PROJECTOR REVIEWS

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Nov 02, 2011 5 comments

2D Performance
3D Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $3,700 At A Glance: Deep blacks • Accurate 2D color • Outstanding brightness

Sony’s VPL-HW projectors go back a few years, with steady model-to-model refinements. Last year it was the VPL-HW20; this year it’s the VPL-HW30ES. Note that the HW30 now carries Sony’s premier ES designation. But there’s more than that to account for its price premium over the VLP-HW20. Not only does the new model build on its predecessor’s already excellent 2D performance, but it’s also 3D-ready, using active shutter glasses you can purchase separately along with an external 3D emitter. Or if you prefer your projector to be 3D-capable right out of the box, you can purchase it with two pair of model TDG-PJ1 glasses and the TMR-PJ1 emitter included as the VPL-HW30AES for $4,000.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Oct 13, 2011 0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $6,995 At A Glance: Satisfying brightness on a big screen • Excellent resolution and color • So-so black level and contrast

A few months back, we reviewed the Digital Projection HighLite Cine 260-HC (Home Theater, May 2011). But like most three-chip DLP designs, its $30,000 price could buy a nicely equipped new car. Some day, perhaps, the prices of such projectors may come down to earth, but until then, most of us are left to other options.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Sep 21, 2011 1 comments
2D Performance
3D Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $5,500 At A Glance: Bright, punchy images • Good (though not highly accurate) color • Middling black level and contrast

Many of us here at Home Theater are big on 3D, but a lot of front-projection fans have been holding off. Until recently, their only options in the $5,000 3D projector market were two identical JVC models (sold either through that company’s pro or consumer distribution channels).

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Scott Wilkinson Posted: Jul 29, 2011 0 comments
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $1299 At A Glance: Good detail & shadow detail • Vivid colors • Not-so-great blacks • Excellent user interface

I've always liked Epson projectors—they generally produce an excellent picture for a reasonable price, which makes them a great value. The PowerLite Home Cinema 8350 is no exception, though it's not quite the home run that Epson's UB (ultra-black) models are. In fact, my primary complaint with the 8350 is its not-so-great blacks, which isn't helped much by the dynamic iris on real-world material. Granted, its blacks are better than those of the Optoma HD20, but they're still too bright to achieve a really great picture, especially in dark scenes. Also, colors are not spot-on accurate with this Epson, though I didn't find that bothersome when watching Blu-rays, DVDs, and TV programming. Another surprise—despite color fringing and softness I saw in certain test patterns, the detail in real-world content was quite good, if just a tad softer than the DLP-based HD20.

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Scott Wilkinson Posted: Jul 29, 2011 0 comments
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $999 At A Glance: Excellent detail & color via HDMI • Poor blacks & shadow detail • No lens shift • Excellent user interface

In some respects, the Optoma HD20 is an exceptional value, providing a razor-sharp 1080p image for just about as little money as any projector I know of. It's overall detail and color are excellent via HDMI, and it offers extensive controls, surprisingly advanced features, and a well-organized user interface. However, the lack of lens shift makes placement difficult without invoking the keystone control that can degrade the detail a lot. And even if you solve that problem, the shadow detail is poor, which causes dark scenes have large areas of solid darkness rather than subtle low-level details. Finally, at the largest image size I could manage in our studio given the lack of lens shift, the black level was quite high, which means the black of space was dark gray and letterbox bars were obvious. For better performance in this critical area, a larger image is a must.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: May 12, 2011 0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $9,999 At A Glance: Deep, rich blacks • Accurate color • 3D-to-2D conversion • improved brightness and contrast

3D Gets Big

It seems like only yesterday that I reviewed Sony’s VPL-VW85 projector, but it was a year and a half ago (Home Theater, November 2009). Sony launches a new flagship home theater projector every year at the September CEDIA EXPO, and 2010 was no exception.

Shane Buettner Posted: May 04, 2011 0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $7,995 At A Glance: State-of-the-art blacks and contrast • Reference-quality 2D and 3D performance • Painful setup and calibration to achieve best performance

The Agony and the Ecstasy

JVC’s projectors have been fixtures in HT’s Top Picks in recent years. This year, the anticipation of getting our hands on JVC’s newest projectors was even more acute. Not only has the line been completely redesigned for the first time in a couple of years, this is JVC’s first series of 3D projectors. The $7,995 DLA-X7 reviewed here is the middle child, between the $4,495 DLA-X3 (reviewed by Kris Deering on page 58) and the $11,995 flagship DLA-X9, which is essentially a DLA-X7 with hand-picked parts and 3D paraphernalia—two pair of active shutter glasses and a 3D sync transmitter—included. The DLA-X7 is THX approved for 2D and 3D. It carries over virtually all of the significant features from last year’s JVC models, while adding 3D capability. If you don’t believe I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this projector, check with JVC. Their corporate communications guru suffered an incessant onslaught of phone and voicemail messages through the holidays until the DLA-X7 was safely on my doorstep.

