Samsung SP-A600 Home Theater Projector
Until recently Samsung has offered up some interesting, but rather expensive home theater projectors. The SP-A600 is the first to really sell in the lower cost range, and is more of a mass market product than the old SP-A710 I reviewed a few years ago, or the newer SP-A900. The SP-A900 is a projector I wanted to review and include, but I couldn't manage to talk Samsung into loaning me one for the review. (They sent me the A600 instead.)
The SP-A600 DLP projector is classic DLP - with limited placement flexibility, not a whole lot more lumens in brightest mode than best mode. Its two year warranty is overall, average, but definitely better than average in this entry level group of projectors, where there are a number of projectors sporting only a basic one year warranty.
The black level performance is not overly impressive, definitely entry level. The Samsung projector does not use a dynamic iris to enhance black performance. That said, blacks are definitely more like the $999 projectors than the DLP Mitsubishi HC3800, which still costs less. The Samsung's strength is very good color fidelity. It is a bit brighter than average in "best" picture mode (with 700 lumens), although strictly average in terms of its brightest mode - a bit over 1000 lumens.
I thought coming into this report, that the the XV-Z15000 projector would be classified (as it was last year) as an over $2000 projector. When I went online, just about everyone was offering it up for under $2000, and some under $2000 by more than a few bucks. I really liked this projector when first reviewed. Another DLP, it's very different from the Mitsubishi, in many ways. This Sharp projector has the best black level performance of any DLP in the sub-$2K class.
I described this projector as very Dr. Jekyl / Mr. Hyde, with the actual picture performance - blacks, color accuracy, shadow detail all a nice Dr. Hyde, while the rough Mr Hyde is more symbolic of the very limited placement flexibility, the less than sharpest lens (still does a sharper image overall, than most LCD projectors), and the basic 1 year warranty. Brightness is pretty average - neither Jekyl or Hyde.
Viewsonic Pro8100 projector
Viewsonic's Pro8100 is above average in brightness, in both best, and brightest modes. This LCD projector is typical in terms of black level performance among the non "ultra-high-contrast" projectors. The unit itself is rather good looking, and they even have interchangeable covers, in case your room design calls for a dark red, a gray, black or white look. (Nice touch!)
A three year warranty is better than most offer. The Pro8100 when launched in 2008 was priced above $3500 and sold through local dealers only. Viewsonic apparently figure out that wasn't working for them, and decided to go the volume route. Now the same projector seems to sell for under $1500, and figures to be a very good value.
As I write this, the final award selections have yet to be finalized. I wonder how the addition of this Sharp XV-Z15000 and the Panasonic PT-AE4000U, (two pretty formidable ultra-high contrast projectors) to the lower price class, will affect our final awards this year.
$2100 - $3500 1080p Home Theater Projectors
BenQ W6000 projector
The BenQ W6000 is an impressive DLP projector selling in the under $2500 space. It's available online, and locally. The W6000 is one of a very few lower cost DLP projectors with lens shift. Overall, it offers pretty respectable placement flexiblity. The biggest strengths, however of the W6000 projector include its really impressive brightness, and some really good black level performance for a DLP projector in this price class. I consider the W6000 to be an ultra-high contrast projector. Mind you, it just makes the grade, but, that's a nice grade to have.
Last year, the W5000 wasn't as bright, and didn't have the black level performance of the W6000, but still managed a Best-In-Class Runner-Up award. The W6000 is, by comparison a much better projector, but also faces tougher competition this year.
Epson Home Cinema 8500UB
Welcome to the third generation of Epson ultra-high contrast projectors. The Home Cinema 8500UB offers up a lot of features and capability. Last year's 6500UB picked up the Best In Class award in this Mid-Priced class. The new 8500UB builds on the older model, with slightly better black level performance, a few more best mode lumens (about 500), improved creative frame interpolation and a dynamic sharpening mode that really does seem to take the Epson up a notch without any significant downside. All dynamic features may "enhance" the image, but they also extract a cost, relative to a more natural image. This year's 8500UB is just a better, slightly lower cost, replacement for what was my own personal favorite projector in this class last year.
The Epson is also very bright in brightest mode. It's definitely a well balanced projector for the "more than just movies" crowd. Works great for sports.