1080p Shootout:
Mitsubishi HC5000, Optoma HD81,
Panasonic PT-AE1000U, Sony VPL-VW50

Evan Powell and Bill Livolsi, November 17, 2006
Review Contents

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NOTICE [Friday, 12/15]: In November, we reviewed a late pre-production sample of the Panasonic AE1000, and notes based on that review were used for this Shootout article, originally posted November 17. However, we received a final edition production model of the Panasonic AE1000 on Wednesday of this week that incorporates some last minute improvements. These improvement have been incorporated on all production units shipped, so the buyer need not worry about getting the final production improvements in models being sold by dealers. The AE1000 review has been updated, and the notes in this shootout comparison have also been updated as of this posting. [EP]

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We've just spent a few weeks looking at four of the most exciting digital projectors to hit the market in a long time. They all feature high resolution HD 1920x1080 light engines, and they all bring 1080p to the consumer at prices previously unheard of. Perhaps the most important observation we can make about them is this: no matter which one you buy, you will be thoroughly delighted with the results. Our task has been to evaluate them closely side by side, so that we can detect the differences between them. Many of those differences are quite subtle, and some are more apparent. In most cases, unless you have them sitting side by side, you'd never recognize the particular advantages and limitations to each of them since on their own -- they all look great.

Another important conclusion we came to is this: there is no single projector that could possibly "win" this shootout. Each projector does something better than the others. It is up to you to determine which of the features and image quality characteristics are most important to you, and which you can accept a little compromise on. These are matters of personal taste, and what is important to us may not be to you.

Review Contents: Introduction Performance Ranking Summaries and Conclusions

Reader Comments(18 comments)

Posted Apr 25, 2011 9:10 AM

By Art

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I see quite a few people debating whether or not to spend the extra money to go 1080 and I feel like most of us who've been projector people for a long time now (I owned the original Sharp which had SERIOUS pixilation, but to me it was worth it even back in 1995, the spent $4000 on a floor model $9000 monitor back in 2001 which today would compete in the $1000 class) have been looking at things in a dollar cost averaging line of thought. Yes, I spent the extra money in 2001 to get something I could have purchased 5 years later for $1000, but I got to WATCH that projector for all those years and the thing still puts out a nice picture (plus it has tons of inputs, things today's projectors seem to lack for some reason). If you're going to buy a projector now, think of how LONG you're going to have it, how much you're going to use it (that differs per person--I watch every sporting event and every movie on my projector. Some people only bring theirs out on special occasions, and others watch the news on their projector), but remember, when it comes to Blu-Ray DVDs, you are NOT going to get a great, awesome picture on a 720p. There is THAT much of a difference, especially when it comes to the Ultra-visual movies. The only new technology these 1080 LCDs DON'T have is 3D, and the last time I checked the price on a 3D 1080p projector, it was in the $15,000 range--a bit high for me, especially when we're seeing 3D tech growing to the point where some 3D set ups don't even require shuttered glasses any longer (IOW, it's WAY too early to even consider buying a 3D 1080p projector quite yet).

So what's my point? My point is you're better off paying the extra few hundred on the 1080 projector as you're going to get years of use out of it, and you'll be able to watch HD (I can't remember the last time I watched something that WASN'T in HD... 2005? Maybe?) and top quality Blu-Ray from now through the next 10 years as I believe it will be at least that long before they're affordable enough for everyone. If you average that over the next 10 years, it runs something like $0.50 a day, at worst and that seems worthwhile to me. If you go with the 720p, you might as well kick yourself now because you're going to realize in a few years you really DO want to watch your Blu-Ray DVDs at the highest definition possible and you're going to end up buying a 1080p then. When you do that, the money you put into the 720p will be wasted.

Of course this is JMO, and I AM a movie buff... a movie buff who hasn't had to pay $8 to see a movie on a big screen in 16 years... (the popcorn and soda are cheaper too! :-) ).

Posted Feb 24, 2009 5:22 AM

By S Philip

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I own a Mitsubishi DLP 720p(native) projector. Genrally it was believed that LCD projectors fall short of DLP projectors in many aspects. Now can someone tell me if this is true, why did Mitsubishi or other brands not make a DLP 1080p projector for home use instead of a 3LCD? kindly share your views/ knowledge base on this as I plan to upgrade my setup to bluray.

