Best of the Year 2019

One of the benefits of watching and reporting on the projector market day-in and day-out at ProjectorCentral is that we get to look back at the end of each year and gauge the trends and stand-out products which, in hindsight, left an impression. For the first time, we're delighted to share these observations in our inaugural ProjectorCentral Best of the Year Awards.

The products culled below from the 40 or so we reviewed or completed evaluations for in 2019 all have a little something extra. Some feature innovations or cutting-edge technologies that broke new ground; others offer impressive build or image quality that blew us away; still others just delivered the kind of price/performance value quotient that makes them an easy recommendation.

Taken in aggregate, what you'll see from the mix is an industry that was in flux in 2019. Laser and other low maintenance, lamp-free projection solutions dropped rapidly in cost and began staking their claim in the markets for replacement education and business projectors. And we saw a more massive incursion of both affordable and premium 4K UHD projectors for the home theater market. Critically, new generation 4K home theater introductions starting in late 2018 gave us noticeably improved HDR as manufacturers began to finally figure out the tone-mapping formulas required to take advantage of this enhanced content. And of course, we saw our first reviews of 4K ultra short throw (UST) "laser TV" projectors intended to replace the family room flat-panel. We expect all of these trends to continue in 2020, and we'll be here, as always, to tell you what we think of the new gear.—Rob Sabin, editor-in-chief.

 


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BenQ CinePro HT3550 4K DLP Projector

Intended Use: Home Theater
Price: $1,699
Read Review | View Projector Details

BenQ notably improved image quality over prior models in 2019's new crop of home theater projectors with updates that included an expansion of color gamut to DCI-P3 limits and its new HDR-PRO tone-mapping. These enhancements appeared in several BenQ models at different price points, but they delivered a truly superb value in the budget HT3550—one that still holds despite a recent $200 tariff-related price hike. (Read the full review).



BenQ TH671ST

BenQ TH671ST 1080p DLP Projector

Intended Use: Home Theater/Gaming
Price: $799
Read Review | View Projector Details

BenQ earned our Highly Recommended award with this affordable, lightweight, 1080p gaming projector that boasts high 3,000-lumen brightness and an ambient light sensor; a short-throw lens with a helpful zoom control; color accuracy, black level, and shadow detail on par with its product class; and the low, 16.4 ms input lag that competitive gamers seek. (Read the full review).



BenQ EH600 front left

BenQ EH600 1080p DLP Smart Projector

Intended Use: Business/Education
Price: $999
Review Pending | View Projector Details

BenQ bills the affordable, 3,500-lumen, EH600 as the world's first Android-based business projector designed to make life easy for classroom and business presenters. It lived up to that promise thanks to its built-in Firefox browser for showing web pages, as well as business apps that allow users to display documents, spreadsheets, or PowerPoint presentations without a computer. It's also equipped to wirelessly mirror a laptop or mobile device. Watch for our review this month.

 


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Casio XJ-S400UN WUXGA Laser/LED DLP Projector

Intended Use: Education
Price: $1,800
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Casio's hybrid laser/led solid-state light source offers the low-maintenance benefits of any laser projector, but in an exceptionally compact form factor here that's said to be among the smallest in its 4,000-lumen class. This, combined with affordable pricing and the company's exceptional suite of ES convenience and sharing tools for educators, prompted our ProjectorCentral InfoComm 2019 Best of Show award in June, and also earns it a Best of the Year award in the wake of our review last summer. (Read the full review).



Christie D16HD HS Front Top Angle

Christie D16HD-HS 1080p Laser DLP Projector

Intended Use: Large Venue
Price: $31,999
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Christie uniquely squeezed a whole lotta lumens—14,000 ANSI or more—into a workhorse laser projector that can run on a standard 115 volt, 15 amp outlet. The company's Bold Color laser technology, extensive set-up features, and usual extraordinary build quality come along for the ride. (Read the full review).



