$2100 - $3500 1080p Home Theater Projectors
BenQ W6000 projector
The BenQ W6000 is an impressive DLP projector selling in the under $2500 space. It's available online, and locally. The W6000 is one of a very few lower cost DLP projectors with lens shift. Overall, it offers pretty respectable placement flexiblity. The biggest strengths, however of the W6000 projector include its really impressive brightness, and some really good black level performance for a DLP projector in this price class. I consider the W6000 to be an ultra-high contrast projector. Mind you, it just makes the grade, but, that's a nice grade to have.
Last year, the W5000 wasn't as bright, and didn't have the black level performance of the W6000, but still managed a Best-In-Class Runner-Up award. The W6000 is, by comparison a much better projector, but also faces tougher competition this year.
Epson Home Cinema 8500UB
Welcome to the third generation of Epson ultra-high contrast projectors. The Home Cinema 8500UB offers up a lot of features and capability. Last year's 6500UB picked up the Best In Class award in this Mid-Priced class. The new 8500UB builds on the older model, with slightly better black level performance, a few more best mode lumens (about 500), improved creative frame interpolation and a dynamic sharpening mode that really does seem to take the Epson up a notch without any significant downside. All dynamic features may "enhance" the image, but they also extract a cost, relative to a more natural image. This year's 8500UB is just a better, slightly lower cost, replacement for what was my own personal favorite projector in this class last year.
The Epson is also very bright in brightest mode. It's definitely a well balanced projector for the "more than just movies" crowd. Works great for sports.
Epson Pro Cinema 9500UB projector
This Pro Cinema 9500UB is the almost identical projector from Epson, but part of the Pro series. Being a Pro, "UB" projector only means the following: Epson Pro Cinema projectors are sold only through local authorized installing dealers. They come finished in black (not white), they have three year warranties instead of two, and they offer support for an anamorphic lens, which the Home Cinema 8500UB does not.
Epson Pro Cinema 9100 projector
This is the Pro version of the Epson Home Cinema 8100 covered in the Entry level price group. You are paying more to buy this from a local dealer, but you do extra value for your extra dollars: You get a ceiling mount and spare lamp (but it still nets out to this price group). In addition, the Pro Cinema 9100 comes with an extra year of warranty and replacement (3 years total), Overall, what you have here is an affordable projector with plenty of lumens. It can handle typical screens up to 110" or even a size larger, in its best mode, and has lumens to spare, even with some room lighting, on larger screens, including my 128", in brightest modes.
Black levels are not up to the "ultra-high-contrast" 3LCD projectors, but are comparable or better than the other 3LCD projectors and almost all of the DLP projectors in this price range. Strong performance for family rooms with ambient light, and a very good image overall.
Mitsubishi HC6800, HC7000 projectors
The Mitsubishi HC6800 is last fall's replacement for the older HC6500, Mitsubishi's middle of three home theater projectors. The HC6800 is a very suitable replacement. It remains, however, the middle unit in the lineup, costing less than the older HC7000 which has far superior blacks. We have not yet published the HC6800 review as of this writing, even though it's been measured, calibrated and viewed. The review will be written after this Report. The HC6800 sells for under $2500, and can be found online, and in big box houses like Best Buy. The HC7000, by comparison, costs more, and is sold primarily through local installing dealers. The HC7000 is definitely one of the less bright home projectors in its class, but the HC6800 does offer a lot more lumens.
Panasonic PT-AE4000 projector
The PT-AE4000 projector just squeezes into the top of our Entry Level class. Last year, the older PT-AE3000U had to compete in the Mid-Priced class. The older Panasonic managed a tie for Best In Class last year, and this year, the even better PT-AE4000 gets to go up against a group of much less expensive projectors. The PT-AE4000 is pretty loaded in features compared to just about everything else. That's a large part of its appeal: Excellent placement flexibility, CFI (creative frame interpolation), dynamic iris and other dynamic features, and Panasonic's Lens memory feature that allows you to "emulate" using an anamorphic lens for viewing Cinemascope movies. There's more goodies too, like a built in signal analyzer, and split screen function for comparing CFI modes.
The Panasonic projector is about average in brightness, has natural color, and definitely offers black level performance as good as any other in this class, and far better than most.