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Home Theater Projectors: Best In Class Awards - Coming Soon

Greetings Projector Fans, It's about time for our annual Best In Class awards for the best Home Theater projectors.  This past year - starting with the CEDIA show, there simply weren't the usual number of home theater projectors launched.  And so, a few less reviews.  There was a particular shortage of new projectors in the $1000 - $2000 price range. We tend to focus our reviews on home theater - and home entertainment projectors with 1080p native resolution, from over $500 up to $30,000, with most of the reviews in the $800 to $8000 range.

Sony's VPL-VW600ES - a true 4K projector. Pricey! But your $15K also gets you a 4K media server and an android tablet to control it. I loved watching everything on this one.

There were just less new projectors than most years.   Plus, unfortunately, due to some late first shipments (and manufacturers running late to ship review units), the annual Best Home Theater Projectors report which we usually publish in the March timeframe, had to be delayed to include some recent reviews.  (Sony HW40ES, Optoma HD91, and a little further back, JVC DLA-RS4910/X500R). This year due to those delays, I was forced to delay any report until after I published our annual Classroom Projector report which due to the seasonal buying requirements of K-12 schools, cannot be delayed past early May.  So, that got in front. And a couple of key projectors arrived since then. Well, with our review of Sony's new VPL-HW40ES projector, we've reviewed all the home theater projectors we're likely to get to until "next year's" crop is announced in September, and manufacturers start rolling out new product between September and March. Some of the factors limiting the number of projectors:
  • Last October Mitsubishi announced they were quitting projectors.  Not just home theater projectors but all.  That was a major announcement as Mitsubishi probably had close to 40 projectors (mostly business and education projectors) in their line-up.
  • Panasonic launched no new home projectors!   I believe Panasonic has had at least one new home projector every year but one, since about 2001, prior to this past year.  Until about 6 years ago, Panasonic had a line-up of one projector for the home, always a PT-AE series.  Then they launched a second one (projectors like the PT-AR100U) which were a step down.  Those lower cost projectors though, Panasonic normally gets two years out of (or three?).  That Panasonic had nothing new was a real surprise, but we're sure hoping Panasonic is planning to keep bringing out home theater projectors, although whether that will happen has been the cause of a lot of discussion among dealers.  We can use a new PT-AE projector.  Someone's got to keep Epson "honest", in that the PT-AE projectors use the same Epson 3LCD chips as the Epson UB, and therefore is the most direct competitor those Epsons have.
  • JVC brought out new projectors, except for their least expensive, the DLA-X35 aka the RS46, which remains in the line-up for another year.  Normally JVC replaces all their models each year.  Count that as one less than usual for JVC.
  • While there was some activity from BenQ and Optoma, who we can normally count on for lower cost projectors, BenQ rolled out their $2799 W7500 which replaces the W7000, but the W1070 and its siblings remained in the lineup - the popular W1070 was first announced almost two years ago (at CEDIA 2012), and we reviewed it 18 months back.

Will Panasonic launch a new Home Theater Projector in September - or will the PT-AE8000 be back for a 3rd year?

I could go on, but the point is, less home projectors to review this past year.  The market segment with the most action, was what I call the market sweet spot - $2000 to $3500 projectors.  As many of you know We just published an extensive comparison piece between four of the projectors in that group. As a result, this year we'll have a rather truncated Best (1080p) Home Theater Projector report.   We will look at all the projectors that we've reviewed that are still current, do our usual positioning of the projectors, and give out a handful of Best in Class, and Best in Class Runner-up awards.   All of this year's report and awards will be published over the next two weeks. For those of you who read all, or most of our reviews of home projectors, I doubt there will be a whole lot of surprises, but here's some of the key award questions that will have to be decided: In the $2000 to $3500 "street" price range, who will rule?  Will it be the particularly price performance oriented Epson Home Cinema 5030UB, or will the roughly $1000 more expensive Sony VPL-HW55ES win the day? And how well do the BenQ W7500 and Sony VPL-HW40ES do compared to those other two? Then the real conundrum, since our high tier is $3500 -  ??? price range, that covers a lot of turf.  Looks like the serious battle is between two hugely different projectors, in both price, and performance:  Sony's VPL-VW600ES - a true 4K projector, or JVC's much less expensive DLA-X500R/RS49/RS4910 projector. I will mention that this year we have one new thing happening.  We're considering a couple of pocket projectors in the under $2000 price range.  While they aren't a match for the best low cost lamp projectors, their portability and interest from younger folks to use them for gaming and home viewing, sort of demands that we look at how they stack up against some projectors like the BenQ W1070 or Epson Home Cinema 2000/2030. So, folks, stay tuned.  Perhaps I'll be able to surprise you with a couple of the awards.  -art  

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