Projector Reviews

1080p Comparison Report – Image Quality14

The BenQ W20000 is no slouch either. Very good color, and skin tones. It sort of fits about half way between the IN83 and the Planar in some regards, and costs less than either. Even though on dark scenes, it bests the IN83 for blacks, the two are close enough that, while the W20000 is very good in all other areas, the IN83 is just too good when it comes to color accuracy, and I have to favor it when thinking Overall Picture Quality.

As to the rest: The IN82 has great color, but it’s aging, and its likely lowest performance black levels of the group is enough to more than offset the color. It just comes up visibly short on most dark scenes compared to almost all the others in this group.

 

That takes us to our two “guess work” projectors – the Sony VPL-VW70 and the Optoma HD8000-LV. The Optoma’s strength is going to be elsewhere, not in picture quality. While it should be fine overall, its black levels probably kill it, compared to the field. (It is dynamic iris equipped, but haven’t found an Optoma yet whose iris I find acceptable for watching). On other older HD8xxx projectors, they tend to be mechanically noisy, and even if that’s not the case with the HD8000-LV, its tendency to rather visibily bump up or down the scene brightness several seconds after going from a dark, to bright scene. For that reason, I normally have disengaged the dynamic iris when reviewing other Optoma home theater projectors.

The Sony VPL-VW70 should be a serious contender. Certainly I really liked its predecessor, the VW60, and expect no less for the VPL-VW70. Color accuracy and film-like qualities should be excellent. If it could match the JVC RS10 consistently in black levels (not likely), and for that matter, in lumens, it probably would have been an award contender. Let’s say that if there is some reason that both of the JVCs just won’t work for you, then consider the VW70, to be, likely the next best thing in picture quality. Keep in mind, when I talk black levels between projectors that are close, and one has a dynamic iris (such as the Sony), and the other doesn’t (JVC RS10) then you can expect that dark scenes will be more dynamic on the projector without the dynamic iris, as projectors with dynamic irises tend to compress the brightest areas at least a little, so that their irises can accomplish their task.

1080p Projectors: Viewing HDTV, TV and Especially, Sports

Although this is the Picture Quality section, when I discuss HDTV and Sports I find that I cannot effectively do so, without bringing projector brightness into the equation. That’s one reason why I place this section below the Overall Picture Quality section, to isolate it a bit.

Simply stated, I work under the assumption, that when watching general TV/HDTV programming (not movies on HDTV, but the rest – American Idol, Price is Right, The Tonight Show, Gossip Girl, Heros, CNN, etc), and especially sports, that no one likes to watch in a “cave” – an otherwise pitch black room. Most of us prefer some lights on, or even a bit (not too much) coming in through windows. Oh, you might like that watching by yourself, but general programming and sports are just as often a family and or friends thing. You have no problem with conversation among watchers, in fact probably prefer it.

For that reason, a truly great projector for movie watching may not be barely acceptable for watching your favorite football team with a few friends over. Over here, for example, my wife and daughter often have a small crowd for American Idol and Gossip Girl. (No comment on that content from me – I fear for my life.)

Thus, projector brightness is a key factor, and most of us are willing to sacrifice black levels, even color accuracy, for a nice bright image.

For my comments I’m assuming a typical screen of about 100 inch diagonal. All of the projectors have enough muscle to handle that size for movies, but some may struggle in terms of brightness with some intentional ambient light present.

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$2100 and under 1080p Home Theater Projectors

Sanyo PLV-Z700 projector

While not one of the brighter projectors in this group in best mode, the PLV-Z700 does have a fair amount of muscle in its brightest mode, and that combined with overall picture quality, to be solid performer for this type of viewing.

Mitsubishi HC5500 projector

Start with the HC5500’s very good overall picture quality. Then factor in its brightness which is the least bright of this group, and the HC5500 is more likely to struggle even on a 100 inch screen when you have that football game on, and more than the bare minimum of ambient light.

Optoma HD806 projector

The Optoma is one of the two “light canons” in this group. The HD806 really comes into its own for sports viewing and general TV/HDTV programming. Assuming you aren’t rainbow sensitive, it’s right up there at the top with the Epson Home Cinema 6100. Actually, for things like sports, even those of us sensitive to rainbows, tend not to have a problem as those pesky rainbows are best seen when you have fast moving white objects against a large very dark background. You just won’t see that in a football game, or any other sport, and while some programming will have dark scenes, you are probably less critical for TV than for movies.

That makes the HD806 a great family room or bonus room projector for general non-movie viewing. As I said in the review, the HD806 is probably more at home as a projector in a sports bar, than in a home theater, but, then, if sports are your thing, and your room isn’t a “theater”, the HD806 may be just what you need for the upcoming March Madness basketball tournament.

Another strength for this type of viewing is the HD806’s inherently sharp image. One appreciates small differences in sharpness more with digital content (such as HDTV sports) than film based movies.