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Best Home Theater Projector Report - Sharpness Performance

Posted on November 6, 2013 by Art Feierman

Projector Sharpness

Projector sharpness is very good on all these 1080p projectors, but there are still differences.Not one of the projectors covered has an image that appears sufficiently soft or lacking in detail, to be a serious issue. That said, some folks will consider sharpness differences between some of these projectors to be enough to consider it in their final decisions.

A few thoughts before we get started. It seems that these days, the sharpest projectors tend to be the DLP projectors. While there are some very sharp 3LCD projectors, I'd say the best of the 3LCD crowd still doesn't appear quite as sharp as most of the DLP models, nor do any other 3 panel projectors including all those Sony and JVC LCoS projectors.

Of the three projector technologies, only DLP is a single chip. LCoS and 3LCD both use three panels (red, green, blue) and recombine the light using a dichroic prism. Combining the three beams (red, green, and blue) back into one image is never perfect. And because of that, the single chip design of DLP's offer an inherently slightly sharper image.

Only the final image counts.

One more thing: A number of projectors are now featuring digital correction to allow better pixel alignment. That includes all the JVCs and Sonys the Epson UB's...  I'd rather have great panel alignment and not need these controls but they can make some real improvement with a projector that's got one color more than a half pixel wide, to more than one pixel out of alignment.   Everything helps but nothing like native sharpness to begin with.

Sharpness controls are getting fancy and dynamic, and you'll see "detail enhancement associated with them too.  I'm talking the likes of Sony's Reality Creation, JVC's MPC/e-shift2, Epson's Super-Resolution as good examples.  These can really make an image look sharper, but doing so with out side effects in the challenge.  So far, Sony's Reality Creation is my pick for best of the lot.  I can make the argument that, for example, Reality Creation engaged wisely might have folks thinking it's as sharp or sharper than a good single chip DLP.

The last point I would like to make is film vs. digital. We have been in love with movies for about 100 years, and, with the few exceptions, movies are shot with film. Film has its own artifacts, most notably film grain.  As a result a pure digital image appears sharper than a film image delivered digitally. While you can discern the native differences between good DLP projectors and the others, on film, it's going to be more noticeable with all digital content.

The Sharpest image of all the projectors has to be the Sony VPL-VW1000ES.  It's the only true 4K projector, so it's pixel size is 1/4 that of all the others.

After that, in previous years I would have said: Consider all the single chip DLP projectors (despite some variations) to be next sharpest.

But this year with dynamic detail enhancment features I'd put the Sony HW50ES right up there with the really good DLP projectors, and the JVC's with e-shift close behind.

Epson's Super-Resolution is not quite as good, I'd still give most DLP projectors the perceived sharpness nod over the Epson UB.  Again, these dynamic sharping/enhancment systems are not really making the image natively sharper, but they can fool you, as long as you don't push them far enough to easily see the related trade-offs.

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