Surprisingly good LED PJ for $200 - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #1 of 35 Old 09-02-2019, 07:46 PM - Thread Starter
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Surprisingly good LED PJ for $200

After having my high end Vivitek LED PJ die after 6 years, I tried the Benq 3550 for $1500 to see if I could save some money and get a very adequate 4K projectors. I was mostly unhappy with the contrast, and didn’t think the colors were very spot on for a pre calibrated projector. That said there turned out to be a defect with the lamp and I returned it (so it WAS a defective unit).

After hearing about the P1 UST laser coming out I decided to but an el cheapo LED projector on Amazon to see if it could hold me over for a few months.

I came across one called the CiBest with 100% 5 star reviews. Since they offered free returns I ordered one out of curiosity.

It’s native 1080p advertised 5000 lumens and had a discount offer taking it to $200 and change.
Out of the box the picture looked ok for the money (what wouldn’t) but definitely lower end.

As I was playing with settings things were steadily improving. Somehow I was finding the picture not only bearable (for a temporary setup) but actually it had some surprising strengths.

Strengths
Brightness. No idea if it really has 5000 lumens, but there’s not doubt it throws a very large bright picture. Because of the relatively short throw and distance I had to setup the projector, from the wall, I had to take down my 150” screen because it was projecting much larger and filled the whole wall. Again with a brighter image than any projector I’ve had before. Wow.

Sharpness. Not up there with the best by any means - but for the price it better than expected. Once I ran it through the Oppo and it’s Darbee video processing, the whole image improved dramatically including the sharpness.

Contrast. Yes it had definite black crush, but I’ve seen worse. And the contrast was surprisingly satisfying. Much more so than the Benq 3550 but LED is known for good perceived contrast.

Color pop. Also had the color pop you expect from LED sources. The colors weren’t terribly accurate, but not distractingly bad, and you can play with the color setting which I haven’t yet.

Negatives
The fan is as loud as any projector I’ve had. Too loud. Still my hearing isn’t what it used to be and I never seem to notice it while a movie is on (though the volume might be a tick higher than usual). (There are other similar projectors at the same price that users say have decent fan noise using multiple fans).

The strengths themselves are negatives as you can find better performance in all areas with a projector costing multiple thousands of dollars.

But at the end of the day, it’s handled my projector withdrawals better than expected and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t enjoying watching movies and sports with the CiBest while I’m waiting for the big upgrade. But I have to say it’s such an amazing value for $200 I can’t believe more people in this forum aren’t talking about it.

Who’s it for?
Great for kids rooms. The pictures big bright colorful and exciting. The can leave it going 24/7 and it will still take years before using up the 30,000 hours. If they break it - better that than the 4K JVC. One of my sons has been using an old LG 720P LED projector for the last 6 years in his room and wouldn’t trade it for any TV. Loves it for movies TV and video games. A cheaper better TV substitute.

Anyone that wants a projector but can’t drop thousands of dollars. Same reasons as above. Big sharp dramatic picture that will last for years for the price of a couple evenings out.

Outdoor movies. Easily portable (though a typical form factor), brings the light, sharpness, contract and goes big.

A second projector. For the bedroom etc - though I’d probably go for a similar unit with less fan noise. And again, judging by reviews, you can get something similar without the big fan noise for about the same price.

Interim projector while you’re stuck in limbo reading reviews for all the projectors that will be the best thing yet, with ever shifting delivery dates.

Will I keep this or upgrade? It’s so cheap I’ll probably keep it around AFTER the upgrade for use at my business, outdoor theater or to give to one of my sons for their rooms (apartments). But since I have the budget I’ll definitely be upgrading when the right unit comes out. In the mean time this kinda get the job done. FOR $200!!!
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post #2 of 35 Old 09-03-2019, 04:31 AM
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post #3 of 35 Old 09-03-2019, 09:44 AM
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Originally Posted by HTCrazy2 View Post
... Strengths
Brightness. No idea if it really has 5000 lumens ...
Hint: Cheap LED projectors produce nowhere near 5,000 lumens. When tested by independent reviewers with calibrated test equipment they produce way less than 500 lumens.

