Home Theater Projector Buyer’s Guide
This is our first time doing it, and we’ll admit, it presents some unique challenges, but we did it anyways. This is our first ever HT Guys Projector Buyer’s Guide. Of course no projector is complete on its own, it still needs a screen, and the screen plays a large role in how the projector will perform, but the same could be said of receivers and speakers as well. Instead of lumping them into cost categories, we just picked our fave 6 (couldn’t use that other number due to trademark infringements).
Panasonic PT-AE4000U (Street price: $2039)
The Panasonic PT-AE line of projectors has long been considered by enthusiasts and owners alike as the gold standard in price vs. performance. The Panasonic PT-AE4000U continues that tradition beautifully. It is an all-around stellar performer with a great price point at just over $2000.
- LCD Projector
- New Red-Rich Lamp
- Full HD Optimized Optical System
- Pure Contrast Plate Delivers 100,000:1 Contrast
- Pure Color Filter Pro for Rich Vibrant Colors
- 16-Bit Digital Processing – Faithfully reproduces even subtle hues and brightness variations.
See also: Panasonic PT-AE7000U (Street price: $3025)
- Better features, better performance (400,000:1 contrast ratio, etc.), 3D
Epson Home Cinema 8700 UB (Street price: $2140)
Epson pushes the envelope with dark, inky blacks at a price mere mortals can afford with the Home Cinema 8700 UB. It will impress you across the board with picture quality and performance, but what really gets you are the black levels. When you can’t tell where the screen starts and the bezel ends, life is good.
- Deep, dark blacks; crystal-clear detail – 1080p D7 chip with C2Fine technology
- 3LCD, 3-chip technology and a contrast ratio up to 200,000:1
- State-of-the-art Fujinon lens with a 2.1x zoom ratio
- Built-in Silicon Optix HQV Reon-VX processor
See also: Epson Home Cinema 8350 (Street price: $1099)
- Lower cost, great projector but not quite the same black levels
See also: Epson Home Cinema 5010 (MSRP: $2999)
- 3D model, if you want 3D, this is a beast, and a great deal for under $3K
JVC DLA-X3 (Street price: $3599)
If you want top of the line without spending lottery-winner money, check out the JVC DLA-X3. It is the entry level D-ILA projector in the almost current lineup, so you can pick it up for a good price. The new model, the DLA-X30BU, looks even more impressive and has a reduced MSRP, but we had trouble actually tracking one down. That should change soon.
- Remarkable 50,000:1 Native Contrast Ratio
- 3D Enabled Viewing with 3-chip 0.7-inch 1920×1080 D-ILA devices
- Supports Frame Sequential 3D, side-by-side 3D and top-bottom 3D methods
- Upgraded 24p capable 120Hz Clear Motion Drive
- No Special Screen Needed for 3D Playback
See also: JVC DLA-X90RBU
- This is the lottery-winner version, an impressive animal, it weighs in at MSRP $11,999
See also: JVC DLA-HD250 (Street price: $2649)
- Consumer version of the X series, most of the great performance with less of the investment. Also not a 3D model.
- Full HD D-ILA front projector with 25,000:1 native contrast ratio, three D-ILA devices, 2x motorized zoom lens with motorized focus, HQV Reon-VX video processor, on-screen gamma control, flexible set-up and more
Sony VPL-HW30ES (Street price: $3169)
Ever since we snuck into a secret back room at CES a few years ago to see one of Sony’s early 1080p SXRD projectors, we’ve been hooked. They just seem to do everything well, not just well, but really, really well. The picture looks so natural it’s uncanny. You will be the envy of all your friends with this model from Sony. And when it comes down to it, isn’t that what we’re all looking for?
- 1300 ANSI Lumens Brightness
- 70,000:1 Dynamic Contrast Ratio
- 240Hz panel drive improves 3D picture
- Whisper-quiet fan: Only 22db emitted
- Convert standard 2D HD content to 3D
Mitsubishi HC4000 (Street price: $1085)
This is our value model on the list at a price just a hair over $1000. It really comes down to splitting hairs between this one and the similarly priced Epson 8350 mentioned above. In general, the Mitsubishi has a slight edge on color, but the Epson is very smooth and more flexible on placement options. The Mitsubishi would probably just barely beat the Epson in terms of overall video quality, but that assumes you can get it installed just right to get that performance out of it.
- Native 1080p, HDMI connectivity, Manual Focus & Zoom Lens (Zoom Ratio 1.5:1)
- DLP DarkChip3
- DDP3021 Full 10-bit panel driver built in for smooth expression of dark gradations
- Contrast Ratio: 4,000:1
- Color Wheel: 6-segment (RGBRGB),
- Brightness/Lumens: 1300 ANSI Lumens,
- Decibels: 31dBA (standard mode)
See also: Mitsubishi HC9000D (Street price: $5005)
- A big step up in features, quality and price. Also adds 3D.
- Silicon Optix ReonVX Processor Next-gen 10-bit chip for fast processing, HQV noise reduction, high quality picture
- 3D in Full 1080P SXRD technology for amazing contrast, color accuracy & 3D compatibility, maximum input resolution 1920×1200 (scaled to 1920×1080)
- 1.8X Power Zoom Lens
- SXRD technology for high 150,000 contrast ratio and expansive color pallet
LG Electronics CF181D (Street price: $2029)
This might be the one real curve ball on the list. LG isn’t a brand that one would expect to find among recommendations for home theater projectors, but the SXRD model stands here on reputation alone. For full disclosure, we’ve never seen the projector first hand. But we have a lot of experience with SXRD technology and it has never let us down. Couple that with the overwhelming number of positive reviews for this unit, and we had to put it on the list. Our goal for the near term is to find a way to see it for ourselves. If you have it, we want to hear about it.
- Delivers very high brightness (1,800 ANSI Lumens)
- LCOS; 0.61″ SXRD (120Hz Full HD resolution)
- Contrast of 35,000:1
Download Episode #508
Posted by The HT Guys, December 8, 2011 10:12 PM
About The HT Guys
The HT Guys
, Ara Derderian and Braden Russell, are Engineers who formerly worked for the Advanced Digital Systems Group (ADSG) of Sony Pictures Entertainment. ADSG was the R&D unit of the sound department producing products for movie theaters and movie studios.
Two of the products they worked on include the DCP-1000 and DADR-5000. The DCP is a digital cinema processor used in movie theaters around the world. The DADR-5000 is a disk-based audio dubber used on Hollywood sound stages.
ADSG was awarded a Technical Academy Award by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2000 for the development of the DADR-5000. Ara holds three patents for his development work in Digital Cinema and Digital Audio Recording.
Every week they put together a podcast about High Definition TV and Home Theater. Each episode brings news from the A/V world, helpful product reviews and insights and help in demystifying and simplifying HDTV and home theater.