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First projector, frugal requirements

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 
Hey all,

I started posting on the Panasonic PT-AE4000U thread about a used model I was considering. The recommendations were thought-provoking enough to warrant a separate thread.

I've never owned a TV because I always thought I would save up for an HD projector. I'm young and fairly frugal and have some specific requirements in mind for my first projector. I'd like something that has great upgrade potential. If I move into a place that's better suited for a projector, or want to invest in a nice screen down the road it should support it with a great image.

My requirements:

1. 1080p resolution. I'm not really too interested in 3D, but that's a bonus.
2. Preferably under $1000.
3. Quiet operation.
4. Ease of use and placement.
5. Reliable. Will last me at least 4 years.

My space:

1. The room has windows on one side (to the right of the viewer), but I plan to keep the shades drawn and no lights on when projecting.
2. I'm not going to use a screen. I know this will offend (all) the purists, but my goal is to get a great picture and potentially add a screen later. It will also save on physical space to not have a screen.
3. I plan to ceiling-mount the projector. (Side question: do I need to drill into ceiling studs...are there even studs in a ceiling?)

My use case:

1. I don't have TV. I would almost certainly watch less than 10 hours on this thing a week.
2. It would be only connected to an Apple TV and some nice speakers.
3. Mainly movies once in a while, especially operas.
4. Also using the Apple TV interface to select music.
5. Also casual YouTube'ing.
6. The goal is to have a cool space to hang with my friends, kick back and watch a flick.

With all of this in mind, I first hit up Videogon for used deals. I'm a big fan of Audiogon and think that you usually can get a better product if you check out a model that's respectfully used. I've also looked at Ebay quite a bit.

Looking at new 1080p projectors for under $1000, most seem to be budget models. It doesn't sound like I would be all that happy with the image quality in a few years, especially if I upgraded to a screen, etc. The PT-AR100U seems great, but is just a tad more expensive than I'd like. It's also apparently quite loud.


1. Used or new?
2. Any specific models that I should consider? The Panasonics seem to generally be what I'm looking for, given how quiet reviewers think they are. They also seem to have great black levels.
3. Any specific stores that I should consider?
4. Any other considerations that I haven't thought of?

Thanks in advance for helping out a newb!
post #2 of 19
Projectors have placement issues so we would need to know. How far will the lens be from the screen? Can it be mounted equidistant from the left and right side? Will it be ceiling mounted? How high is your ceiling? What size screen do you want?
post #3 of 19
Even if your skipping the screen you need to at the very least paint the wall a flat /eggshell white/ white gray. Ive been happy with Behr "Silverscreen" from home depot for around $10-$15 . You'll still catch hell here for that, but I understand your meager requirements.

4 years might be a stretch but if you really only watch 10 hours a week it seems reasonable. Although, of course you watch less then 10 hours a week. You don't have a tv. Now you will. I get that you have a monitor. You'll watch more. It becomes an event.

Quiet operation-
Buy more lumens than you'll use so you can run it in Eco mode. Runs longer, quieter, cooler.

Ceiling mount - I'm sure hitting studs is preferable but on average the projectors usually weigh 3-8 pounds so your not hanging an elephant. I'm guessing you know but a ceiling mount means you'll be mounting it upside down. The projector needs to be at the same height as the top of the screen (when mounted upside down)

The thing you didn't mention is the wiring. You need to run power and hdmi up there. Hooks work fine if your going the cheaper route.

If you never plan on moving it, go home theatre projector. If you plan on taking it over to your buddy's house twice a month consider a portible business projector.
post #4 of 19
I would not skip a screen even if you have to go for just a pull down matte white. There are new 1080p projectors now, even with 3D in your price range.

Used projectors can be dicey. Lens shift and wide zoom range is way cool, not sure of any new 1080p product in your price range that has them both though.

Just all food for thought on it. Maybe I missed it? But your desired placement to the screen / screen wall would be the starting point for what will work and what really won't.

There are enough issues with brand new projectors, let alone used projectors. Just know this going in.

