Price: $4,500 At A Glance: Excellent black level and shadow detail • • Bright, crisp image • Oversaturated color
We’re no strangers to JVC projectors around the Home Theater campfire. We’ve reviewed several of their models over the past few years. I’ve been using a DLA-RS1 as a reference since 2007. It isn’t perfect—no projector is—but it does a lot right, and I’m not the only one who says so. At $6,000 when it first came out, it was one of the players that redefined value in the home projector game.
We’re now two generations of JVC projectors beyond that, and things keep getting better. For 2009, JVC offers the DLA-HD350 and the DLA-HD750, plus two exact equivalents from its pro division. We reviewed the $7,500 DLA-HD750 in our April 2009 issue and it’s a current Top Pick.
Price: $3,295 At A Glance: Impressive resolution • Good blacks and shadow detail • Oversaturated color • Excellent value
Sanyo has long been a big player in the business projector market. However, while it has a serious presence in home projectors in many markets, it has remained relatively low key for U.S. consumers. This is especially true when you compare it with manufacturers who are more aggressive at beating their own drums. But the PLV-Z3000 proves that the company knows its way around home theater projector design.
The Sanyo lacks the Ferrari-like curves that many of its competitors sport. Still, its relatively plain, boxy shape is functional and well executed. All mechanical operations (horizontal and vertical lens shift, focus, and zoom) are manual. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, since these are usually set-and-forget operations. The zoom lens has a throw-distance range of 9.8 to 20 feet for a 100-inch (diagonal) 16:9 screen.
Price: $7,500 At A Glance: State-of-the-art blacks and contrast • Infinitely tweakable and natural colors • Softer than previous JVC projectors
What You Do for an Encore
JVC’s recent generation of D-ILA projectors have been standard-setters in blacks and contrast. They have exceeded the performance of most dynamic-iris designs while eliminating the artifacts involved with that approach. These projectors were good enough that several HT regulars outfitted their own theaters with these rigs, including yours truly. This explains why I had to pull rank on the lot of these guys and review this new model myself. Usually, the catch with this kind of success is figuring out how to follow it up. Apparently, JVC had no such trouble.
Price: $3,500 At A Glance: Price-leading contrast performance • Smooth, film-like images • Limited features
Sony Brings SXRD to the Masses
Sony turned the high-end projector world on its ear with the introduction of the VPL-VW100 SXRD projector. The VPL-VW100 offered resolution and performance far beyond other projectors at or near its price point. Sony has continued to push that envelope with more and more SXRD offerings at lower price points. The latest is the VPL-HW10, which is the lowest-priced SXRD projector yet at $3,500. It brings the high resolution and high contrast of SXRD to the budget market.
Price: $3,499 At A Glance: Incredible array of features • Great calibration flexibility • Contrast performance could be improved
The Features You Want, the Price You Need
Panasonic’s PT-AE3000U really ups the ante when it comes to features at this price point. Panasonic has consistently pushed the envelope on the budget side, and this LCD projector easily represents the company’s best effort to date. It offers solid performance and the most expansive feature set you could hope to find at or near this price point.
Price: $3,995 At A Glance: Outstanding video processing, including full-time anamorphic lens support • Razor-sharp images • Color accuracy needs work
Mitsubishi Delivers a Diamond
The HC7000 is Mitsubishi’s flagship video projector and one of only two Diamond Series projectors. This three-chip design uses the latest C2 Fine inorganic LCD panels. It has a native resolution of 1,920 by 1,080 and features a proprietary polarizing filter designed to squeeze a bit more contrast and better uniformity out of the panels. At $3,995, the HC7000 is the most expensive projector in our roundup, and it has some great features. It includes a dynamic iris, Silicon Optix HQV video processing, and a great warranty program for the projector and lamp. It also has full anamorphic lens support, including the ability to permanently mount the lens to the projector. Combined with the great build quality and performance, these features made the Mitsubishi my favorite projector of the group.
Price: $15,000 (short throw), $18,000 (long throw) At A Glance: Exceptional shadow detail • Razor-sharp picture • Excellent optics • A few tweaks would be welcome
DLP’s Crowning Achievement
The Marantz VP-11S1 was one of the first 1080p projectors I had the opportunity to review. It served as my reference projector for quite a while and is still one of the best 1080p projectors I’ve seen. Since the VP-11S1’s release, Marantz has brought two more 1080p offerings to the table, the VP-15S1, which offers stunning performance at a more affordable price point, and now, the flagship VP-11S2.
Price: $7,999 Highlights: Excellent HD video processing • Impressive calibration options and color management • Middling dynamic-iris implementation • Inconvenient onscreen menus for calibration.
BenQ’s New Flagship Arrives
I had the chance to review and live with BenQ’s spectacular 1080p DLP projector, the W10000. I became a big fan of that design. It was sharp, provided excellent contrast, and the design was quiet and simple to use. I still consider it to be one of the most underrated 1080p values on the market today. I was excited when I saw that BenQ was quietly showing its follow-up, the W20000, at the 2007 CEDIA Expo. BenQ said it would include some significant improvements, such as a new menu system, a dynamic iris, and a video processor from Silicon Optix. The W20000 has now arrived.
Samsung has an unusual history with high-definition video projectors. Its most recent 720p DLP model, designed in consultation with video expert Joe Kane, was superb, even standard-setting in many important respects. But dealers were rare, and worse, the projectors arrived on the market just as comparably priced 1080p models were becoming available. They ultimately sold out to lucky buyers at bargain prices.
As with many projector manufacturers, Epson's product line is heavily oriented toward business applications. In that respect, the company is consistently at or near the top in worldwide sales. But Epson also occupies a significant and growing share of the home-theater market.
Planar is a relatively new name in the home theater market, but it is by no means a new company. The Oregon-based manufacturer has been around for over 20 years and has deep roots in the imaging industry, with a long history of flat panels and commercial displays. Last May, Planar made a big investment in the home theater industry in acquiring Runco International, one of the leaders in high-end home theater displays.
Although Planar has a significant presence in the video-display business, it's relatively new to the home-theater market. The company first popped up a couple of years ago at a major trade show with some intriguing prototypes. Since then, it has expanded its home-theater resume by acquiring Runco and Vidikron, and all three brands maintain their separate identities under the Planar umbrella.
When you think of Panasonic video displays, you probably think of plasmas, and rightly so—it makes some of the best in the business. But the company also has a relatively long tradition of making LCD projectors. The PT-AE2000U is Panasonic's latest model with 1920x1080 resolution. It has features galore and produces a fine picture overall, though not without a few minor caveats.
What can JVC do to top one of the best bargains in the 1920x1080 home-projector market, the widely praised DLA-HD1? Priced just a bit over $6000 at its introduction, the HD1 set a new bar for black levels from a home projector—make that from any video projector—and it had no obvious weaknesses in any other area.
A new crop of entry-level projectors makes big-screen 1080p more affordable than ever.
There’s been a lot of fuss over the rapid drop in price of big-screen flat panels, but that ain’t nothing compared with the free-falling MSRPs you’ll find over in the 1080p projection realm. Two years ago, the going rate for one of the first 1080p projectors was about $10,000. Last year, we saw a number of high-quality offerings around the $5,000 mark. This year, companies like Optoma, Sanyo, and Mitsubishi have released 1080p projectors priced under $4,000. These entry-level models feature a nice complement of advanced image-adjustment options and all of the desired video inputs: HDMI 1.3, PC, and component video. But the important question is, how does their performance measure up with pricier competition? You’ll have to read on to find out.