Home Theater Projector Shootout: Home Theater Projectors under $1,000

If you want to spend less than a thousand bucks on a good home theater projector, here are five of the best new options on the market. This shootout compares five newly released 1920×1080 resolution home theater projectors that are priced between $799 and $999, including in alpha order the BenQ HT3050, the BenQ HT2050, the Epson Home Cinema 2040, the Optoma HD28DSE, and the Viewsonic LightStream PJD7835HD. To start with, here are the prices, warranties, and technology type:

MODEL PRICE WARRANTY TYPE
BenQ HT3050 $999 1 year DLP
BenQ HT2050 $799 1 year DLP
Epson Home Cinema 2040 $799 2 years 3LCD
Optoma HD28DSE $799 1 year DLP
Viewsonic PJD7835HD $899 3 years DLP

 

Which is the BEST Projector?

There is no such thing, at least in this group, as the “best” projector. Why? Because each of our five projectors has unique attributes that may be of more or less importance to you. For example, when one projector has deeper black levels but is not quite as sharp as another, people would disagree on which is the “best.” One projector might do an outstanding job with 2D but its 3D image is lackluster, while a different model has terrific 3D, but its 2D image is less impressive. Which of these projectors is the “best” for you depends on how important 3D viewing is to you.

No single projector in this shootout does everything the best — they’ve all got advantages and they’ve all got flaws. Our purpose here is to identify the strengths and weaknesses of each product, and let you decide which one most closely meets your needs.

The Calibration Issue

There is a lot of discussion about color balance and calibration in these reviews. Let’s put this into perspective right up front. There are two truisms to bear in mind:

  1. Most consumers will think the factory calibrated pictures they get from any of the five projectors in this shootout are just fine as they are coming out of the box, without any need for adjustments or calibrations.
  2. The picture quality on virtually all projectors can be improved with a professional calibration.

Projector manufacturers are paying more attention to proper video calibrations than they used to. Some are promoting the fact that they are making a specific effort to target HD Rec 709 standards in their Movie or Cinema factory calibrations. Other vendors have created Cinema or Movie calibrations designed to target HD color standards without specifically marketing them as such. So the good news is that you are much more likely to pull a new projector out of the box, fire it up, and get a picture that blows you away without having to bother with a professional calibration.

HOWEVER. Though vendors are paying more attention to calibration for best video, it is only by the rarest of accidents that a projector comes out of the box perfectly calibrated. Factory calibrations are always approximations, as each unit and (more importantly) each lamp is different. The high pressure lamps used in inexpensive projectors do not emit the ideal 6500K white light; they tend to be biased toward blue-green. The Cinema or Rec 709 factory calibrations help to compensate for the anticipated color errors introduced by the lamps, but there is no way that vendors could afford to custom calibrate each unit for each individual lamp during the manufacturing process.

Bottom line, if you set up two different projectors side by side that have both been “factory pre-calibrated to Rec 709,” odds are the colors will look different. And, odds are, they are both wrong. But they will both look a lot better (that is, a lot closer to the theoretical ideal) than if no attempt at calibration had been done.

If you want your projector to be tuned up to its absolute best potential, a certified technician will need to spend a couple hours dialing it in. And even then, one person’s “optimal” picture may not be another’s. While there are objective targets defined as ideals, there is a lot of room for personal taste when it comes to setting up a video picture to your ultimate satisfaction.

The problem is, professional calibrations can cost $300 or more, which is a huge chunk of change to add to the cost of an $800 projector. Most buyers won’t do that. And for most buyers, it isn’t necessary. Think about this — TVs are just as erroneous as projectors, often more so. But when’s the last time you heard of anyone needing to hire a professional to calibrate their TV before they could enjoy the picture? Probably never.

So take the discussion about color balance and accuracy in these reviews with a grain of salt. They will mean something to serious home theater fans, and the issues are legitimate because people going to the trouble to install a projection system generally want better performance than the typical TV watcher. But all of the projectors in this group have factory defined picture modes that will dazzle and delight most consumers. They give you a big screen experience you can love without messing with any calibration at all. Once you install one of them and get familiar with its features, how much of a stickler you may want to be for fine tuning and technical precision is up to you.

Performance

This section contains meter measurements on the five projectors pertaining to lumen output, brightness uniformity, and input lag.

2D Brightness. For traditional 2D movie and video display, all five of these projectors produce more than ample light for dark room home theater. In their brightest configurations that are still balanced for very good video, four of the five come in so close that it would make no sense to choose one or the other based on brightness. The Viewsonic PJD7835HD is the one exception that puts out more light.

ANSI Lumens in Brightest Cinema Modes

MODEL Lumens
BenQ HT3050 1550
BenQ HT2050 1688
Epson 2040 1725
Optoma HD28DSE 1667
Viewsonic PJD7835HD 2310

 

ANSI Lumens in Standard Cinema Modes (lamps on full power)

MODEL Lumens
BenQ HT3050 1160
BenQ HT2050 1255
Epson 2040 1519
Optoma HD28DSE 1601
Viewsonic PJD7835HD 1616

 

In their preset Cinema modes, the Epson 2040, Optoma HD28, and Viewsonic 7835HD are somewhat brighter than the BenQ HT2050 and HT3050. But even the least bright measurement of 1160 lumens is more than ample light for most dark theater applications.

Eco modes. All five projectors have eco-modes that reduce total lumen output in all modes in the event light output at full lamp power is too much for your needs. Optoma’s eco-mode cuts light by 26%, Epson’s by 34%, and the two BenQ models are reduced 32%. The Viewsonic has two eco modes. The standard Eco cuts light by 27%, and the Super-Eco cuts it by a whopping 78% (a curious option for which we cannot see a high demand).

Zoom lens effect. The 1.3x zoom lenses on the two BenQ models will allow you to reduce lumen output by up to 27% as you move to the telephoto end of the zoom range. Why? As you move the lens from wide angle to telephoto, it reduces the amount of light that is transmitted through the lens. The Viewsonic has a 1.36x zoom that will reduce light up to 23% at the telephoto end. This gives users of these models a bit more latitude for lowering maximum brightness if they need to. Meanwhile the Epson 2040 and Optoma HD28 have shorter zooms of 1.2x and 1.1x respectively. The light output of the Epson and Optoma projectors is not significantly altered by the zoom position.

3D Brightness. Though these five projectors are similar in 2D image brightness, the similarities evaporate entirely when switching to 3D operation. The Epson HC 2040 has a commanding advantage in 3D image brightness over all four of its competitors. It is well over twice as bright as the closest runner up, the Optoma HD28DSE. In turn, the HD28DSE is obviously brighter than the remaining three.

Brightness Uniformity. A theoretically perfect projector will have 100% uniformity, displaying identical illumination across the screen side to side and top to bottom. We’ve never seen one do this. Practically speaking in today’s world, 90% uniformity is excellent, 80% is good, 70% is fair to mediocre, and 60% is poor. These numbers represent ratios between the brightest part of the image and the dimmest. So a projector with 60% uniformity will be 40% less bright in the dimmest area of the image than in its brightest.

For the most part, low brightness uniformity is not noticeable when viewing a video or film image. What you generally get is fading toward the sides or corners that you are not conscious of unless the projector has some visible vignetting. So the flaw is subtle — you are not seeing the picture as it is meant to be seen, but you are not aware that it is wrong. Once you throw a 100 IRE white test pattern onto the screen, the degree of unevenness of your projector’s image becomes apparent.

Our five 1080p projectors in this group yield brightness uniformity measurements as follows:

MODEL Uniformity
BenQ HT3050 73%
BenQ HT2050 67%
Epson 2040 84%
Optoma HD28DSE 71%
Viewsonic PJD7835HD 65%

 

Input Lag. The time lag that exists between the time the projector receives the signal and the time it appears on the screen is called input lag. A lengthy input lag will produce visible lip synch issues and may have some impact on video gaming results. The lip synch problem can be easily overcome with the use of an audio delay that brings the sound and the picture back into synch. But there is no fix for video gaming, so those who are into serious competitive gaming tend to look for video displays with the lowest input lags.