Anymore? For a great deal of versatility. The ultra short throw models generally can be placed in front of the seating area, on a stand, so no mounting is required. My latest sits just a few feet from my 100"-ish screen.
post #5 of 19
Thread Starter 
Super good point glaw. I'll do some measuring when I'm back from this work trip and let you know the dimensions.
post #6 of 19
Thread Starter 
Ok, so the viewer would sit about 10 feet from the screen. The ceiling is (eyeballing) about 10 feet high. I'm hoping for a 5 foot diagonal image.

The projector would be mounted on the ceiling and can really be mounted wherever.

Does that provide enough additional info glaw?
post #7 of 19
Make a mockup from newspapers to the screen size you want. Sit down and see if it looks right. You need to consider the top of the screen and the projector should be at the same height (assuming a cieling mount. If your screen is a foot from the cieling then the projector needs to be a foot from the cieling. You have 10% to play with, but just do it right the first time. Also in a cieling mount the projector needs to be mounted upside down. If your doing a table mount then the bottom of the screen and your projector need to be the same.

On to the distance
Find a model your looking at and go to Projector Central to use their distance calculator.
You'll now see the distances you have to play with. I'm assuming your going 16 x 9 so click that in the calculator. It's called your projector's throw distance.
The power and hdmi (and whatever else) wires need to be strung up to the projector as well.
Don't mount your projector before trying it out with your screen. There's always some weird speed bump with measurements for some reason.
I'm sure I'm forgetting something but that should get you 90% there.
post #8 of 19
Thread Starter 
These are great suggestions.

What about the core question though: used or new? Where should I look to purchase projectors? What are some model recommendations?
post #9 of 19
Benq w1070, only issue you might have with it is the noise and/or rainbows. If you want a projector you can mount farther back, look at the Optoma hd-25e or Optoma hd131xe (a slightly cheaper variant of the hd25e). There is also the hd25-LV.

I would not buy a used projector as your first projector purchase, the problem is you do not yet know WHAT projectors are supposed to look like, so if you get a bum unit, you might not know. I personally would choose a DLP as my first projector, makes the most sense. Buy it new and from somewhere that gives a return policy. You'll also need an ND filter. Though you can get some good deals used, you really have to know what you are doing to do so. I definitely would not buy a USED LCD projector as my first PJ purchase, that's a bad idea.

How long is the room, if you have a longer room I'd probably go with the Optoma hd131xe or hd-25e instead of the Benq, if you have a shorter room, go with the Benq.

Project onto the wall at first, buy the screen later after you've decided what size screen you like. Never buy the screen first unless you have to. I would use the projector for 1-2 months without a screen to get used to it before deciding on a screen size.

If you are worried about the projector's longevity, then you'll need to add a square trade warranty. By default, these projectors have 1-year warranties. In that case, the hd131xe is the cheapest option, or if you have an Amex / Discover It / Visa Signature, buying on one of those cards should add another year to the warranty (actually forgot on the Discover, I think it does with the new Discover It cards). So you'll have a 2-year warranty, but if you want a 3-4 year warranty, square trade is the way to go for an after-market warranty purchase.
Edited by coderguy - 9/8/13 at 8:01pm
post #10 of 19
You can get pretty good deals on used projectors on eBay. However. You need to look at the projector price and find out how much a new bulb would be then weigh your options. Buying a 5 year old projector with 300 hours on it is a great deal until your bulb blows. I once had a used one off eBay last a year and a half. For $150 I was fine with it and rolled the dice. It's like buying a used car. If you blow up the engine would you fix it or bring it to the junk yard? The rule of thumb I use is the cost of the used projector plus $200.
Picking one out-
Where to start, where to end? I try to find ratings and my starting point is at Amazon's consumer ratings. I see the highest rated models that meet my needs then try to find professional reviews. Some people here would think the amazon ratings are worthless because its written by uninformed rubes. They are. But it's a baseline at least. I've done it the other way too by using pro ratings and then checking consumer ratings. Most people take weeks to do all of this but you need to pull the trigger. If your re reading reviews more than twice, it's time to buy. You can turn into RainMan and its hard to stop reading. "Defiantly, defiantly need to find foreign reviews. Uh oh, Wheel is on!"
Edited by DtommyD - 9/9/13 at 10:15am
post #11 of 19
For ease of placement Epson 8350. They periodically can be had for under $1k on sale or B-stock.
post #12 of 19
Thread Starter 
You're right DtommyD! Enough of this Dustin-Hoffman-ing; I'm getting myself a projector.