Overall it sounds a lot like most of the other cheap LED projectors that some have found tolerable for the price.
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post #4 of 35 Old 09-03-2019, 10:07 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Dave in Green View Post
Hint: Cheap LED projectors produce nowhere near 5,000 lumens. When tested by independent reviewers with calibrated test equipment they produce way less than 500 lumens.

Overall it sounds a lot like most of the other cheap LED projectors that some have found tolerable for the price.
Other projectors I've had were typically 1200 lumens with the Vivitek 800 lumens. This is much much brighter than any I've owned even while projecting on the entire wall so it's significantly brighter than 500 lumens at the very least. I'd guess well over 2000 lumens uncalibrated.

It probably IS like other cheap LED projectors others found decent for the price (it's the only one I've tried). But what amazed me was HOW decent it was for such an amazingly low price. Of course it became a lot more tolerable once I connected it to the Oppo 103D that has quality video processing. I'd imagine you can find similarly good processing these days with other quality blue ray players, preamps, which most of us already own.

I have a 65" Samsung TV (I originally paid $2500 for) in the house that I never turn on, preferring to watch this $200 projector that's noisy as hell. Of course I've had home theater projectors for the last 20+ years and just prefer the big screen. But either way, that kind of bargain shouldn't be ignored - especially for special use situations IHMO.
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post #5 of 35 Old 09-03-2019, 10:21 AM
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Originally Posted by HTCrazy2 View Post
Other projectors I've had were typically 1200 lumens with the Vivitek 800 lumens. This is much much brighter than any I've owned even while projecting on the entire wall so it's significantly brighter than 500 lumens at the very least. I'd guess well over 2000 lumens uncalibrated. ...
You do understand that even the most expensive LED projectors from established global brands can't produce "well over 2,000 lumens uncalibrated." So please be prepared to be met with a huge amount of skepticism over making such claims about this cheap unknown brand model.
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post #6 of 35 Old 09-03-2019, 11:11 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Dave in Green View Post
You do understand that even the most expensive LED projectors from established global brands can't produce "well over 2,000 lumens uncalibrated." So please be prepared to be met with a huge amount of skepticism over making such claims about this cheap unknown brand model.
I came from a Vivitek 9080 which was their top of the line for around $8K when it was introduced. It was rated at 800 lumens and was nowhere near as bright as this one, though it obviously had superior image quality across the board. As I mentioned it was just a guess based on how much brighter this appears over other projectors I've owned. On that basis alone it should be major grounds for skepticism as we all well know how unreliable guessing lumens by eyeballing can be.

Just trying to convey my impressions without the tools for any kind of objective testing, and even worse, based on memories of projectors past. Unreliable? You betcha. But maybe helpful to some nonetheless.
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post #7 of 35 Old 09-03-2019, 11:11 AM
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Surprisingly good LED PJ for $200

500 lumens for that price is not terrible.

Throw ratio around 1.2.

I mean I’m not buying this thing but when I first got into PJs 10 years ago this would have been great

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post #8 of 35 Old 09-03-2019, 11:19 AM - Thread Starter
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But as an alternative to someone who can't even afford a basic TV set? A helluva deal.
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post #9 of 35 Old 09-03-2019, 11:48 AM
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Ya'll are talking apples and oranges.

The Amazon spec's posted by @JRock3x8 shows the manufacture claiming 5000 LUX for the projector.

Lux and Lumens are two very different SI units of illumination.

LUX is used to describe the perceived illumination of a known space. LUMENS is a unit of "luminous flux"; it's measuring how much visible light is produced or put out by an object such as a light bulb or in this case a projector lamp.
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post #10 of 35 Old 09-03-2019, 12:05 PM
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Sounds interesting. Would love to know what the actual lumen spec is. Fan noise is always the killer for me with these small projectors but seems like this would work great outside where fan noise wouldn't be an issue.

I went with a used LG pa75u to get low fan noise in a small projector, picture quality is great, even at 720p, but only 700 lumens.
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post #11 of 35 Old 09-03-2019, 12:30 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by pjp View Post
Sounds interesting. Would love to know what the actual lumen spec is. Fan noise is always the killer for me with these small projectors but seems like this would work great outside where fan noise wouldn't be an issue.

