Projector Reviews

1080p Comparison Report – Image Quality12

Sony VPL-VW70 projector

Once again, I must conjecture about the VW70. There are several projectors that I really would have liked to have reviewed before this report published, but none more so than Sony’s VPL-VW70 projector. The older VW60 that it replaces was truly an excellent projector, and expecting only minor improvements, I would expect the VW70 to be a top contender. The VW60 had just about the best black levels last year, shy of the two JVC’s and I expect that would remain true this year. Shadow details on the older Sony were typical for this class. Not the best, I considered them to be not quite as good as the JVC RS1. Thus, I would project that, overall, the VW70 has great (almost as good as the RS10) black levels, and similar shadow detail. That’s the best I can do, until one finally arrives. At that point, I will comment in detail within its review.

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Overall Color & Picture Quality

I’m going to keep this very short, since I consider this to a large degree to be subjective. Instead of going into each projector, and trying to describe its overall Color and Picture Quality, I’ll comment on them together. In some cases I’ll mention the brighter modes, especially for sports and general HDTV/TV viewing, where I see something special.

$2100 and under 1080p Home Theater Projectors

In our entry level category all of the projectors but one are generally fairly comparable. There aren’t great differences in terms of black level performance or shadow detail, but how accurate the colors are does vary, as does the amount of wow factor, when watching.

Overall, I favor the Epson Home Cinema 6100, despite its less than the best skin tone performance (very good overall, but shows weakness when watching lower quality content). The Home Cinema 6100 does exhibit the best black levels, and it also has the most dynamic looking image. That extra amount of dynamic look (“pop and wow”), has strong appeal to the typical home theater projector buyer. It means less to the hard core enthusiast looking for the technically most perfect looking image. As an added bonus, a properly tuned Epson really is spectacular on sports and HDTV viewing, in part due to the Picture Quality, but definitely assisted by all those spare lumens the Epson has to throw at your screen. The Epson also has the advantage of extra lumens so that it can also look better on larger screen sizes than several of the others.

Only the Optoma HD806 can match the Epson in terms of maximum lumens, but it isn’t a match in most other categories. No threat there.

After the Epson, my money is on the InFocus X10, thanks to great skin tones and shadow detail, even if black levels are not the best of the group. While the black level/shadow detail combination (including the slighly low gamma) inherently give the X10 less “pop” than the Epson, if all else is equal, the InFocus has the second most lumens in best mode (by a substantial margin) and that means plenty of extra power to give you a bright dynamic look.

Only the HD806 has more lumens in best mode than the X10, but still has to be considered the weakest of the group, thanks to its very unimpressive black level performance. In that regard, it is the only other projector (besides the X10), (theoretically) that can handle a really large screen, and it can go even larger. The HD806 may be a very good projector for that reason, for those who just want a bright projector and are very non-critical about everything else.

That brings us to the other two 3LCD projectors in this group. I have to pick the Mitsubishi over the Sanyo for overall picture quality. They are close, but the skin tones are slightly better (based on our calibrations) on the HC5500. The Mitsubishi also has a slight edge in black level performance. The reason the Sanyo picked up an award, and the HC5500 didn’t, has nothing to do with this area, but rather things like price, features, etc.

I think the HC5500 has the advantage in most of the areas considered, relative to the Sanyo. Any of the 3LCD models, as well as the InFocus X10, are perfectly fine in terms of overall picture quality to serve as an “entry level” 1080p projector, even for those who have higher standards, but not the budget to move up into more expensive, higher performance projectors. Most likely, other things, like budget, brightness and features, and of course, the ability to work in your setup, will be your deciding factors.

Above, Gandalf in Lord of the Rings, shot with the older Epson Home Cinema 1080 from my original Epson Ensemble HD.