Posted Mar 20, 2007 7:38 PM

By rjhiii

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When will the Epson 1080p projector be reviewed and compared to the other 1080p projectors? I'd hope it can be reviewed with the XA2 1080p HD DVD player which outputs HDMI 1.3; I'd prefer real results to theory.

Posted Dec 26, 2006 9:43 PM

By Bud Huey

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How does the BenQ W10000 compare with these 1080p projectors? Was it left out of the reviews because of the cost delta?

Thanks, Bud

Posted Dec 23, 2006 10:16 AM

By specz

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I was thinking about getting the Mitsu for the DVI but after reading its specs I saw it can output DVI to 1280x1024 only, why??? How can I output my HD content from my PC to get full 1920p?

Posted Dec 19, 2006 7:32 AM

By lvista6

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"If you are debating which model Panasonic, or more accurately, the price difference between 720p and 1080p and which is more cost effective, you are asking a great question!

Obviously you have the initial product price difference but you also have long term costs like lamps. You have to weigh these cost differences against what image quality you are going to get in return. I have been contemplating the same questions myself as I entertain the idea of moving the AE700u to the master bedroom and upgrade to one or the other of the new Panny models."

Westcott,

All excellent considerations. However, I have run into yet another cost consideration - ceiling mounts. I am floored to learn that the ceiling mount brackets for the four 1080P units reviewed vary from $250 for the Mitsubishi to $750 for the Sony.

I assumed a ceiling mount was a minor accessory. Now I find it to be a major cost consideration.

Am I missing something?

Posted Dec 18, 2006 12:34 PM

By westcott

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If you are debating which model Panasonic, or more accurately, the price difference between 720p and 1080p and which is more cost effective, you are asking a great question!

Obviously you have the initial product price difference but you also have long term costs like lamps. You have to weigh these cost differences against what image quality you are going to get in return. I have been contemplating the same questions myself as I entertain the idea of moving the AE700u to the master bedroom and upgrade to one or the other of the new Panny models.

I am going to stay out of the HD format wars so 1080p looses some attractiveness right away for me. I still have HD programming via satellite but is getting 1080p support worth the cost difference in image quality. I would have to say that for me, SD DVD performance is pretty important as I still find a well tranfered DVD will keep up with DBS HD just about any day of the week, whether in 720p or 1080i. But, the added performance in SD DVD provided by the 1080p machine along with better contrast and black levels make for a very strong arguement, as well. I can buy several lamps and a 720p machine for the cost of 1080p now!

Lamp life should not be underestimated, as you pointed out. I am happy if I get a years service (about 1000 hours +) or more from a lamp. The new projector would add $100 dollars a year, as well.

The real downside is that demoing either before making a final decision is impossible. None of the retailers I know carry them, much less have them set up.

So back to the original question. I think I can wait for 1080p. Costs will only drop further from here and the thought of even higher lamp costs for the house rising really makes me cringe. I am very satisfied with my present projectors price/performance ratio and do not think I would be disappointed at all with another 720p projector at this time. I think my money would be better spent upgrading to a Denon 2930ci if I really wanted spectacular DVD performace using a 720p projector negating what advantage may have been gained with the 1080p model.

Tough call and I wish you luck, either way you go!!!

Happy Holidays!

Posted Dec 16, 2006 9:41 AM

By JHouse

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Since the review has been updated for the AE1000U, I am unclear as to whether the new lens improvements had any affect on the light output, and I hope I just didn't read past that. It seems odd that those numbers would remain identical with improved optics. Was the light output of the new version actaully tested?

Posted Dec 14, 2006 2:10 PM

By microbiologycory

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I don't think the comment about running source through a receiver always degrading the signal is accurate, some receivers posses a good scaler/deinterlacer and the trend is increasingly toward better scalers in HT receivers (Yamaha is using Realta chips in their current lineup). Other receivers have a "pass through" HDMI which doesn't effect the signal (unless you use $.99 cables in which case your signal will be poor whether you run it through a receiver or not). Your comment might have been accuate a few years ago but I think there's been a paradigm shift.

By all means, let me know if you think I'm incorrect.

http://www.audioholics.com/news/pressreleases/YamahaRXV2700receiver.php http://www.audioholics.com/productreviews/avhardware/DenonDVD5910CIp1.php

Posted Dec 13, 2006 9:54 AM

By Atropos

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"I believe this article rates the connectivity incorrectly, as the Mitsubishi is the only one that possesses a DVI connection, while the rest possess only VGA.

