****Coder's Projector Picks and Awards****
Newly Updated September 25th, 2013
A Choose your Own Projector Guide
BUDGET 3D PROJECTORS (and most feature rich under $1000):
The new Benq w1070 (3D) projector has been receiving a lot of praise in the forums and is priced under $1,000. This is the most feature rich DLP ever released anywhere near this price range even if it were 2D only, but it's also 3D. This Benq is a somewhat short throw projector, but the w1080st has an even shorter throw if you want to project even larger screen sizes from a shorter distance. This Benq w1070 also appears to be one of the sharpest projectors under $3000 competing with many projectors in sharpness that cost much more. To add to this incredible deal, it is also one of the most color accurate without a calibration, and surprisingly it even has a little bit of lens shift. You can place the projector either above or below the screen slightly, between 2.5" and 7.5" above/below for a 100" 16:9 screen, larger screens will have a slightly larger placement range. It also has triple flash 3D at 144hz, but it does lack Frame Interpolation (which is probably not needed by most, especially at this price). It is very bright at around 2000 lumens and should be able to light up 150" screens without a problem, although for the brightest 3D you might want slightly smaller screens. It is rumored to have a 6x color wheel, but this has not been confirmed reliably.
Optoma hd25e and Optoma hd131xe
If you need a longer throw (projector mounted farther behind you), then the Optomas serve as good alternatives to the Benq w1070. Both these Optomas have slightly different characteristics, with the hd25e being a little more expensive than the hd131xe. The Benq is generally said to have better color out of the box than the Optoma, but the Optomas support RF 3D and DLP Link, instead of just DLP link like the Benq. RF 3D glasses maintain contrast better due to no red-flash in the image, so the Optoma is reportedly slightly better for 3D than the Benq w1070. That said, the Benq and Optomas have very different throw ranges, so it is more likely where you are setting up the projector will lean you towards buying one or the other (Benq vs. Optoma), rather than overall image quality. Still, the Benq is said to be slightly better in 2D producing a more uniformly sharp image, whereas the Optomas are slightly better for 3D. There is also an Optoma hd25-lv variant model, this one is brighter than the hd25e or hd131xe, so if you have a very large screen, then you might also consider this other model Optoma.
Viewsonic PJD7820HD (3D Light Canon) with 3500+ max Lumens
Here we have a completely different projector compared to the others mentioned above, the Viewsonic is literally ground breaking in terms of being a light cannon. This projector will blind you in a darkened home theater room unless we are talking screen sizes 150" to 200" diagonal. One reviewer measured the maximum light output of this projector at an astounding 3700 max lumens (about twice as bright as the Benq and Optomas), while another reviewer measured it at 3300 Lumens. None-the-less, this is one super ridiculously bright projector and should only be considered if you are dealing with a lot of ambient light in a well-lit living room, or if you are wanting to shoot a giant image. The Viewsonic is designed for max lumens and will likely not have quite as good of contrast as the Benqs or Optomas.
Sony hw50 LCOS = You want better blacks than the Benq w7000 and a more film-like image over the Epson 5010/5020, while still maintaining a good 3D experience (better than JVC's 3d). You watch enough 3D or Sports (or you are motion critical), or maybe you do lag-sensitive gaming, and this type of usage will often overrule losing the slightly darker blacks of the JVC. With the Sony, it isn't as sharp natively as a JVC, but you do get the RC sharpening ability to enhance sharpness beyond Sony's natural sharpness capabilities. Some will say this more than makes up for it (though by using some Sony Bluray players you can potentially get RC like sharpening with a JVC now). You do NOT need CIH / Lens Memory for 2.35 format screens (wide movie format). RC sharpening does have some side effects to the image, so it should be used sparringly depending on personal preferences. The lag of the Sony is said to be around 30ms, this makes it the lowest lag of the $2000+ projectors discussed here.
