The 2016 Home Theater Projectors Report: Best In Class Award Winners

Posted on September 22, 2016 by Art Feierman
This year's list of winners for for our Home Theater Projectors Report are organized into five "classes," that is, price range/categories, plus a Best of the Best!  As such, we ended up with more awards than usual.  Go figure! View the top 4k projectors in 2021. If you are in a hurry to see the winners by category, scroll down! In addition to a respectable number of "carry over" projectors from last year's report, (models that that are still current), we managed to review an additional 14 home entertainment and home theater projectors in the past 12 months. These awards go to projectors that are current models, which Projector Reviews has reviewed.  We don't get to review them all, especially as there are perhaps two dozen of sub $1000 home entertainment models (many are below 1080p resolution which aren't included in this report).  We made one exception this year, giving an award to a projector seen, but not reviewed.
In addition, two award winners, and one that didn't, are included in this report, but whose reviews are not written up yet.  They were important to include to round out the competition, they should all be published by early October. We know there are some other good ones out there (mostly over $10,000, and especially over $30,000) that we never get a chance to review.  We again have a Best of the Best award. Some insights regarding the contestants, and the awards: Epson, easily won the most awards, but not surprising since they  have, by far, the most projectors in their line-up. Only Epson, JVC, Sony, Vivitek have projectors over $5000 in this report.  Perhaps the fact that Epson has far more models on the market (25+ if you count all variations) than anyone else, and that they are in all market segments, is why they have close to 50% of the US market share, per industry research firm PMA.  (That they make some pretty good projectors helps too, of course!)  As to over $4000 projectors, this will change next year, with the surfacing of DLP projectors using TI's new 4 Megapixel DLP chips (like pixel shifting 1080p projectors - they are faux-K, not true 4K, no matter what the "Blu-ray UHD" folks calls them).  I would expect to see Optoma, BenQ, Viewsonic and other DLP projector manufacturers to launch home models. Only Sony is shipping true 4K projectors at the time of this publication. After Epson, in total number of home projectors, comes Optoma, with 10 projectors.  Most companies have between 4 and 8.
JVC had only 3 different models, and two wins!  Two of their three are essentially identical except one has tighter quality control (best optics, etc.) for an extra $3000.  We reviewed that one (RS600U, but not the RS500U).  Note I said "had", make that four JVCs, as they just announced their high brightness, big bucks 4K projector to do battle with the flagship Sony, and showing it at CEDIA, for a mere $35,000.  Hmm, you can get a basic Lexus for that kind of pocket change. Note, Sony and Epson, in particular, have different model numbers in the EU and other parts of the world, compared to the US.  Not all models sold there, are sold here, and vice versa. LG only makes small solid state projectors. The one LG PF85U in last year's report picked up an award. This year we reviewed 3 LG's but only 1 was 1080p or higher, and therefore the only one included. All together close to twenty five (30+ with variations),  current model projectors  have been considered. Finally, here are our winners:

Best Under $1000 (Entry Level) Projectors

Best In Class - Performance:  BenQ HT3050

Best In Class - Value:  Epson Home Cinema 2040 / 2045

Best In Class - Value - Runner-Up: ViewSonic PJD-7822HDL
note, still the lowest cost 1080p projector around)

Best In Class - Bright Room:  Tie:
Epson Home Cinema 1040

Best $1000 - $2000 Projectors

Winner - Best In Class:  Sony VPL-HW45ES

Runner-Up - Best In Class:  Optoma HD161X / HD50

Best In Class:  Special Award*:  LG PF1000U

Best In Class:  Bright Room Epson Home Cinema 1440

*Epson announced at CEDIA 2016 improved replacements - the HC3700, HC3800), which look to be logical replacements for their HC3500/HC3600e last year's runner's up award winner.  Will the new ones be better than the Optoma (or even the Sony)?  Check out our forthcoming review of one of new Epsons in the Oct/Nov timeframe.

*Special Award?  The LG is truly an intriguing projector. It's picture quality isn't up to some of the others, but it should have a lot of appeal, for other reasons.  It needed an award, but really isn't the great "value," nor the tops in "performance."

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Best $2000 - $4000 Projectors

Winner - Best In Class - Performance :  JVC DLA-RS400U

Winner - Best In Class - Best Value Proposition:   Epson Home Cinema 5040UB, Pro Cinema 6040UB

Best $4000+ Projectors

Winner Best In Class: Performance JVC DLA-RS600U

Runner-Up Best In Class  Epson Pro Cinema LS10000*

Epson announced the LS10500, a replacement for the LS10000 adding additional support for 4K protocols, including HDR.  Would the LS10500 beat out the RS600U, if we had it and already reviewed it?  That's a good question, to find out, check out our upcoming review before year end 2016.

Sony announced the VPL-VW675ES at CEDIA, not only 4K, but more advanced than the competition (and even other Sony 4K projectors)  with Hybrid Log-Gamma (that's a mouthful), which is the new standard put forth for broadcast and streaming 4K content.

Best 4K Capable Projectors up to $20,000

A qualifying note:

This category considers three types of home theater projectors:

A.  Those that are native 4K, with the manufacturer stating that their projectors support the new Blu-ray UHD standard.

B.  Those that are native 1080p, but will accept 4K content including manufacturer support for the new Blu-ray UHD standard. Most will support HDR, but whether projectors (or LCDTVs) are really bright enough to take full advantage of High Dynamic Range remains unclear.  Certainly HDR is different, more eye popping.

C.  Those that use a DLP 4 megapixel chip. (true resolution half way between A and B.  None shipping yet, but a number of companies will be launching commercial and home projectors in the upcoming months starting before end of 2016.  This chip also does pixel shifting.  The size of the pixels is half of that of 1080p pixel shifters, but still twice the size of true 4K.  Since none are yet shipping, none were eligible for awards this year.  But, look out next year.

4K Capable: Winner: - Best Performance:  Sony VPL-VW665ES (true 4K).  You will be buying the newer VW675ES, which starts shipping this fall.  This is one sweet projector to watch 4K on!

4K Capable:  Winner - Best Value:  Epson Home Cinema 5040UB/Pro Cinema 6040UB (pixel shifting 1080p projectors).  Yes, it will cost you less than $3000 to own a 4K capable projector with impressive performance.

Best of the Best: Home Theater Projector

Best of the Best:  Sony VPL-VW5000ES

5000 lumens, true 4K,  Stunning picture, $60,000

Sony long ago promised they'd give me a chance to review it, but it hasn't happened yet.  From our meeting at CEDIA, looks good for my getting a crack at it in late October or November.

I can't wait!





Noteworthy Non-Winners: (includes some that won awards last year)

The following are still other noteworthy projectors, that were seriously considered for but didn’t make the final cut for the Best In Class awards.  All won awards.

Listed by price, lowest to highest:

Optoma HD-141X (now the 142X)

Epson Pro Cinema 1985WU  High brightness with CFI

Sony VPL-VW65ES  - A beautiful picture, but lacks the 4K capability of it's closest competitors

Epson Pro Cinema LS9600  basic 1080p projector with a dual laser design, impressive performance

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