1000 lumens in “brightest” mode. Color is good, blacks are so so, (actually fairly respectable with AI engaged (I’ll still take the HC3800). Even with its entry level price, the sharpness is still very good, as expected from a single chip DLP, and you’ll appreciate that sharpness on all digital HDTV content, and certainly on HDTV sports.

Panasonic PT-AE4000 Home Theater Projector

A great overall projector, but sports and HDTV viewing is not its best strength. That’s in a large part due to the lack of lumens. If you actually wanted to use best mode for programming like Discovery HD, you’d only have 430 measured lumens, and for sports – the 930 lumens is not quite average for a brightest mode (across all projectors in the report), and is the second dimmest in this class – besting the Viewsonic by a whopping, can you count them, 8 extra lumens.

The Panasonic PT-AE4000 is just average in sharpness. Actually their SmoothScreen technology makes the pixel structure completely invisible at normal viewing distances, a real plus, but it does make for one of the softest looking images. Those craving a really sharp (and bright) image for sports and digital content, will probably be happier with a different projector, if that’s their main concern.

The Panasonic may be (my humble opinion) the best overall projector in this class, but it definitely isn’t my first, or 2nd… choice for HDTV/sports. And I say that despite the fact that it is the only projector in this class to offer creative frame interpolation to smooth out motion. Panasonic does CFI especially well, and it is a feature I like using for sports viewing.

So, don’t kid yourself, on the right sized screen, in good room (for the projector) your friends will still be dropping their jaws. (Here’s something to pause and reflect on – if HDTV/Sports is your thing, consider the Panasonic against the $500 more expensive (mid-priced class) LG.

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