Projector Reviews

Home Projector Comparison Report – Performance

1080p Home Projectors - Brightness

Before we get started in our discussion of how each projector does in terms of brightness, first a note about our measurements. More than a year ago, we switched to new test equipment. We were aware that our old gear (that was before a year and a half ago). tended to consistently measure higher lumens than the results by other reviewers. The new gear measures about 28% less than the old gear. There are, included in this report, 4 projectors that date back to the old equipment. For those projectors, the lumen measurements listed in this section and elsewhere in this article, have been adjusted for consistency. As a result, the lumen numbers here, for those older reviews show lower measurements than appeared in their original reviews. This way, we are working with “apples to apples”.

Since in many reviews we publish a large number of measurements – pre and post calibration, and often, multiple modes, if you want to take any lumen measurement in any of the old reviews just take the published numbers in those reviews and multiply by 0.72 to get the properly adjusted lumens.

Let me repeat, for emphasis: The lumen measurements posted in the charts below (and commentary) reflect the new, more accurate numbers!

There are two key aspects worth considering when considering a home theater projector’s brightness:

The first is how bright the projector is, in its “best” mode. Best mode, (typically that mode bares a name such as Theater, Cinema 1, Movie, etc.)
In “best” mode, a projector typically works at its least bright, but provides its best color and black levels. (Note: when I refer to least bright, I’m talking “modes” and not whether a lamp is on full power or eco-mode.)

The other consideration is how bright a projector can get, at it’s brightest. Not everyone wants only to watch movies, and only in a fully darkened environment. Many of us also watch TV/HDTV, and especially sports viewing. For most of that, we prefer to have some lights on. For this type of viewing, we are willing to compromise best picture quality a bit in exchange for enough lumens to make the picture nice, bright, and dynamic looking.

For that reason, we measure, for each projector, its “best” and “brightest” modes.

Keep this in mind. Some projectors may have all the lumens you need for your movie watching in “best” mode, but not enough to view sports and TV with some room lighting on. Other projectors may have lots of lumens in their brightest mode, perfect for that sports and TV on a large screen, but not enough lumens for that same screen, to fill it adequately in “best” mode.

Consider – some projectors have very little brightness difference between “best” and “brightest” – as little as, say, 10-20%. Others may have a bright mode with as much as three times the brightness of that projector’s “best” mode. All of that tends to make things interesting, in choosing a projector that works for your type of viewing.

It is therefore important to consider both the type of viewing you’ll be doing, and your screen size, screen type, and room lighting.

$2000 and under 1080p Home Theater Projectors

Brightness measurements for the Entry Level class all

Lumens Lumens Lumens
Best Mode Brightest Mode Other mode
BenQ W1000
2179 1200
Epson Home Cinema 8100 461 1288
Mitsubishi HC3800 950 1142
Optoma HD20 701 996
Panasonic PT-AE4000U 430 930
Samsung SP-A600 715 1017
Sanyo PLV-Z700 675 1157 887
Sharp XV-Z15000 312 1099
Viewsonic Pro8100 453 922
Vivitek H1080FD 800 1777

Lumens – Other mode: While we focus on the “best”, and “brightest” modes, there are cases where it is useful to point out an additional mode. In some cases it’s a somewhat less bright “brightest mode” but with a lot better color, sometimes it’s an intermediate or almost “best” mode, that is noteworthy because of having a lot more lumens, yet still is competitive with some other best modes, when it comes to color… We describe each of the Other modes listed, when discussing that projector.

BenQ W1000 projector

The BenQ W1000 is definitely the brightest projector in this report. That’s not surprising, as the brightest projectors each year, are often ones that are “cross-over” products. That is, projectors often primarily designed as business projectors but with some extra thought to also make them good home entertainment projectors. That the W1000 has a 2x color wheel, is pretty small, and has a built in speaker, are good indications that it has roots in the business projector. In fact it’s the brightest by about 20%, compared to the next brightest, the Vivitek H1080FD, which is essentially the same projector but with a faster, but still slow, 3x color wheel.

The BenQ W1000 is aimed at the home entertainment, not the dedicated home theater crowd. It’s about having good color, and great brightness to handle family rooms, watching sports with some lights on, etc.

I’s 644 lumens in best mode are enough to handle a pretty large screen (say as big as my 128″ screen), with very good color. And you can get 1200 lumens out of the BenQ by engaging best mode with Brilliant Color on. The BenQ W1000 with Brilliant Color turned on, can be a little over the top, as it can be for other DLP projectors as well. Still, that’s a lot of lumens, and color is still rather good. The almost 2200 lumens in brightest mode, definitely qualifies the BenQ W1000 as a light canon among home theater projectors.

Epson Home Cinema 8100 projector

Strangely, the Home Cinema 8100 measured slightly less than its “UB” siblings found in the mid-priced class. I say strangely, as the 8100 is rated at 1800 lumens and the others are 1600 lumens. Each year, though the “standard” and the “UB” projectors are very close when measured.

Where the Home Cinema especially shines (pun intended) is in its Dynamic and Livingroom modes. There are color issues in Dynamic with very strong yellows and greens, but it just slices right through ambient light that would damage the picture with any of the other projectors in this group. Better still is the Epson’s Livingroom mode – while it is a “mess” right out of the box, a nice calibration, yields about 20% less lumens than its Dynamic mode.