Projector Reviews

1080p Home Theater Projector Comparison Report – Image Quality-19

JVC DLA-RS15

Too dim to be a great HDTV and sports projector, but with about 750 lumens in brightest mode (actually we suspect other RS15s might be a little brighter, because this review unit was the dimmest of all the JVCs tested and it shouldn’t have been.

Really good color, average image sharpness, and below average lumens make the DLA-RS15 a not so hot projector for sports and HDTV overall. That’s definitely true when you consider the InFocus is the most direct competition, with far more lumens, sharper image…

JVC DLA-RS25

Ditto for the DLA-RS25. This one, at least measured where we expected it to be, which was a little over 850 lumens when we measured it. The difference between the RS25 and the RS15, when it comes to sports and HDTV is simply this: The RS25 has better color, and it’s got amazing black levels. Those two, combine to make folks like me settle for less HDTV/sports performance, in favor of a more exceptional image for movie viewing. Note, again, sharpness is typically average.

JVC DLA-RS25

JVC DLA-RS35

Ahh, just like the RS25, but more of the same. The DLA-RS35 measured a bit lower 781 brightest mode lumens (JVC says no particular reason an RS35 would measure less than an RS25 (so, again, lamp variation?). There is a big difference though between the RS35 and the RS25 for sports, and that is the sharpness difference we observed based on the far better pixel alignment of the RS35. I still would ask for another 300 – 500+ lumens, but the sharpness appeals to me (expecially as an RS20 owner who’s been living with JVC brightness for over 2 years now (first the RS1, then the RS20).

Optoma HD8600

The HD8600 is a particularly good sports and HDTV content projector. It has similar brightness to the InFocus when mounting at normal heights and at mid-point on the zoom, but with ideal placement the InFocus does better. (Hey, if you have to mount further back, it’s the Optoma that’s likely to be the brighter.

What the Optoma has going for it, is one of the very sharpest images in the entire report. I do recall it looking particularly good on sports. That same sharpness, also works great with my favorite Discovery HD, Travel HD and other HD content.

Planar PD8150

Here we go again. A beautiful projector but not enough lumens for the sports with some ambient light. A measured 606 lumens just doesn’t cut it. For the rest of the quality digital content on HDTV, it does great – as long as you keep the lights off, and the blackout shades closed.

Sony VPL-VW85

This time around, the Sony VW85 works out to be pretty much like the JVC RS25, for HDTV and sports, but not quite as bright. Let’s put it this way, if you decided for other reasons that the VW85 is a better fit than the RS25, then the brightness difference will not be enough to disuade you from the Sony.

Vivitek H9080FD

OK, true, the Vivitek has only 526 lumens measured in “brightest” mode. I’d like you to think of it more like about 750 lumens though. That’s because of the LED light source. The Vivitek will take many years of heavy viewing before the lamp dims significantly. Projectors with regular lamps will lose about 50% of their brightness, likely before the Vivitek loses 10%. When I consider brightness, I realize almost all projectors I review have brand new, or almost brand new lamps in them.

I live in the real world though, because my own RS20 had over 800 hours on it a few months ago when I reviewed the RS25. When it came to brightness, my RS20 wasn’t close to matching the RS25 with its new lamp. Even turning the RS25’s lamp to low power, it remained brighter than my RS20, which starts out equally bright.

Bottom Line for HDTV/TV and Sports Viewing in this projector class:

These are all first class projectors, give or take an occasional issue. Not a real slacker in the lot, although brightness varies a lot. That said, for sports in particular they really show differences. Only the Optoma HD8600 and the InFocus have any serious horsepower. In fact using our roughly 1000 lumen average for brightest mode, they are the only projectors in this class that aren’t below average brightness. Both have at least 1100, whereas the next brightest – the RS25, barely reached 850 lumens.

It drives me crazy, the lack of brightness of most of these more expensive projectors. True, you can spend much bigger bucks for 3 chip DLPs, that have plenty of lumens, but we really need some projectors out there that can put 2000, or even 3500 lumens on the screen when needed. You put about 3500 lumens on a 100 inch HC gray screen, and the picture starts looking nice and bright like an LCDTV. Of course, for movie watching, you need to be able to drop it down around 1200 lumens or a lot less in most home setups. I’ve seen 3500 lumens on my 128″ and it’s awefully impressive for sports.

OK, at this level of the game, you are somewhat limited in your choices if you want brightness for your sports. Most spending in this price range, are spending more than the mid-price class because they want a higher level of image qualityfor great movie viewing. At least that’s what the manufacturers seem to believe the buyers want. I believe that in this price range you can have both: The high quality, and plenty of brightness. How much more expensive would a JVC RS25 have to be if it could have twice the output? It’s currently a pretty quiet projector, they can probably handle a brighter lamp, with more powerful fans. Please, someone build a great projector around a 400 watt lamp, instead of the usual 170 to 240 watts.

I’ll keep yelling at the manufacturers, for really bright projectors. They will give us some of them, one of these days. Of course LED light sources are supposed to replace lamps. So far most of the expensive LED light sourced projectors haven’t been that bright, but what I’m asking for, in power and price is almost certainly less than 2 years out. My fingers are crossed.

Above, the BCS championship at the Rose Bowl back in January. The projector is the JVC RS35.