Projector Physical Appearance
I'll tackle two areas in the Physical Appearance section, first, general layout. We can assume, unless otherwise noted, that all these projectors have adjustable feet (at least one pair), control panels on the top, and inputs on the rear. The lenses are typically mounted offset to one side or the other, so I will only mention it if it is a centered lens (easier for installation). Some have motorized zoom and focus, some have lens shift (manual or motorized), etc. All this is documented in each review, so in this section, a short paragraph, and a link to the appropriate page in the original review.
The projectors in this report vary a great deal in styling, anywhere from ugly box to highly stylish. Most of us don't care what a projector physically looks like with the lights on, but some do. Then there's the "wife factor" - "that thing's too big and ugly to go in my room". I'm not a judge of esthetic beauty, so I'll just make a brief comment or two about each projector:
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1080p Projectors under $2100
Sanyo PLV-Z700 projector: It's white, has rounded corners, and is fairly small. A motorized door covers the lens when power is off. Not bad looking for a box!
Mitsubishi HC5500 projector: Medium sized, it is styled with a dark finish, a protruding lens with hood far to one side. Some say it looks really cool, but doesn't do that much for me.
Optoma HD806 projector: A smaller projector with an off white finish, sloping front, chrome looking protruding lens. I guess you could say it has a Euro-look (no offense to you folks in the EU). An interesting look. Not bad!
Epson Home Cinema 6100 projector: The older Home Cinema 1080 that the 6100 replaces had a rather impressive sculpted look. Sadly Epson has replaced it with a box. The've added a touch of interesting trim, but it's still a fairly small white box with some silver/gray.
InFocus X10 projector: All the InFocus projectors have the same look, and it is a classy one. All slow curves giving an oval look. Nothing jumps out at you, the lens is recessed, set back in a flat surfaced front with extended trim all the way around. To make it prettier, they could remove the large white InFocus on the top. The X10 does not have adjustable feet, but instead comes with an attachable stand. If possible it looks even better on the stand. The X10 lacks a control panel, relying on its remote instead.
$2100 - $3500 1080p Home Theater Projectors
BenQ W5000 projector: It's big, white with lots of sliver and gray trim and a visible front grill. It's probably the widest projector in the whole report. The large lens hood protects the recessed and centered lens. The projector slopes back a little to the sides, so it definitely has some style to it. Ceiling mounted, the large center area starting by the lens and housing the control panel, makes this projector stand out. I may be biased, having owned two BenQ projectors that looked similar, but for a big box, it looks pretty good. Not an award winner, but an attention getter.
Epson Home and Pro Cinema 6500UB, 7500UB projectors: Two more Epsons all in the same box as described above. A box with a bit of trim attempting to dress it up. The good news is that the Pro version come finished in a shiny piano black, and definitely have more class than the home version. Guys, that's your angle with the wife, if you want the Pro for whatever reason. The lens is not recessed.
Epson Pro Cinema 7100 projector: See the comments immediately above.
Panasonic PT-AE3000 projector: Sorry Panasonic, from a styling standpoint, the only award this projector could earn is "most industrial looking box". It is a medium-large projector finished in a dark gray. Of note, the Panasonic has a centered lens, and its control panel hides behind a door on the right side (if looking from the front). Hey, considering the PT-AE3000 is the best selling 1080p projector, what does that say about our taste?
Optoma HD8200 projector: Finally Optoma has a new design for their projectors (a couple of 720p's are in biz projector boxes). This Optoma looks good! A nice medium sized projector, longer than wider. The lens is centered and not quite recessed. The cable connection area in the back is deeply recessed. The HD8200 lacks a control panel, there's just a power switch on one side. For the rest, grab the remote.
Sanyo PLV-Z3000 projector: This Sanyo is the same smaller box as the lower cost Z700, with the key difference being a dark gray finish. Again, the lens has a motorized cover when the projector is not in use. A decent looking projector for a box!
Sony VPL-HW10 projector: The Sony looks good. It's similar looking to the Optoma HD8200, being moderately large, narrow and deep. The front has angles moving back to the sides, with the center area dropping back. The centered lens isn't recessed per se, but is recessed to the parts of the front that come out the most. The black piano finish and light sculpting of lines gives it some style. The HW10 has a very small control panel on one side, and the inputs on the other. You'll either like or hate the inputs on the side, depending on which side is visible to the people in your room.
Mitsubishi HC6500, HC7000 projectors: This is a new look for Mitsubishi, and it looks good. An almost black "metallic" finish and a some nice sculpting, both of these models "look fast". The lens hood is large and sticks out quite a bit.
Viewsonic Pro8100 projector: The Viewsonic is a classy looking projector, mostly black piano finish with a tasteful amount of gray trim around the center mounted, recessed lens, and on the top behind the lens. It is a medium-large projector, but a bit less bulky, than say the Sony.