My local film society is using a still-working-fine Sanyo PLV-70 projector (1366x768, WXGA) and an also-still-working-fine Oppo 971H DVD player. We project onto a zero-gain 130" wide (155 diagonal) screen from about 21'. We normally have about 40 people in attendance. We use a community center room that gets reasonably dark, but we have about 6-7 windows with white blinds, so dedicated HT it's not. The picture works, but as you can imagine there's no pop.
We don't show 3D and really only use the projector 40-50 hours a year. I'm really just looking to see how I can upgrade the picture viewing experience and whether I can do that at a lean price point. I've been reading reviews for sub-$1000 projectors that have the throw distance I need, including the Optoma HD131x, HD25LV and HD25e. They sound like they'd all work.
Will they? Can you help me understand what I'll gain by switching to one of these new, inexpensive units? At the same time, the old Sanyo is a workhorse that is quiet and reliable. It's nice to have the auto focus feature, for example, but really not necessary. What is necessary is picture quality and reasonably quiet operation, along with the ability to bump up to Blu Ray (along with a new DVD player). Frankly, I don't know why these lower priced units won't meet these requirements nearly as well as a $3k unit - but, that's what I'm hoping y'all can help me understand.
One last question: With my limited play time and performance requirements, will I get better bang for my buck and make a smarter decision to look at used and/or refurbished models and if so, which ones do you recommend?
Sounds like you'd really be best using the projector that can get the most lumens while not using a white segment color wheel (I think the H25LV uses one). The white segment gives you lots of white brightness, but color brightness lags behind by a bit so it looks washed out and unsaturated like a business projector. Since you're using it for films, I'd definitely skip that, but go for as many lumens as you can.
The Sharp looks like a brightness monster from yesteryear, but the contrast ratio is typical '02 LCD levels, which is to say pretty horrible by today's standards.
So if you get one of the brighter projectors you mention with good color brightness (no white segment) I think you'll be in good shape and still get a pretty compelling image. But the lack of a dedicated light controlled room does mean you probably shouldn't bother with anything that does "ultra-high contrast."
If Panasonic was still doing aggressive pricing on the 100AR-U I'd say it'd be a pretty good fit as well given it's easy to setup and offers lots of lumens, but sadly it's kinda overpriced now unless you really really need the placement flexibility.
Thanks for the very helpful response, RPS13. This is the first time I've heard about a "white segment color wheel." Will the specs for the model tell me that? Also - and this is why I go nuts too often - you recommended the Panasonic 100AR-U from a quality (not price) standpoint. But, I'd never consider it, at least based on the throw distance/screen size limits when I plug it into a projection calculator. It's telling me to get something brighter at 20 ft and 150" diagonal screen. Is this one of those "trust me, I'm a professional" issues, where guys like you know that some companies' data on things like foot lamberts and screen placement is accurate, where other companies' data is under- or over-stated? Would a used 100AR-U be a better choice than a new HD131x or HD25e?
The white segment color wheel is a "trick" that some "home video" (not "home theater") targeted projectors are using to get really high ANSI lumens. The problem is that so much of the light is just pure white light from the white/clear color segment on the color wheel, and the color lumens are dictated by the other colored segments. Good for a data presentation with ambient light, bad for a film. Unfortunately manufacturers don't really brag about it, because it's not necessarily a good thing unless you're just needing every bit of white light to fight ambient light and will just deal with the washed out colors in comparison.
Here's some more reading on it:
Not sure why you think the PT-AR100U (sorry, might have mixed those around) wouldn't fit your throw and screen setup. It can do 150" diag 16:9 from 14.5' to about 29.3', and has quite a bit of lens shift if my memory is working. As far as knowing about it, I'm just an enthusiast hack who has maybe read a bunch of projector reviews over the years. It just jumped out at me as a good projector for you since it can do a hair under 2000 lumens calibrated and still have reasonable black levels.
The HD131X sounds like a pretty good fit for you, and can do about 1700ish lumens with reasonable color accuracy, but the projectorreviews review mentioned poor color saturation and calibration. But it does have good blacks given it's got a dynamic iris.
The HD25LV actually got a better review at projectorreviews than I seem to recall reading here, but it only came out with a usable picture at about 2000 lumens. Given that, I'd probably save the money and get the HD131X on sale. It sounds like it'll work out just fine for you if you're happy with the Sharp's brightness, and I'm betting the resolution and contrast improvement will be OMG worthy with even a cheap BluRay player teamed up to it.
I found out you were right and I was wrong about the throw distance. It's just trying to figure how to use that blasted projector calculator at Projector Central. Anyway, your recommendation seems like a great fit for our needs. Thanks again for your investment in my situation.
No worries, their calculator isn't the most self-explanatory thing out there.
Is this a projector you're going to leave permanently installed, or frequently setup and tear down? Sounds like it might be the later, which is why I was mentioning the AR100U. Really easy to get the image on the screen and looking good when you just have to worry about getting it square to the screen and then using lens shift to get things where you need them. It's also built like a tank which bodes well for frequent moving.
If it is a permanent installation, then maybe the HD131X makes more sense and saving a few bucks.
Too bad Panasonic doesn't update their projectors often anymore. I used to dream about being about to get an AE700 or AE900 back in the day.
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