Projector Reviews

1080p Projector Report – Best in Class Awards for 2009

1080p Home Theater Projectors - Our Award Winners

Awards are organized by the three Classes of Projectors
Entry Level Projectors $2100 and under (street price)
Medium priced projectors $2100 – $3500 (street price)
Higher End Projectors $3500 – $10,000 (street price)

Class: Entry Level Projectors: Under $2100, Street Price

While the Epson Home Cinema 6100 prices out higher than three of the other four projectors in this price range, it delivers a lot of extra performance over the competition. The Epson’s strengths fall in four categories: Brightness, black level performance, warranty, and placement flexibility.epson_home6500

Let’s start with brightness. In “best” mode (TheaterBlack1), the Epson is in the middle of the pack, just slightly less bright than the InFocus X10. White it is dramatically less bright than the Optoma HD806’s “best” mode, we don’t consider that a real factor, as the Optoma’s “best” mode performance isn’t as good as the Epson’s “brightest” mode performance. The Epson in “best” mode, easily tramples the other two 3LCD projectors in this group, in terms of sheer lumen output.

When considering “brightest” mode, however, the Epson is the brightest of the group, crushing the other 3LCD projectors in measured brightness, as well as the InFocus (which has well less than half the lumen output). The Optoma HD806 is the only one of the other four that comes close in brightness, but it can’t match the picture quality.

It comes down to this. Although the Epson doesn’t have enough lumens in its “best” mode to fill a larger than 110″ screen (normal screen surfaces, not high gain), for those that do want to go larger, Epson has multiple preset modes, and can still produce a good image capable of handling a larger screen.

In “brightest” mode, the Epson is a “light cannon”, easily able to handle my own 128″ Firehawk G3 screen, with moderate amounts of controlled ambient light. Only the Optoma comes close, and when comparing the two, in “brightest” mode, the Epson wins in terms of image quality.

In the quest for the best black level performance, none of these projectors can match any of the more expensive “ultra-high-contrast” projectors, but the Epson is the best of these five. Although the differences aren’t great, there is enough difference between the Epson and the others, to give it a real advantage with those seeking best overall image quality. Only the Mitsubishi HC5500 comes really close.

Warranty is another plus for the Home Cinema 6100 projector. Epson delivers a two year warranty, with their overnight replacement program for both years. While the Sanyo PLV-Z700 has a three year warranty (the only one of this group), the Epson replacement program is a real plus, putting the Epson warranty close overall to the Sanyo. The other three projectors have either a one or two year warranty, without any replacement type program.

As an added bonus, the longer than typical life lamp will save you money. It’s 3000 hours at full power is 50% longer than almost all projectors.

Placement flexibility has always been an Epson strength. Its 2.1:1 zoom lens range is the best of the field (even if only a hair better than the Sanyo PLV-Z700). A lot of lens shift, along with the zoom lens range, makes it the most flexible in terms of placement, with only the Sanyo PLV-Z700 coming close. The other three projectors all offer 1.2:1 zoom lenses, and no lens shift, restricting them, first of all, to ceiling mounting only (or tabletop). The Epson is just as at home whether you ceiling mount, shelf mount, or put it on a table top. As an added bonus, if you are ceiling mounting, you can change out the lamp without unmounting the projector. That’s a nice feature found in only about half of the home theater projectors out there.

No projector is perfect, but we’re talking “entry-level” 1080p projectors here. We looked and did a side by side with the not that much more expensive, Sanyo PLV-Z3000 (less than $500 more), an award winner in the next category up. The Z3000 is the least expensive of the ultra-high-contrast projectors, and the one with the weakest black level performance, but it still did noticeably better black levels. It would be easy to recommend to people looking for image performance to spend the extra for the Sanyo, but then there’s also the issue of the brightness differences, with the Sanyo PLV-Z3000 having only about 2/3rds the lumens in both “best” and “brightest” modes. So, yes, for less than $500 more, you can get better black levels, but only if you are willing to stick with a smaller screen size.

As you can imagine, the Epson’s own, more expensive 6500UB matches or beats the 6100 at everything, but the primary difference is dramatically (perhaps “drastically” is a better descriptor), better black levels. In other words, you can get the 6500UB with a couple of extra features, but primarily you are paying for black levels in a different class. The higher end Epson will set you back almost $1000 more, and that’s really enough price difference that the two Epsons aren’t really competitors.

The Epson does not support an external anamorphic lens, but that is not a significant factor. If you really want to spring $3000 – $4000+ for an anamorphic lens and sled, you almost certainly would spend the many hundreds more for one of the ultra-high-contrast projectors.

Bottom Line: We consider this Epson to be the Best In Class, of the lower priced projectors. The real challenge for most potential buyers, will be to determine if it’s worth the difference over the least expensive in this group. And, on the other side of the equation, you’ll need to decide if any of the few lower cost projectors in the next more expensive category, are within financial reach, and worth it to you for the extra black level performance (and other features).

The sheer brilliance of the Home Cinema 6100 really sets it apart from others in this class. When you need the lumens, it can deliver far more than the competion (at least 50% more). That, along with a rich dynamic image, with lots of “pop and wow” should keep all but the black level fanatics thoroughly happy.