MODEL INPUT LAG
BenQ HT3050 49.7 ms
BenQ HT2050 33.1 ms
Epson Home Cinema 2040 24.6 ms
Optoma HD28DSE 49.7 ms
Viewsonic PJD7835HD 49.7 ms

Set Up / Installation

None of these five projectors have long zoom lenses or extensive lens shift, so your options are limited on where you can place them to fill your particular screen. The BenQ models have a 1.3x zoom lens and some limited lens shift, and the Viewsonic has a 1.36x zoom, so they offer a bit more latitude.

The throw distances for the BenQ and Epson units are almost identical. If you have a 16:9, 120″ diagonal screen, the HT3050 and 2050 will fill it from a distance of 10 to 13 feet, and the Epson 2040 will fill it from 10.5 to 12.75 feet. The Viewsonic gives you the ability to position it slightly closer, from 9.6 to 13 feet. The Optoma HD28DSE needs a bit more throw distance, 13 to 14 feet, to accommodate the same 120″ screen. This can be a good thing since it may allow placement of the projector behind the seating area and a bit further from the audience.

If your screen is something other than 120″ diagonal, you can find throw distance details using the Projector Central Projection Calculator. Here is the Projection Calculator pre-loaded with each of the five models … BenQ HT3050BenQ HT2050Epson HC 2040Optoma HD28DSEViewsonic PJD7835HD. Adjust the screen size and throw distance parameters to suit your needs.

Image offset is another factor to keep in mind. Each of these projectors throws an image that is entirely or mostly above the centerline of the lens. The two BenQ models and the Optoma throw a picture so that the bottom edge is above the centerline of the lens by about 8% of the picture height.

In addition, the two BenQ projectors have a lens shift capability that will let you raise the picture up to another 10% of the picture height (or about 6″ on a 120″ screen). This lets you compensate for minor errors in mounting in a way that the other products don’t, and makes it easier to target a pre-installed screen.

The Epson HC 2040 is unique among the five in that its projection offset is quite a bit lower — the bottom edge of the projected image is located below the centerline of the lens, by an amount equal to about 13% of the picture height, or about 8″ below the centerline on a 120″ screen. The advantage of this placement is that it makes it easier to install on a rack or shelf located behind the audience without having to tilt it to position the image properly on the wall. This lets you avoid the keystone correction that would be required to square up the image if you had to tilt the projector downward, as you would need to do with the BenQ, Optoma, and Viewsonic units.

There are two further issues to be aware of if you plan to place the HC 2040 on a rear shelf behind the seats. First, it will require you to sit at a position of about 1.3x the screen width or closer. You may or may not want to sit that close to the screen, and it is worth sorting that out before you make your final decision. Second, fan noise may be bothersome if the projector is placed immediately behind and too close to the heads of the audience. This is especially the case if the projector is to be run in full power mode.

The downside to the Epson 2040’s lower throw angle is that if you place it on a coffee table it may throw the image too low, or if you invert and ceiling mount it, it will throw the image too high. For ceiling mounting, this is fixed by using an extension drop tube. The HC 2040 will need to be suspended one or two feet lower from the ceiling than would be required with the competing units.

The bottom line is that the lens throw geometry of the BenQ HT3050 and HT2050 favors a ceiling mount or coffee table placement, and its lens shift makes it easier to target a pre-installed screen. The Optoma HD28DSE and Viewsonic 7835HD also favor a ceiling or table mount, but they have no lens shift. All four of the DLP projectors are a bit more problematic for rear shelf placement due to the probable need to tilt the units downward and use keystone to square it up (which is scaling that compromises the 1 to 1 pixel mapping from an HD 1080p source). The Epson HC 2040 is designed to accommodate a rear shelf placement more easily, and if you ceiling mount it, you will need to position it at a greater vertical distance from the ceiling than you would the competing units by using a longer drop tube.

Lamp Life and Replacement Lamp Cost

Lamp life has continued to improve in the industry. Keep in mind that lamp life specs are based on the anticipated time the lamp’s brightness will diminish to 50% of its original luminance. However, high pressure lamps do not degrade on a straight-line basis; they lose about 25% of their power in the first 500 to 1000 hours, and then degrade more slowly after that. For this reason, many serious home theater users replace lamps more frequently than the official lamp life in order to keep their projectors performing their best. If you want to follow this strategy, the lamp replacement cost becomes a factor in your decision.

Lamp Life Specifications

MODEL FULL Power ECO Mode
BenQ HT3050 3500 hours 6000 hours
BenQ HT2050 3500 hours 6000 hours
Epson Home Cinema 2040 4000 hours 7500 hours
Optoma HD28DSE 4000 hours 8000 hours
Viewsonic PJD7835HD 3500 hours 8000 hours

 

Replacement Lamp Prices (as quoted by the manufacturers)

MODEL Price
BenQ HT3050 $249
BenQ HT2050 $249
Epson 2040 $  79
Optoma HD28DSE $179
Viewsonic PJD7835HD $329

BenQ HT3050

The BenQ HT3050 is an impressive projector that succeeds in part by avoiding the common flaws typical of home theater projectors in this price range. It delivers an exceptional picture out of the box that many will find perfectly enjoyable without any tweaking. On our sample, we selected the Cinema mode, and preferred to open up the mid-tones a bit by boosting Brightness to 51, Contrast to 53, and adjusting gamma from 2.2 to 2.1. This is not a recommendation, as your unit and your tastes may vary.

Strengths / Advantages

Pre-calibrated Rec 709 Cinema mode. One of the key features of the HT3050 is its Cinema mode that has been factory set to target Rec 709 standards. No factory precalibration will be ideal for all units coming off the line, but this one gets the picture closer to standards than typical factory settings. The picture looks great standing on its own, and we suspect few users would want to bother with the expense of a custom calibration. It can be improved with further tweaking, but it is not necessary.

Rainbows? What rainbows? The RGBRGB wheel configuration and rapid refresh rate bring rainbow artifacts to an absolute minimum, which for all practical purposes will be non-existent for many users.

Outstanding Audio. The twin 10W stereo speakers blow all the others away. If you want or need your projector to have some robust audio, this is the one to get.

Low Fan Noise. The fan noise on the HT3050 (and HT2050) in full power mode is the lowest and least noticeable in the group in both sound pressure and frequency. It also does not vary in pitch or pressure which is a good thing that is not true of all projectors in this shootout.

Lens shift. While not extensive in range, the HT3050 (and HT2050) lets you shift the lens in order to move the image up and down about 10% of the picture height. This can make it much easier to target a pre-installed screen, or make a small adjustment after you’ve made an error in screen installation after the fact. None of the competing units have this.

1.3x zoom lens. The 1.3x zoom lenses provide a bit more flexibility in throw distance, and the choice of throw distance can be used to fine tune the projector’s light output if necessary.

Black levels. Black levels, while not as deep as the Optoma HD28, are the second best in the group, and are sufficiently deep to produce good snap. Contrast is equally competitive, not quite at HD28 level but solid and nothing to complain about.

Weaknesses

3D performance. The HT3050 has the least bright 3D picture in the shootout. Color saturation is somewhat muted compared to the Epson 2040 and Optoma HD28. Standing alone, the HT3050’s 3D picture is certainly quite engaging and enjoyable, so if you have only a passing interest in 3D, this projector will get you by. But if you are a big 3D fan and tend to complain about the dimness of 3D imagery, the HT3050 would not be the first choice.

Light output. Light output in 2D display is around 1160 lumens in Cinema mode, which is plenty sufficient for most home theater needs. It is only a weakness by comparison with competing units in this group that average closer to 1600 lumens and thus would be able to accommodate more ambient light, should that be desired.

Input lag. The HT3050’s 49.7 ms matches the Viewsonic and the Optoma, but it is not as quick as the HT2050 at 33.1 ms, or the Epson 2040 at 24.6 ms. If you are not into serious gaming this is a non-issue, but if you are, this may be an issue to consider.