I went with a used LG pa75u to get low fan noise in a small projector, picture quality is great, even at 720p, but only 700 lumens.
The 75U is what my son is now using. He loves it. The resolution, color, contrast and brightness are all improved on with the CiBest, but fan noise is worse.
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post #12 of 35 Old 09-03-2019, 02:17 PM
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@HTCrazy2 Thanks for posting. I have long thought these cheep projectors should be vetted by more real members with experience with more mainstream projectors. I don’t think anyone is expecting perfection at those prices, but boy when I was 10 would I have loved something like this to play with and what a great way to introduce a young person to a hobby. Of course when I was 10 my dad bought me the projector where you sit it on top of a picture and it projected it on the wall. Edmund Scientific sold them. That kept me busy along with the Bell & Howell 8mm projector.

$200 sounds cheep but a year ago Viewsonic marked the Pro7827HD down to 400 bucks DLP dark chip 3 RGBRGB with tons of HT goodies on board. I have been using the tar out of it for a couple years now and it came with a 3 year warranty.

There is something about getting the most out of something budget priced that I find very rewarding. So I get your review.
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post #13 of 35 Old 09-03-2019, 04:39 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pjp View Post
Sounds interesting. Would love to know what the actual lumen spec is. Fan noise is always the killer for me with these small projectors but seems like this would work great outside where fan noise wouldn't be an issue.

I went with a used LG pa75u to get low fan noise in a small projector, picture quality is great, even at 720p, but only 700 lumens.
My first three projectors were big bulky JVCs and I actually built a projection cubby atop a closet the fan noise was so bad. I don't have a convenient closet anymore, but someday I will build an MDF hush box lines with DynaMat and a 120CFM 8" PC case fan at 16dB. Never seem to get around to it, because it is so much easier to crank the movie volume.

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Ya'll are talking apples and oranges.

The Amazon spec's posted by @JRock3x8 shows the manufacture claiming 5000 LUX for the projector.

Lux and Lumens are two very different SI units of illumination.

LUX is used to describe the perceived illumination of a known space. LUMENS is a unit of "luminous flux"; it's measuring how much visible light is produced or put out by an object such as a light bulb or in this case a projector lamp.
Somewhere long ago I found the LUX output for a bare 240 watt UHP lamp. I think it was 15,000 LUX. Of course, a color wheel throws away 2/3rds of the lamp's output while an RGB LED projector should not have a color wheel and not be throwing away light output.

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post #15 of 35 Old 09-04-2019, 11:54 AM
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Too funny. I took the first post at face value on the 5,000 lumens and looked right past the ad that said 5,000 lux.

Getting down to the real nitty gritty, CiBest is one of several brand names (including Elephas and GooDee) marketed by a Chinese company called Alphas Tech (alphastech.com). The specific model mentioned in this thread appears to be the CiBest M18 which is marketed as a "business model." Owner manual specs claim that it's a native 1080p LCD model that produces 80% color gamut. This fits the profile of other cheap LED projectors that utilize a single LCD panel with a white LED light source as opposed to DLP or 3LCD with R, G and B LEDs.

The most intriguing part of the spec is that its power consumption is rated at 150W, which is very high for an LED projector suggesting that it might be employing a brighter than average white LED. One user review mentioned that the M18 "runs very hot," which supports the possibility of a brighter than average light source. While LCD is more lumen efficient than DLP, single panel LCD projectors are typically below average for overall image quality.

The overall Alphas Tech projector lineup appears to be quite similar to the ones marketed by other lesser known companies. For example, Vankyo offers a similar projector lineup that includes one model marketed at 5,000 lux. Other little known brands such as Crenova, WiMiUS and Xinda also market similar "5,000 lux" models. Rating these projectors in lux instead of the projector industry standard lumens appears to be a way to inflate raw numbers without actually providing a direct comparison to lumen ratings from established global projector brands.

