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What You Need To Know About the 2013 Best Home Theater Projector Report

Posted on November 6, 2013 by Art Feierman

Those of your who are regular readers of our reviews and articles should find this overview helpful, but this particular section is written primarily for those who are new to and new to home theater projectors.

Those of you who read last year's reports will recognize that many topics discussed within, are slightly updated versions from the previous report.

Greetings, this is our 2013 edition of our Best Home Theater Projector Report.

To assist those not familiar with our site, or for that matter, our projector review layouts, and writing style, this guide should prove to be helpful.

The topics covered are:

  • What's in this Report
  • Defining your expectations: Are you an average consumer, enthusiast, or purist
  • Understanding your room environment in selecting the proper projector equipment

While my writing style definitely can ramble, I do pay close attention to word crafting. This is important so you can understand subtle differences. You should get different feels from phrases like very good, impressive, really good, especially good, rather excellent, excellent, superb, and others. Don't think that I use terms like "excellent" and "very good" interchangeably. By the same token, when I say "this $999 projector has excellent image quality for the price," that doesn't mean it's as good as a projector that's "excellent" in the $3500+ class.

Much of this report is subjective. You are reading my opinions as to how these projectors look and feel, and my take on which are best. I realize how hard it is to actually see a demo of most of these projectors before buying.

With that in mind, I take my reviewing seriously. I get to watch each projector extensively and play with each at length. From that, I draw my conclusions. Because there is subjectivity, my opinion isn't fact.  I try more to help you define which projector will serve you best, than to figure which projector is the best.

Unless you are on your 2nd or 3rd projector, you will almost certainly find your purchase of a home theater projector is most likely to significantly exceed your expectations.

When people ask me what I do: "I pay myself a bunch of money to sit home and watch movies and football games (HDTV)". It's not going to make me rich, but I do get to enjoy most of what this "job" entails!

Take your time. Consider your room, your expected viewing habits, and your budget, a few other questions, and it should all come together. We truly hope (and expect) that this year's report will be useful to those that read it.

What's In This Report

Here are some quick facts, starting with the mix of projectors covered in this report.

Organization: This report considers 27 1080p home theater projectors organized into three price tiers or "classes":  Under $2000, $2000-$3500, and $3500+.

These counts do not count "twins".  Thus, the Epson HC3020 and HC3020e are counted as one, and, the JVC DLA-X35 and DLA-RS46 are counted as one.  In some cases I may have both present, but still count as one.

31 Home Projectors considered in this year's report.  By the Numbers:

  • 14 Projectors in the Under $2000 price class
    • 5 of these projectors sell for under $1000
    • 1 seems to be borderline price wise:  The Sharp, sometimes available below $2k, sometimes not
    • 12 are DLP projectors, 3 are LCD, none are LCoS
    • 3 have what we call "ultra-high contrast" black level performance
    • All but 4 produce 1400 lumens or more in measured "brightest" mode
    • Surprisingly, 6 of these projectors have some amount of lens shift
    • 10 is the number projectors that are back again from last year's report
    • 7 are definite "light canons" that are very at home in "the family room"
    • 2 of the 3 LCD projectors are 2 of the 3 brightest of the 14 projectors
    • About half the projectors have built in speakers
    • Only one projector has Lens Memory (Sharp), 5 have CFI
    • The majority of projectors have a 1 year warranty, two have 2 years, the rest 3 years (see the warranty chart)
  • 9 Projectors in the $2000 - $3500 price class
    • The mix:  3 LCD (Epson, Panasonic), 2 LCoS (Sony, JVC) the rest DLP
    • All have at least some lens shift except the Viewsonic
    • 3 are "light cannons"  they are the 3 LCD projectors
    • 7 of the 9 are 3D capable (the exceptions:  Viewsonic, Vivitek)
    • The same 7 of the 9 offer "ultra-high contrast" black level performance
    • None of these projectors has an internal speaker
    • Lens Memory is found only on two projectors: JVC, Panasonic
    • Only the Viewsonic Pro9000 has a long life solid state light source (no lamp)
    • The LCoS projectors and the Mitsubishi HC8000D cost the most
    • Only the Viewsonic is back from last year, but the newer H5085 has started shipping
  • 8 Projectors are covered in the $3500 and up class
    • 3 of the 8 are very high end, costing $20,000 or more
    • True 4K is only found on the Sony VPL-VW1000ES, nothing comes close
    • All 8 have lens shift
    • 1 3-chip DLP (Runco LS10d), 3, single chip DLP, 4 LCoS, 0 LCD
    • All have CFI
    • All have ultra-high contrast black performance
    • Calibrated the 3 chip Runco, and the Sony, are by far the brightest
    • 5 of the 8 offer 3D (exceptions: 2 Runcos and the Optoma)
    • Only the LS10D comes with an outboard processor
    • Only the JVC and Sony projectors offer superb black level performance
    • Only the JVC projectors lack a dynamic iris