Brightness uniformity. The HT3050 and HT2050 both have relatively low brightness uniformity compared to ideal home theater standards. However, they share this limitation with the other DLP models in this shootout, so they are not uniquely poor in this regard. This is a flaw that tends to get lost and unnoticed in a video image, so as flaws go it is easy to live with.

Slow signal lock. The HT3050 is the slowest of the five units to find and lock on a signal. This is noticed typically when loading a new disc. You see a lot of “searching for signal” messages when the Blu-ray player is sending different signals that alternate between 480 to 1080/60 to 1080/24. The practical consequence is that you may never see preliminary notices like the MPAA rating screen or the FBI warning, and you may hear the dramatic fanfare of the movie studio’s logo on your sound system before the video image appears on the screen. However, once the projector locks onto a stable 1080p/24 movie signal it is fine, so most users will consider the initial instability to be a minor nuisance. All of the DLP projectors in this shootout do this to some degree; the Epson 2040 is the only one in this group that rapidly locks on a new signal format.

One-year warranty. BenQ offers a one-year warranty on the HT3050, which is the minimum found in the industry today.

Price and Replacement Lamp. The $999 price is the highest in the group and the $249 replacement lamp price is rather hefty; it is not as bad as the Viewsonic lamp at $329, but Epson’s $79 lamp price stands in a league of its own.

Summary Assessment

The BenQ HT3050 produces a solid and thoroughly engaging picture without the need for pro calibration. Its black levels, shadow definition, and contrast are competitive, rainbows are rare, and fan noise is low, steady, and unobtrusive. The 1.3x zoom lens with lens shift makes it the easiest of the projectors in this group to ceiling mount. Part of the charm of the HT3050 is that BenQ has eliminated most of the common flaws people object to in lower priced projectors.

Furthermore, the weaknesses that it does have do not rise to the level of big problems for most buyers. Its 3D is the least bright and saturated of the competing models, but for those who watch 3D only occasionally this is not a big deal; it provides sufficiently good 3D performance to satisfy the occasional use. Brightness uniformity is lower than ideal, but it is not generally noticeable on the screen. Input lag of 49.7 ms may be a concern for serious gamers, but not for the rest of the world. And its slowness to lock on a signal is a minor nuisance that only happens before the movie gets going.

The HT3050’s price of $999 is the highest in this group, the one-year warranty is minimal, and $249 for a replacement lamp may be a concern for people who plan to put a lot of hours on their projector. But overall, we expect that many will see the particular configuration of benefits offered by the HT3050 to be a very attractive value proposition.

BenQ HT2050

The BenQ HT2050 is built on the same platform as the HT3050, and it also is an impressive projector that succeeds in part by avoiding the common flaws in home theater projectors in this price range. It lacks a few features that are found on the HT3050, including a factory calibrated Rec 709 Cinema mode, stereo sound, horizontal keystone adjustment, MHL-compatibility, and the option to add a soon-to-be released wireless module for an additional $399. But you save $200 by going with the HT2050 instead of the HT3050.

Strengths / Advantages

Rainbows a non-issue. The RGBRGB wheel configuration and rapid refresh rate bring rainbow artifacts to an absolute minimum, which for all practical purposes will be non-existent for many users.

Low Fan Noise. The fan noise on the HT2050 (and HT3050) in full power mode is the lowest and least noticeable in the group in both sound pressure and frequency.

Input lag. The HT2050’s 33.1 ms is quite good. It is faster than the HT3050, the Optoma HD28 and the Viewsonic which all measure 49.7 ms, but it is not quite as quick as the Epson at 24.6 ms.

Lens shift. While not extensive in range, the HT2050 (and HT3050) lets you shift the lens in order to move the image up and down about 10% of the picture height. This can make it much easier to target a pre-installed screen, or make a small adjustment after you’ve made an error in screen installation after the fact. None of the competing units have this.

1.3x zoom lens. The 1.3x zoom lenses provide a bit more flexibility in throw distance, and the choice of throw distance can be used to fine tune the projector’s light output if necessary.

Black levels. Black levels, while not as deep as the Optoma HD28, are the second best in the group, and are sufficiently deep to produce good snap. Contrast is equally competitive, not quite at HD28 level but solid and nothing to complain about.

Above Average Audio. The single 10W stereo speaker does not compare to the twin 10W configuration on the HT3050, but it outperforms the audio on the other competing units in this group.

Price. At $799 the HT2050, along with the Epson 2040 and Optoma HD28, are the three least expensive models in the group.

Weaknesses

3D performance. The HT2050 is just slightly brighter than the HT3050, but one of the least bright 3D pictures in the shootout. Color saturation is muted compared to the Epson 2040 and Optoma HD28. Standing alone, the HT2050’s 3D picture is certainly engaging and enjoyable, so if you have only a passing interest in 3D, this projector will get you by. But if you are among those who complain about the dimness of 3D imagery, the HT2050 would not be the first choice.

No MHL Compatibility. The HT2050 is the only projector in this group of five that does not have MHL.

Brightness uniformity. The 2050 and 3050 both have low brightness uniformity, which they share with the other DLP models in this shootout. This is a flaw that tends to get lost and unnoticed in a video image, so as flaws go it is easy to live with.

Slow signal lock. The HT2050 is relatively slow to find and lock on a signal. This is noticed mostly when loading a new disc. There are a lot of “searching for signal” messages as the Blu-ray player may alternate between 480 to 1080/60 to 1080/24. However, once it locks on to a stable signal it has no problem retaining it. The HT2050 appears to be a bit faster than the HT3050 in this regard.

One-year warranty. BenQ offers a one-year warranty on the HT2050, which is the minimum found in the industry today.

Replacement Lamp. The $249 replacement lamp price is rather hefty; it is not as bad as the Viewsonic at $329, but Epson’s $79 price stands in a league of its own.

Summary Assessment

Much of what was said of the HT3050 can be said of the HT2050 as well. At $799 it is competitively priced and delivers an impressive picture for the money. Its factory calibrations are perfectly watchable as they are, but color in Cinema mode is not dialed in quite as well as it is on the HT3050. Though not required to enjoy the projector, a custom calibration will noticeably improve the picture quality. If you DO plan to spend $300 on a custom calibration, the HT2050 would be the more cost-effective choice over the HT3050 unless you want or need the HT3050’s other features — MHL, horizontal keystone, more robust stereo on-board sound, and the option to add a wireless module.

As with the HT3050, black levels, shadow definition, and contrast are competitive, rainbows are rare, and fan noise is low and unobtrusive. The 1.3x zoom lens with lens shift makes it the easiest of the projectors in this group to ceiling mount. Most of the common flaws people object to in lower priced projectors do not appear on this one. Furthermore, the weaknesses that it does have are not big problems for most buyers. Though slightly brighter than the HT3050, its 3D is similarly low in brightness and saturation compared to the competition, but for those who watch 3D only occasionally this is not a big deal; it provides sufficiently good 3D performance to satisfy the occasional use. Brightness uniformity is lower than ideal, but it is not generally noticeable on the screen.

The HT2050’s input lag of 33.1 ms will look more attractive to gamers than the 49.7 ms on the HT3050. On the other hand, the absence of MHL compatibility will hinder the use of smartphones and tablets as sources, and the HT2050 is the only projector in the group without this feature. The one-year warranty and $249 price for a replacement lamp may be a concern for people who plan to put a lot of hours on their projector. But overall, we expect that many will see the HT2050’s particular configuration of benefits to be a very attractive value proposition for $799. People who buy it will love it.

Epson Home Cinema 2040

The Epson HC 2040 is the best home theater projector yet produced by Epson in this price range. It is the only 3LCD product in the group of five, and in many respects it is radically different than its DLP competitors. It has performance features and advantages none of the others have, along with a couple of unique weaknesses. To the videophile, the 3LCD picture looks qualitatively different than DLP, with both advantages and disadvantages. Preference for one over the other is a matter of personal taste, so we’ll try to describe the differences and let you decide which appeals to you the most.