Like many other companies Alphas Tech appears to be quite active in social media as the web is littered with glowing "user" comments about the various Elephas, GooDee and CiBest projector models. They are also heavily hyped in the numerous purported "projector review" sites that have sprung up around the web offering nothing more than regurgitated projector company marketing verbiage with no actual hands-on test results. "Influencers" are often cultivated to help spread their marketing message on forums. For example, one of the cheap LED projector brands has the following posted on their website:

Quote:
INFLUENCER
We understand how much influencers mean to us in elevating our brand and engaging customers. That's why we'd like to work with you to build a better future for every one of us together.
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post #16 of 35 Old 09-04-2019, 03:35 PM
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Lux is generally about a 10:1 ratio for lumens. This is all very confounding as 5,000lux should appear similar to 500 lumens.

I think at $250 this is where a more serious consideration needs to occur and I'm not sure how much brightness actually does play into things.

Reviews are often similar and really seem to be from first time buyers. It's great to hear that the OP had something that he compared it to, but the single chip LCD design with a 'keystone correction' that moves the chip and causes focus issue makes that correction completely worthless in the real world.

I'm such a skeptic on these things, but I haven't seen one of them in person. Wish I could fire it up next to a BenQ HT2050a and see how things really look.

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post #17 of 35 Old 09-04-2019, 04:23 PM
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... I'm such a skeptic on these things, but I haven't seen one of them in person. Wish I could fire it up next to a BenQ HT2050a and see how things really look.
Hey, if you establish yourself as an "influencer" maybe you could get one real cheap, write up a great review and sell it for more than you paid for it.
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post #18 of 35 Old 09-08-2019, 04:09 AM - Thread Starter
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@HTCrazy2 Thanks for posting. I have long thought these cheep projectors should be vetted by more real members with experience with more mainstream projectors. I don’t think anyone is expecting perfection at those prices, but boy when I was 10 would I have loved something like this to play with and what a great way to introduce a young person to a hobby. Of course when I was 10 my dad bought me the projector where you sit it on top of a picture and it projected it on the wall. Edmund Scientific sold them. That kept me busy along with the Bell & Howell 8mm projector.

$200 sounds cheep but a year ago Viewsonic marked the Pro7827HD down to 400 bucks DLP dark chip 3 RGBRGB with tons of HT goodies on board. I have been using the tar out of it for a couple years now and it came with a 3 year warranty.

There is something about getting the most out of something budget priced that I find very rewarding. So I get your review.
I agree, this is absolutely great for the kids. But what prompted me to write the enthusiastic review was how ridiculously good an experience it was for me for the price. And the most surprising aspect of the picture was how satisfying the contrast and relative black levels were for a cheapo pj. Often the picture is gorgeous.

My grown son still loves his 720p 75U LED even though we offered to buy him a 4K flatscreen which he refused. And this is a major upgrade to the 75u. But again having quality video processing makes a big difference. LED has some built in advantages like better perceived contrast, color pop, color stability, scalability to larger screen sizes, light spill and bulb life. Much of this is due to the more focused light beams from the non-incandescent light source.

I was curious how much of this would hold true on the cheap models and was pleasantly surprised.
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post #19 of 35 Old 09-08-2019, 04:29 AM - Thread Starter
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Too funny. I took the first post at face value on the 5,000 lumens and looked right past the ad that said 5,000 lux.
I made the same mistake. But it IS a bright projector throwing a very bright image with a 200” plus picture. Not leave all the lights on and you fine bright, but quite good even with SOME ambient light. First projector I’ve had that was decent with indirect ambient light.

I’m not pitching the CiBest though it’s a great value. But if I had it to do over I’d get a similar model with multiple fans for less noise. That said I’d love to see somewhat post about the CiBest who really got into the settings.
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It's great to hear that the OP had something that he compared it to, but the single chip LCD design with a 'keystone correction' that moves the chip and causes focus issue makes that correction completely worthless in the real world.
.
You’re right about the manual keystone being a terrible idea. I wouldn’t say it makes the projector worthless given the price, but does add a lot of futzing to get a sharp picture.
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I agree, this is absolutely great for the kids. But what prompted me to write the enthusiastic review was how ridiculously good an experience it was for me for the price. And the most surprising aspect of the picture was how satisfying the contrast and relative black levels were for a cheapo pj. Often the picture is gorgeous.