Newer JVC's RS46 - x35 | RS48 - x55 | RS56 - x75 | RS66 - x95 LCOS = You value 2D movies and black levels and sharpness over and beyond the JVC's dimmer 3D and not quite as clean 3D quality. Some have said that by combining a Sony bdp-s790 Bluray Player with a JVC, you can get something very close to the RC-sharpening algorithm that comes with the Sony. Hence, get an even sharper looking image with the JVC over the Sony, since the JVC's are natively sharper. The JVC's (the Mits hc5, and the DLP - Sharp xvz-30000) are just about the only ones that provide fully motorized controls in the sub-$4,000 projector market (at least from this list). Sharpness does partly still depend on convergence, but most JVC's are excellent (Click Here to see JVC vs. Benq Sharpness). Gaming lag is not going to be as good as the Sony (JVC has 70+ ms lag). If choosing a JVC, you also should not really need an "Ambient Light" or brightest "living room" mode like some of the other PJ's have, but you care more about calibrated lumens for the darkened home theater experience. All of the JVC's from this year's models have Lens Memory for CIH/2.40 if you happen to own a CIH screen. The JVC is my personal favorite out of this list, but everyone has different needs. The lowest end of the JVC's, the RS-46 model does not come with a CMS or E-shift, but you can still calibrate gray-scale and gamma even on this mode. The RS-48 and higher models come with E-shift 2, a pseudo upscaling method that gives the illusion of a higher pixel fill and resolution. Even without these features, the RS-46 is still a very nice projector, but if you have the cash then the RS-48 and higher models are a little better.
Mitsubishi hc9000d / hc5 = A projector similar to the JVC line, but with Sony panels, and seems to be a little less sharp compared to the RS-45/RS-46. Like the JVC lines, it has fully motorized controls. Though I think the RS-48/4810/55/56/66 are probably a better contender vs. it due to the JVC's e-shift. One BIG advantage of the Mitsubishi hc9000d is the huge amount of lens shift, similar to the Epson LCD's. I cannot recall another LCOS projector ever having this much lens shift (though there may have been one). Also, the hc9000d seems to process the image a tad better than the lower-end JVC's. I did not get to spend any significant time in 3D, but this projector is definitely not a top contender for 3D content (near last place due to high amount of 3D crosstalk).
Panny 7000/8000 LCD = You want CIH like the JVC's but lower gaming lag (30-35ms instead of JVC's 70-80ms), and you are not as critical on 3D as other things. You are also not as OCD on the sharpness as some in here are. You may also appreciate or like the SmoothScreen tech for the more invisible pixel fill vs. the Epson (the Panny looks more LCOS like slightly), especially if you sit VERY close to the screen (say 1.1x or less screen width). The Panny doesn't have fully motorized controls like the JVC or Sharp DLP, but it is more similar to the Mits hc8000 in how it accomplishes CIH resizing. The Panasonic projectors can be a little more troublesome to calibrate than some, and LCD's also have been known to have poorer white-field uniformity (if you look at a field of snow, the very left side might be a different tint than the right side).
Epson 5010 / 6010 / 5020 / 6020 LCD = You are a fan of LCD tech, you like an image that has a lot of POP in closeups (almost shimmering), but you do not need CIH or Lens Memory. You don't mind losing some of the smoother film-look compared to LCOS or the Panny. You like having a huge range in brightness for 3D and 2D, with good 3D quality, but you are not willing to sacrifice lower black levels of the Benq w7000 just to get purist 3D. You want the absolute best 3D experience that an LCD can give, but it is still a step below the Benq and DLP 3D as far as a lack of 3D ghosting (though the Epson has VERY little ghosting until the lamps start to age, as the lamps age the ghosting increases and this is a symptom of all NON-DLP 3D projectors AFIK).. I listed the 5010 and 6010 in here as well because you can sometimes find them for about $300 to $500 cheaper than the newest models without really giving up that much, the newer ones are incremental upgrades at best.
Benq w7000 DLP = You are a 3D purist, and you strive for one of the better 3D experiences possible with the use of DLP Link (RF is however better). The Optomas now produce better 3D than the Benq however, but the Benq has more flexible placement setup with lens shift and the fact its lens shift is center-based. You also love sharpness and MIGHT do some gaming, but do not care as much about black levels or the movie experience as you do about 3D, sharpness, Sports, TV, etc... This also works great for 3D in giant screens with an HP (the Sony and Epson do as well, but the Benq is the 3D purist projector except for blacks). No lens memory or CIH rescaling for 2.35 screens. The Benq and JVC's provide the highest NATIVE sharpness of them all, especially noticeable on HTPC text or documentaries, though some might think DLP appears sharper than LCOS in video. The color on the Benq is excellent and the projector is very easy to calibrate, likely out of this list only the Sony beats the accuracy of the Benq's color, but overall it's close enough not to really matter.
