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Best Projectors under $1000
November 13, 2014,
BEST for TV Replacement:
As the only non-DLP projector in this shootout, the Epson 2030 already stands out quite a bit. But its combination of high-end features, great color, and a bright calibrated mode make it a compelling option even for those who aren't bothered by rainbow effects, and $99 lamp replacements make maintenance a painless experience.
We like the Epson Home Cinema 2030 for TV replacement for five reasons:
Picture quality. The Home Cinema 2030 has a perfectly balanced picture with accurate, vibrant color. The image is smooth and natural, with cleanly-rendered detail but no hint of artificiality. Black level is comparatively weak, though shadow detail is still well-defined, and the so-so black levels don't matter as much in a bright room. And with over 1400 lumens in Cinema mode, the Home Cinema 2030 can easily handle a room with some ambient light.
Lamp life and cost. Even at full power, the Home Cinema 2030's lamps are rated to last 5,000 hours. That number jumps to 6,000 hours in Eco mode, but also entails a 32% drop in light output. However, since lamp replacements are only $99 for real, genuine Epson lamps, there's not much reason to conserve lamp hours if you need the extra brightness.
No rainbows. Rainbow effects are a natural consequence of DLP projectors' use of sequential color display. Those with faster color wheels are better at reducing or eliminating rainbows than those with slower color wheels, but even the BenQ HT1075, which has the fastest color wheel in this shootout, will cause rainbows for some people. If you already know that you are hyper-sensitive to rainbow effects, the Home Cinema 2030 is the only 3-chip projector in this shootout, and therefore the only projector that will absolutely not cause any rainbows.
Two-year warranty. Though it can't match the three year coverage of the Viewsonic PJD7820HD, a two-year warranty should help assuage any fears you might have about running a projector instead of a television. And since going without TV is something that most folks don't want to contemplate, Epson will cross-ship a replacement projector to you during the warranty period thanks to their ExtraCare program (though they do require a credit card authorization in order to use this service).
Input lag. If you switch Image Processing from "Fine" to "Fast," the Home Cinema 2030 clocks in at only 34 milliseconds of lag. That's right on par with the other projectors in this shootout. However, Fast processing also reduces resolution, which can be an issue if you were counting on pixel-perfect source reproduction. "Fine" processing isn't an option for gamers, as it measures about 100 milliseconds using this option.
The Home Cinema 2030 is a great TV replacement, but it can be difficult to mount due to an atypical throw offset. If the projector is level, the projector will place about 8% of the image below the centerline of the lens. This makes coffee table placement difficult, and means that ceiling mounts will require an extension tube. You could also tilt the projector and apply keystone correction, but part of the benefit of a native 1080p projector is the ability to display 1080p sources at a 1:1 pixel match. That benefit disappears as soon as you apply keystone correction. A weak two-watt speaker means you'll want external speakers for any kind of serious viewing.
Buy the BenQ HT1075 online here:
Buy the Epson Home Cinema 2030 online here:
Buy the InFocus IN8606HD online here:
Buy the Optoma HD26 online here:
Buy the ViewSonic PJD7820HD online here:
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