Inexpensive Projectors

I purchased a Sony VPL-HS20 in 2003, and I have enjoyed the picture quality until recently, when the projector started intermittently turning off without notice. I figure it's time for a new projector, although I can no longer afford one in the $3000 range. I live in Canada, and the Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 8345 (similar to the 8350) is around $1250. Also, if I wanted 3D (not urgent), the Epson 3010 is around $1400 on Amazon.

I currently project onto a 119-inch screen with some light control, although it is not perfect during the day. If I purchased a budget projector such as one of the Epsons mentioned above, will the quality be at least as good as what I've seen from my Sony? If not, can you recommend something else for me?

Paul Barnick

We didn't review the Sony VPL-HS20, so I'm not familiar with its picture quality. Also, we haven't reviewed the Epson 3010, but we did review the 5010 here, and while its 3D performance was very good, its 2D performance was found to be somewhat lacking by reviewer Kris Deering. I reviewed the Epson 8350 here, and I was not impressed with its blacks, which are critically important for good picture quality.

I've made a project of reviewing inexpensive projectors to see if I can find any worth recommending, and the best one I've found so far is the Mitsubishi HC4000 (reviewed here). It offers many advanced features, such as a fully implemented and effective color-management system, and the deepest blacks of any projector I've seen in its price range, though they aren't as deep as those produced by many more-expensive models. The downsides are poor shadow detail and no lens shift, which limits where it can be placed.

Of all the inexpensive projectors I've reviewed, only the Epson 8350 provides lens shift; the 3010 does not. Why is this important? Without lens shift, you must place the projector so it's horizontally centered on the screen and either right-side-up aligned with the bottom of the screen or upside-down aligned with the top of the screen. If you place it anywhere else, you'll have to use keystone correction to square up the image, which seriously degrades the visible detail.

Placing it right-side-up aligned with the bottom of the screen means that people can easily block the image by walking or even sitting in front of it. So the best place for a projector without lens shift is mounting it upside-down from the ceiling, which is a pretty big job to align it just right, not to mention long cable runs.

If you have an A/V question, please send it to askhometheater@gmail.com.

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