Sharp xvz-30000 DLP = This is reviewed in the forums to be the best 3D experience possible thus far. It also has center-based lens shift (great for mid-level shelf mounting) and with overall lens shift capabilities similar to the Benq's center-mounting range, clean 3D, and with better blacks than the Benq w7000 DLP. Additionally, the sharp (like the JVC's) have fully motorized focus and zoom (focus remotely while standing at the screen). The Benq will be brighter in 3D, but the Sharp should be plenty bright in 2D to satisfy most of those with screens under 135" (or with bigger retro-gain screens). You can also ceiling mount it as well since it has a formidable amount of lens shift (but lens placement should generally remain within the screen area for best image). The Sharp does not have FI, but it does have CIH lens memory capabilities (meaning 16:9 will properly be re-sized onto a 2.35 screen but still with black bars, but at least the viewing image itself won't go outside the boundaries). The Sharp should produce a nice clean 3D image (though dimmer than many of the others). The Sharp does not have a fully functional CMS for calibration. Also, the Sharp tends to have a bit more color accuracy issue overall than most projectors in this price range, though some will not notice it that much.
Mitsubishi hc8000 DLP = Very clean 3D like the Benq w7000 with better blacks, but the image is not quite as sharp as the Benq w7000. Though at its most focused point it's really sharp, but the sharpness isn't quite as uniform as some DLP's tend to be. The 3D is about the same brightness as the JVC and the placement flexibility requires you mount the screen above or below, so it is not as placement flexible as the others. Since this has better blacks than some of these other DLP's, you are also going to see more RBE even though it does have a 6x color wheel mode (which will help, but it will also mute the colors a bit). Overall a nice projector with clean 3D, but some trade-offs to keep in mind. Black levels about halfway between the w7000 and Epson 5020. The Mits hc8000 can do CIH with the proper screen setup, since it has both a digital re-size/re-scale option and a way to move the pixels digitally within the 16:9 area when viewing on a 2.35 screen. Hence, the Mits doesn't have fully automated lens memory like the JVC's, but it does have a way to do it (more similar to the Panny).
(special note: when speaking of the Epson 5010, the 5020/6010/6020 are similar and can be assumed the same traits. When speaking of the Sony hw30es, the hw50es is similar although brighter.)
Best Projector at 3D under $4000: Sharp xvz-30000
Runner Up: Benq w7000 (uses DLP Link instead of RF glasses, much less contrast in 3D than the sharp, but a bit brighter)
Best Low Cost 3D Image under $1500 = Benq w1070 and Optoma hd131xe (Optoma hd25e and hd25-lv models as well)
Brightest 3D Projector under $1000 = Viewsonic PJ7820HD
Best Black Levels in 3D under $4000 = Various JVC Models (better black but not as ghost free or bright in 3D as many others)
Runner Up's: Panasonic ae7000u/8000, Sony hw30/50, and Epson 5010/5020/6010/6020
Best 3D Gaming Projectors with Best 2D under $4000 = Sony hw50 and Benq w7000
Runner Up: Optoma hd33 (not quite as good at 2D as the above) and Panasonic ae7000 (some reported issues in this forum)
--2D + 3D + Gaming and Multi-Use Awards--
Best "Do Everything but CIH" Projector (3D, 2D, and Gaming) under $4000 = Sony hw50
Runner Up: Benq w7000 (blacks are not as good, 50ms gaming lag), Epson 5010 / 5020 (has 60+ ms gaming lag)
Best LOW COST "Do Everything but CIH" Projector (3D, 2D, and Gaming) under $2000 = Benq w7000 and Optoma hd33 DLP
Best LOW COST "Do Everything but CIH" Projector (3D, 2D, and Gaming) under $1000 = Benq w1070
Best 2D Image for Movies under $8,000 = JVC RS-55 LCOS with e-shift and Lens Memory (CIH ability)
Runner Ups: JVC RS-56 (e-shift 2 said to not be quite as good as e-shift1), and Sony vw95es (also has CIH)