Note, we have four projectors over $10,000 in this 2013 report.  A Runco projector (LS10d), SIM2 Nero 3D2, Sony VPL-VW1000ES are all $20,000 plus.  There is also the JVC DLA-X95R at $11,999.

Projector pricing, for our different price classes, pricing is based on estimated "street price" from authorized dealers. We say authorized, because once in a while you may see what seems to be a price ridiculously lower than everywhere else, from a non-authorized dealer.

Due to promotions and price changes, we don't always get it right.  For example, this year, putting The Sharp XV-Z30000 in the under $2000, may have been a less than great choice. The Sharp was apparently available for under $1900, but now seems to be back around $2100.

These are the sections to the review, excluding this guide:


Home Page of the Best Home Theater Projector Report:

This page provides additional guidance, and offers information in three topics:

  • Overview: General information to get everyone started (including some basics from this page). Also in this section:
    Projectors listed by price Class, with direct links to the individual reviews, and to each projector's Specs page in our database
  • Highlights: A paragraph highlighting key aspects and features of each projector, organized by Class, and listed alphabetically
  • Special Features: Discusses a number of special features found on different projectors, such as dynamic irises, creative frame interpolation (CFI).

Projector Highlights

With one page for each of the three price ranges, these pages provides give you a 2-3 paragraph overview of each projector considered in this year's report.

Award Winners

This page links you to the individual awards pages for each of the winners this year. It is broken down by price range and by award.

Physical Tour

This page covers a number of topics. They are pretty much self-explanatory. The topics are:

  • Appearance (and physical layout)
  • Control Panel
  • Inputs and Outputs
  • Menus
  • Remote Control
  • Lens Throw and Lens Shift
  • Anamorphic Lens Support
  • Extended Tours (AKA links to the in-depth tours of each projector in their reviews)

Image Quality Page

This page touches on:

  • Out of the Box Picture Quality
  • Skin (Flesh) Tones
  • Black Levels and Shadow Detail
  • Color and Picture Quality (post-calibration)
  • HDTV (how well a projector is at handling general HDTV, and TV programming, and sports, including when ambient light is present)

Performance Page

This page covers:

  • Brightness
  • Sharpness
  • Audible Noise

It primarily consists of charts showing best and brightest modes of each projector.

Calibration Page

This page:

Discusses calibration briefly, and what it can do for you and your system.
Provides links to the individual Calibration pages in each projector's review.

Projector Screen Recommendations Page

Discusses some basics regarding matching projector to screen to room. It summarizes some things appearing in our multiple Projector Screen articles. For specific screen recommendations for a particular projector, visit that projector's review, many have a screens section.

Compare Projectors Page

Provides an overview for comparing projectors, and for using the many individual head-to-head projector comparisons.

It also includes links to 3 different comparisons between projectors considered this year.

Warranty Page

This page talks about typical warranties, shows the projectors listed by price class, discusses replacement programs briefly, and indicates the warranty of each projector.

Summary Page

One of the shortest pages - just a brief wrap up, and final thoughts - it is written last, and may touch on some things overlooked elsewhere.  It also has a short list of all the award winners by price.  On that note, only projectors that have won one of our Hot Product Awards, when reviewed, are eligible for Best In Class awards.  That makes sense, I trust!

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