My grown son still loves his 720p 75U LED even though we offered to buy him a 4K flatscreen which he refused. And this is a major upgrade to the 75u. But again having quality video processing makes a big difference. LED has some built in advantages like better perceived contrast, color pop, color stability, scalability to larger screen sizes, light spill and bulb life. Much of this is due to the more focused light beams from the non-incandescent light source.

I was curious how much of this would hold true on the cheap models and was pleasantly surprised.
Sometimes I think adding a higher price alone gets people to take a more serious look at a product. Or keeping in line with the prices of all the rest of the bits and pieces required making up a HT system. Someone that puts 10k into their audio just feels they need to spend at least 5k on a projector and would never pair it with a <1k projector let alone a $200 one.

Then there are a lot of people that just want to get started with something and have old audio stuff hanging around and a basement wall as a screen. They might not have $700 for an “entry” projector its nice when someone posts that is much less will work ok to get started. More than once I was out shopping and saw some 100 dollar projector and just wondered if it was for real. I always say I’m not wasting 100 bucks to try it out even though I’m sure I could return it. They might sell a lot of these if they had a little dark room you could demo it in.

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post #22 of 35 Old 09-08-2019, 08:12 AM
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It's certainly understandable to see enthusiasm for a cheap product that performs above expectations, and no one should have unrealistically high expectations for the performance of cheap LED projectors with single TFT LCD panels and white LED light sources. This technology has been around for years and the performance limitations are well documented. While LED technology has advanced and brighter light sources are available today it's highly unlikely that there's been a technological breakthrough that makes any current model greatly outperform all previous iterations. As projectorcentral.com concluded when they performed instrumented testing of several cheap LED projectors, "some of them can produce a decently watchable picture as long as your expectations are not too high."

projectorcentral.com/cheap_projectors.htm
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post #23 of 35 Old 09-08-2019, 10:25 AM
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Originally Posted by Dave in Green View Post
It's certainly understandable to see enthusiasm for a cheap product that performs above expectations, and no one should have unrealistically high expectations for the performance of cheap LED projectors with single TFT LCD panels and white LED light sources. This technology has been around for years and the performance limitations are well documented. While LED technology has advanced and brighter light sources are available today it's highly unlikely that there's been a technological breakthrough that makes any current model greatly outperform all previous iterations. As projectorcentral.com concluded when they performed instrumented testing of several cheap LED projectors, "some of them can produce a decently watchable picture as long as your expectations are not too high."

projectorcentral.com/cheap_projectors.htm
To be fair the PC review was 5 years ago and I have no idea if any of these $200 projectors have been updated over that 5 years, but looking back at the progress in the <3000 forum things have changed a good deal and I would hope the cheapo units have made some strides also.

Like almost everyone here I have never seen one in action. I doubt the models from 5 years ago were true 1080p though as this one is reported to be. That plus possibly a brighter LED light source could make a big difference.

I wonder if @HTCrazy2 could post some screen shots or maybe a video.

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post #24 of 35 Old 09-08-2019, 02:08 PM
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It's fair to consider the best as well as the worst possibilities. But it's all speculation without objective data from multiple experienced, reliable sources. The web is full of enthusiastic user reviews, and tiny compressed images and videos of big projected images can be misleading as all of the experienced, reliable review sites frequently remind us. It's OK to hope for the best but it pays to be prepared for the worst when considering whether or not cheap single panel TFT LCD projectors with white LED illumination have made significant performance advances in recent years.
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post #25 of 35 Old 09-08-2019, 04:49 PM
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Originally Posted by Dave in Green View Post
The web is full of enthusiastic user reviews, and tiny compressed images and videos of big projected images can be misleading
For example, they won't reveal chromatic aberration from inexpensive lenses, which I assume is a major difference between cheap and expensive LED projectors. (A close-up of a grid pattern might reveal this.) Online photos also don't do a good job of revealing color balance issues.

On the other hand, if you're using a projector for casual TV/movie/sports watching instead of as a monitor or plasma TV replacement, this isn't such a big deal.
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Originally Posted by bud16415 View Post
Sometimes I think adding a higher price alone gets people to take a more serious look at a product. Or keeping in line with the prices of all the rest of the bits and pieces required making up a HT system. Someone that puts 10k into their audio just feels they need to spend at least 5k on a projector and would never pair it with a <1k projector let alone a $200 one.