Best 2D Image for Movies under $4000 = JVC RS-45/RS-46 LCOS with Lens Memory (CIH Ability)
Runner Ups: Sony hw30/50 and Epson 5010/5020 (neither have CIH)
Best 2D Image for Movies under $2500 = JVC HD250 (hard to find, mostly in used market)
Runner Up: Epson 5010/5020 or 8700ub
Best overall 2D Image under $2000 = Epson 5010/5020 or 8700ub, Benq w6000, and Mitsubishi hc4000
Runner Ups: Panasonic ae4000u
Best overall 2D Image with Easy Placement Flexibility under $2000: Epson 5010/5020 or 8700ub
Runner Up: Benq w6000 (not as placement flexible, but sharper)
Most Feature-Rich DLP under $1,500: Benq w1070 (Bright Triple Flash 3D, Lens Shift)
Best Overall 2D Image under $1000 = Benq w1070 (This is a 3D projector but also wins in 2D at this price), Optoma hd131xe / 25e
Best Overall 3D Image under $1000 = Optoma hd131xe / 25e / 25-lv
Runnder Ups: Benq w1070, Viewsonic PJ7820HD, and Acer h6510bd
Best overall 2D Image with Easy Placement Flexibility under $1500: Epson 8350
Runner Up: Benq w1070
Best Overall 2D Image under $1500 = Mitsubishi hc4000 and Benq w6000 / w7000
Runner Up: Epson 8350
Best 2D Image for an LCD under $1500 = Epson 8350
Best 2D Image under $900 = Optoma hd131xe, Viewsonic PJ7820HD, Viewsonic Pro8200
--Color Accuracy Awards (averaging between OOTB settings and post-calibrated)--
Most color accurate projectors under $5000: Sony hw30/50 (very accurate after calibration as wel) and Optoma hd8300 and Benq w7000
Most color accurate projectors under $2000: Epson 3010/8350/8700ub, and Mitsubishi hc4000
Most color accurate projectors under $1000: Benq w1070 and Mitsubishi hc3800/hc4000 and Epson 8350
--Refurb Budget Awards--
Best Low Cost Closeout or Refurb LCOS Projector: Any of the JVC B-STOCK Models
(when available - B-STOCK RS45 or RS46 / RS55 or RS 56 / RS 65 or RS 66, RS10, HD250, RS15, RS20, RS35, etc...)
Best Low Cost Closeout or Refurb LCD Projector: Epson 8700ub or Epson 5010/5020 (when available, limited QTY availability for refurbs)
Best Low Cost Closeout DLP Projectors: Used Runcos or Planars or Marantz, Benq w6000/w7000, Refurb Mitsubishi hc4000 and others...
--Best NEW PJ's on a Budget Awards--
Lowest Cost 720p 3D Projector with the Best Black Levels and Sharpest Image: Benq w710st (3D capable but requires extra add-on)
Lowest Cost 720p 3D Projectors: Acer 5360 and Optoma GT750
Lowest Cost 3D-1080p DLP Projector: Benq w1070 (w1080st, and w1400 are variants)
Lowest Cost 3D-1080p LCD Projector: Epson 3010/3020
Lowest Cost 1080p 2D Only Image = Viewsonic Pro8200 and Acer h6500
Runner Up: Optoma hd20 or Mitsubishi hc3800 (if you can still find one)
Sharpest Projectors of 2012: Benq Models, Runco Models, and various high-end DLP models
Sharpest Non-DLP Projectors of 2012 = JVC RS-45/55/65 and Mitsubishi hc9000d
Sharpest Projectors under $2500 = Benq w1070, Benq w1400/w1500, and Benq w6000/w7000/w7500
Runner Up: Mitsubishi hc4000 and JVC HD250 LCOS
--Color Wheel Awards for Low Rainbow Effect--
DLP Projector with least Rainbow Effect (RBE) under $2000: Benq w7000 (4x color wheel but runs up to 6x - adjustable in Service Menu)
DLP Projector with least Rainbow Effect (RBE) under $1000: Benq w1070 (at least 4x but rumored to be up to a 6x color wheel)
DLP Projector with least Rainbow Effect (RBE) under $800: Viewsonic Pro8200 (4x color wheel but with an extra 7th segment)
--Best Black Level Awards--
Best DLP Black Levels under $2000 = Any Refurbished DLP's that come with an IRIS
Best DLP Black Levels under $1,200 = Mitsubishi hc4000
Best DLP Black Levels under $1000 = Benq w1070 and Benq w710st (720p projector only), Optoma hd25/e, Optoma hd131xe
Best LCD Black Levels under $2500 = Epson 5010/5020/6010/6020
Best LCD Black Levels under $2000 = Epson 8700ub (if you can still find one)
Best LCD Black Levels under $1500 = Epson 8350
Best LCOS Black Levels under $12,000 = JVC RS-65 / RS-66 / RS-67
Best LCOS Black Levels under $8,000 = JVC RS-55 / RS-56 / RS -57
Best LCOS Black Levels under $4,000 = JVC RS-45 / RS-46