Strengths / Advantages

3D Performance. The single most dramatic advantage of the 2040 is its performance in 3D. Image brightness is the chronic problem with most 3D implementations, and the 2040 is by far the brightest of the five units in this comparison. When in full power mode it is double the brightness of the next closest competitor, the Optoma HD28, which in turn is twice as bright as the rest of the competition. And even when the 2040 is in eco-mode, its 3D picture is visibly brighter than the HD28 in full lamp. Not only is the 2040’s 3D image bright, it is rich and vibrant in color, and high in contrast. The black level limitations that appear in 2D display do not exist in 3D; instead you get deep solid blacks and ample shadow detail definition. For buyers who are heavily into 3D, the 2040 is the standout choice among the five.

Very Sharp Picture. Perhaps the sharpest image of the five, rivaled only by the Optoma HD28. Sharpness is due in part to the Detail Clarity Processor brought down from the 5030/6030 models. As with any sharpening algorithm, it can be overdone to the point where the picture looks artificially harsh. However, in modest use (we set ours to 30%) it lends a natural refinement of detail and makes the picture look higher in resolution than it does on competing units.

Film-like image. The 3LCD picture on the 2040 has a more natural, analog looking aspect to it than do the DLPs in this group. This is difficult to describe, but there is a qualitative smoothness in the image that will appeal to videophiles.

Input Lag. The 2040 measures 24.6 ms input lag, the fastest of the group, and in fact the fastest projector we’ve measured in a long time.

Frame Interpolation. The 2040 is the only product among these five that has frame interpolation. This optional feature can be set to Low to reduce the occasional camera panning judder in movie projection. If set to Medium or High it will produce too much hyper-reality (the soap opera effect) for movie viewing. However, the High setting works well for stabilizing video of live performances such as concerts or dance, where the more visual reality the better.

Rainbows are non-existent. The 3-chip light engine delivers simultaneous color updates, so rainbow artifacts do not exist.

Low Fan Noise in Eco-mode. The fan noise in eco-mode is identical to the noise on the BenQ models, which is to say the lowest that it gets among these five models.

Lower throw offset. The 2040 has a lower throw offset than any of the DLPs which makes it more suitable for mounting on a shelf behind the seats. This may or may not be an advantage depending on how you plan to install it. Shelf mounting saves you the cost of a ceiling mount and long run cables as well as the work to install it. However, if you do plan to ceiling mount your projector, the 2040 will require a longer drop tube than you would use with any of the DLP models.

Brightness uniformity. Our 2040 test unit measures 84%, compared to the low 70’s or worse on the other four units. So the 2040 is the only model among the five that can be said to have good uniformity.

Miracast, Intel WiDi Option. Epson offers a variation of the 2040 called the Home Cinema 2045. It is $50 more than the 2040, and it includes support for Miracast and Intel WiDi.

Rapid synch on new signals. The 2040 is the fastest of the group to recognize and synch on a new signal format. So when loading a Blu-ray disc, as it initially cycles through varying signal formats for the MPAA rating, the FBI alert screen, and the movie studio logo splash sequences, it displays these without any stumbling around or multiple intermittent “searching for signal” messages. Not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but it is a difference you experience every time you load a new disc.

Price. At $799 the Epson 2040, along with the BenQ HT2050 and Optoma HD28, are the three least expensive models in the group.

Cheap Replacement Lamp. The $79 replacement lamp price is pretty much unheard of, and seriously undercuts the high prices of the competition. At this price, there is a real benefit to be aware of. You can always expect high pressure lamps to lose 25% of their initial brightness during the first 500 to 1000 hours of operation. They will then degrade more slowly until they hit 50% of their initial brightness at end of life. Because of this, serious home theater users with higher priced projectors often replace lamps more frequently than the lamp life would suggest, in order to keep their equipment performing at its best. At a price of $79, you can adopt this practice on the 2040 without serious financial impact.

Two-year warranty. Epson’s two-year warranty on the 2040 beats the one-year programs offered by BenQ and Optoma, but Viewsonic’s three-year deal is the best in this group.

Weaknesses

Black levels in 2D. The most notable weakness in the 2040 is black level in 2D display, which is not as deep as it is on the DLP competition. By comparison, the Optoma HD28 has the deepest blacks and highest contrast. The weakness in black level is most apparent on a 2D image that is mostly black, such as rolling credits, and in predominantly dark scenes where there is a lot of shadow detail. With this subject matter the DLP projectors will render a blacker background and provide better shadow detail definition.

Fan noise in full lamp mode. The 2040 is the loudest of the five models when in full lamp mode. We presume many users will opt for eco-mode, which brings fan noise down to the equivalent level of the BenQ units. The good news is that even in eco-mode the 2040 has a brighter picture than most of the competition.

No lens shift. The two BenQ models have some lens shift range that will make them easier to install. The 2040, the HD28, and the PJD7835HD lack this feature.

Average on-board audio. It’s not bad for a portable unit and it beats the anemic HD28 audio, but the audio on the 2040 pales in comparison to what you get on the HT3050 and even the HT2050.

Summary Assessment

The Epson Home Cinema 2040 is the most impressive home theater projector yet produced by Epson under $1000. It is uniquely outstanding in 3D, easily outperforming the competition with this type of content. Its image with 2D content is bright and sharp with excellent color, clarity, and a natural film-like quality.

The HC 2040’s factory calibrations in its Cinema and Bright Cinema modes are reasonably good and certainly watchable without calibration. However, some tweaking by a knowledgeable user or a professional calibration will improve its ultimate performance. We ended up making some tweaks to the Bright Cinema mode that produced a brilliant and very satisfying image. Its primary weakness is black levels and shadow definition in scenes with an abundance of dark and shadow. Fan noise is also louder than desirable when the projector is run in full power, but it is quiet in eco-mode. Since the projector produces exceptional brightness in eco-mode and we suspect most users will opt for that.

Epson’s consumer friendly 2-year warranty and $79 replacement lamp price, along with the fact that its $799 price is attractive in itself, will make it easy for many to make a decision for the HC 2040.

Optoma HD28DSE

The Optoma HD28DSE is capable of producing what many might consider to be the best 2D picture in this group of five models, but it does not come that way out of the box. When you first fire it up, its factory default calibrations are disturbing. Saturation and sharpness are way overdriven, white is extremely out of balance, and the picture looks quite harsh. However it is remarkably easy to fix with a few simple adjustments. First, switch it from Vivid to Cinema mode. Second, reduce the Sharpness control from 12 to 8. Third, reduce color saturation from 10 to 0. Fourth, reduce Brilliant Color from 8 to 2. Fifth, reduce the DarbeeVision video processing from its factory 80% setting to 20%. And voila, you have a vastly improved 2D video image with solid black levels, sparkling contrast, impressive three-dimensionality, and reasonably well calibrated color that will compete well against any of the competition in this shootout.

Strengths / Advantages

Deepest blacks, best contrast. The HD28DSE carries a contrast rating of 30,000:1 compared to the 15,000:1 ratings on the BenQ models and 22,000:1 on the Viewsonic. In this instance the contrast ratings do translate to a visible competitive advantage. We see marginally deeper black levels, better shadow detail separation, higher overall contrast, and more image three-dimensionality on the HD28 than on any of the competing models. However, we would describe the differences as more subtle than dramatic.

Rainbows are scarce. We see a few more rainbows on the HD28 than we do on the BenQ models, but they are scarce enough that they don’t rise to the level of a concern. By comparison there is more rainbow activity on the Viewsonic.

Very good 3D performance. The HD28 cannot match the Epson 2040 in 3D brightness or richness, but it occupies an impressive second place, surpassing the other DLP models handily in both image brightness and color vibrancy.

Sharp picture. The HD28DSE is unique in that it has the DarbeeVision video processing system which none of the other models have. (“DSE” in the model name stands for Darbee Special Edition). This can be enabled or not as the user wishes. In our experimenting, we find that using the DarbeeVision system in a modest setting of about 20% contributes beneficially to image sharpness and clarity without making it appear unnaturally processed. So it is a significant feature that places the HD28DSE in a tie with the Epson 2040 as the two sharpest projectors in the shootout.

