1080p Projectors - Brightness
Before we get started in our discussion of how each projector does in terms of brightness, first a note about our measurements. A couple of months ago, we switched to new test equipment. We were aware that our old gear tended to consistently measure higher lumens than the results by other reviewers. The last few reviews we have done, have been with the new gear, which measures about 28% less. The lumen measurements listed in this section, and elsewhere in this article have been adjusted for consistency. As a result, the lumen numbers here, for all of the older reviews show lower measurements than appeared in their original reviews. This way, we are working with "apples to apples".
Since in many reviews we publish a large number of measurements - pre and post calibration, and often, multiple modes, if you want to take any lumen measurement in any of the reviews (the exceptions are the two most recent - the JVC RS10 and RS20 which have the "new" numbers in their reviews), just take the published numbers in those reviews and multiply by 0.72 to get the properly adjusted lumens.
All the lumen measurements posted in the charts below (and commentary) reflect the new, more accurate numbers!
There are two key aspects worth considering when considering a home theater projector's brightness. The first is how bright the projector is, in its "best" mode. Best mode, (typically that mode bares a name such as Theater, Cinema 1, Movie, etc.).
In "best" mode, a projector typically works at its dimmest, but provides its best color and black levels.
The other consideration is how bright a projector can get. Not everyone only wants to watch movies in a fully darkened environment. Many of us also watch TV/HDTV, and especially sports viewing. For most of that, we prefer to have some lights on. For this type of viewing, we are willing to compromise best picture quality a bit in exchange for enough lumens to make the picture nice, bright, and dynamic looking.
For that reason, we measure, for each projector, its "best" and "brightest" modes.
Keep this in mind. Some projectors may have all the lumens you need for your movie watching in "best" mode, but not enough to view sports and TV with some room lighting on. Other projectors may have lots of lumens in their brightest mode, perfect for that sports and TV on a large screen, but not enough lumens for that same screen, to fill it adequately in "best" mode.
Consider - some projectors have very little brightness difference between "best" and "brightest" - as little as, say, 10-20%. Others may have a bright mode with as much as three times the brightness of that projector's "best" mode.
It is therefore important to consider both the type of viewing you'll be doing, and your screen size, screen type, and room lighting.
$2100 and under 1080p Home Theater Projectors
Here are our brightness measurements for the Entry Level class. All
Sanyo PLV-Z700 projector
In its "best" mode, the PLV-Z700 is one of the least bright projectors out there. The good news is that it has three Cinema modes - Pure, which is the least bright, and very basic. Creative, which does more with iris, and dynamic controls that may affect contrast, etc., and deliver more lumens, and finally Brilliant Cinema, which pulls out all the stops. Brilliant Cinema isn't as good an image as Pure or many of the Creative Cinema options, but can still produce an impressive looking image, while delivering more than twice the lumens of Pure Cinema. This is covered in some detail in the PLV-Z700's review.
Still, anyway you look at it, the PLV-Z700 is a better fit for small and medium sized screens.
Mitsubishi HC5500 projector
The Mitsubishi HC5500 is one of those projectors that happens to be on the bright side, in "best" mode, but not dramatically brighter at its brightest. That makes it a good choice for those that are primarily focused on movie watching in the dark. It still manages, however, 764 lumens at its brightest, so can do a good job on those smaller screens with low ambient light levels for sports and general TV/HDTV type viewing.