The goal of this section is to allow you to quickly read over our findings for different projectors, all in one place. This year's report is tackling it more efficiently.
For image quality, our primary concerns will be:
Out of the box color (without adjustment)
Naturalness of flesh tones
Black levels and shadow detail
Overall image quality ( "feel" of the projector). My partially subjective opinions on "film-like performance", ease of watching, and for lack of a better term, "wow factor" (some projectors just look good, and others make you think "awesome", even though they may technically be very, very similar).
Let's get started!
1080p Home Theater Projectors - Out of the Box Picture Quality
First things first: While the "out of the box" picture quality varies significantly (from not very good to extremely good), not one projector reviewed couldn't be improved with a good calibration. We always recommend you get your projector calibrated to get the most out of it. Best of course, is a professional calibration (unless you have the gear to do it yourself), but, alternately, you can improve a projector's performance even with a basic end user calibration disc. The third alternative is to try the calibration settings we provide. They aren't quite as in-depth as a full professional calibration, but readers consistently report a significant improvement with our settings, compared to out of the box performance.
$2100 and under 1080p Home Theater Projectors
This year there are five projectors in this group of entry level priced 1080p projectors. They cover a street price range of about $500 (US pricing).
Our focus here, is on "best" mode - usually the least bright, but designed to be the most perfect for viewing movies.
Sanyo PLV-Z700 projector
In the Sanyo PLV-Z700 review, we described the out of the box quality as "reasonably good, and definitely not great". The overall starting image is slightly warm (reddish), and the projector is a bit weak in terms of shadow detail (improved by adjusting the brightness).
Mitsubishi HC5500 projector
The HC5500 was a little better than the Sanyo, but still only "pretty good". Again, major improvements will be realized with a calibration.
Optoma HD806 projector
Another case of a "pretty good image, although not a truly great one".
Epson Home Cinema 6100 projector
The Home Cinema 6100, Epson's entry level 1080p projector, did a lot better than most: "The Epson 6100 is very good, right of the box in TheaterBlack 1 image mode - its "best" mode." "Skin tones need to look really good, and this Epson passes that test. After we fine tuned it, they looked even better." You'll get most of your money out of this one without calibration, but at least try our calibration settings, you should like them better.