Then there are a lot of people that just want to get started with something and have old audio stuff hanging around and a basement wall as a screen. They might not have $700 for an “entry” projector its nice when someone posts that is much less will work ok to get started. More than once I was out shopping and saw some 100 dollar projector and just wondered if it was for real. I always say I’m not wasting 100 bucks to try it out even though I’m sure I could return it. They might sell a lot of these if they had a little dark room you could demo it in.
That’s a good use case. And I haven’t seen what an entry level $700 projector looks like, but I’m guessing one of these LED units with some external video processing would be competitive at less than a third of the price. And since you can return them with no restocking fee to Amazon makes it a good place to start for a budget projector, IMO.
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post #27 of 35 Old 09-09-2019, 07:50 AM - Thread Starter
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For example, they won't reveal chromatic aberration from inexpensive lenses, which I assume is a major difference between cheap and expensive LED projectors. (A close-up of a grid pattern might reveal this.) Online photos also don't do a good job of revealing color balance issues.

On the other hand, if you're using a projector for casual TV/movie/sports watching instead of as a monitor or plasma TV replacement, this isn't such a big deal.
There definitely is chromatic aberration, and other video artifacts that you won’t find on projectors costing 10X the price. Except for the smallest of budgets these are no long term replacements for a quality projector for dedicated Home Theater. But the big screen experience in the home is so compelling they do allow a larger audience to get a taste of it at the lowest possible budget. As I mentioned before I have a very high quality 65” Samsung TV that doesn’t get used on because I simply prefer the dramatically larger picture, video flaws and all while I’m waiting to pull the trigger on a quality 4K projector.

I can see a lot of people with more humble incomes thinking this is the best $200 they ever spent. I’ll keep mine even after the 4k projector to use for outdoor movies in the summer and occasional use at the office.
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post #28 of 35 Old 09-09-2019, 08:10 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Dave in Green View Post
The web is full of enthusiastic user reviews, and tiny compressed images and videos of big projected images can be misleading as all of the experienced, reliable review sites frequently remind us.
Very true. I could take photos of certain images that could make you favorably compare this to expensive projectors, and others that look awful all modified by the iPhone taking the pictures. I may try anyway with caveats galore.
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post #29 of 35 Old 09-09-2019, 09:21 AM
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Originally Posted by HTCrazy2 View Post
That’s a good use case. And I haven’t seen what an entry level $700 projector looks like, but I’m guessing one of these LED units with some external video processing would be competitive at less than a third of the price. And since you can return them with no restocking fee to Amazon makes it a good place to start for a budget projector, IMO.
Many products are on a price/quality curve that illustrates the classic diminishing returns curve.

Projectors are that type of a product without a doubt. My guess is that there will be some significant returns between the $200 projector and the $700 projector just as there will be between $700 and $2,500 at a 3.5x price jump. Or $2,500 and $8,800 another 3.5x jump.

That’s not saying an $8,800/$200 is 44 times as good etc.

IMO the curve is very substantial at the low end and diminishes to very slight at the high end given projectors trying to do the same job. As a side note with projectors the room environment they are in needs to be better to match each level of improvement of the projectors. So it is possible for a $700 machine to look as good or even better than a $2,500 machine in a poor room.

Until someone weighs in they has the opportunity to test this projector head to head with say the BenQ 2050A that is around 3x the price and then somehow assign an ?x level of improvement we just will be talking about it.

I wont even venture a guess as I just don’t know. What I do know is it is impressive for 200 bucks there is an option that works well enough people are keeping these and not sending them back and giving them good reviews based on performance per cost.

Bud
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post #30 of 35 Old 09-09-2019, 01:33 PM
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Since this same basic projector from a big Chinese supplier is available from many different vendors under many different brand names why not go with one advertised at 5,500 lumens for <$200? One of the brands even advertises that if you give it a 5 star rating they will extend the warranty from 1 year to 2 years. Wonder why there are so many 5 star ratings?
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