Four corner correction. The HD28 has not only vertical and horizontal keystone correction, but independent four corner correction as well. So if you need to install this unit at oblique angles to the projection surface, it is easy to square up the image. Anyone setting up the projector for permanent use in a home theater should make every effort to position the projector square with the screen to begin with so no keystone adjustments of any kind are required, but if you need this feature it is available.

Weaknesses

Variable fan noise. The fan noise oscillates somewhat and appears to be related to average picture level and internal operating temperature. There is an intermittent higher pitched tone that comes and goes, which does not exist on any of the other units. Moreover, overall loudness of the fan increases and decreases over time. The varying pitch and tone of the fan noise draws more attention than does any fan with a constant pitch and sound pressure.

Factory presets excessive. When first firing it up, the HD28 defaults to a rather bright, oversaturated, very harsh image. The good news is that it is easy to fix as described above.

1.1x zoom and fixed throw offset. With no lens shift and almost no zoom, the HD28 is the most restrictive of the five models in terms of the precision required to install the projector.

Lower than expected lumens. The HD28 has ample firepower for most home theater and home entertainment use and it is competitive with the other units in the group. But it falls noticeably short of its 3000 lumen rating.

Weak onboard speaker. If you listen carefully the speaker will give you an idea what a movie’s audio track is all about, but despite its 10-watt rating it is not very loud even at max volume. Onboard sound is the worst of the five models here.

Input lag. The measured lag of 49.7 ms matches the BenQ HT3050 and Viewsonic PJD7835HD, but it is slower than the HT2050 and Epson 2040. If you’re a serious gamer, this may be a consideration.

One-year warranty. Optoma’s one-year warranty on the HD28DSE is an industry minimum, matching BenQ, but falling short of Epson’s two-years or Viewsonic’s three years.

Price and Replacement Lamp. The $799 price is attractive and the $179 replacement lamp price looks good compared to BenQ and Viewsonic, but it is quite a bit more than Epson’s $79 lamp.

Summary Assessment

After getting rid of the overdriven factory presets, the Optoma HD28DSE turns into a beautiful projector with best in class black levels and contrast. The DarbeeVision system is a unique feature that can enhance the picture if used modestly, but can destroy the picture if used at aggressive settings. The HD28DSE’s Cinema and 3D modes in particular can be enjoyed without calibration, other than the initial adjustments needed to remove the excessive processing. Rainbows occur infrequently enough that they do not amount to an issue of consequence.

3D performance is above average in the group. It is more robust than the other DLP projectors, but falls short of the Epson. The only ongoing annoyance is the unpredictable fan noise. The HD28DSE is best suited for low table or ceiling mounting. Be careful where you put it, as the 1.1x zoom and zero lens shift severely limits placement options for any given screen size and location.

At $799, you get a projector that is capable of delivering a beautiful, relatively bright high contrast 2D image that is highly competitive with the BenQ models, but it needs a bit of tweaking to get it there. The DarbeeVision system gives it an edge in image sharpness/acuity when used modestly. Overall, a great value in an entry level projector.

Viewsonic LightStream PJD7835HD

The Viewsonic PJD7835HD, priced at $899, is in many respects the best home theater projector yet released by Viewsonic. It comes with several pre-calibrated operating modes including Viewmatch, which targets Rec 709 standards. On our test sample, the Viewmatch mode is rather lackluster and slightly biased toward green. We get a far more dynamic, balanced, and exciting picture when switching to Movie mode and adjusting the color temperature to Warm. In this mode the PJD7835HD puts out a beautiful, bright, and very competitive image.

Strengths / Advantages

Brightest of the bunch. The 7835HD is rated at 3500 lumens, and our sample measured 3503 lumens. This is the brightest of the five models in the group. It produces a reasonably well balanced video image at about 2300 lumens, notably brighter than the brightest of the competition. So it offers a unique advantage in combatting ambient light.

Solid red, excellent color. The red primary on this projector is more solid than on any of the competing units which tend to have a touch of orangish hue in the reds. Once calibrated, the 7835HD is capable of extremely accurate color.

1.36x zoom A slightly longer zoom range than the 1.3x on the BenQ models gives the 7835HD the award for the longest zoom range in the group. Practically speaking, it means that you can place the projector slightly closer to the screen for any given screen size than you can any of the competition.

Good onboard audio. While the HT3050 is the king of audio and the HT2050 is in second place, the 16W speaker is a good performer with reasonable volume and no distortion. It comes in third, but very close to the HT2050. It is much louder and clearer than the speakers on the Optoma or Epson units.

Black levels and contrast. Despite the higher light output, the 7835HD is capable of generating solid black levels. They are not quite as deep as the Optoma or BenQ’s but they are very close. Contrast is highly competitive with the BenQ models, matching or edging them just slightly.

3-year warranty. Viewsonic includes an aggressive 3-year warranty in the price, which is something nobody else does.

Weaknesses

Rainbow activity. The 7835HD’s most problematic weakness is rainbow artifacts, which tend to show up more frequently than on the other DLP projectors in this group. This comes from an RGBCYW color wheel rotating at 7200 RPM. Rainbows will tend to be most problematic for people who like to sit close to the screen, a practice that maximizes the eye movement. You will never see rainbows if you don’t move your eyes, so sitting farther back from a screen reduces your cone of vision and thus eye movement.

Fan noise. In full power mode the fan noise is somewhat more present than it is on the BenQ models in full lamp mode, or the Epson 2040 in eco-mode. But you get a brighter picture for that as part of the trade off. It is not as loud as the Epson in full power mode. It is very low in pitch, so it is not terribly distracting. However, as with the Optoma HD28 it does tend to vary up and down apparently in response to internal operating temperatures.

3D picture. Though the 7835HD is quite bright in 2D it loses its brightness advantage in 3D.

Input lag. The measured lag of 49.7 ms on the 7835HD matches the Optoma and the BenQ HT3050, but it is slower than the Epson 2040 and the BenQ HT2050.

Low Brightness Uniformity. None of the DLP projectors perform well on this parameter, but the 65% measured on the 7835HD was a tad lower than the competition.

Replacement lamp. If you want or need a new lamp, the price is a hefty $329, which is noticeably more than any of the competition.

Summary Assessment

Viewsonic is on the move, looking to become a significant player in home theater projection. Their beautiful little PJD5555W, a 1280×800 resolution projector now selling for under $500, was the first model in their line to offer the Viewmatch Rec 709 mode. The PJD7835HD boosts resolution to 1920×1080 and continues their focus on excellent color dynamics.

At $899, the LightStream PJD7835HD is priced in the middle of the group. Its key advantage is extra brightness and it is capable of putting out a superb picture. Its extra brightness comes in part from the white segment in the color wheel. In its very brightest preset modes the extra white light compromises color saturation and rendered an imbalanced picture. But the projector offers sufficient controls to dial in a very appealing trade off that gives you a picture that is brighter than the competition with ample color saturation that is not visibly compromised.

The biggest concern for some buyers will be the level of rainbow activity which is higher than any of the competing units. But if you are among those who are not sensitive to or bothered by rainbow artifacts, the Viewsonic PJD7835HD is a solid alternative for buyers who want a bright 2D picture with great color, black level and contrast.

BenQ HT3050 and HT2050 Projector Review

Written by Evan Powell, October 30, 2015 

The BenQ HT3050 is one of three new full HD 1080p resolution home theater projectors being released by BenQ this fall. Priced at $999, it is the middle option, being a step up from the HT2050 at $799, and flanked on the high side by the HT4050 at $1,399. Since the HT3050 and HT2050 are the same basic projector with some noteworthy variances, this review will focus on the HT3050 and note where the HT2050 diverges. We will address the HT4050, which is a different projector altogether, in a different review.

BenQ HT3050HT3050 vs. HT2050: The Differences

The HT3050 is the same basic projector as the HT2050 with the following differences:

1. The HT3050 Cinema mode is more carefully calibrated to target Rec 709 standards while the HT2050’s Cinema mode is not.