This gives this projector the unique advantage to use the highest quality connection no matter what they connect to."

The Mits is the only one with DVI, and the rest have HDMI. HDMI and DVI are roughly equivalent for video, and HDMI can carry sound, as well.

"Its also worth noting that most configurations I've seen run the projector through a Reciever, making multiple inputs unnessesary."

Sometimes, running through an AV receiver can do bad things to your image -- running through a receiver will certainly never make the image look BETTER, that's for sure. So connectivity is important.

Posted Dec 10, 2006 8:05 PM

By aalex

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I believe this article rates the connectivity incorrectly, as the Mitsubishi is the only one that possesses a DVI connection, while the rest possess only VGA.

This gives this projector the unique advantage to use the highest quality connection no matter what they connect to.

Its also worth noting that most configurations I've seen run the projector through a Reciever, making multiple inputs unnessesary.

Posted Dec 3, 2006 7:54 PM

By aalex

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Has anyone actually verified the capability of the Mitsubishi's ablity to do 1080p/24 ? The ProjectorCentral review seems to indicate it wasn't tested. This could be a major point steering away from this if its not going to look very good with future media types.

Posted Nov 28, 2006 8:13 AM

By a novice

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Great questions, In the Market. I am looking for my first projector and have many of the same concerns: 1.) I was leaning toward the Panasonic PT-AX100U, but am now wondering if it is worth spending the extra money to get a 1080 projector; 2.) I have yet to find a retailer in my area that carries Panasonics, and am wondering why this is; and 3.) although I can eliminate almost all light in the room I will be using, I anticipate a lot of use will be for watching sports with friends, in which case having some light in the room will be preferable -- the Panasonic PT-AX100U review mentioned that it does quite well with less-than-dark conditions, but there is no mention of this issue in the 1080 shootout. Any info on these points would be greatly appreciated. Thanks much and thanks for the great site -- it is very helpful and informative.

"Initially, let me say, great website, very informative. I currently have a Sharp XV-DW100U. We have enjoyed it over the years. However, it recently developed a problem which is going to cost quite a bit to fix ($1000 to $1500). In addition, its bulbs are getting more and more expensive. To make a long story short, I think my money is better spent upgrading.

I have spent the last few weeks trying to decide what to purchase as a replacement. Our home has no direct light to the windowless projector room, although in the daytime we get some ambient sunlight through the entry way. The projector is ceiling mounted, 17 feet from a Stewart drop down screen (white), which is switched with the projector. I can ceiling mount a new projector such that it will have a throw distance from 10 to 17 feet. At most, I would have to adjust the screen up and down a half screen length, assuming I flush mount the projector to the ceiling.

We use the projector to watch a lot of DVD movies, as well as HD, digital and "regular" cable television, especially sports with friends. I was leaning toward the Panasonic PT-AX100U or a Yamaha DPX-830, as they seemed to be pretty versatile. (Curiously, at least to me in light of the reviews, the "high end" stereo stores really try to steer you away from the Panasonic. They have mentioned reliability problems with Panasonic projectors.) I though a few years down the road we would then upgrade to 1080. More recently, however, I read the shootout related to the native 1080 projectors, as well as the reviews available online. I also found that the native 1080s are priced less than I thought they would be. Now I am undecided again and wondering if I should just go ahead and go with the 1080 at this point..

Given we use our projector for more than movie watching, any thoughts on whether our money is better spent at this point on the lesser resolution, but perhaps more versatile, 720 projectors, and wait a few years to upgrade to 1080. Or, for the long run, are we better off going with a 1080 at this point? If the 1080 route, is there one particular model that would better serve our purposes given our usage patterns described above, admittedly in summary fashion? Thanks."

