Projector Reviews

1080p Home Theater Projector Comparison Report – Image Quality-13

$3500 - $10,000 Home Theater Projectors

Most things come into play, when I discuss overall picture quality. As I said up above somewhere, it’s more than just the color accuracy and black levels and shadow detail. Sharpness is a factor, and so is brightness. And that brings us to the Best In Class first.

I have to say, it’s at least tie for the two most important factors (by my reckoning) – color and black level performance. OK the RS35 may have plenty of “best” mode lumens, but it’s definitely “thin” when it comes to brightest. The point I’m making is that it’s not perfect, by any means. Still, all those hand picked components yield that sharpest image I’ve ever seen from a 3 chip LCoS or LCD projector, and it’s up there with the typical single chip DLP, although not quite up to the sharpest. It meets, though, my definition of “sharper still”, rather that the “average” of all the other LCD and LCoS. The overall picture quality of the JVC RS35 and, of course, its twin from the consumer division, the JVC HD990. Hey, and as an added bonus this year you get creative frame interpolation, which has to be considered part of image quality as well, even if most of us don’t use it a lot.

OK, though, it’s $10,000 – what about for less? Well, get the same, excellent color from the DLA-RS25 or the DLA-950. The biggest difference you give up is that extra sharpness. Still a first class projector, and, I remind you, the improved version of the RS20 that I use in my main theater (yeah, I’m biased – I tend to buy what I like best). Or you could drop down below $5000 for the DLA-RS15 (or the HD550). The color won’t be quite as good as the other two, and the blacks won’t be either, but after that, it’s pretty much like the RS25.

In some of the categories there’s some really fierce competition in this class of projector. The InFocus, isn’t the sharpest DLP around, but easily bests all the LCoS projectors (except the 2x expensive RS35). Color is very first class, though not as perfect as our calibration last year of the IN83, I don’t think anything since has looked better than the SP8602, , when it comes to color accuracy, including the JVCs.

The InFocus has the pop, the wow, the natural look and the depth of image. It’s a classic, and first class DLP projector, however, it’s blacks are just basic UHC. It can’t, for example match the less expensive Epson at blacks or the JVCs (actually it can achieve a slightly blacker black than the RS15, on the very darkest scenes, but not enough difference to quibble about). All those lumens though, guarantee a bright, dynamic image. To get them, though, the proper positioning is very important, as well learned. When it comes to picture, I really, really enjoyed the InFocus, despite the only “extremely good” blacks. And oh, baby, properly mounted, this projector has brightness for your HDTV and sports that easily is brighter than the next closest, and almost twice as bright as many of the others.

Hmm, what else is good, I really liked the Planar PD8150 last year, but it remains unchanged, and is still not very bright. It could be argued that the Planar, though lacking lumens, is as good as the InFocus, I believe their black level performance is comparable. But then, we do consider price (in giving out awards), which is a key reason the InFocus pushed the Planar out of contention (three thousand dollars does a lot of pushing).

1080p Projectors: Viewing HDTV, TV and Especially, Sports

Lumens! You can’t watch a lot of sports and HDTV content with out a lot of lumens!

Caves are places where people go to watch movies. Ideally a cave is some isolated room in your home that can be fully darkened. That folks is how to watch movies – in a cave like environment, nice and dark, perfect for mushrooms.

Then you switch your source to HDTV, to watch some March Madness with 5 or 6 friends, and – you can’t see them, it’s too dark (ok, you can see them, but its still too dark, for normal conversation, etc.) – no party atmosphere.

So, what do you do? Turn on the lights, open a window, and pray your projector has the brightness to cope. At least though, you can see your friends, and converse easily.

But you still want really sharp, and good color. Let’s face it do we really care if skin tones rate a 10, 9, or even a 7 out of 10, when we are watching a football game? Exactly! It’s the game that counts, and if the coaches face is a touch red, that could be the projector, (or maybe the aftermath of him screaming at some player).

Thus, projector brightness is a key factor, and most of us are willing to sacrifice some black levels, even color accuracy, for a nice bright image. We don’t care about blacks much at all for sports but that’s not the case for, say Travel HD or Discovery HD, or Paladia HD channels.

Above, Pete Townsend (The Who) on HDTV, the projector is the Mitsubishi HC3800

For my comments I’m assuming a typical screen of about 100 inch diagonal. All of the projectors have enough muscle to handle that size for movies, but some may struggle in terms of brightness with some intentional ambient light present. Some of the least expensive projectors are the brightest. Hmm, most of those are really home projectors or home entertainment projectors, that is, defining them slightly differently from home theater projectors (where the presumption should be a cave-like room).

So what do we have here, let’s take on the field, projector by projector. I’ll be short, as we don’t have to get into some of the subtleties, that would concern us with movie viewing. And since sports viewing is crazier than most movie viewing, I’ll take a few liberties in my wordsmithing, to have some fun. And note, below, I’ve labeled a few projectors has Home Projectors rather than Home Theater Projectors. Those Home projectors are the ones more likely to be found in typically in bonus and family rooms without perfect lighting control.