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Elite Screens Aeon CLR UST Screen

Intended Use: Home Theater/Business
Price: $1,249, 100-inch diagonal, 16:9
Read Review

The push by projector makers into ultra-short throw projectors for use in living rooms has led to demand for specialty UST ambient light-rejecting screens. The best of these feature sophisticated optical filters that reject light from overhead and reflect the light coming up from below directly at viewers. Elite's Aeon CLR screen delivers excellent performance and a frameless, "floating picture" aesthetic at an extraordinarily low price for this type of engineered screen material. (Read the full review).



EpsonHC5050UB-front

Epson Home Cinema 5050UB 4K PRO-UHD 3LCD Projector

Intended Use: Home Theater
Price: $2,999
Read Review | View Projector Details

Epson began a refresh of its home theater projector line starting in late 2018 with the Home Cinema 4010, which featured an update to their 1080p pixel-shifting and some excellent improvements to their HDR tone-mapping scheme. Those changes, combined with the company's UltraBlack technology as offered in the HC 5050UB and its sister models HC 5050UBe and Pro Cinema 6050, make these projectors one of the best bargains of 2019. The Editor's Choice award we applied to our review of the HC5050UBe, as well as this year-end honor, applies to all three similarly-performing projectors. (Read the full review).



Epson HC3800 lead

Epson Home Cinema 3800 4K PRO-UHD 3LCD Projector

Intended Use: Home Theater
Price:$1,499
Read Review | View Projector Details

With a list price of $1,699 and a recent street price of $1,500, Epson's Home Cinema 3800 is a stand-out in its class with superb out-of-box image quality, high brightness (rated and measured at 3,000 ANSI lumens), exceptionally generous zoom and lens shift range, and the inclusion of the company's 4K PRO-UHD pixel shifting—the latter offered here at a new low price point. The HC3800 achieved a Highly Recommended designation upon its review in October, and easily earns a ProjectorCentral Best of the Year award. (Read the full review).



Epson-Lightscene-White-ceiling-800

Epson LightScene EV-100 WXGA Laser 3LCD Projector

Intended Use: Retail/Exhibition
Price: $2,499
Read Review | View Projector Details

Also recognized with our Infocomm 2019 Best of Show award, the Epson LightScene EV-100 is a remarkable specialty projector designed to resemble an accent spotlight while it creates immersive and even interactive environments in museums, hotels, or at retail. A variety of built-in masks and special effects, as well as the ability to create specialized content on a computer, open up a new world of projection possibilities. (Read the full review).



JVC DLA NX7 main

JVC DLA-NX7 4K D-ILA Projector

Intended Use: Home Theater
Price: $8,999
Read Review | View Projector Details

JVC's DLA-NX7 (also sold as the DLA-RS2000 in JVC's professional series) was awarded our coveted Editor's Choice designation thanks to its stunning clarity, industry-leading contrast and black levels from JVC's late-generation 4K LCoS imagers, and ground-breaking frame-adaptive dynamic tone-mapping for HDR. Though this projector is expensive by typical hobbyist standards, it actually represents excellent value in the world of high-end home theater. It is, quite simply, the best home theater projector we've tested to date. (Read the full review).



LG HU85LA Slider Main

LG CineBeam HU85LA 4K Laser DLP Projector

Intended Use: Home Theater
Price: $5,999
Read Review | View Projector Details

LG's entry into the family-room UST category comes at a considerable premium to its direct competition, and you can get a better dark-room home theater picture for its $6,000 price with a conventional long-throw projector. On the other hand, it proved a very capable projector in both a dark theater and well-lit rooms, and its good-to-excellent image quality and well-polished smart TV platform pushed the boundaries of what this type of product can achieve. It earned our respect and Editor's Choice recognition when we reviewed it in October, and at this writing it remains the gold-standard in this developing category. (Read the full review).



NEC PX1005QL W Front

NEC PX1005QL 4K Laser DLP Projector

Intended Use: Large Venue
Price: $24,000
Read Review | View Projector Details

With 10,000 ANSI lumens and 4K UHD resolution courtesy of TI's 0.66-inch XPR DLP chip, the NEC PX1005QL delivers high brightness, sharp images, and an almost overwhelming mix of features, adjustments, and lens options to accommodate virtually any situation. It's also built like the proverbial brick you-know-what—a great attribute for a low-maintenance laser projector that requires no filter changes and offers 20,000 guaranteed hours of life. (Read the full review).



