Top Five Most Popular 1080p Projectors

Evan Powell, August 1, 2008

As of this writing, the five most popular 1080p home theater projectors on ProjectorCentral are (in alpha order):

• BenQ W5000

• Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB

• Mitsubishi HC5500

• Panasonic PT-AE2000

• Sanyo PLV-Z2000

To no surprise, these five models also happen to be the least expensive of the 1080p projectors on the market--they are all available for street prices around $2,500 or less. In the home theater projector market, money talks loudly. Everyone wants the best for the least, and low-cost 1080p projectors are where it's at. From the perspective of sheer unit volume, these five projectors currently dominate the market in home theater projectors.

Which of them is the best? Well the fact is they each have unique advantages over the others that may or may not be important to you. They each have limitations that you may or may not care about. So we'll just do our best to describe the differences, and let you figure out which one is best for you.

The five 1080p projectors will be discussed in alpha order. This is not the order in which we would rank them in terms of quality or value for our own personal use, so no inference to that effect should be made by the reader.


BenQ W5000

When we reviewed the W5000 on release at the retail price of $4,995, we gave it 4.5 stars for value. However, with the street price currently below $2,500, if we were to review it today it would definitely rate a solid 5 stars. This is an impressive projector, and the only projector in this group to feature DLP technology.

Key advantages

• Outstanding contrast. Though it carries one of the lower official full on/off contrast ratings in the group, 10,000:1, in reality it is quite visibly higher in contrast than any of its LCD competitors. We measured its ANSI contrast at about 500:1, whereas the LCD projectors measured in the range of 250:1 to 300:1.

• Very sharp image. The W5000 edges out the LCD projectors in overall image sharpness. Part of the apparent sharpness is due to the higher contrast.

• Image depth. Due to the sharpness and high contrast characteristics of the image, the W5000 shows more apparent three-dimensionality than its LCD counterparts.

• Less motion blur. In certain scenes where a camera is panning across detailed, high contrast subject matter, one can detect better resolution of detail as compared to the LCD competition. The differences are subtle, and appear only occasionally in certain types of scenes.

Limitations

• Comparatively weak mid-tone performance. Though the LCD competitors lack the high ANSI contrast of the W5000, they render brighter, richer mid-tones. As an example, when the W5000 and the Sanyo Z2000 are both set for optimal cinema performance, they will give identical lumen readings on a 100 IRE white screen. However, at the same settings, a middle gray 50 IRE pattern is 40% brighter on the Z2000 than on the W5000. In the viewing of film images side by side, the Z2000 manifests a brighter, more open display of mid-tones. This can contribute to the impression that the Z2000 has the more natural or realistic image despite being lower in contrast. This same effect can be seen on all of the LCD projectors in this group.

• Limited throw range. The 1.2x zoom lens will allow you to place the W5000 about 16 to 19 feet from the screen to obtain a 120" diagonal image. If you don't have that much throw distance in the room, you must settle for a smaller image. By comparison, all of the LCD competitors can be placed as little as 12.5 feet from the screen to get the same 120" image. Thus, if you have room size restrictions, the throw distance on the W5000 may require a corresponding limitation on image size.

• Higher noise level. We see somewhat more digital noise on the W5000, especially in its brighter BrilliantColor mode, than we do on most of the LCD competitors. This is apparently only in certain scenes where whatever noise is present becomes more obvious. We do not consider the higher noise level to be a significant or hugely objectionable factor in the relative evaluation of these five 1080p projectors.

• No HDMI 1.3. The W5000 is the only model among the five in this article that has an earlier version of HDMI; the others are all version 1.3. However, we consider this to be an issue of little consequence since there won't be any video sources with "Deep Color" any time soon, and once there are, the odds of seeing anything but subtle differences are small.

• The W5000 comes with an industry-lagging one year warranty. The Sanyo Z2000 has a standard three year warranty, and the other LCD projectors in this group have two year warranties.

• Large, bulky casework. The W5000 is the largest and heaviest of the five projectors in this summary, weighing in at about 21 lbs. If you are concerned about size and perhaps portability, look to the Mitsubishi HC5500 and the Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB, which are almost half the size and weight.

The W5000 beats the competition in contrast, image sharpness and three-dimensionality. Its weakness in mid-tone performance becomes quite evident in side by side comparisons with its LCD competitors, but standing alone it looks impressive indeed. Overall, it is an outstanding value at prices below $2,500.


Review Contents: Intro and BenQ W5000 Epson HC 1080UB Mitsubishi HC5500 Panasonic PT AE2000
  Sanyo Z2000
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