Home Theater Projector Image Quality
The goal of this section is to allow you to quickly read over our findings for different home theater projectors. A large portion of the content below will be snippets from the original reviews. That seemed to work well in last year's report, so we're sticking with it.
Click to Enlarge.So close
Out of the box color (without adjustment)
Naturalness of flesh tones
Black levels and shadow detail
Overall image quality ( "feel" of the projector). My partially subjective opinions on "film-like performance", ease of watching, and for lack of a better term, "wow factor" (some projectors just look good, and others make you think "awesome", even though they may technically be very, very similar).
Click Image to Enlarge
1080p Home Theater Projectors - Out of the Box Picture Quality
First things first: While the "out of the box" picture quality varies significantly (from not very good to extremely good), not one projector reviewed couldn't be improved with a good calibration. We always recommend you get your projector calibrated to get the most out of it. Best of course, is a professional calibration (unless you have the gear to do it yourself), but, alternately, you can improve a projector's performance even with a basic end user calibration disc. The third alternative is to try the calibration settings we provide. They aren't quite as in-depth as a full professional calibration, but readers typically report a visible improvement when using our settings, compared to out of the box performance.
$2000 and under 1080p Home Theater Projectors
This year there are ten projectors in this group of entry level priced 1080p projectors. That's twice the number as last year, despite lowering the maximum price of this category to $2000 (from $2100). This year the projectors are nicely spread out from $999 (actually $899 by the time you read this), all the way up to $1999. At the time of this report, six of the projectors are between $899 and $1500, and four of them between $1500 and $2000.
Our focus when discussing out of the box picture quality, is on "best" mode. Best mode for most projectors is the least bright, but is optimized to be best for viewing movies in a fully darkened room.
In the full projector review of the BenQ W1000, I wrote this about how the W1000 looked, right out of the box: The "out of the box" color is very good, but a touch too much red... that about covers it. Yes, this is a projector that most owners will find to be perfectly pleasing with the default color modes.
Epson Home Cinema 8100
Here's the original word on the HC8100: "Out of the box" picture quality leaves a good bit to be desired. That's nothing to worry about, or even consider seriously as this is not a production unit. I am expecting that there will be different final color tables when the projector starts shipping. Past Epsons have usually been good to very good, right out of the box, which is to say, they can still be significantly improved with a calibration, or, failing that, try the settings we provide. We never did receive a second, full production version, for a second look, but would expect the out of the box to be at least "good" as that's pretty safe for a projector only slightly improved over its predecessor.
Nicely done! This paragraph from the original review pretty much is all that needs to be said: Very impressive color and overall picture right out of the box, and that's twice as impressive because this is an early engineering sample. Not only are there good looking preset combinations, but the minor color inaccuracies are easily corrected with a calibration.
You don't usually expect the least expensive projector of them all to have particularly good color, out of the box, yet: the HD20's out of the box picture quality is rather good. From a color temperature standpoint, the HD20's "best" mode is almost dead on the ideal 6500K, but that number doesn't account for green being a bit down from red and blue. Still, very watchable.
Nothing else needs to be said: The PT-AE4000 really did look extremely good, right out of the box. Most impressive! The projector does tend to be a little heavy on the reds and oversatuated. Reducing color saturation is easy. Reds get addressed with calibration.
Quoting from the full review: The SP-A600 does a very nice job out of the box...there is a slight overemphasis in the reds, just noticeable in skin tones.
It's been a long time since I've had a Z700 here, good thing I write things down! This from the review: I quickly concluded that "out of the box" picture quality was reasonably good, and definitely not great. Overall, without adjustment, the image is too warm (reddish). Shadow detail was also just good (which improved with a slight increase to the brightness setting).
A little more complicated to describe than most: I have to rate the "out of the box" picture quality as very good.
The reason is simple: If you want the best color right out of the box, we recommend the Natural mode, which really is very good. It may not produce the best black level performance (it's a lot brighter, too), but you should like the skin tones, and overall color balance.
I also said this: Sharp's Natural mode on the XV-Z15000 projector is, in terms of color accuracy, superior to most projectors' "best" mode, out of the box.
and in summary, this: the Sharp is one of the more watchable projectors without doing a color calibration