Epson Pro Cinema 9500UB projector
This Pro Cinema 9500UB is the almost identical projector from Epson, but part of the Pro series. Being a Pro, "UB" projector only means the following: Epson Pro Cinema projectors are sold only through local authorized installing dealers. They come finished in black (not white), they have three year warranties instead of two, and they offer support for an anamorphic lens, which the Home Cinema 8500UB does not.
Epson Pro Cinema 9100 projector:
This is the Pro version of the Epson Home Cinema 8100 covered in the Entry level price group. You are paying more to buy this from a local dealer, but you do extra value for your extra dollars: You get a ceiling mount and spare lamp (but it still nets out to this price group). In addition, the Pro Cinema 9100 comes with an extra year of warranty and replacement (3 years total), Overall, what you have here is an affordable projector with plenty of lumens. It can handle typical screens up to 110" or even a size larger, in its best mode, and has lumens to spare, even with some room lighting, on larger screens, including my 128", in brightest modes.
Black levels are not up to the "ultra-high-contrast" 3LCD projectors, but are comparable or better than the other 3LCD projectors and almost all of the DLP projectors in this price range. Strong performance for family rooms with ambient light, and a very good image overall.
Mitsubishi HC6800, HC7000 projectors
The Mitsubishi HC6800 is last fall's replacement for the older HC6500, Mitsubishi's middle of three home theater projectors. The HC6800 is a very suitable replacement. It remains, however, the middle unit in the lineup, costing less than the older HC7000 which has far superior blacks. We have not yet published the HC6800 review as of this writing, even though it's been measured, calibrated and viewed. The review will be written after this Report. The HC6800 sells for under $2500, and can be found online, and in big box houses like Best Buy. The HC7000, by comparison, costs more, and is sold primarily through local installing dealers. The HC7000 is definitely one of the less bright home projectors in its class, but the HC6800 does offer a lot more lumens.
Panasonic PT-AE4000 projector
The PT-AE4000 projector just squeezes into the top of our Entry Level class. Last year, the older PT-AE3000U had to compete in the Mid-Priced class. The older Panasonic managed a tie for Best In Class last year, and this year, the even better PT-AE4000 gets to go up against a group of much less expensive projectors. The PT-AE4000 is pretty loaded in features compared to just about everything else. That's a large part of its appeal: Excellent placement flexibility, CFI (creative frame interpolation), dynamic iris and other dynamic features, and Panasonic's Lens memory feature that allows you to "emulate" using an anamorphic lens for viewing Cinemascope movies. There's more goodies too, like a built in signal analyzer, and split screen function for comparing CFI modes.
The Panasonic projector is about average in brightness, has natural color, and definitely offers black level performance as good as any other in this class, and far better than most.
Optoma HD8200 projector
The HD8200 is a mid-priced DLP projector from Optoma. The HD8200 is primarily sold through local installing dealers, so does cost a bit more than a lot of direct, online competition. Typically it appears to sell for near the $3500 top end of the Mid-Priced class. Unlike many lower cost DLP projectors the placement flexibility is pretty respectable. That's thanks to a 1.5:1 zoom lens, and lens shift. Unfortunately, the Optoma, like another newer projector, the InFocus SP8602, isn't designed to be used on a high rear shelf. It must be inverted if mounted high.
Brightness is average in "best" mode, but the HD8200's 660 measured lumens in its brightest mode puts it very close to being the least bright projector in this report. That tends to make it a better choice for "movie only" or "movie primarily" people, that for those who also like things like lots of sports.
Color out of the box was not impressive, but the HD8200 cleans up nicely with calibration. Where I do have an issue with the HD8200 is it's dynamic iris. One mode I really did not like. The other wasn't bad, but a lot of projectors today, with dynamic irises, have iris action that's a lot less noticeable.
Sanyo PLV-Z3000 projector
The PLV-Z3000 is one of the least expensive ultra-high contrast projectors out there. This 3LCD projector was first shipped in fall of 2008, so it's into its second year. What I said about the Z3000 last year is still fairly accurate today. Even the selling price hasn't fallen enough to put it in the entry level class:
"The PLV-Z3000 is currently the least expensive of the "ultra-high-contrast" projectors out there, and that alone, should make it a very popular and successful projector. It currently sells for just a little more than the cut-off of $2100 for this category. That also makes it one of the least expensive projectors in the category. Black level performance is not quite as good as the other "ultra-high-contrast" projectors, but it is definitely much closer to those, than any of the more basic home theater projectors, such as the Epson 6100 (now the 8100), or Sanyo's entry level PLV-Z700, and for that matter, better than vitually all of the DLP projectors anywhere near its price.
The PLV-Z3000 offers excellent placement flexibility. Its image is very sharp. In best mode it's a little below average in brightness, so keep it to smaller screens. On the other hand, it has good brightness in brightest mode, so it can handle that same screen with a fair amount of ambient light when needed. Sanyo provides a 3 year warranty."
Back to real time: Even in early 2010, the Z3000 seems to remain popular, especially among the enthusiasts. It offers great placement flexibility, a sharp image, and a lot of different and pretty respectable, color modes to choose from.
Actually, the Z3000, would be more interesting if it was just a few hundred less, so it could be in the entry level class. It would be back slugging it out with the Panasonic PT-AE4000 but have a fairly easy time against many of the other lower cost projectors