Celebrating 20 Years
Top 10 Find a Projector Reviews Throw CalculatorCalc Buyer's Guide Expert Blogs Projector Forums

Home Theater Projector Shootout:
Home Theater Projectors under $1,000

This section contains meter measurements on the five projectors pertaining to lumen output, brightness uniformity, and input lag.

2D Brightness. For traditional 2D movie and video display, all five of these projectors produce more than ample light for dark room home theater. In their brightest configurations that are still balanced for very good video, four of the five come in so close that it would make no sense to choose one or the other based on brightness. The Viewsonic PJD7835HD is the one exception that puts out more light.

ANSI Lumens in Brightest Cinema Modes

MODEL Lumens
BenQ HT3050
BenQ HT2050
Epson 2040
Optoma HD28DSE
Viewsonic PJD7835HD

ANSI Lumens in Standard Cinema Modes
(lamps on full power)

MODEL Lumens
BenQ HT3050
BenQ HT2050
Epson 2040
Optoma HD28DSE
Viewsonic PJD7835HD

In their preset Cinema modes, the Epson 2040, Optoma HD28, and Viewsonic 7835HD are somewhat brighter than the BenQ HT2050 and HT3050. But even the least bright measurement of 1160 lumens is more than ample light for most dark theater applications.

Eco modes. All five projectors have eco-modes that reduce total lumen output in all modes in the event light output at full lamp power is too much for your needs. Optoma's eco-mode cuts light by 26%, Epson's by 34%, and the two BenQ models are reduced 32%. The Viewsonic has two eco modes. The standard Eco cuts light by 27%, and the Super-Eco cuts it by a whopping 78% (a curious option for which we cannot see a high demand).

Zoom lens effect. The 1.3x zoom lenses on the two BenQ models will allow you to reduce lumen output by up to 27% as you move to the telephoto end of the zoom range. Why? As you move the lens from wide angle to telephoto, it reduces the amount of light that is transmitted through the lens. The Viewsonic has a 1.36x zoom that will reduce light up to 23% at the telephoto end. This gives users of these models a bit more latitude for lowering maximum brightness if they need to. Meanwhile the Epson 2040 and Optoma HD28 have shorter zooms of 1.2x and 1.1x respectively. The light output of the Epson and Optoma projectors is not significantly altered by the zoom position.

3D Brightness. Though these five projectors are similar in 2D image brightness, the similarities evaporate entirely when switching to 3D operation. The Epson HC 2040 has a commanding advantage in 3D image brightness over all four of its competitors. It is well over twice as bright as the closest runner up, the Optoma HD28DSE. In turn, the HD28DSE is obviously brighter than the remaining three.

Brightness Uniformity. A theoretically perfect projector will have 100% uniformity, displaying identical illumination across the screen side to side and top to bottom. We've never seen one do this. Practically speaking in today's world, 90% uniformity is excellent, 80% is good, 70% is fair to mediocre, and 60% is poor. These numbers represent ratios between the brightest part of the image and the dimmest. So a projector with 60% uniformity will be 40% less bright in the dimmest area of the image than in its brightest.

For the most part, low brightness uniformity is not noticeable when viewing a video or film image. What you generally get is fading toward the sides or corners that you are not conscious of unless the projector has some visible vignetting. So the flaw is subtle -- you are not seeing the picture as it is meant to be seen, but you are not aware that it is wrong. Once you throw a 100 IRE white test pattern onto the screen, the degree of unevenness of your projector's image becomes apparent.

Our five 1080p projectors in this group yield brightness uniformity measurements as follows:

MODEL Uniformity
BenQ HT3050
BenQ HT2050
Epson 2040
Optoma HD28DSE
Viewsonic PJD7835HD

Input Lag. The time lag that exists between the time the projector receives the signal and the time it appears on the screen is called input lag. A lengthy input lag will produce visible lip synch issues and may have some impact on video gaming results. The lip synch problem can be easily overcome with the use of an audio delay that brings the sound and the picture back into synch. But there is no fix for video gaming, so those who are into serious competitive gaming tend to look for video displays with the lowest input lags.

