Projector Reviews

Under $5000 1080p Home Theater Projectors

Best In Class: Sony VW50 "Pearl"

Runner-up: Mitsubishi HC5000

Special interest: Panasonic PT-AE1000U

Sony VPL-VW50 - the Pearl - Home Theater Projector

A beautiful performing projector, the Sony Pearl has superb black levels, and rich colors. Sharpness is “good”, (generally considered a bit soft) but not as sharp as the best 1080p’s. Equipped with power focus, zoom and vertical lens shift, it is a versatile projector that will work in most rooms. One note, it’s not particularly bright in best mode. The Pearl gets top honors in the under $5000 group, in no small part because of those great black levels and accompanying shadow detail. Although the VW50 lists for $4995, it is widely and often rather significantly discounted.

The Pearl uses SXRD technology (LCOS). It has three panels (R,G,B), so has no color wheel and therefore no rainbow effect issues that might affect some. Being LCOS, it also has an essentially invisible pixel structure, so no Screen Door Effect. Sort of a projector for everyone.

Watching the Sony is extremely enjoyable.

Mitsubishi HC5000 LCD home theater projector

It was a tough call, between this and the Panasonic PT-AE1000U. The Mitsubishi’s strengths, include unmatched sharpness, and out of the box excellent performance. Being a typical LCD projector, pixels are just barely visible, in large bright stationary areas, or things like white movie credits on dark backgrounds, if you like to sit close. In all fairness, though, pixels are still a touch less visible than with a 720p DLP projector.

The image below is from “Starship Troopers” (standard DVD).

Erogonomically the Mitsubishi HC5000 is tough to beat – a wide range zoom lens, lens shift, and by far the quietest 1080p projector on the market, in fact so quiet, that it is probably quieter in “full power” (bright lamp) mode, than any of the other projectors in their low power (economy lamp) modes. In low power, it is for all practical purposes, silent.

 

The HC5000 isn’t particularly bright, and under normal circumstances is best with screen sizes from 92″ to perhaps 110″ maximum. If only Mitsubishi sacrificed the super quiet noise levels for a brighter lamp and a bit more fan noise… As I own a 128″ Firehawk screen, the Mitsubishi, like the Panasonic, and Sony were eliminated as possibles form my own home theater, because they just aren’t bright enough.

One thing about the Mitsubishi is truly sensational, and almost gave the HC5000 top honors: The razor sharpness of the HC5000 is unmatched among the seven 1080p projectors we have reviewed so far. Plus, colors are rich and dynamic. it is this combination that earns the Mitsubishi our runner-up status.