Clearly, this Epson TW1000, the Panasonic AE1000 and the Mitsubishi HC5000 are all going to be fighting it out and will all likely be far more similar than different. All three are also going to be duking it out with the Sony Pearl. It seems like each of the three LCD offerings has given us one or two little things to make them different and stand out just a wee bit from the others:
The Mitsubishi has power zoom, focus and lens shift and is also the quietest at only 19 dB in low lamp mode. It also has the Reon-VX video processor.
The Panasonic has a new 1080p version of SmoothScreen and a larger zoom range than the Mitsu.
The Epson appears to have the largest lens shift range and is also spec'd to be the brightest of the three although it's just a spec and they go 1000 lumens, 1100 lumens and 1200 lumens for the Mitsu, Panny and Epson respectively - so in reality, they're likely all rather close in real light output. This Epson is clearly spec'd as being the loudest though, so that's a wee bit disappointing.
I find it interesting that the Epson may have the lowest MSRP of the three since this has traditionally not been the case. Then again, it appears that it has manual focus, zoom and lens shift (as does the Panny) and there's no word on what video processor is being used (the Panny's is an in house solution).
So out of the three, the Mitsubishi ends up looking like the slightly "higher end" version simply due to power controls and the higher quality video processor. Given that the Mitsu can be found in Japan for under $3000 US it makes sense that the Panny and Epson are going to have to be even less expensive!
Amazing times really for 1080p front projection. I never would have thought this would be where prices would be already! Clearly though, there's no low cost solution yet for a really bright 1080p projector. The Mitsu, Panny, Epson and Pearl are all in the 900-1200 spec lumen range. I'm also really eager to see what kind of on/off contrast and ANSI contrast these LCD projectors can produce. The Pearl has amazing on/off contrast, but its ANSI contrast seems a bit low when compared to the DLP competition. If LCD is the same way (and it likely will be) then DLP still has one clear advantage. Frankly though, DLP needs it! At the moment all 1080p DLP projectors are considerably more expensive and tend to be far less flexible in terms of placement options. No lens shift at all on the HD81 and for the rest, vertical lens shift seems common, but no horizontal lens shift and rather small 1.2 or 1.3:1 zoom ranges seem to be the norm.
So plenty of room for improvement all around in next year's models. But overall, I'm simply blown away by what we're seeing this year and especially the prices!