2. On the HT3050, one of the HDMI ports is MHL enabled. This does not exist on the HT2050.

3. The 3050 has dual 10W speakers for much more robust onboard stereo audio; the 2050 has only one mono 10W speaker.

4. The 3050 has horizontal and vertical digital keystone adjustments, the 2050 has vertical keystone only.

5. The 3050 is a bit heavier at 8.1 lbs vs. 7.3 lbs for the 2050.

6. The 3050 has a brushed gold front bezel, and the 2050 is brushed silver.

7. The HT2050 is rated at 2200 lumens vs. the HT3050’s 2000 lumens, a difference of no practical consequence.

8. We measure 50 ms input lag on the HT3050 and 33 ms on the HT2050.

As you consider this list of differences, you may see reasons to spend the extra $200, or you may not. These are both solid and attractive projectors for the money.

Picture Quality

The big question of course is what differences there may be in image quality? When both projectors are put into the factory default settings in Cinema mode, theHT3050 produces a more refined picture with much closer to accurate color tones, simply because it has been more carefully calibrated at the factory. The differences are not huge, and the HT2050 puts out a very attractive image on its own if you had nothing to compare it to. But if prospective buyers were shown these two units side by side (in their factory default calibrations) without being told anything about them, they would invariably choose the HT3050 as having the preferred image. We suspect most viewers would say that the incremental image quality is worth the additional $200.

Having said that, it should be noted that once the HT2050 is professionally calibrated it is capable of producing a picture that exceeds that of the HT3050’s factory Rec 709 calibration. That is because there is no such thing as a “one size fits all” factory calibration that perfectly optimizes every unit coming off the production line. So if you have the ability to calibrate a projector or you plan to hire a technician, you might want to go with the HT2050 instead.

Since the HT3050 is the more substantial of the two models, we’ll focus on the 3050 in the following comments. You can assume they apply also to the HT2050 except where noted.

When you light up the HT3050 and open the menu, you will find four preset operating modes — Bright, Vivid, Cinema, and Game. A few words on each of these…

Many who buy this projector will be opting for Cinema mode. Though it is the least bright of the four, it puts out 1160 lumens in its brightest configuration which is more than ample for most dark room home theater needs. The factory programmed color balance is reasonably close to accurate Rec 709. It is certainly watchable out of the box without any need for calibration. However, after some viewing we became a bit frustrated with closed-off mid-tones, so several minor adjustments helped solve the problem: Brightness was increased from 50 to 51, Contrast was boosted from 50 to 53, and the default gamma setting of 2.2 was reduced to 2.1. On our test sample this produce a more open and satisfying gray scale.

We also made some minor adjustments to color. However, a professional calibration of the HT3050’s Cinema mode is not going to yield significant improvements in image quality (on the HT2050 a pro calibration would yield more noticeable improvements). Results will vary from unit to unit, but in general the adjustments needed to dial in a balanced and satisfying picture were minor. For all but the most fastidious of videophiles, the HT3050’s Cinema mode is quite satisfactory out of the box with little or no tweaking.

BenQ HT3050 Front Bezel

Game mode is a bit brighter and slightly cooler in temperature than Cinema mode, but it is also perfectly serviceable for video/film. It activates the “Brilliant Color” feature, whereas the Cinema mode does not. Adding Brilliant Color to the image boosts brightness, and shifts color temperature toward a slightly cooler bias. White objects appear brighter than they should, but the effect is not nearly as heavy-handed as we’ve seen on other Brilliant Color implementations. The picture is overall quite pleasant. Some users will prefer Game mode over Cinema for most of their movie viewing, not just gaming. It isn’t precisely accurate, but it is attractive.

Vivid mode is incrementally brighter than Game mode. It exaggerates color saturation and contrast somewhat. Color balance is still within the general ballpark of reasonable, but saturation and contrast are boosted to the point where it looks, well, artificially Vivid. However, this can be a good thing. If you are one of those that likes to boost color saturation of your pictures in photo editing to make them look extra rich, you may enjoy the Vivid mode of the HT3050. At the recent CEDIA trade show, LG was demonstrating OLED TVs that pushed contrast and saturation to outrageous extremes, so that the picture is dazzling, eye-catching, mesmerizing, and utterly fake. Many folks like this effect. The Vivid mode on the BenQ projectors tends in this same direction but it is nowhere near as extreme. As far as Vivid calibrations go, this one is nicely done.

Bright mode is the only one of the four that is radically off in color temperature, producing a picture that is tinted an obvious green. This makes grass look brilliantly green, blue skies look cyan, while anything red or magenta becomes dull and brownish. We cannot think of a good use for Bright mode. But it follows the long-established industry tradition of including a bright green operating mode to show that the projector is capable of getting within shouting distance of its lumen spec.

In general, the HT3050 delivers solid black levels and high dynamic range, consistent with what we’ve come to expect from DLP. The picture is reasonably sharp with no excessive noise. Colors are (or can be) naturally saturated and well balanced due to high color brightness (see Performance section for details).

The only flaw we continued to notice on both of our test units was related to brightness uniformity. The image on the HT3050 fades noticeably to the right side, where brightness falls off as much as 30% from its levels in the rest of the picture. Essentially this produces a subtle vignetting effect on the right edge of the picture. This becomes noticeable in scenes that contain continuous tones that should be even across the screen (like skies and seascapes). On our HT2050, brightness uniformity is also mediocre, but in a different way. The picture is brightest in the lower center and it fades most to the upper left instead of the right. On this unit the fading is incrementally progressive across the image, so it does not produce a vignetting effect, but the upper left corner is 40% less bright than the lower center. The substantial difference in uniformity patterns between our two samples suggests manufacturing variances in the alignment of the light engines, so what we see on these units many not coincide with what users may see on theirs.

Brightness uniformity is not something most users would notice while viewing video. It is most obvious when viewing a solid white test pattern. Flaws in uniformity usually get lost in the complexity of a video/film image. Unlike excessive digital noise, rainbow artifacts, or dull black levels, you can watch a whole movie without being distracted by this particular flaw. So as flaws go, it is easier to live with than most.

Key Features

Ideal brightness for home theater. Rated at 2000 lumens, our test sample comes in around 1160 lumens in Cinema (Rec 709) mode. This is good for rooms that are not entirely blacked out, or for a very large screen installation. If you want to cut lumens, you can do that either by using the zoom lens or putting it into Eco mode. This flexibility lets you hit the sweetspot of brightness for most dark room home theater needs.

6x, RGBRGB color wheel. This color wheel configuration maximizes DLP performance potential for video by optimizing color brightness and virtually eliminating rainbow artifacts.

Zoom lens and lens shift. Traditionally inexpensive DLP projectors have minimal zoom range and no lens shift. The HT3050 has a 1.3x manual zoom and some limited vertical lens shift as opposed to none.

Terrific sound. The HT3050 has great audio. The dual 10W speakers produce the loudest and clearest we’ve ever heard on a projector of this size. Of course it still lacks the bass, dynamic range, and spatial surround features you’d like to have for movies, but this is the best on-board substitute for a surround sound system we’ve ever encountered on an inexpensive portable projector.

The HT2050 eliminates one of the two 10 W speakers, so it does not have nearly the audio performance of the HT3050. However, if you have an external surround system, you won’t want to use the audio on either of these models.

Color Temp and Color Management. Both models provide the ability to fine tune color temperature with Red, Green, and Blue gain and offset controls. Both have the ability to adjust Hue, Saturation and Gain on RGBCMY.

BenQ HT3050 Rear Panel and Speakers

Connections. You get two standard HDMI ports, (one of which is MHL enabled on the 3050, but not on the 2050). You also get one VGA port, one 3-RCA component, one composite, one USB, one mini-USB, one RS-232, one audio in, and one audio out. The connection panel is on the rear of the unit, set between the speakers which are on the rear corners.

You also get a 12-volt trigger, which is a feature beginning to show up on more sub-$1000 home theater models these days.

Projection options. For those new to projectors, virtually all projectors are made with the ability to project upright from a coffee table, inverted in a ceiling mount, or placed behind a screen for either table/shelf mounted or ceiling mounted rear projection. All BenQ projectors have these options as standard features.

