PROJECTOR REVIEWS

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Sep 13, 2010 0 comments
3D Digital Cinema Comes Home

Tell me you’ve never imagined what you’d do first if you won the lottery. Even if you never play and you know you have a better chance of getting hit by lightning than winning $10 million or (it’s a dream, isn’t it, so why go small potatoes?) even $100 million. Sure, if you take it all at once rather than in $5 million drabs over 20 years, that will drop to $50 million out of the gate. After Uncle Sam gets his cut, you’re down to $25 million. There goes your chance to buy the Seattle Seahawks.

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Shane Buettner Posted: Aug 15, 2010 0 comments
Price: $14,995 At A Glance: Superb color performance • Potential for zero-drift performance over time • Detail and contrast strong, but not state of the art • Expensive

Solid-State Front Projection

Digital projection is finally digital. Yes, we’ve been looking at projected images made of discrete pixels created by digital imaging chips for the last decade or so. But in one essential aspect, digital projection has remained in the analog domain. The lamps that drive light through these projectors and onto our screens have been 100-percent analog. Even when they’re new, the performance of these lamps can adversely affect color fidelity, gamma, and gray-scale tracking. They also determine the overall light output the projector is capable of. As the lamp ages, virtually all of these critical aspects of performance drift somewhat. In the better designs, the change is mostly benign. But there’s no denying that any lamp-driven projector’s light output drops over time, and multi-hundred-dollar lamp replacements every 2,000 hours or so are a fact of life. Until now.

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Shane Buettner Posted: May 25, 2010 0 comments
Price: $15,000 At A Glance: LEDs promise longevity, consistent performance • Excellent color • Good contrast mitigated by unrefined dynamic contrast performance

Get the LED In

The last few years have been a golden age for digital front projection in home theater applications. Today’s best projectors offer an absolutely stellar combination of price, convenience, essential features, and most importantly, performance. In virtually all of these respects, today’s digital projectors shatter any expectations we had a few years ago. But there is a rub. Digital projection as we’ve known it has been driven by analog lamps for illumination. These lamps, which generally cost $300 to $500 each, age and need to be replaced every couple of thousand hours. If you insist on the very best performanceyou may need to replace them even sooner. In addition to dropping light output, aging lamps also affect a projector’s color performance, gammaand gray-scale tracking. Inother words, the lamp-driven projector you buy today isn’t the same projector you’ll have after several hundred hours without a touch-up calibration.

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Shane Buettner Posted: Apr 26, 2010 0 comments
Price: $6,995 At A Glance: Extraordinary out-of-box performance • Exceptional blacks and contrast • Very strong value proposition

Dynamic Images From Runco

Runco is one of the names that the home theater industry is built on. That’s not hyperbole; neither home theater nor Home Theater would be here today without the vision of men like Sam Runco. He helped design the products that created the custom install channel, and he championed front-projection home cinema. A few years ago, Planar bought Runco, and while Sam is no longer there, the Planar PD8150 we reviewed in June 2008 signaled that we could look forward to innovative new front-projection designs under the Planar and Runco banners.

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Scott Wilkinson Posted: Mar 29, 2010 0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $15,995 (with zoom lens; $16,995 with fixed lens) At A Glance: No lamp replacement • Superb color and detail • Excellent video processing • Real-world blacks could be deeper

LED Comes on Strong

Ever since I first heard about front projectors with LED light sources, the idea has intrigued me. Before RPTVs imploded, a few LED-illuminated models were available. Now, front projectors that use this technology have begun to appear.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Mar 22, 2010 0 comments
Price: $8,000 At A Glance: Superior black level and shadow detail • Accurate color • Brightness to spare

Setting the Bar Higher

Since the launch of JVC’s DLA-RS1 projector more than three years ago, consumers have anticipated each of the company’s new DLA designs. In some respects, such as resolution and brightness, JVC’s projectors have run neck and neck with their competition. However, they haven’t broken new ground. But with regard to producing inky black levels, without the help of a dynamic iris, they arguably have no equals.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Mar 08, 2010 0 comments
Price: $2,295 At A Glance: Excellent video processing • Stunning resolution • Poor shadow detail

While Mitsubishi might have a larger footprint in your memory with its big-screen TVs and flat panels, the company is focused on front projection. In fact, its Website shows 26 projector models, including four home theater designs.

Mitsubishi projectors are not your father’s Mitsubishi, and by that I mean video displays, not cars. Its projectors are marketed by the company’s Presentation Products division, which is separate from the division that sells flat-panel and rear-projection TVs.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Mar 08, 2010 0 comments
Price: $3,000 At A Glance: Deep blacks • Accurate color • Superb image depth

Sony’s new BRAVIA VPL-HW15 is a reworking of last year’s VPL-HW10. At a modest $3,000 (modest as projectors go, that is), the VPL-HW15 offers a useful lineup of features and a picture that I didn’t expect at this price. With exceptional color, barely short of state-of-the-art blacks, and vivid, almost 3-D images on the best program material, it…. OK, I’m in danger of giving away the store up front. Read more to get the details.