BenQ HT3050
49.7 ms
BenQ HT2050
33.1 ms
Epson Home Cinema 2040
24.6 ms
Optoma HD28DSE
49.7 ms
Viewsonic PJD7835HD
49.7 ms

Previous Page
The Best Projector
Next Page
Installation Notes
Review Contents: The Best Projector Performance Installation Notes Lamp Life and Price
  BenQ HT3050 BenQ HT2050 Epson HC 2040 Optoma HD28DSE
  Viewsonic PJD7835HD

Buy the BenQ HT2050 online here:

Buy the BenQ HT3050 online here:

Buy the Epson Home Cinema 2040 online here:

Buy the Optoma HD28DSE online here:

Buy the ViewSonic PJD7835HD online here:

Comments (11) Post a Comment
Noam Cohen Posted Nov 14, 2015 7:53 AM PST
Thank you for this thorough examination.
Noam Cohen Posted Nov 14, 2015 9:21 AM PST
The Epson 2045 replaces an aging Runco CL510 in my theater. I am loving it. On a DIY 'Black Widow' screen it is vibrant - and even black levels become quite good. 3D is a blast. $79 Lamp is a low end game changer.

Nice shoot-out. Thank you.
Zak Posted Nov 15, 2015 5:52 PM PST
3D is just amazing and much better than movie theaters.
Joe Smith USA Posted Nov 16, 2015 1:54 PM PST
How would the Optoma HD28DSE compare to the Sony 55ES if you were watching on a 110 inch screen 15 feet away?

Since Optoma also has Darbee, it may even do some things better. Probably won't have as good a black as the Sony 55 but otherwise I have a feeling it is a much better buy for under 1K
Mike Posted Dec 1, 2015 8:06 PM PST
how do these compare to say a Epson home cinema 3500 which can be had refurbished from Epson for ~ $1,000
Jon Busch Posted Dec 30, 2015 2:42 PM PST
I am surprised that the light level measurements (lumens) are so muh less than manufacturers claim. I'm a motion picture technician by trade and I want the kind of light (measured in Foot-lamberts that are considered ideal - that being 16 Footlamberts. How does that correlate to lumens? I've got an old Mitsubishi 1000, rated at 1500 lumen and it's much dimmer than what I want. The 2040 reviewed doesn't appear to have more light according to your tests yet you claim brilliant color. What do I need to get movie theater brightness?
Landis Posted Apr 12, 2016 3:15 PM PST
Just installed the 2040 last night and was amazed at how good it looked in full light on Eco mode. My wife sitting right next to it said she couldn't hear the fan. If left in normal mode it seems a waste. I wonder why people pay more unless you're able to spend a great deal more and I wonder how much the human eye can really tell as far as the difference. The 3D was as advertised and reviewed. So clear and easy to watch with the $20 Samsung 3D glasses I bought on Prime. My previous Viewsonic PJ1165 was not as good as this one. I whole heartedly recommend this product!
paul Posted Apr 21, 2016 5:21 AM PST
Hi, I just got from Amazon 2 projectors listed here to try out and kept Epson 2040. First of all - none of those projectors is perfect, it is true. One huge benefit 7835HD has is its zoom and throwing angle - it is an ideal device to hang your screen from a ceiling in a medium size room and have projector in front of your seating position, 100" screen gets filled from 7ft or so, it is very convenient. Now, a reason it goes back - i am not sure if i had a wrong unit or they all are like that, but quality of the focus ring was horrible. Lens shift and moves when you adjust focus ring and you never get that feel that you are in perfect focus. Quality of the lens is also so-so.

Huge operational plus of the Epson device is - when you adjust its legs it automatically adjusts keystones making screen perfectly square. For some reason most reviews kip that - but for a device that will be used from a cofee table it is a huge thing - i do not have to adjust screen manually every time, it does it itself using built in level. Very smart.

I am not a picky person, i know some folks avoid adjusting keystones but epson 2040 was way, way sharper and perfectly in focus compared to 7835HD.

