Best In Class Runner-Up, 3D and 2D Projector (Two Way Tie): Acer H9500BD
This Acer H9500BD (click for full review) was my biggest surprise last year, for the Home Theater Report. Acer of course has been around a really long time on the business and education projector side, but never made a real impression on the home theater side. Until this past year with this Acer and the lower cost H6500 (being replaced with the H6510BD), it had been 4 years since we looked at a "crossover" style low cost home projector from Acer.
This H9500BD (click for specifications), though is a very serious home theater projector that's also usable in a family room type world. It brings to the party, 1080p resolution, 3D as well as 2D, lens shift (horizontal as well as vertical), and best in class black level performance. Stop right there! Best In Class black levels! Yes around here, that's the kind of thing that helps grab a top award. Let me clarify that black level statement. There's one serious competitor, that is probably its equal, and that's also a projector in our second consecutive annual report. I'm talking the BenQ W7000. The W7000 doesn't get an award this year, but it should be mentioned here. Last year the BenQ picked up a Best In Class Runner-Up award, and did so in the $2000-$3500 class. This year it's just below the $2000 mark on the streets.
The thing is, the Acer is a still a better value. I figure in this price range cost of operation is also an important factor. That BenQ gobbles up lamps a lot faster (electricity too) . Then there's Acer's 3 year warranty compared to BenQ's 1 year.
The Acer H9500BD which sells for a street price of about $1300 or less, offers more bang for the buck than any of the other 3D capable DLP projectors near the price. This Acer projector gives you a zoom lens with good range: 1.5:1, which when combined with lens shift - (yes, both vertical and horizontal), makes it tie as placement flexibility champ - of the DLP projectors under $2000, (never mind only those under $1300) projectors. That other DLP projector is the 2D only BenQ W6000.
Let's consider some of those issues. Len shift controls are clunky. Of course if you are mounting you'll, you'll only need to adjust it once. The Acer flashes and flickers more than most, when syncing up with the usual HDMI sources is another. Menus could have a few more operational features. The one that really can be annoying is that you basically need to turn off 3D to watch 2D. Most projectors have an Auto feature. Here if you have 3D on (from your last viewing), you can't get to the full menus, only the 3D menu. You have to know to turn off 3D, to get your proper color and mode settings for 2D. Sorry, that's downright silly design. All of these are mostly minor inconveniences. I've got one more item, a more serious one, for you to consider:
While the Acer delivers great blacks for the money, the iris could be a bit less noticeable. I don't know if the iris algorithm has changed since the original Acer review, but I did watch all of Hunger Games on this new Acer, and I couldn't help but notice that the iris can "yo-yo" in mid-brightness scenes, with just slight changes to the overall image brightness such as a person in a bright shirt moving around. Sometimes this was too obvious. To make sure I wasn't being unreasonable, or finicky, the next night I had on much of the same Hunger Games scenes, but this time using the Epson Home Cinema 5020UB. No comparison, the Epson's iris (none are perfect) definitely handled those same scenes with it's iris being much better behaved. Consider the Acer's iris action to be a performance weakness that is more serious than the other mentioned items, some of which are simply convenience, and don't affect the picture you are watching.
This Acer H9500BD also has CFI - Creative Frame Interpolation - for smooth motion. Try that on your sports. If you like it on other things too, go for it. CFI is a feature just starting to show up in projectors selling for under $1500, which is another feature that helps separate the H9500BD projector from most of the competition.
The new Acer H9500BD we brought in a couple of weeks ago, with the added color controls measured a little lower than last year's sample, but not enough to really be considered beyond to say it's not surprising. The better you calibrate a projector, the more likely you'll end up with a few less lumens.
Overall, the Acer H9500BD is a really impressive value. If the iris action doesn't bother you, it's a superb value. In the last year plus, the Acer H9500BD seems to have gathered a respectable following.