Description
The VPL-HW15’s gently curved top echoes the look of Sony’s higher-end VPL-VW85, while the lens that recesses into a sculpted front panel does not. The controls and inputs are located on the side.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Mar 01, 2010 0 comments
Price: $3,699 At A Glance: Excellent video processing • Superior adjustability • Blacks to die for

Epson’s broad lineup of PowerLite home theater projectors can be a bit confusing, but the important point is that it splits into two parallel lines. At the top are the Pro Cinema models, and just below them are the Home Cinema designs. They track each other closely in performance, but the Pro Cinema versions offer a few extra features. These include an aspect-ratio setting for anamorphic projection on a 2.35:1 screen (the anamorphic lens required to use this is not included, and I didn’t test this feature). They also include ISFccc Day and Night modes, a spare lamp, a longer warranty, and a black case (the Home Cinema versions are white). At the top of the line, and our subject here, is the Pro Cinema 9500 UB.

Description
In appearance, the PowerLite Pro Cinema 9500 UB—one of the few projectors that is currently THX certified—closely resembles last year’s Epson flagship, the Pro Cinema 7500 UB. Its Fujinon zoom lens has a throw-distance range of 9.8 to 20.9 feet for a 100-inch (diagonal) 16:9 screen. The horizontal and vertical lens-shift controls, located at the top front of the case, have convenient mid-setting detents that make it easy to find the neutral settings. Lens shift, zoom, and focus are all manual.

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Scott Wilkinson Posted: Jan 21, 2010 0 comments

Ever since I first heard about front projectors with LED light sources, I've been intrigued by the idea. LED-illuminated RPTVs were available just before the product category imploded, but front projectors using this technology have only now begun to appear.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Oct 26, 2009 0 comments
Price: $12,999 At A Glance: Fast calibration, accurate color • Superb detail • Video processing under par

Dynamic and Detailed

In these days of increasingly improved LCD and LCOS projectors, new DLP models seem to be few and far between. Some manufacturers have cut back on their premium DLP projector offerings (Sharp), and some have eliminated them altogether (Yamaha).

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Sep 28, 2009 0 comments
Price: $8,000 At A Glance: Solid blacks • Accurate color • Unique adjustability • Color management system could be more effective • Superb resolution

Big Performance

The June 2009 issue of Home Theater featured a glowing report on Sony’s VPL-VW70 video projector. But as they say, time flies when you’re having fun. Building on its enviable past record in cutting-edge, high-value video projectors, Sony has just launched the VPL-VW70’s successor, the VPL-VW85.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Jul 06, 2009 0 comments
Price: $2,999 At A Glance: Excellent video processing • Superior color and color adjustability • Near state-of-the-art black level • Natural detail

Epson is one of the major players in the business projector business, and it’s now making inroads into the home theater market as well. Its Ensemble HD Home Cinema System, which includes a projector, screen, speakers, and electronics, is priced to tempt consumers who would not have otherwise considered a projection setup. The company’s UltraBlack (UB) projectors have also made a big splash at recent electronics trade shows.

The PowerLite Home Cinema 6500 UB is one step down in the Epson lineup from the top-of-the-line PowerLite Pro Cinema 7500 UB. The latter is $1,200 more expensive. However, apart from some added features (an anamorphic aspect ratio option and ISFccc Day and Night modes), a black case, a year longer on its warranty, and a spare lamp ($300 if bought separately), it does not appear to add anything that would enhance its basic performance relative to the 6500 UB. The 6500 UB is clearly the bargain buy.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Jul 06, 2009 0 comments
Price: $2,500 At A Glance: Outstanding video processing • Deep blacks (with auto iris) • Brightness to spare for a big screen

Sharp has a long history in the home theater projector business. It began with a successful run of LCD models. But the company soon shifted its projectors to Texas Instruments’ DLP technology, which appeared to be ready to dominate the projection business for a time.

However, with the development of new and vastly improved LCD chips and designs in the recent past, all that has changed. LCD (and its second cousin, LCOS—a variation on liquid crystal technology) now dominates the projection market. Sharp is sticking to DLP, and its new XV-Z15000 is one of the first DLP designs to sport a new 0.65-inch digital micromirror device (DMD) from Texas Instruments. The DMD is the imaging chip at the heart of the DLP system.

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Scott Wilkinson Posted: Jun 08, 2009 0 comments
Price: $5,295 (with anamorphic lens kit: $9,595) At A Glance: Superb detail and shadow detail • Excellent anamorphic performance • Oversaturated greens and reds

Anamorphic 4 Less

You may not have heard of French projector maker DreamVision, but I sure have. Whenever I’ve seen its projectors at trade shows, I’ve always been impressed by their stylish cabinets, high performance, and high prices.

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