Full HD 3D. Both projectors are full HD 3D compatible, and automatically recognize a 3D source. The DLP-link glasses synch instantly.

White casework and white remote. Many with white ceilings prefer a white projector because it does not stand out as obviously in the room. White remotes are easier to find in the dark. The remote is nicely backlit, tactile response is excellent, and the common sense layout makes it easy to use once you are familiar with it.

H+V keystone. If you need to use keystone adjustments, you’ve got both horizontal and vertical on the HT3050 (vertical only on the 2050). This function is accessible only via a function button on the remote; it is not available in the on-screen menu. As always, on all native 1080p projectors we recommend avoiding the use of this feature if you can, simply because it adds scaling to the 1080p image, and it will reduce image brightness by turning off a portion of the chip.

Anamorphic lens compatibility. If you have an A-lens and want to use it with this projector, the vertical stretch required to accommodate it is an option in the aspect ratio selections.

Security. Password protection is an option if you want to use it, and the projector comes with a Kensington lock.

Performance

Brightness. The HT3050 is rated at 2000 lumens. It has four factory preset operating modes. With the lamp on full power and the zoom lens set to its widest angle position, our test unit measured as follows:

Bright — 1760
Vivid — 1550
Game — 1420
Cinema – 1160

The HT3050 has a 1.3x zoom lens that will curtail light output by up to 27% as you move from its brightest, most wide angle position, to its most telephoto (longest throw for a given image size). You can also reduce the projector’s brightness 32% by putting it into Eco mode.

Therefore, if the Cinema mode’s 1160 lumens is too bright for your dark room set up, you can cut it to about 800 lumens by switching to Eco mode, or you can reduce light output anywhere from 1% to 27% by moving the projector back and using a longer throw portion the zoom lens.

BenQ HT3050 Remote

Brightness Uniformity. Based on the nine quadrant ANSI lumen meter readings, our HT3050 measures 73% uniformity and theHT2050 measures 67%. (See comments regarding uniformity in the Picture Quality section of this review.)

Sharpness. The HT3050 is what we’d call reasonably sharp and competitive in its price class. It is never noticeably soft and, standing alone, it looks perfectly well defined. We have seen marginally sharper projectors, but the difference would be visible only if they are displayed side by side. The Sharpness control has a rather subtle effect on image sharpness. We found the optimal setting to be 9 on a scale of 1 to 15. This is the point at which the image appears it sharpest without introducing unwanted artifacts.

Color brightness is outstanding compared to many DLP projectors. In Bright and Vivid modes it measures 77% of white, in Game mode it measures 85% of white, and in Cinema it is the full 100% of white.

Input lag. We get difference readings on the two models. On the HT3050 the Bodnar meter registers 50 ms lag in all operating modes, including Game mode. On the HT2050 it reads 33 ms.

Fan noise Audible noise in full power mode is relatively low in both pitch and sound pressure. This is one of the quieter HT projectors under $1000, but it is not as stone quiet as more expensive models can be. The vast majority of users will have no problem with it, but those who want a close to silent projector may want to opt for a more expensive unit.

High Altitude Mode is required at elevations above 1500 m, or about 5000 feet. In this mode the fan noise is increased, but it is still quite livable and relatively unobtrusive compared to most units in this price class. This is a good option if you live in Denver, you don’t want to spend more than $1000, and you want to keep fan noise to a minimum.

Lamp life. BenQ estimates lamp life at full power to be 3500 hours. There are two eco modes — Eco and Smart Eco — that boost lamp life up to an estimated 5000 hours and 6000 hours respectively. Replacement lamps cost $249.

Set Up

The HT3050 will thrown a 120″ diagonal 16:9 image from a distance of between 10 and 13 feet. With this size screen, if you choose to place it at 10 feet, image brightness is maximized, if you put it at 11.5 feet, brightness is reduced by 14%, and if you set it back to 13 feet, image brightness is reduced by 27%. So choose your throw distance carefully while keeping your desired image brightness in mind. Use the Projection Calculator to determine your actual throw distance options based your desired screen size.

The projector is designed to be used most efficiently either table mounted or inverted and ceiling mounted. As is typical with this design, placing the projector on a rear shelf and projecting over the heads of the audience will be problematic. You would probably need to tilt the projector downward to position the image properly. This will require keystone adjustment, and it may require more than the maximum allowable tilt, which is 15 degrees. Also keep in mind that the manual stipulates a clearance of 20 inches between the rear of the projector and the wall.

Furthermore, if the projector is very much behind you, it is likely that the screen size at that throw distance will be too large for your viewing distance (unless you are among those who prefer front rows in a movie theater).

If you prefer to sit at a distance of about 1.3x the screen width, which is a common preference, the ceiling mounted projector will be pretty much directly over your head. This is the best way to install the unit for optimal screen illumination, as it will project slightly downward to the screen, and the screen will reflect back downward again to the position of the viewers (angle of incidence = angle of reflection).

The projector has a built in upward throw angle that puts the bottom edge of the image slightly higher than the centerline of the lens (or lower than the centerline of the lens if inverted and ceiling mounted). The offset is approximately 10% of the image height. From that point you can elevate the image up to another 10% of the image height using the Lens Shift control.

Limitations

Input lag. The 50 ms input lag on the HT3050 may be enough to make serious gamers think twice since many DLP projectors (including the HT2050) have a lag of 33 ms, and occasionally we find one that is faster. 50 ms is also enough of a delay that it will create minor lip synch issues, so an audio delay would be nice.

A little bit o’ lens shift. This is both an advantage and a limitation. It is an advantage because most projectors in this price category don’t offer lens shift at all. So to that extent it is a genuine benefit. The only reason it is a limitation is because higher priced models offer much more extensive lens shift range than just 10% of the picture height. But the fact that the HT3050 has it at all is progress, so we must keep that in perspective.

Brightness uniformity. As noted in the Picture Quality section, the 3050 and 2050 test units we have are both below average on this metric but in different ways. If you must settle for at least one flaw in a projector, this is probably the one you’d want, but many competitors are doing better than this these days.

Slow synch on new signals. These projectors take their own sweet time figuring out new signals. Once they lock onto a steady signal they are fine, but when you fire up a Blu-ray disc, they are initially confused by the changing formats in the start up sequences. You may or may not see the FBI alert screen, as during the time the player is outputting that image the projector is fumbling around trying to determine what the signal format is. When the Blu-ray player starts outputting, say, the Universal Studios logo splash screen, you might see only the last few seconds of it on the HT3050, as it can take that long for it to identify and lock onto the new video signal–you hear the audio long before you see the picture. In general, you see a lot of “searching for signal” messages and intermittent snow screens during the start up phase for any new source or when switching movie discs. This is more pronounced on the HT3050 than on the HT2050, which is a bit faster in figuring it out. Once they lock onto the movie signal it is fine, but this is a messy way to start a film presentation.

One-year warranty. Several vendors in this market niche offer two or three year warranties, but some offer just the conventional minimum one-year. BenQ is one of them.

Conclusion

BenQ has developed a solid reputation for producing inexpensive home theater projectors that deliver impressive quality for the money. The HT3050 and HT2050 will enhance that reputation even further. The BenQ HT3050 is ready to go, out of the box, with a reasonably well calibrated Cinema mode that approximates Rec 709 standards. It has an attractive trio of usable preset color modes and a 1.3x zoom with a touch of lens shift that provides a little extra installation latitude. The HT3050’s most apparent flaws (brightness uniformity and ability to quickly synch on new signals) are unfortunate but for the most part easy to live with compared to weaknesses in other projectors. The HT3050 also has outstanding onboard stereo sound for those who need it in portable applications or occasional use in a backyard theater. So it will be an easy decision for many buyers.

The BenQ HT2050 will be a better choice than the HT3050 in a couple of situations. Gamers for whom the reduced input lag is meaningful may find it more attractive. And for those who can tune up their own projectors, or for anyone planning to retain a technician for a pro calibration, the HT2050 is the better bet, since you save $200 and it is highly likely that a professional calibration of the HT2050 will yield a picture that exceeds the precision of the HT3050’s factory programmed Cinema Rec 709 calibration.