Speaking of brightness and fan noise - 7835HD wins in full brightness mode hands down. If you need to use projector in the living room with windows - it is a better option. Fan is acceptable and image is bright with ambient light on. If you do such stunt with Epson 2040 it starts blowing its fan like a turbine and image is so-so, not much brighter than in ECO mode.

BUT! Eco mode is what matters for a room with not much light , as most people will use it in this mode. That was the final reason for me to return 7835HD. Eco fan mode on 2040 unit is LESS loud than ECO mode on 7835HD. Also, to my surprise, only color mode on 7835HD to be brighter then Epson`s was its brightest contrast mode that distorts all colors. Only natural color mode you can watch movies on Viewsonic is a 'standard' mode with 'warm' color balance, as was noted in the review. In this mode it produces great picture with vary nice colors.

With Epson i noticed that I like almost every mode it has, i see some differences but did not see anything drastically distorted. So, if you turn on Dynamic mode on 2040 and then go to menu and switch lamp power to ECO - you get NICE and BRIGHT image, and that image is brighter than standard ECO mode on a 3500 lumens 7835HD! It was odd to see, but i had both projectors fired up from same source via hdmi splitter and it was indeed so.

That was the point that made my decision.

Only downside of Epson is that it needs different kind of 3D glasses, but in 3D it is actually visibly brighter then viewsonic as well, noticeably brighter.
Jim Posted Jul 18, 2016 6:11 PM PST
I've ordered an HT2050. I'm confused about the zoom range. I'm using a 100" silver ticket, white fixed frame screen. Your articles explains how zooming in and out affects light output, but I can't follow it. In order to place the projector as far back as possible over my living room, I planned on zooming the image "down" to fit inside the borders of the 100" screen. Is this increasing or reducing light output vs placing the projector closer and zooming "up"? I would think, given the same size screen (100" for example), moving the projector forward and backward, while simultaneously using the zoom lens to keep the image the same size, would net the same light output. Thanks!
Evan Powell, Editor Posted Jul 18, 2016 6:45 PM PST
Jim, most projectors with zoom lenses lose light output as you move them back from the screen and adjust the zoom to the longer throw end of the zoom range. The BenQ 2050 and 3050 lose 27% of their light output when moving from the most extreme wide angle position to the most telephoto position, which is not unusual. This is because the zoom effect is caused by increasing the distance between the front and rear lens elements. The light path in the lens through which the light needs to pass is lengthened, and therefore the amount of light that can make it out of the lens is constricted. So your assumption that the projector is just as bright for any given screen size regardless of the throw distance is not accurate. To get the brightest possible picture, place the 2050 as close to the screen as possible.
Brandon Posted Aug 14, 2016 10:41 AM PST
So upgrading from a w1070, I purchased a BenqQ HT3050. I wasn't thrilled with it for a few reasons. Not any brighter than my 1070 with 2200 hours on it (I'm big into 3D); very slow signal switching (just an annoyance); and noticeably more image noise. So I purchased a 2045. Well the 3d is (imo) not anywhere near 4x as bright as the 3050 or 1070 for that matter. Noticeably brighter but not by much. And the blacks/shadow detail are crushed compared to the BenQ's. Not to mention ghosting, and reflective glasses (panny vieras). On a 100" screen, 3d is better on the benq's imo and the brightness difference is maybe 1.25 times more to my eyes anyway. Both these projectors have many positives I haven't mentioned, but after trying all three on a hdmi switch back and forth; taking pics and comparing; I beleive I'm sticking with the w1070 and selling the other two...

Post a comment

Commenting on this article is easy and does not require any registration. Your email address is necessary for you to activate your comment once it has been submitted. It will not be shown to other site viewers. ProjectorCentral reserves the right to remove any comment at any time for any reason. Foul language is not permitted, nor are personal attacks. No HTML allowed. All comments should remain on topic.


Email Address:(used only to confirm your comment)

Your Comment:

(Enter the numbers as they appear to the left)