Posted Nov 26, 2006 2:57 PM

By raminolta

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Though i do very appreciate the instructive reviews i have read here on ProjectorCentral, i do have a criticism. I have been learning about various aspects of video projectors and i am gradually learning things. Sometimes, the reviews put the comparisons in absolute terms which result in statements which are in short of a thorough true description of the differences and fair comparisons. This is sometimes the case when it comes to black levels and contrast. I just got to learn the shortcoming of the iris technology in creating deep blacks when it comes to scenes where there are both bright parts and black areas where, iris can not close down to generate a deep black. So it is not a fair comparison to say an LCD projector producing deeper blacks than a DLP projector. Optoma H81 can generate deep blacks no matter if there is a bright subject in the scene or not. LCD projectors may be able to produce even deeper blacks than H81 in certain scenes but not certainly in all situations. An exampleray movie that illustrates the situation is Dogville where the set in about %90 of the movie is like bright foreground subjects against a black background. In such situations LCD projectors relying on iris to generate deep blacks cry their shortcoming where the background is just dark gray! So putting things in absolute terms like Panasonic or Sony produce deeper blacks than Optoma H81 can mislead novices like me who read these reviews in the hope of getting an expert point of view before making their decision but are unaware of conditions within which the comparison is made. I based my first purchase based on these reviews telling me new LCD projectos produce even deeper blacks than DLP projectors to come to a point to observe how false this statement can be when it is put in such absolute terms. I learnt about this by a side-by-side comparison of one LCD and one DLP projector. I understand manufacturers may intentionally attempt to hide the shorcomings of their products in order to sell it better. It is the expert reviewers upon which the non-knowledgeable readers can put their trust and hope to find out about where some facts may be hidden within the official specifications and descriptions.

Actual brightness of a projector is another example of this situation.

I hope it is understood i do not mean here to devalue the valuable reviews i have read here and elsewhere but, to help in improving them by showing where they are not adequately informative or thoroughful.

Best regards, Ramin

Posted Nov 26, 2006 11:19 AM

By In the Market

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Initially, let me say, great website, very informative. I currently have a Sharp XV-DW100U. We have enjoyed it over the years. However, it recently developed a problem which is going to cost quite a bit to fix ($1000 to $1500). In addition, its bulbs are getting more and more expensive. To make a long story short, I think my money is better spent upgrading.

I have spent the last few weeks trying to decide what to purchase as a replacement. Our home has no direct light to the windowless projector room, although in the daytime we get some ambient sunlight through the entry way. The projector is ceiling mounted, 17 feet from a Stewart drop down screen (white), which is switched with the projector. I can ceiling mount a new projector such that it will have a throw distance from 10 to 17 feet. At most, I would have to adjust the screen up and down a half screen length, assuming I flush mount the projector to the ceiling.

We use the projector to watch a lot of DVD movies, as well as HD, digital and "regular" cable television, especially sports with friends. I was leaning toward the Panasonic PT-AX100U or a Yamaha DPX-830, as they seemed to be pretty versatile. (Curiously, at least to me in light of the reviews, the "high end" stereo stores really try to steer you away from the Panasonic. They have mentioned reliability problems with Panasonic projectors.) I though a few years down the road we would then upgrade to 1080. More recently, however, I read the shootout related to the native 1080 projectors, as well as the reviews available online. I also found that the native 1080s are priced less than I thought they would be. Now I am undecided again and wondering if I should just go ahead and go with the 1080 at this point..

Given we use our projector for more than movie watching, any thoughts on whether our money is better spent at this point on the lesser resolution, but perhaps more versatile, 720 projectors, and wait a few years to upgrade to 1080. Or, for the long run, are we better off going with a 1080 at this point? If the 1080 route, is there one particular model that would better serve our purposes given our usage patterns described above, admittedly in summary fashion? Thanks.

Posted Nov 26, 2006 8:08 AM

By Ah Leung

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Compared to AE1000 and VW50, HC5000 has resolved the dust problem by encasing the prism blocks and the LCD panels and using a filter thicker than the other two. Without proper prevention, dust particles in the ventilating air would stick on the surfaces of the prism blocks and the LCD panels, causing a degradation of the video quality of the projector.

Posted Nov 22, 2006 2:12 PM

By SaveOnProjectors

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"PT-AE1000U vs PT-AX100u

In the 1080p projector shootout, the AE1000u beats the competition with standard DVDs. But how does it compare to the AX100u with standard DVDs?"

I would love to see that shootout, although I suspect that the only area were PT-AX100U can outshine is sharpness, since colors will be clearly better on the PT-AE1000U.

Posted Nov 22, 2006 12:45 PM

By actionwriter

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PT-AE1000U vs PT-AX100u

In the 1080p projector shootout, the AE1000u beats the competition with standard DVDs. But how does it compare to the AX100u with standard DVDs?

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