Projector Reviews

Best Home Theater Projector Report 2013 – Image Quality 2

$2000 - $3500 1080p Home Theater Projectors

BenQ W7000

Out of the box color of the W7000 has never been as good as one would hope, but it is easy to tweak. Our settings should make for a nice improvement.

That said, BenQ projectors always calibrate nicely. “The skin tones the W7000 displays are rich and accurate, as one would expect from a very good DLP projector.”  Later on, I continued with: “Great looking colors and skin tones, great shadow detail. The BenQ really pops.”  Although we found the pre-production W7000 to be mediocre on blacks, a terrible surprise since we expected the same performance as the older 2D W6000 (now discontinued).  Fortunately, when we were able to bring in a full production W7000 projector, it, as expected, delivered the “ultra-high contrast” blacks we anticipated.  Not the best at blacks, but definitely up there with the likes of the Panasonic PT-AE8000U and other more expensive projectors.

All told a great picture, just be sure to calibrate it, or use our settings, because either should really improve the “out of the box” experience.

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Epson Home Cinema 5020, 5020e

Overall, Epson UB (Ultra-black) projectors, the HC5020 and HC5020e produce a well balanced image. These Epson projectors are best known for exceptional black level performance for the price, but the overall color starts out really good, out of the box in several modes, including THX.

Don’t forget the really great dark shadow detail.  The simple truth it is on dark scenes where the Epson Home Cinema 5020 and 5020e are at their very best, not that a beautiful afternoon scene isn’t just dandy.

Right, off of HDTV, the Epson Home Cinema 5020UB shows off it’s dynamic range and black level performance   

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Calibrated, skin tones almost always look excellent, but not quite as natural as on a few more expensive projectors. Until this year when we started calibrating projectors’ individual colors the Epson’s oft had the slightest tinge of green yellow to skin tones, that the average viewer would never notice. With the CMS calibration, I’ve truly enjoyed the HC5020UB I have here these past four months.

3D is brilliant, or as close to it as today’s under $10,000 home theater projectors get. The Cinema 3D and THX 3D modes both look reasonably natural for being in 3D mode.  Dynamic 3D however, slightly over the top, and a bit off (we didn’t try to adjust it at all), though comes in handy when you need bright.  Not bad.

Overall, Image quality only rivaled by the Sony VPL-HW50ES, which is the one I find a touch more natural.

Epson Pro Cinema 6020

We did receive a Pro Cinema 6020 UB as well as an HC5020.  I ran some measurements and the two performed about as close as you would expect two essentially identical projectors to perform.

Just for fun, you could say the picture of the Pro Cinema 6020 should be insignificantly better in a dedicated home theater due to the black case reflecting less light in the room than the HC5020’s mostly white case.  How’s that for splitting hairs?

JVC DLA-X35, DLA RS46

A really nice picture.  Nothing to offend anyone.  Skin tones are good, although not exceptional, and that’s due to the inability to calibrate this JVC perfectly. Blacks can’t quite get as black on dark scenes as two others in this class, but are still great for the price range.  Besides, these JVC X35 blacks are always blacker than any other competiting projectors on brighter scenes, as this JVC has more dynamic range to it’s picture than the competition.

The DLA-X35’s only real weakness is lack of a full set of calibration controls.  You just won’t get the color as perfect as most other top competing projectors, but it’s still a great picture.

Mitsubishi HC7900DW

Mitsubishi makes great “little” DLP projectors that look really good when filling reasonable sized screens.  The HC7900DW’s overall picture would have to be considered most impressive.  This is a DLP projector without any real rough edges. Rich, vibrant colors comes to mind. Blacks are decent, but this is Mitsubishi’s “family room version”, while the $500 more HC8000D similar but targeting the theater, has the better blacks.

The second sentence I wrote on the Image quality page of the HC7900DW review, sums things up:  “It is a projector that has especially good image quality, most notably in terms of the naturalness of skin tones.”

Mitsubishi HC8000D

So similar to the HC7900DW, the picture of the HC8000D is just slightly better than the HC7900D’s but for that it gave up some real brightness when calibrated.  The HC8000 is a DLP projector that might be described as having a precise picture quality. In describing skin tones in the review I said this:  “Hard to beat the Mitsubishi HC8000D in terms of reproducing skin tones post calibration. Impressive!

Remember, I didn’t review these two projectors at the same time, or even sequentially, but the conclusions were essentially the same.

While the HC8000D is not great on lumens to start,it manages to muster up about the same 3D brightness as the HC7900DW, perhaps a little brighter even, when using the HC8000D’s proprietary 3D glasses.  That’s still not enough for bright on anything but small screens, but the HC8000D has particularly good color in 3D.

Panasonic PT-AE8000

I think Panasonic’s PT-AE8000U is a great projector, it’s just not one of my favorites.  Colors are excellent post calibration, with probably more modes than any other projector, count a few of them to be very good, right out of the box.  My only complaint about image quality, is that the PT-AE8000U just can’t match the black level performance of the best in the class, the Epsons, JVC, and Sony.

On the other hand, I do really like it’s ability to let you see your changes as you adjust some of the image features, via a side by side, so that half the screen shows you what you started with, and the other half reflects the changes you made.

Right, PT-AE8000U, from Star Trek

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Other than black levels, I could only criticize the PT-AE8000U for having a little less “pop” than the best of the competition, but that’s likely at least part the lesser black level performance.  The Panasonic PT-AE8000U is another “forgiving” projector, that tends to look really good, no matter what content you send its way.  The PT-AE8000 is almost as bright as you can get in a high quality, under $10,000 projector when it comes to 3D brightness.  Great color that’s dim, isn’t great. This projector is a light canon when it needs to be.

Sony VPL-HW50ES

Despite my love of a good DLP projector (notably in moderately dark scenes), for image quality, this Sony VPL-HW50ES is my favorite in the $2000 – $3500 price class. Not only does it do great blacks, but the skin tones are the most natural, in my opinion.  Or perhaps I should say:  The HW50ES is the most transparent projector in the group.  It’s the one that seems to least ‘be there”.

Right: HW50 projecting the Victoria Secret Fashion Show recorded from HDTV (DirecTV)

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When watching some projectors you say, “wow, this projector looks great”. With this HW50ES you say, “the movie looks great.”

In a perfect world your projector neither adds nor subtracts anything from the content, it passes everything through without compromise.  Of course the perfect projector doesn’t exist.  Still the HW50ES, like the more expensive Sony projectors this year, all seem to be among the few that seem very neutral and transparent.  I’ve often described a couple of more and way more expensive Runco projectors that way.  Blacks are great in the class, even if the Epson might just beat out this Sony by a very small amount, in terms of blackest blacks.  Close enough to be an effective tie.

Great picture!  And for those who dream of single chip DLP sharpness, Reality Creation can’t undo 3 panel convergence imperfection, but this very smart detail enhancement solution will likely have you thinking it is as natively sharp as a good DLP, even if that sense is accomplished with advanced image processing.