Kris Deering Posted: May 03, 2011 2 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $4,495 At A Glance: Reference-quality 2D and 3D projection • Amazing value • Could be brighter

Value to the Third Dimension

It’s no secret that we’ve become huge fans of JVC’s string of D-ILA projectors. Ever since the DLA-HD1 hit the market years ago, JVC has been a big player on the projector scene, with industry-leading native contrast and exceptional HD picture quality.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Apr 28, 2011 0 comments
Price: $29,995 At A Glance: Outstanding resolution and color • Bright—even on a 10-foot screen • Black level and contrast well short of cutting edge

DLP Hangs Tough

Digital Light Processing (DLP) may have jump-started the whole digital display revolution in the late 1990s, but to the consumer, the technology might look like it’s fallen on hard times. Only one major HDTV manufacturer—Mitsubishi—now makes DLP rear projectors. And since DLP is a projection technology, there are no DLP sets that can project an image across a distance of 2 inches or less to compete with today’s popular flat panels.

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Scott Wilkinson Posted: Mar 25, 2011 4 comments
Price: $6995 At a Glance: Gorgeous color • Exquisite detail • Excellent shadow detail • So-so blacks • Exceptional video processing • Stellar optics

Digital Projection International (DPI) might not be a familiar projector company to many home-theater enthusiasts—at least, not as familiar as Epson, JVC, Optoma, and Sony. But commercial users know the name well, because DPI has been supplying high-end, high-priced DLP projectors for broadcast, theatrical, simulation, medical, education, and corporate applications since 1997. In fact, DPI was Texas Instruments' first DLP partner and the original innovator of the 3-chip DLP projector.

Over the last few years, DPI has been directing more of its efforts toward home-theater applications and now offers seven series of products for that market. The most affordable home-theater model is the M-Vision Cine 230, a single-chip design that offers many of the same features found in the company's more expensive offerings for less than $7000.

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Scott Wilkinson Posted: Mar 25, 2011 8 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $6995 At a Glance: Gorgeous color • Exquisite detail • Excellent shadow detail • So-so blacks • Exceptional video processing • Stellar optics

Digital Projection International (DPI) might not be a familiar projector company to many home-theater enthusiasts—at least, not as familiar as Epson, JVC, Optoma, and Sony. But commercial users know the name well, because DPI has been supplying high-end, high-priced DLP projectors for broadcast, theatrical, simulation, medical, education, and corporate applications since 1997. In fact, DPI was Texas Instruments' first DLP partner and the original innovator of the 3-chip DLP projector.

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Kris Deering Posted: Mar 03, 2011 1 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $3,199 At A Glance: Class-leading features • Anamorphic lens compatibility • Incredible value

Still Defining Value

It’s truly amazing the kinds of values you can find in home theater today. When I first got into this hobby in the mid-’90s, most frontprojection systems were bulky and expensive. But with projectors like the Epson PowerLite Pro Cinema 9700 UB, consumers can have truly outstanding front projection for the cost of a higher-end flat-panel HDTV, something that was unheard of even a few years ago. And the value isn’t the only thing to get excited about. Epson includes some very cool features in this gem, including THX certification, anamorphic lens compatibility, and a host of video processing features.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Oct 11, 2010 0 comments
Price: $6,995 (optional Schneider Optics lens: $7,995) At A Glance: Big, bright, punchy image • Black level and shadow detail compete with the best • Excessively wide color gamut

Broaden Your Horizons

If you’ve investigated the subject of constant-height projection, you know that it can be a complicated, slightly intimidating business. We covered the ground rather thoroughly in “Beating the Black Bars” (HT, October 2008). Constant-height display generally involves placing a so-called anamorphic lens in front of a projector’s native lens when viewing true widescreen films—that is, films with an aspect ratio of around 2.35:1 (often called scope films). Such a setup also employs a 2.35:1 screen. For material with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 or less, the lens is normally moved out of the way and the image is projected onto the 2.35:1 screen with black bars on each side. This is sometimes called windowboxing.

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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