Whatever you will buy will be surpassed in 3 months by a new pj. That will be true at any moment for the next 5 years. They are all wonderful. You can't go wrong. You will have buyer's remorse the moment you lay out the money. You will be thrilled with what you get. The NEXT BIG THING will make you feel like a fool for having gotten whatever you get. You will stop watching movies and think only about the performance of your sytem. HT is a disease. You will be very happy with your system. DO IT!
Interesting, you've narrowed down your choices to the same ones that I have. Saw the AE-100 and 75u in action today! IMO, very similar. Should depend more on your what your distance to the screen is vs. desired width. If the ratio of the two measurements is > 2, I'd go with the AE-100. I have ordered the piano with the 10 day trial period. I suggest you do the same, but hurry, as the promoton ends at the end of the month.
I will be doing a shoot-out with all three projectors next week.
Since everyone is enjoying your torment, I'll try to help you by summarizing major pluses and minuses of each PJ on your list:
1) Piano--great video processing, not HDTV compatible, DVI for HTPC which should be its best, dim (450 lumens), great CR (700:1), quiet (32 db), low res (hybrid SVGA/wide VGA DLP=moderate screendoor), low chance of rainbows (but still possible--4x, 240 Hz speed color wheel), no zoom, $2800 from US (good warranty).
2) LT150z--crappy video processing, HDTV compatible, VGA for HTPC (no DVI) which is best, above average brightness (1000 lumens), great CR (700:1--more after color wheel and other mods), relatively noisy (needs hushbox at 39 db), XGA DLP (little screendoor), higher chance of rainbows (1x, 60 Hz speed color wheel), zoom (short throw=great for small room), $2800 from US (great warranty).
3) Panny AE100--average video processing, HDTV compatible but not ideal, VGA for HTPC which shows it best, average brightness (700 lumens), average CR (400:1) but 16:9 panels help improve apparent CR due to no or little gray bars, quiet, low res (wide VGA LCD=bad screendoor), no chance of rainbows (but convergence, dead pixels, dust blobs may be problem), zoom, $1400 from Japan (weak warranty).
4) Panny 75u--average video processing, HDTV compatible, VGA for HTPC which is best, quiet (30 db), XGA LCD (moderate screendoor), no rainbows (but LCD faults possible), zoom, $2500 from US (good warranty).
You can improve some faults by sitting further back, gray screens, optical filters, light control, varying source, praying, etc. But, if it was my choice regardless of price, I'd go for LT150z (I have LT150 and love mine as I don't suffer from rainbows). If you suffer from rainbows, 75u is the next choice. Piano is third on my list. AE100 is last. Bang-for-buck, 75u is the best; LT150z is second; AE100 is third (warranty too risky IMHO); and Piano is last (poor value).
These are just my thoughts. YMMV and others may feel differently. To each his own.
Huey, nice brief comparison. Would you be able to (via personal experience or gathered knowledge) be able to append a VW-11HT to it, perhaps? I'm trying to upgrade my aging Vidikron Crystal One and I'm getting dizzy from my head spinning so much with all the options (it was so much easier when I got the Cyrstal One; there wasn't much else to choose from!). I'm very willing to tinker and tweak, but for my family's ease-of-use sake I'd probably avoid something requiring an HTPC as a solution. Until tonight, I was leaning toward the VW11HT, but (smack me now) tonight I read good things about the TW100, and also realized what all the excitement of the AE100 was (its amazing price), so bang-for-buck I'm hopelessly spinning my wheels...
In July Plus Corp. is coming out with the Piano HE3200 with a $3200.00 price tag, it is a much improved model over the Piano HE3100. It will have a zoom lens, 480p, 720p and 1080i compatible and also has a DVI connection. If you decide on a Piano at least wait for this newbie.
I checked into this post just to provide my vote for the NEC LT-150 camp and see that Huey has already summarized things so well that everyone else can only mutter "yeah, what he said".
Personally, I am very pleased with my LT-150 but I suffer from rainbows in only in the most extreme circumstances ( subtitles in U-571, black screen, white letters). Recently another AVS member stopped by who has the Hitachi 5500 D-ILA (I think) and he was very impressed with the picture of this little unit. He felt it was pretty quality image and he has a PJ that costs way more than mine.
If you suffer from rainbows then slower DLP's like this are probably not for you. If you have to sit close, then LCD screen door might be too much. It comes down to the specifics of your room and your viewing.
NEVER buy a DLP without being able to return it for a restocking fee you are willing to lose. I had the Plus Piano for a demo. It has a 4x color wheel, 6 segments--the improvements which are supposed to reduce rainbow effect, etc. I also had two different LT-150's. I never saw a rainbow with either PJ, so I must not be susceptible. I suffered a little eyestrain but nothing severe with the LT150, although the image did tend to look increasingly "sparkly" and digital after a while. But with the Piano, I made it only half way through one movie before I got a headache which lasted almost 24 hours. And I am not prone to headaches, under normal circumstances, at all. The Piano is way too dim for my tastes as well, and the 150 looked sharper. Video processing with the Piano was very smooth but, in my view, not razor sharp. I have a hard time tolerating "soft focus" projectors.
The 150 probably delivers the best picture of any PJ I have seen under $4K, but XGA LCD's, especially with MLA, can be very relaxing to watch for hours on end. The visual phenomena which plague DLP's cause actual pain for the people vulnerable to them, while screen door from two screen widths' distance simply is not an issue with the Panasonic 711Xu, the Mits X80u, the Sanyo XP21N, or the Sanyo PLV-60, just to name the LCD's I've seen in my own theater.
Individual reactions to projectors vary so much. Just try not to get stuck with something you can't tolerate.
Still lovin the 75U. Watched Vanilla Sky, Ghost World, From Hell and Fantasia plus a little Grateful Dawg and my teen daughter wached Corky Romano. From Hell , which is pretty dark probably would have shown better with a higher end dlp or CRT but it still was very enjoyable with the 75U. All the rest looked great. NBA basketball over analog cable via VB50 looks ok on closeup shots, pretty bad on wide angel/ full court shots. Have not seen one jaggie or obvious digital artifact though videophiles might notice something I'm missing. Good luck. DLPs also gave me headaches I strongly second catullus's advice.
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