Should I Replace My 10-Year-Old Projector? Ask the Editors

projector

Q: My current AV system includes a Sanyo PLV-Z2000 projector (almost 10 years old with the original lamp), Onkyo TX-SR875 AV receiver, Aperion Intimus 533 Cinema HD 5.1 speaker system, homemade 90″ diagonal screen using a Home Depot laminate, and Sony BDP-BX2 Blu-ray player. My viewing distance is about 12′ from the screen, and my sources are mainly Comcast TV channels, Netflix streaming from a Roku 3, and operatic DVDs.

From reading your site, I think I should be able to make a noticeable improvement by spending around $3000-$4000 on a new projector and (if required) a new receiver and disc player. I hope to retain my speakers and screen unless this makes no sense.

What would you recommend? I have zero interest in 3D. My current setup still seems quite good to me, but 10 years is a long time in this field. I realize that getting a 70″ TV is one option, but the installation would be more complicated than just replacing my current projector, receiver, etc.

– Adam Lloyd (adamlloyd)


A: I’m amazed the lamp has lasted this long! I’m sure it’s very dim by now. Of course, you could simply replace it; if you search online for “Sanyo PLV-Z2000 lamp,” you’ll find many sources that sell it for less than $150. That will certainly make the image a lot brighter, and it might be all you need, since you enjoy the system as it is.

On the other hand, if you want to join the 21st century, you could upgrade the projector. If you do, it would be best to upgrade the AVR and disc player as well. I agree there’s no need to upgrade the speakers. I don’t know about the DIY screen; I’ve heard of people doing something like you’ve done, but I’ve never seen how well it works.

As you probably know from reading AVS Forum, 4K/UHD resolution and high dynamic range (HDR) are the current “must have” features for video. With your budget, I’d look at the Epson Home Cinema 5040UB ($2700) or the new HC 4000 ($2200). Both have 1080p imagers with 2 million pixels, and the pixels are quickly shifted back and forth diagonally between two positions to double the effective resolution to 4 million pixels. It’s still not true 4K/UHD, but it’s higher resolution than 1080p, and it allows the projectors to accept and display 4K/UHD content from streaming sources or UHD Blu-ray.

Another option is the Optoma UHD60 ($2000), which uses the new 4K/UHD DLP chip that has 4 million native pixels. That chip also quickly shifts the pixels back and forth diagonally, but in this case, the resulting resolution is 3840×2160—in other words, true UHD. However, since this is a single-chip DLP projector that uses a color-filter wheel, you might see what is commonly called “the rainbow effect”—as you move your eyes around an image with bright highlights on a dark background, you could see fleeting rainbows that really annoy some people.

All of these projectors can display an HDR image in the HDR10 format, which is used on UHD Blu-rays and some streaming services. One vital performance parameter in this regard is the black level; the deeper the blacks, the better the HDR image looks. (This is also true of standard dynamic range images.) The Epson HC 5040UB is known to have a great black level, and the HC 4000 should also have a good black level. I don’t know how deep the Optoma UHD60’s black level is.

Of course, brightness is another critical factor. The HC 5040UB has a specified brightness of 2500 lumens, while the HC 4000 has 2200 lumens. The UHD60 claims a brightness of 3000 lumens. However, in all cases, the calibrated brightness is typically lower than these figures. In practical terms, they are probably not far from each other in this department.

One thing the Epson models have over the Optoma is motorized lens shift. The zoom, focus, and lens shift are all motorized and controlled from the remote, and the settings can be saved in different memories. By contrast, the zoom, focus, and lens shift on the Optoma are manual, and it offers only vertical lens shift, making placement less flexible. (The Epsons offer vertical and horizontal lens shift.) If your projector is difficult to reach—say, mounted near the ceiling—a motorized lens is far more convenient than a manual lens.

On the other hand, the Optoma’s HDMI ports operate at 18 Gbps, while the Epsons’ operate at 10 Gbps. This is important for 4K/UHD content at 60 frames per second (fps), including some streaming channels and future UHD Blu-rays. (There’s one currently available UHD Blu-ray that uses 60 fps—Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk—and there could be others in the future.) It’s also important for gaming, which you might or might not care about.

If you decide to upgrade the projector, you’ll also need to upgrade the AVR to a model that passes 4K/UHD and HDR10 signals from its HDMI inputs to its HDMI output. (Many also pass Dolby Vision HDR, but that’s not important for projectors, which do not implement Dolby Vision.) That way, you can connect 4K/UHD HDR source devices to the receiver, and those signals will pass through and get to the projector. Most AVR companies offer models with this capability.

As long as you’re upgrading the projector and AVR, I’d also upgrade the disc player. The best, most future-proof model available today is the Oppo UDP-203 UHD Blu-ray player, which lists for $550. (The UDP-205 has more audiophile features, but it’s $1300, and I don’t think you need what it offers beyond the UDP-203.) It will play UHD Blu-rays, regular Blu-rays, DVDs, CDs, and just about any disc format available today. The one thing it does not offer is streaming apps, such as Netflix, YouTube, etc. But you have a Roku, so that doesn’t matter.

Speaking of streaming, if you get a new projector and AVR, you’ll probably want to upgrade the Roku 3, since it can’t do 4K/UHD and HDR. I’d consider the Roku Premiere+ ($90) or Roku Ultra ($110), both of which offer 4K streaming with HDR. However, you’ll probably need to upgrade your Netflix account to include 4K/UHD and HDR as well. Also, Netflix 4K HDR streaming might be at 60 fps, which the Epson projectors can’t do.

Let’s say you allocate $2500 for the projector, $550 for the Oppo UHD Blu-ray player, and $100 for a new Roku. That leaves $850 in your maximum budget for an AVR—but of course, there’s no reason to spend that much if you don’t have to. I’d look at the Sony STR-DN1080 ($500), Denon AVR-S930H ($579), Yamaha RX-V683 ($600), Pioneer VSX-1131 ($600), and Pioneer Elite VSX-LX302 ($800). These are all 7.2-channel AVRs with support for a second zone and immersive audio if you’re interested in trying that out. I’m sure that other AVS Forum members will have their own ideas on all of this, and I welcome their comments.

Bottom line: If you embark on the upgrade path, I have no doubt that you’ll enjoy the system even more than you do now.

If you’ve got an AV question, please send it to AskTheEditors@avsforum.com.