Optom UHL55 Front Top

Optoma UHL55 4K LED DLP Projector

Intended Use: Home Theater
Price: $999
Read Review | View Projector Details

Optoma's UHL55 is representative of a relatively new class of "lifestyle" projectors that share in common long-life and durable solid-state light engines; a portable form factor; an onboard audio system (which in some cases doubles as a Bluetooth speaker for your phone); and an integrated web-streaming platform. These aren't designed for hardcore videophiles who watch movies in the dark or serious gamers who need the lowest possible input lag; other more conventional projectors in their price bracket will better serve those users. But they can be a blast to tote around for impromptu movie-watching or gaming, and their automated focus and keystone correction features make set-up a breeze. Among the 4K-resolution models of this product class we either reviewed or evaluated in 2019, the UHL55 was the best-performing, and with its $1,749 list price and aggressive $999 street price, it was by far the least expensive and best value. (Read the full review).



Optoma ZH403 FrontTop

Optoma ZH403 1080p Laser DLP Projector

Intended Use: Business/Education/Worship
Price: $1,249
Read Review | View Projector Details

In a year in which laser projection infiltrated all aspects of commercial projection, no manufacturer did more to drive down its cost than Optoma. The company's 5,000-lumen, ZK-507 (review here) currently stands as the least expensive 4K/UHD standard-throw laser projector at that brightness. But the sheer affordability of the ZH403, a 4,000-lumen, 1080p model that goes for just $1,249, leaves little excuse for budget-conscious school districts or higher ed institutions to replace their classroom projectors with lamp-based models. (Read the full review).



Panasonic MZ770U

Panasonic PT-VMZ50U WUXGA Laser 3LCD Projector

Intended Use: Business/Education/Worship
Price: $2,499
Read Review | View Projector Details

Pansonic has delivered in the PT-VMZ50U a premium laser projector that is not only exceptionally small (about 14 x 16 x 5 inches) and light (16 pounds) for its 5000-lumen class, but also exhibited extraordinary image quality, with both accurate colors and better contrast than most competitors. A thoughtfully wide 1.6x zoom lens and lens shift range (+44% vertical, ±20% horizontal) contribute to quick set-ups where users seek to take advantage of its portability. (Read the full review).



Sony-VPL-FHZ75-B-FrontLeft

Sony VPL-FHZ75 WUXGA Laser 3LCD Projector

Intended Use: Business/Education/Worship
Price: $12,000
Read Review | View Projector Details

Sony's VPL-FHZ75 offered a punchy 6,500 lumens of spec'd and measured brightness during our evaluation from a relatively compact form factor, and delivered both the setup flexibility and outstanding picture quality we've come to expect from the brand. But this model also stood out for its unique "Intelligent Settings" control, which adjusts six different parameters for color, brightness, energy use, and fan noise based on the intended environment or use (Conference Room, Museum, Entertainment). (Read the full review).



Sony-VPL-VW295ES-Front-Angle

Sony VPL-VW295ES 4K SXRD Projector

Intended Use: Home Theater
Price: $4,999
Read Review | View Projector Details

At $4,999, the Sony VPL-VW295ES remains the least expensive true native 4K home theater projector on the market—4096 x 2160 pixels, no pixel-shifting required. It earned our Highly Recommended designation upon our review in March thanks to its excellent shaprness, accurate out-of-box color, superb scaling of 1080p SDR content, and punchy rendering of UHD HDR. (Read the full review).



ViewSonic M1 Mini open

ViewSonic M1 Mini FWGA LED DLP Projector

Intended Use: Home Theater/Business
Price: $169
Read Review | View Projector Details

Rated for just 50 ANSI lumens (120 LED lumens) and native 854 x 480 resolution, ViewSonic's M1 Mini isn't made for big, bright pictures. But for just $169, it delivers a surprisingly good image for signals up to 1080p from an incredibly compact (4 x 4 x 1 inch) and solid little package that travels easily with business road-warriors or anyone who wants a more engaging viewing experience from their mobile device. (Read the full review).

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