Projector Reviews

2011 Home Theater Projector Comparison Report-8

Sony VPL-HW15 projector

The VPL-HW15 is Sony’s least expensive 1080p home theater projector. Like the more expensive Sony projectors, the VPL-HW15 sports three LCoS panels. Last year, it’s predecessor, the HW10, was the only LCoS projector affordable enough to make this Mid-Priced class. Not so this year. Even with a lower price, $2799 MAP, two other LCoS projectors came in under its price (but both right around $2500). Like all the other LCoS projectors the Sony is a fairly large home theater projector. Color handling is very, very, good. Skin tones are excellent!

Brightness, as is usual for Sony home theater projectors, is not a strong suit of the VPL-HW15 projector. Certainly the post calibration 538 lumens is average, or even a touch brighter, for a “best” mode, but the maximum we could find for a “brightest” mode was 837 rather blue lumens (color temp over 10K). All alternate modes that improve on the color of that brightest mode, measure 664 lumens or less. Like the Optoma HD8200, the Sony typically doesn’t have any lumens to spare to deal with any ambient light, for sports or TV viewing. That makes this another projector for the “movies only, or mostly” crowd.

Sony relies on a dynamic iris to get the best possible black levels, and it does a very good job, though not exceptional. Black level performance can’t quite match the best “ultra-high-contrast” 3LCD models, but is fine for those less concerned about having great dark scenes. The provided 2 year parts and labor warranty does not include any loaner or replacement program. It is a typical warranty for projectors in this price range. A few have shorter warranties, a few have longer ones. Overall, it’s a really good projector for the money, but there’s strong competition from other LCoS, 3LCD and DLP projectors in this class.

$3500 - $10,000 Home Theater Projectors

InFocus SP8602 projector

The SP8602 from InFocus, is a major departure from recent InFocus home theater projectors. Last year InFocus, an Oregon based company was taken private. This is their first new home theater effort. Gone are the cool flying saucer shaped projectors. The SP8602 (SP short for ScreenPlay, InFocus’ old designator for home theater projectors), is a large, commercial looking unit. Oh, it’s not that bad, but, let me put it this way. It’s the same physical box as their 7000 lumen commercial projector.

One thing InFocus has always done well, and that’s color accuracy. For whatever reason, most InFocus home theater projectors, over the years, seemed to start out with pretty good color, out of the box. Better still, they have calibrated beautifully. The absolute best color I’ve seen from any projector I’ve reviewed was from last year’s InFocus IN83, so I expected great things of the SP8602.

The color is excellent, not as perfect as the IN83’s but about as good as anything else I’ve seen recently. Brightness – a hallmark of the old IN83, isn’t as impressive, but the SP8602 puts out about 800 lumens in “best” mode with Brilliant Color off, and 1059 with it on. The brightest mode delivers over 1100 lumens.

Physical placement is good, not exceptional. While the projector does have lens shift, it isn’t designed to be rear shelf mounted. Lens shift is different than most projectors but let’s you place the projector between the top of the screen surface and a respectable distance above (varies depending on screen size).

Black level performance is very good, not great. Like most of the best DLP projectors with dynamic irises, it is competitive with some of the “ultra-high” contrast. Put it all together, and you have a really bright projector for movie viewing, more “brightest” mode lumens than most, and great color with good blacks and excellent shadow detail. The dynamic iris, however is a little rough. Not as bad as some, it works well enough most of the time, but sometimes it is a little too noticeable. InFocus has advised they are working on improving the firmware. I’m looking forward to it!

JVC DLA-RS15 projector

The JVC DLA-RS15 is JVC’s “entry level” home theater projector, if you buy into “entry level” being about $5000. Extremely similar to the more expensive RS25 and RS35, the DLA RS15 projector is just a touch less sophisticated. It’s a medium large home projector, finished in shiny black with a little gold trim. Rather tasteful (remember, I’m biased, I own the identical looking RS20). It’s fancy, with power everything: Zoom, focus, and lens shift. It will support 3rd party anamorphic lenses. It has a particularly nice remote control Placement flexiblity is also excellent, built around the 2:1 zoom and a healthy amount of both vertical and horizontal lens shift.

Black levels are excellent, and although a step down from the more expensive JVCs, the RS15’s blacks are still better than virtually every other projector out there. Color accuracy is very good, but the controls aren’t as complete as the other JVC’s. As a result of that, the RS15 can’t quite match the really superb color accuracy of the other two JVCs.

The RS15 is bright in best mode, with about 700 lumens but can’t quite stretch it to 900 lumens in brightest mode, so, (like the other JVCs) it’s not quite average brightness in its brightest mode.