Projector Reviews

2011 Home Theater Projector Comparison- Physical Tour-5

Planar PD8150 – is interesting in that the lens shift is unequal. It can be placed higher above the screen top, than it can be lower, below the bottom.

** The Optoma HD8600 can be placed up to 4.9 inches above the top of the screen surface, but only down to 14.9 inches above the bottom of the screen.

*** The InFocus SP8602 has the most unusual lens shift. The top number shown is correct, the SP8602 can be placed that far above the top of the screen. What is weird is that the lens can only be placed from that height, down to the top of the screen surface, but not below. So you can not have the InFocus SP8602 mounted, say a foot below the top of the screen. All the other projectors with lens shift would work there.

Note: All numbers above are approximate. Throw distances should be accurate within about one inch. In terms of Maximum shift, and especially the amount of shift (offset) on projectors without adjustable lens shift, we have found that manufacturers often make errors!

We recommend you double check the numbers with the manufacturer’s tech support, for accurate lens shift numbers. (At least two of these manufacturers show conflicting information in their brochures, compared to their manuals, on at least one model.

For your convenience, below, the home theater projectors are organized first by price class, then by amount of placement flexibility. The four categories are:

Greatest Placement Flexibility (excellent zoom range, lens shift)
Good Placement Flexibility (moderately good zoom range, lens shift)
Fair Placement Flexibility (typically limited zoom range, lens shift, there are exceptions)
Poor Placement Flexibility (limited zoom range, no lens shift)

None of the projectors listed as Poor can be shelf mounted. Those rated Fair can be shelf mounted, but have very limited range and may not work out in most rooms.

Keep in mind that if you plan to ceiling mount, there isn’t that much difference between the four groups, unless ceiling height is an issue, in which case Poor Placement Flexibility projectors may still be a problem as they lack any lens shift.

The key benefit of ceiling mounting is that you can place the projector closer to the screen which often means a brighter image.

Key benefits of shelf mounting include usually easier to get power to the projector (installation time and cost), less audible noise, easier access, generally simpler to install and align.

Entry Level 1080p Projectors - Under $2000

Greatest Placement Flexibility: Epson Home Cinema 8100, Panasonic PT-AE4000, Sanyo PLV-Z700 – All have at least 2:1 zoom lenses and extensive lens shift

Good Placement Flexibility: None

Fair Placement Flexibility: Mitsubishi HC3800 (1.5:1 zoom, no lens shift),

Poor Placement Flexibility: BenQ W1000, Optoma HD20, Samsung SP-A600, Sharp XV-Z15000, Vivitek H1080FD

Mid-Priced 1080p Projectors - $2000 - $3500

Greatest Placement Flexibility: All Epson projectors, Sanyo PLV-Z3000 (all with at least 2:1 zoom, lens shift)

Good Placement Flexibility: BenQ W6000, LG CF181D, Mitsubishi HC6800, HC7000, Optoma HD8200, Sony VPL-HW15, Viewsonic Pro8100

Yes, this year, every projector in this mid-priced class offers lens shift! All of them have at least a 1.5:1 zoom ratio as well. In other words every projector we reviewed in this price range had at least good placement flexibility. The most signficant difference between “Greatest” and “Good” placement flexibility is that most of the “good” ones may not work rear shelf mounted, if your room is moderately deep, or your screen relatively small for the room size. those with 2:1 zooms normally can be shelf mounted in all but very unusual (read very deep) rooms, even these “greatest” projectors won’t be rear shelf mountable (with a 100″ diagonal screen) in rooms deeper than about 22 feet.

Premium Priced 1080p Projectors - $3500 - $10,000

Greatest Placement Flexibility: JVC DLA-RS15, DLA-RS25, DLA-RS35

Good Placement Flexibility: Planar PD8150, Sharp XV-Z20000, Sony VPL-VW85

Fair Placement Flexibility: Vivitek H9080FD (1.3:1 zoom, but has lens shift)

All projectors in this class have lens shift as well! This year every projector without lens shift, sells for under $2000. Last year, we had some projectors without lens shift, in all three price classes. What has changed? Primarily the DLP projector manufacturers have been getting tired of losing sales to the LCD camp, because of placement flexibility.

Ceiling Height Issues: These projectors are less likely to work in your home theater if your ceiling height is low, or if ceiling height is average, but screen size is rather large. This is due to a lack of lens shift, combined with a signficant amount of fixed lens offset, that requires them to be mounted well above the top of your screen. All of these must be mounted at least 7.5 inches (measured from the center of the lens) and up to 16.5 inches above the top of the screen.

One dramatic improvement (I think so, at least) is that this year, most of the projectors lacking adjustable lens shift, have been redesigned compared to previous models, so that they have less fixed lens offset. Last year we had 5 projector with at least 15 inches of fixed offset. This year, that number has dropped to just one, (the Mitsubishi HC3800 at 16.5 inches offest) and only one other with at least 10 inches (that would be 12 inches for the Samsung SP-A600. The rest of the fixed lens offset projectors all have about 8 inches of offset, which is just about half of what most of last year’s units offered!