1080p DLP Home Theater Projector
Samsung SP-A600B versus Optoma HD20
The amount of activity in the budget 1080p market is encouraging, but it does cause consumers to wonder "which one is best?" We put the Samsung SP-A600B head-to-head with its less-expensive DLP competition, the Optoma HD20. Both are DLP 1080p projectors with short zoom lenses and relatively low contrast ratios, but the similarities end there.
Brightness. The Optoma HD20's 633 lumens in Cinema mode gives it a slight edge over the 570 lumens of the SP-A600B in Movie mode. Low lamp mode shows a similar differential, at 505 versus 428 lumens. With both projectors in their brightest modes, the HD20 measures 954 lumens to the SP-A600B's 883. What this actually means is that the HD20 appears slightly brighter than the SP-A600B, but not enough that one would notice if the projectors were not side by side.
Contrast. In side by side testing, the HD20 has a bigger dynamic range. In scenes with both very bright and very dark content, the HD20's image was more three-dimensional than the SP-A600B. However, the SP-A600B had a deeper black level, and therefore performed better in dark scenes. Black level on the HD20 was high in comparison, almost a dark gray. In a light-controlled room, the SP-A600B would be the better performer, but in a room with ambient light, the HD20 is the winner.
Color. Both projectors had good color, though the SP-A600B was slightly more accurate out-of-the-box. After adjustment, both projectors had accurate, well-saturated color. For those sensitive to rainbow effects, note that the HD20 has a 4x-speed color wheel while the SP-A600B has a 5x-speed wheel. If you are concerned about rainbows, the SP-A600B will be a better choice.
Image clarity. The HD20 has much less digital noise than the SP-A600B. This made the image produced by the HD20 appear clearer and more detailed than that of the SP-A600B. The SP-A600B did have a smooth picture, but digital noise caused it to appear less natural.
Audible noise. The SP-A600B is larger than the HD20. This actually makes the SP-A600B much quieter during operation than the HD20, which is easily audible even when placed several feet away. Meanwhile, we could sit quite close to the SP-A600B without being disturbed by fan noise.
Samsung SP-A600B Versus Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 8100
The Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 8100 is Epson's latest addition to their line of 1080p home theater projectors. The two projectors are as different as can be; one is an LCD projector with extensive zoom and lens shift, while the other is a DLP projector with a 1.3:1 zoom and a fixed throw angle. However, their retail prices are within $200 of one another, though actual street price may vary somewhat.
Image clarity. The major difference between these two projectors, the one thing you will notice before anything else, is the difference in clarity and three-dimensionality. The Home Cinema 8100 has a clearer picture which exhibits less digital noise and looks far more three-dimensional than does the SP-A600B. When placed side-by-side, image noise on the SP-A600B is obvious, and it appears flatter in comparison.
Lumen output. In its brightest mode, Dynamic, the Home Cinema 8100 measures 1749 lumens to the SP-A600B's 883 in Vivid. For HD sports or multiplayer video games, the Home Cinema 8100 is probably the better choice due to its much higher maximum brightness. However, in Movie 1 mode, the SP-A600B's 570 ANSI lumens is neck-and-neck with the 598 lumens of the Home Cinema 8100 in its Natural mode. For dark-room cinema use, the two projectors' lumen outputs are evenly matched.
Color. After a little bit of tweaking, the SP-A600B has very good, natural, life-like color, though it was oversaturated and slightly green before adjustment. The Home Cinema 8100, on the other hand, has a well-balanced picture without any noticeable bias, which makes it a better choice for the consumer who wants to "plug and play."
Contrast. It should come as no surprise that the Home Cinema 8100, which is rated at 36,000:1, has better visible contrast than the SP-A600B, rated at 3000:1. The Home Cinema 8100's picture is brighter, has better definition in shadows, and has deeper blacks than that of the SP-A600B.
In terms of other features which impact usability, the Home Cinema 8100 is the clear winner. It has a 2.1:1 manual zoom lens to the SP-A600B's 1.3:1, highly flexible vertical and horizontal lens shift versus the SP-A600B's fixed throw angle, and a large backlit remote against the SP-A600B's miniature one. It is easier to install and use, and picture quality is excellent.