if asked what one thing differentiates the Samsung SP-H710AE from it's competition, the answer would have to be (to paraphrase an old line): "It's the picture, stupid!". (no offense!)
SP-H710AE vs. Optoma HD7100
The Optoma offers slight advantages is placement flexibility, and does produce blacker blacks in the letter box area, etc, thanks to the Optoma's Darkchip3 DLP. The SP-H710AE, however definitely reveals more details in dark shadow areas, and the HD7100 does crush whites slightly. The two are similar, audible noise wise, with the Samsung SP-H710AE being quieter in full power mode than the Optoma HD7100.
Out of the box color accuracy of the Optoma wasn't bad at all, but no match for the SP-H710AE. They are also similar in brightness. The Optoma will provide more punch to the image, generally, which may make it the slightly better choice if you are fighting some ambient light, but on an HD-DVD movie, in a dark room, I have to vote for the Samsung. Again, I might recommend a masking projector screen for the Samsung, which would make - at least for my tastes - the SP-H710AE a better overall projector for movie viewing.
SP-H710AE vs. BenQ PE8720
Fair warning, I have owned a PE-8720 for about 10 months, and am most pleased. I would give my BenQ a definite, but slight edge in overall image sharpness, and it is punchier and more contrasty overall. Although similar in brightness, the dyamics of the images projected, give the BenQ a distinct advantage on a larger screen (like my 128"). I got plenty of back and forth viewing of the two projectors, and the SP-H710AE definitely wins the battle (however slight) in shadow details, loses it in general black levels, and wins in highlight details. I watch a lot of sports and Discovery HD type channels, Tonight Show in HD. I prefer my BenQ PE-8720 for sports (regular and HD) and HD content in general, from cable. To the best of my knowledge, right now, the BenQ is slightly more expensive, and has a 3 year warranty vs. two. I favor the BenQ as a slightly better, by virtue of being more flexible in terms of working well with a wide range of source material.
SP-H710AE vs 1080p home theater projectors including the Mitsubishi HC5000BL
All the 1080p projectors are more expensive than the Samsung, which I believe sells in the low-mid $3500 range. the 1080p's are initially selling for $4000 - $6000. Still, I suspect many of those looking for performance are interested in whether spending more for a 1080p is the right way to go. As a group, the 1080p projectors are about the same brightness as the Samsung - no "light cannons", so brightness overall, will not be a determining factor, unless some of the new 1080p DLP's coming out, do offer a lot more brightness than the 3LCD models. We shall see.
I just had a brief overlap between sending back the SP-H710AE, and the arrival of the new Mitsubishi HC5000BL, the first 1080p projector to arrive for review. The Mitsubishi, a 3LCD projector using all the tricks - dynamic iris, etc. claims a 10:000:1 contrast ratio. Depending on the image (bright or dark), the black levels (looking in the letterbox area) of the Mitsubishi are anywhere from slightly blacker, to dramatically blacker than the Samsung (see examples in the image quality section). Tthe Mitsubishi, like other projectors is more contrasty, losing a small amount of shadow detail that the SP-H710AE delivers. Highlight details were very close between the two with the Samsung having an only slightly detectable advantage in side by side comparison. The much smaller pixels of the Mitsubishi, and higher resolution definitely provide a sharper overall image, that will be favored by those with large screens, and those who like to sit close. Overall, the Mitsubishi HC5000BL is a projector that will perform better for those with a wide range of viewing content. Again, the Samsung is for the movie purist.
We have not yet received any other 1080p projectors but I did get a good look at the new Panasonic PT-AE1000U at their press showing a couple of days ago. Overall, it is similar to the HC5000BL, and without actually having it at my location viewing under my control, I would say that how the Mitsubishi compares to the SP-H710AE, also generally describes how the new Panasonic compares to the Samsung.
What I am really looking forward to, are getting in the Sony Pearl - VPL-VW50, a 1080p 3 chip LCOS (SXRD) projector that sells for $4995, and the Optoma HD81, the first 1080p DLP, in for review. When that happens (soon), I'll be sure to comment on my impressions compared to the Samsung SP-H710AE home theater projector.
Panasonic PT-AX100U, Epson Cinema Series projectors vs. Samsung.
Although the Panasonic as well as the Epson 800, have far more lumens to go around, again, the Samsung has the natural image on movie watching. The other two projectors, for most, will make a better all around choice, and will cost less, but for optimum movie viewing, the purist, again, should prefer the Samsung. At least the Samsung, though more money, offers decent placement flexibility, (thanks to lens shift), but still has the distance flexibility limiting 1.3:1 zoom lens vs. the LCD projectors with their wider range zooms.