JVC DLA-RS25 projector
The DLA-RS25 projector replaces the JVC RS20, our Best in Class winner in 2009. The two are very similar, with the major difference between them being the RS25's addition of creative frame interpolation. I know of no other projectors capable of matching the RS25's black levels (other than the RS35). Color handling is excellent. The provided THX mode produces excellent color accuracy, although a professional calibration can improve on it slightly. Like the other JVC projectors it has power everything, a good selection of inputs, user savable memories, a physically attractive (if a bit large) appearance, an excellent remote control, and a two year warranty. The RS25's $8000 sticker, isn't for the feint of heart, but it produces the kind of quality image that we are willing to pay for.
Ultimately the RS25 is about the picture. Consider: I can think of almost a dozen projectors that can look every bit as good on a bright scene, including projectors from Sony, Epson, LG, Panasonic, and InFocus... In fact some times the JVC might look better, some times the other projector.
That's great, but it's the dark scenes that "separate the men from the boys." (I hate to think of how politically incorrect that phrase probably is now.) Fairly dark scenes where the darkest areas are washing out on most of those other projectors, are still dynamic on the RS25. On a wide array of extremely dark, very dark, and dark with small amounts of bright area scenes, the JVC will still look great overall, and look dynamic while the others turn dull and flat by comparison.
Now if most movies didn't have some dark and very dark scenes, people wouldn't be so concerned about black level performance. The reality is, that dark scenes exist in almost all movies, and folks, that's the tie breaker, the reason why the RS25 is considered a great projector.
JVC DLA-RS35 projector
The JVC DLA-RS35 is an RS25 surgically created out of the best of the individual components. For your extra $2000, you are getting the RS35 - the projector with the best of the optics, light engine, power, fans, etc. Basically, the best projector their highest possible quality control can build. The small improvements everywhere, especially in sharpness, (but also black level performance, etc.), add up to result in a projector that puts a visually superior image on the screen than the normal RS25, which is described in detail above.
Planar PD8150 projector
Planar is still a relatively new company in the home theater projector space. They launched their own line a couple/three years ago, and more recently bought Runco (which includes Vidikron) as their ultra high end product line. The Planar PD8150 is sold through authorized local dealers only. The PD8150 is a DLP projector, that has perhaps the best black levels of any DLP in this report. That's thanks to a dynamic iris that happens to be less noticeable than most.
The projector overall is above average in best mode brightness, but one of the least bright bright modes. That makes it a good choice for people who are very movie focused, and not planning on a large screen.
I was very impressed when I reviewed Planar's PD8150 projector, although it's been quite a long time since I've seen it in action. It offered a sharper, though dimmer alternative, to the LCoS projectors with their still better blacks.
Sony VPL-VW85 projector
Sony's VPL-VW85 projector replaces last year's VW70. Last year we weren't able to obtain the VW70 in time for the report, but this time around we reviewed the VW85 with time to spare. The Sony VW85 projector is a larger LCoS projector - Sony calls their LCoS by the SXRD name.
The VW85 is extremely impressive. Black level performance is excellent, one of the best out there. It relies on a dynamic iris, for the great blacks, and on the darkest of scenes it comes very close to the JVC DLA-RS25, which nothing else I know of can do. Color is really very good, although we could never quite get it as good as we hoped, there always remained a touch too much red in skin tones.
Brightness improved over last year, with a huge jump to 598 lumens in best, but still a way below average 725 maximum lumens.
Placement flexibility is very good. The projector can be shelf mounted, however, since their zoom lens' is a little more wide-angle than most, the projector can't be placed very far back. That means you won't be able to shelf mount in most deep rooms. Well, there's always ceiling mounting, and you get the advantage of mounting with the lens in wide angle, producing a brighter image.
Pricey as it is the VW85 is a particularly fine product. It's best in rooms with smaller screens and good lighting control, and should provide a truly excellent viewing experience in such a setting.