Runner Up: Sony vw95es and Sony hw30es/hw50es/hw55es
Best 3D Gaming Projector under $2000 = Benq w7000
Best 1080p for 3D Gaming and Multi-Use Projector under $1000: Benq w1070, Optoma hd131xe
Best Low Cost 1080p Projector for Ambient Light under $1000 = Viewsonic pj7820hd
Best NON-3D Gaming Projector with 1080p under $1500 = Mitsubishi hc3800 DLP or hc4000 DLP
Runner Up: Panasonic pt-ar100u (not as good blacks), Epson 8350 (better placement flexibility, but not quite as sharp)
Best NON-3D Gaming Projector with 1080p under $800 = Viewsonic Pro8200 DLP
Runner Up: Optoma hd20
Projector with the absolute least lag times for gaming = Optoma hd131xe / hd25e / hd25-lv, Optoma gt750 (720p only), Epson 8350, Viewsonic Pro8200
Runner Ups: Sony hw30/50, Panasonic 7000/8000, Optoma hd33, Optoma hd20, and Mitsubishi hc3800/hc4000, Benq w1070
--Light Cannon Awards--
Overall Budget Light Cannon Award:
--Handles 170"+ screens without gain.
Best Budget 1080p Light Cannon Projector for Large Screens under $1000 = Benq w1070 and Viewsonic Pro8200 (1500+ Lumens near best mode)
--Handles 150" Screens without gain...
Brightest DLP @ 1080p under $1500 = Benq sh910 and Optoma th1060p (absolute light cannons). Can handle 250"+ screens without gain.
--These two projectors are actually some of the brightest two under $5000 as well. Watch out for DLP RBE if you are sensitive to it.
Brightest LCD @ 1080p for a Light Cannon Projector for VERY Large Screens under $1500 = Panasonic ar100u (2000+ Lumens near best mode)
--Handles 200"+ Screens in Dynamic Mode or Vivid Cinema...
--A few notes about LCD vs. LCOS vs. DLP--
LCD Pixel Fill
Even though the pixel fill on an Epson LCD is probably not be a deal breaker for most, I think for 2D (if it weren't for the Epson's exceptional 3D), most of us would still choose a JVC or Sony, at least when watching most films. That is not to say the Epson is bad in 2D, but I prefer the LCOS pixel structure to LCD. I went through a bunch of different LCD's and a couple LCOS before settling on a well-converged JVC RS-45 projector. At 1.0x seating distance, the incredibly improved pixel fill of LCOS was immediately visible over the LCD's I had. Pixel fill is not an issue with DLP either, but most DLP's do not have nearly as dark blacks until you get into much more expensive ones.
SDE is not technically an issue perse with the LCD's (Epson 5010/5020/6010/6020), but as you get pickier and pickier and have owned multiple projectors, I think it becomes more of a purist trait with veteran projector owners that have had so many different units. My eyes do adjust to the Epson pixel fill, but I cannot see how some say they cannot tell the difference from seating distance (I can easily, and my vision isn't even exactly 20/20, almost but not quite). Now I can't see the SDE like the 720p SDE LCD in the old days, but I can see a slight roughness to clouds and bright scenes in general. It is so hard for me to explain this trait, I suggest people go find any 1080p LCD in person (other than the Panny's smoothscreen) and go examine it themselves. There should be an LCD projector somewhere people can go look at (I mean major department stores and sometimes even office places usually have some even if not setup optimally, but better yet go find an HT showroom).
The sharpness on the JVC I have is excellent, it can rival and beat most sub-$5000 DLP's. I have yet to see a DLP that beats my JVC in textual sharpness, even though some appear slightly sharper in video probably more due to the pixel fill or natural DLP look of things. Go figure that we now have some LCOS projectors passing up many DLP's in sharpness. Sharpness is however partly an OCD thing and not necessarily something you want to obsess over. For HTPC is the biggest advantage (reading text or playing video games with fine details), but there are PLENTY of shows and movies where I cannot see the advantage unless I stare in A/B for 2 minutes.
Edited by coderguy - 10/21/13 at 12:10pm