Props to coderguy for reducing my options very helpfully.

Conclusions so far:

1. Sounds like used is too much of a hassle to be worth it for the inexperienced projector user like me. I'm going new.
2. That BenQ W1070 sounds like a great place to start. It's my top choice right now. I'm on the verge of just buying it.


Would paying an additional couple hundred bucks be worth it? I could stretch and look at the following others that are highly reviewed on ProjectorReviews.com:

Panasonic PT-AR100U
Epson 8350
Epson 3020
Acer H9500BD

They all sound like fine options, but it's hard for me to gauge if they would be worth the additional $200 - $600. What do you guys think?
post #13 of 19
You have to spend $1500 to $2000 to significantly beat the image of the Benq w1070. The w1070 beats all those except (arguably) the Acer. The Acer h9500bd has better blacks, but not by a ton, and I would put my bets on the Benq for longevity over Acer models (and over Optomas as well). Not that the Acer or Optoma wouldn't last as long, but I think Benq's are more reliable from what I've seen in the forums.
post #14 of 19
Thread Starter 
Reading coderguy's posts (including your posts on this thread: http://www.avsforum.com/t/1464593/benq-w1070-mits-hc4000-epson-8350) it basically sounds like there's really only one option for me: the W1070.

Since my room is fairly square making the Optoma a poor choice, it sounds like I should just stop obsessively counting reviews (DtommyD shout out) and get the BenQ. Then watch movies.

Going to sleep on this a bit and give time for anyone to grab me by the shoulders if I've come to the wrong conclusion.
post #15 of 19
At that point in time of that post, I hadn't yet seen the w1070 in person, I have now though. I also own the w7000 myself and a JVC, I've seen many of the older Epson and Panny models as well.
The w1070 is the better all-around performer, even beating the Panny 4000 in some ways, meaning the 4000 won't be as sharp as the w1070 unless you get really lucky.

There isn't yet a projector I know of that can beat the Benq w1070 overall under $1500. The Optomas hd25, hd131xe, are said to be nearly as good (one person claims it was better than the w1070, but I have some doubts). The Benq is sharper than the Optoma, better for HTPC, though the Optoma probably looks just as good in movies after a calibration. Some dark movies might favor the Optomas new lamp dimming technology over the Benq, but again I have my doubts that it would be significant, and knowing Benq generally had slightly better contrast, etc...

The Benq w7000 as a refurb might get cheaper once they release the w7500, you might be able to grab one for $1300, but it wouldn't be that much different than a w1070, except the w7000 has better focus uniformity (slightly better sharpness for HTPC). The w7000 might also have a better color wheel (except in 6x mode it's too loud anyhow), we don't know for sure though.
Edited by coderguy - 9/9/13 at 11:43pm
post #16 of 19
By the way. Every time I get a projector I open it, set it up, and I'm always disappointed. I always check the receipt and figure out how to return it. Nothing lines up, even after your feverish measurements last week. The colors are wrong, the fan is too loud and the screen you have is going to have to go.
Chill out. You didn't buy an LCD TV that you can now turn to "movie" mode, and that's the end of that. There's a certain amount of dialing it in which changes daily and might take a day or 2 of using the settings and trusting your eyes.
I'm just saying. I'd bet everyone here has the same story.
post #17 of 19
Thread Starter 
I pulled the trigger and bought a shiny W1070, ceiling mount, and Chromecast.

I'll post here with my impressions when everything is set up!
post #18 of 19
congratulations. Let the obsession begin.
post #19 of 19
Thread Starter 
Finally got a chance to set everything up and watch a few movies. While I need to ship my speakers, I can tell you that the image is awesome. This BenQ was definitely the right projector for me to start with.

The image is gigantic, it was easy to install, and it really is very viewable even in a somewhat-lit room.

Thanks everybody for the responses and help!
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