Posted on March 14, 2008 By Art Feierman
It is interesting that last year, the same Sanyo’s PLV-Z700 was the least expensive 1080p projector on the market (to our knowledge). This time around, it seems to be selling somewhere below $1500, but there are at least 3 under $1000 DLP competitors that can definitely be had for less. The PLV-Z700 has respectable black levels for an entry level class projector, better than those lower cost DLPs. It also has great placement flexibility, and a longest in class three year warranty. One thing I like is the full set of color management. The Sanyo has at least as many preset modes as any other projector. It is a bit below average in brightness, so having some brighter “intermediate” modes that look pretty good, when you need some brightness, but don’t want to sacrifice a lot of color quality that most “brightest modes” tend to display.Because this projector isw in it’s second year, it tends to get forgotten by me, from time to time. It should be considered one of the better lower brightness projectors in this class.
What a change. Mitsubishi’s new DLP driven HC3800 home theater projector is actually replacing last year’s LCD driven HC5500. It’s not often we see a transition like this is a product line. Mitsubishi still has two LCD projectors in it’s home theater projector line-up. Both are more expensive, and discussed in the Mid-Priced class.
The HC3800 has proved to be one of the strongest projectors in this class. The older Mitsubishi it replaced, had limited placement flexibiliy, so this classic (basic flexibility) DLP projector didn’t make things any worse in that regard. The HC3800 has a number of strengths. First it has very good black levels for this entry level class. Only the ultra-high contrast projectors in the group (most are more expensive) do better, and the HC3800 projector accomplishes those pretty impressive blacks without using a dynamic iris!
Color is really good. It was very good on the original pre-production unit, and even better on the full production one they sent to replace it.
Even better, the HC3800 is bright, with almost 1000 lumens in “best” mode, with Brilliant Color on. Even with Brilliant Color off, and turning the lamp to low power, and you still have over 500 lumens. This actually means the projector might be too bright for some folks with small screens (typically 92″ diagonal or less). The 800+ lumens in best mode with Brilliant Color off make it one of the brightest best mode projectors in this report, irregardless of price.
The Mitsubishi HC3800 certainly isn’t a fancy projector, it’s definitely thin on features, but boy does it crank out a great looking, and bright, picture for the bucks.
Optoma’s HD20 projector created a lot of fanfare when it shipped 2nd half of last year. Why not, considering it was the first 1080p resolution projector to be launched with an under $1000 price. ($999, of course!). For the couple to three hundred dollars more than generally, basic and similar 720p projectors, people can now play in the “big leagues” of 1080p native resolution. The value of the HD20 primarily comes from its price. Black level performance is very entry level. There’s a dynamic AI, but it’s behavior’s a bit too noticeable, so we recommended this projector with the assumption that you don’t use the AI. If it’s action doesn’t bother you, leave it on, it’s that simple. The Optoma HD20 projector, like its two close under $1000 competitors, has both strengths and weaknesses, as do the other two. Of particular note, the HD20 has the fastest color wheel, to minimize the rainbow effect for those who are sensitive. The faster color wheel is no doubt part of why the HD20 is not quite as bright as the other two (Vivitek and BenQ).
More lumens in best mode than the other entry level 3LCD projectors and more lumens than any of the others in this class, except for the Optoma HD806, and very close to the Optoma. The Epson may have slugged it out with the Mitsubishi HC3800 for best black levels in the class, but this year there’s one ultra-high contrast projector in the group, so that takes care of that. Still for the class, the black levels are very good. With almost 1400 lumens in brightest mode, the Epson Home Cinema 8100 should be a favorite for sports fans, most of us not wanting to watch our sporting events in a fully darkened cave. Epson comes with one of the best warranties in the class, and a good color management system. A key strength is the Epson Home Cinema 8100’s lamp, which is rated to last 4000 hours at full power, about double most of the competition. And they sell if for less than most others ($295). As a result, over the long haul this projector that typically sells for around $1500 as of this writing, could well cost less overall, than any of the $999 projectors, and any of the other lower cost projectors as well.
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