Epson Home Cinema 8100 projector:
Strangely, the Home Cinema 8100 measured slightly less than its "UB" siblings found in the mid-priced class. I say strangely, as the 8100 is rated at 1800 lumens and the others are 1600 lumens. Each year, though the "standard" and the "UB" projectors are very close when measured.
Where the Home Cinema especially shines (pun intended) is in its Dynamic and Livingroom modes. There are color issues in Dynamic with very strong yellows and greens, but it just slices right through ambient light that would damage the picture with any of the other projectors in this group. Better still is the Epson's Livingroom mode - while it is a "mess" right out of the box, a nice calibration, yields about 20% less lumens than its Dynamic mode.
Mitsubishi HC3800 projector
The Mitsubishi HC3800 is a scorcher even in Best mode with 950 lumens. Go for maximum brightness, and it measures 1142 lumens. That makes the HC3800 the brightest projector in the class, in terms of Best mode, and is slightly above average brightness in Brightest mode, although no match for the two DLP projectors with the slow color wheels. Those projectors manage maximum brightness around 2000 lumens, a substantial improvement. But, neither the Vivitek or Optoma HD20 come close to the HC3800's picture quality and black level performance. They are more geared for family room use with some lighting, while the Mitsubishi HC3800 is also perfectly at home in a dedicated home theater, where it will put one of the very best images in this class, up on your screen.
Optoma HD20 projector
At $999, the Optoma HD20 offers very good brightness in best mode, measuring post calibration, at 710 lumens. As is typical of a lot of DLP projectors, the HD20 does not get a huge boost, going to brightest mode, with it's measured 996 lumens being the third lowest. That said, this lowest price class has the brightest "bright" mode projectors. In the more expensive categories, the HD20's brightest mode would be at least average. The Optoma HD20 unlike the other $999 projectors, uses a 4x color wheel (compared to the BenQ's 2x and the Vivitek's 3x). For those sensitive to the Rainbow Effect, that makes the HD20 a far better projector to view than the BenQ, and merely a better projector than the Vivitek.
Panasonic PT-AE4000 projector
This year's Panasonic seems to have a new "warmer" lamp that last year's PT-AE3000. At any rate, there is a nice improvement in best mode brightness for the PT-AE4000, which now measures 430 lumens post calibration. Brightest mode, at 930 lumens makes it the dimmest projector in the entry level group. Keep in mind that Panasonic set their price at $1999. Generally we consider most of the PT-AE4000s real competition to be slightly more money, and hanging out in the more expensive tier of projectors. The Panasonic, when it comes to brightness is a little below average in both best and brightest, and is best served up to work with medium to small screens. For most people (avoiding high gain screens), about 110" diagonal should be about the largest screen size to pair with the PT-AE4000 projector.
Samsung SP-A600 projector
The Samsung SP-A600 specs out the lumens similar to the Optoma HD20 - with just over 700 lumens in best mode, and just over 1000 lumens in brightest mode. That makes the SP-A600 very bright in "best" mode, and able to tacking some really nice sized screens for watching movies. For example, the Samsung's brightness is just a tad less than my JVC that I find is rather comfortable with my 128" high contrast gray Firehawk G3 screen. Brightest mode lumens are average, overall, and below average among the under $2000 projectors. You've got at least 40% more lumens for your sports viewing with "brightest" mode engaged.
Sanyo PLV-Z700 projector
In its true "best" mode, the PLV-Z700 is one of the least bright projectors out there. But, Sanyo does something different, and for that reason we don't even consider it's true "best" mode, in our chart. All the nice features the Sanyo has, that enhance performance, are turned off. Considering the low lumens, it's unlikely that any siginificant percentage of ownwers will use it's Pure mode. When you buy this projector you are paying for features like a dynamic iris, and dynamic controls, so it's unlikely anyone would buy a Z700 and not use those capabilities. Therefore we dismissed Pure Cinema as best mode and chose the far more practical (and better performing, if less "pure") Creative Cinema. Our measurements:
Consider: The good news is that it has two other Cinema modes, in addition to Pure, which is the least bright, and most basic. Creative, which does more with iris, and dynamic controls that may affect contrast, etc., and deliver more lumens, and finally Brilliant Cinema, which pulls out all the stops. Brilliant Cinema isn't as good an image as Pure or many of the Creative Cinema options, but can still produce an impressive looking image, while delivering more than twice the lumens of Pure Cinema. This is covered in some detail in the PLV-Z700's review.
Creative Cinema: 675 lumens, Brilliant Cinema: 887 lumens, Brightest mode: 1157 lumens.
In the chart above, we considered Creative Cinema to be Best mode. Note that we list an Other mode for the Z700, and that's Brilliant Cinema. Brilliant Cinema tends to push things a bit, sort of like having Brilliant Color on, with many DLP projectors. Still, it's a very useful mode when you want a good mix of lumens and picture quality.
While I don't think of the PLV-Z700 as a bright projector, it has enough lumens (given you treat Creative Cinema as best mode), to handle medium and even larger screens.