$2100 - $3500 1080p Home Theater Projectors
Since we are only considering overall color and picture quality, and other key issues, such as brightness, price, features and placement flexibility aren't factors here, you may be a bit surprised by some of my thoughts. Here goes:
For this category, the projectors I think are the most outstanding include the BenQ W5000, the Epson Home Cinema 6500UB and Pro Cinema 7500UB, the Panasonic PT-AE3000, the Sony VPL-HW10 and finally the Mitsubishi HC7000.
Not that they aren't also good projectors, most of the non UHC projectors don't score as well in my personal opinion. Of my favorites, the BenQ W5000 is a cut below the others in terms of black levels, but it has a great look and feel to the picture that puts it up there with the others.
While overall, I favor the Epson UB projectors over the Panasonic PT-AE3000, they are definitely, as far as I'm concerned, about tied in overall picture quality. The Panasonic has the advantage in terms of film-like performance. It is very natural looking, but less dynamic than the Epson. Still the Epson easily offsets that with its black level performance advantage.
I find the Sony VPL-HW10 is most similar to the Panasonic. I'd say it has a bit more "pop" to the picture, and can sometimes best the Panasonic in terms of black levels. I just can't pick a winner between those two.
The Mitsubishi HC7000 is very interesting too. Its black levels are pretty impressive, and its sharpness - something I decided to not spend much time on in this comparison report, also gives it extra advantage. The HC7000's weaknesses aren't related to picture quality. I found it to calibrate particularly well for color accuracy. Its higher price and lower lumen counts are what held it back in the award race, not its overall picture quality.
Sanyo's PLV-Z3000 is truly a great projector for its price, but we just couldn't get its color accuracy as good as most of the others (that slight yellow-green caste we couldn't lose), and it's black levels while excellent by most standards, were still the weakest of the UHC projectors in this price range, though far better than the rest of the field. As a result, for purposes of overall picture quality, it doesn't, in my mind, score as well as the Epson, Mitsubishi HC7000, the Sony, and the Panasonic. It has a definite advantage in black levels compared to the BenQ W5000, but not enough to offset the BenQ's color, and film-like performance.
That brings me to the Epson Home Cinema 7100, The Mitsubishi HC6500 and the Viewsonic Pro8100. All three are lower contrast projectors than the other 3LCD projectors. They vary a bit in terms of how good their colors are, and there are some differences in black levels, but they are easily grouped together, a notch down from the others. Of these, it's a tough call between the Epson and the Mitsubishi, with the Pro8100 a tad lower performance in my mind.
Finally that leaves the Optoma HD8200. Strangely, it's the only other DLP projector in this group (the BenQ W5000 being the other). When properly calibrated, its colors are pretty good. But its lackluster black level performance puts it at the bottom of this group. After all, someone has to be at the bottom. The HD8200 has its place in this group, and there is a target market of potential users that it can serve well, but for those ranking picture quality high in importance, the HD8200 isn't going to be their choice!
$3500 - $10,000 Home Theater Projectors
Click to enlarge. So Close. BenQ W20000 - House of the Flying Daggers
Now we are getting into premium projectors, and for the most part, if you are spending upward of $3500, then Overall Picture Quality is extremely important to you. Sadly, the inability to get the Sony VPL-VW70 (and for that matter the brand new Samsung SP-A900) reviewed befor this report, does leave a few questions unanswered, but here's my best take.
Forget the rest. The JVC DLA-RS20 owns top honors for Overall Picture Quality. Not far behind, though, are their less expensive DLA-RS10, the Planar PD8150, and the InFocus IN83. Most likely the Sony VPL-VW70 belongs in this second tier as well, and we'll be sure to comment when we review it.
Click Image to Enlarge
The InFocus IN83 is the biggest anomaly of the group above. It is the only one without really great black levels, but manages to make up for it, as I keep saying, with the most accurate, natural color, of any of the projectors. I would worry that that may just be how we calibrate, but the InFocus projectors as a group, repeatedly exhibit the great color. As excellent a picture as I'm getting from my new JVC RS20, when I put that side-by-side with the IN83, I was very surprised to see that the IN83 looked better still in terms of skin tones. Until that moment I was 110% satisfied with the RS20's color. In fact, I have been unable to find flaw with the RS20's colors watching the projector extensively, it was only that side by side, that let me see it could be better still.
Since the IN83's "flaw" is its black levels, it may well be the best choice for many folks, where they can't fully darken a room. Or, more to the point, its overall picture quality significantly closes the gap if your room has light walls, where the reflected light from the screen image, ultimately bounces back and washes out the blackest blacks significantly.
Back to the rest. I really would have liked to have had the Planar PD8150 here at the same time as the JVC RS10. That should have made for a very interesting comparison. Both have similar black levels, although the DLP Planar, needs its dynamic iris to get up where the RS10 lives all the time in terms of blacks. It would have made a great comparison - LCoS vs. DLP. Many still swear by DLP, so that would have been very telling.