 

Ready to buy? Click here to see the BenQ HT2050 and HT3050 at Projector SuperStore.

 


This review was written by Evan Powell on October 30, 2015. It was originally seen on ProjectorCentral.com. View the original post here.

 

Optoma’s Latest 1080p Home Projector Range

Movie fans, TV buffs and keen gamers can now enjoy a super-size cinema quality picture in any room in their home. Packed with features, Optoma’s range of 1080p home projectors deliver vivid clarity with pure, deep colors and high contrast thanks to deeper blacks and crisp whites. This means live sport, action-packed games, TV and movies can be enjoyed in stunning Full HD resolution any time of day.

See Optoma’s full line of projectors on the Projector SuperStore website here.

About Projector SuperStore – For over 20 years, Projector SuperStore has been the premier source for affordable Audio and Visual equipment online. We have worked with hundreds of businesses across the nation and have the expertise to help you integrate the right technology for your specific needs and bring your message to the masses. Whether you’re looking for a projector for a meeting room, a portable system for use in multi-purpose rooms, a state-of-the-art projection system for your main auditorium, the latest home theater technology or anything in between, we can help you create a system that is right for your needs and fits within your budget. View more information on our website here.

NEC NP-M402X Portable Conference Room Projector

Review Written By: Marc Davidson | View original article on Projector Central here.

NEC calls the NP-M402X portable, and, indeed, it’s light enough to carry if you need to. It even ships with a soft carrying case. But it’s also heavy enough, at eight pounds, not to mention bulky enough, at 3.5″ x 13.4″ x 10.1″ (HWD), to make it more appropriate for permanent installation or room to room portability on a cart. Built around a 1024×768 DLP chip and rated at 4000 lumens, although it came in a little lower on my tests, it can be a good fit for a mid-size conference room or classroom.

In addition to its brightness, the M402X delivers near-excellent data image quality, an audio system with enough volume for a mid-size room, and a 1.7x zoom lens that helps justify the $959 price. That’s easily enough to make it a potentially attractive choice.

The Viewing Experience

Image quality is a bit of a mixed bag, but the M402X handles data images like word processing and graphics well, which is the single most important issue for a data projector. Like the vast majority of DLP models, it shows occasional rainbow artifacts, in the form of red-green-blue flashes. With video, they showed up often enough, and were obvious enough, that anyone who sees them easily will almost certainly consider them annoying. However, I saw them infrequently enough with data and other static images that few people, if any, are likely to be bothered by them.

Near-excellent data image quality. The M402X scored well for data image quality despite a moderate problem maintaining fine detail. Although black text on white was crisp and readable at sizes as small as 7 points, for example, white text on black lost readability at sizes below 10.5 points. This won’t be a problem with programs like word processors, and it won’t be a problem unless you need to show images with fine detail. But it could be a problem if you need to show complex line drawings with white or other bright lines on a black background.

Very much on the plus side, the M402X did a good job with color balance. It maintained suitably neutral grays at all levels from black to white in every predefined image mode except the brightest, which showed a slight greenish tint in the brightest shades. Given that the brightest modes of most projectors have color balance problems, that’s not really an issue, however. Color quality was also good. Yellow was a little mustard colored in all predefined modes and red was a little dark in the brightest mode, which is typical for DLP projectors. More generally, colors were nicely saturated and vibrant in all modes.

Also on the plus side is that images designed to bring out pixel jitter were as rock solid with an analog (VGA) connection as with a digital (HDMI) connection.

Problematic video quality. With a 1024×768 native resolution, the M402X’s video quality is necessarily limited in crispness and in the detail it can show. Beyond that, I saw unusually obvious, and annoying, judder in clips with the camera panning across the scene, and I saw rainbow artifacts often enough and obviously enough that anyone in your audience who’s sensitive to them will likely find them annoying. All this makes video best limited to short clips with the M402X, if you use video at all.

Setup

Good connectivity. The M402X’s back panel offers a bit more than a typical set of connectors by today’s standards.

  • 2 HDMI
  • 1 VGA IN (for RGB or component)
  • 1 RCA composite
  • 1 USB A (for reading files from USB memory keys or for an $80 optional Wi-Fi dongle.)
  • 1 VGA OUT (monitor loop-through)
  • 1 USB B (for mouse control from the remote plus USB direct display.)
  • 1 LAN (for image and audio data and network control)
  • 1 Stereo mini plug IN (paired with the VGA port by default)
  • 1 RCA stereo IN
  • 1 Microphone mini plug IN
  • 1 Stereo mini plug OUT
  • 1 RS-232 (for external control)
  • 1 VESA 3D RF sync

Setting up. Setting up the M402X is easy, with the 1.7x zoom giving you a lot more flexibility than most models offer for how far you can put the projector from the screen for a given size image. For most of my tests at the native 4:3 aspect ratio, I used a 98-inch diagonal image with maximum zoom (full widescreen) and the projector 117″ from the screen.

Both the zoom and focus rings offer smooth control. However, the focus changes a lot with very little movement, so even though it’s not hard to get crisp focus over the entire screen, it’s a little harder than it should be to get it just right.

With the projector sitting on a table, the vertical offset puts the bottom of the image roughly 15% of the screen height above the midline of the lens. If you need to, you can move the image up with a drop-down foot on the front of the projector. In a nice touch, the foot also includes a screw adjustment for fine control. You can also move the image down by adjusting the screw-on feet at the back. As a finishing touch, you can adjust image shape if necessary. The menus offer both horizontal and vertical digital keystone controls and a choice of setting the feature to automatic or adjusting both settings manually.

Key Features

Potentially long lamp life. NEC rates the lamp life for the M402X at 3500 hours in the Normal setting for Eco mode and 8000 hours for the Eco setting. There’s also an Off setting, which is brighter than either Normal or Eco, and which presumably results in a shorter life, although NEC doesn’t provide a rating for the Off setting. In any case, with a $299 replacement cost for the lamp, taking advantage of one of the Eco modes can significantly lower the total cost of ownership.

Capable audio. The 20-watt mono speaker delivers good enough audio quality to be useful plus enough volume to fill a mid-size room. If you need better quality, stereo, or still more volume, you can plug an external audio system into the audio output.

Test Results


Bright image with wide brightness range. The M402X came in at a solid 91 percent of its 4000-lumen rating in my tests, at 3626 lumens in with its brightest predefined setting and with Eco mode set to Off. As a point of reference, following SMPTE (Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers) recommendations, that’s bright enough for a 260″ diagonal image with a 1.0 gain screen in theater dark lighting. It’s also easily bright enough for the 98″ image I used for most of my tests to stand up to moderate ambient light.

For smaller screen sizes or lower light levels, you can switch to one of the Eco modes, choose any of six other predefined modes, or both. Normal mode dropped the brightness by about 20%, to 2868 lumens with the brightest predefined setting. Eco mode dropped it by about 55%, to 1990 lumens. With Eco mode off, the six other predefined settings came in at 972 to 2602 lumens.

Keep in mind too that as with most DLP projectors, the actual brightness is more complicated than with LCD models, because the color brightness is lower than the white brightness. This can make color images less bright than you would expect from just knowing the white brightness, and can also affect color quality. As is typical, the difference between the two for the M402X is most significant for the brightest predefined mode, which explains why red looks a little dark in that mode.

Good, but not great, brightness uniformity. Brightness uniformity across the screen came in at 71%. That’s low enough so I could see the difference between the brightest and darkest areas on a solid white or color screen. However the change was gradual enough across the screen to make it almost impossible to see a difference with the screen broken up by text or graphics.

Limitations

3D. For most people, 3D isn’t much of a factor for a 1024×768 data projector. To the extent that it matters, however, note that the M402X can work with a video source like a Blu-ray player or game console to show 3D images over an HDMI connection. Unlike most recent projectors, however, the M402X doesn’t automatically switch to 3D mode. You have to turn it on each time and then turn it off again manually to regain control over some settings on the menu. This can quickly get tiresome, with more than ten button presses needed for turning it on and off each time.

No MHL support. Although you can show images from an MHL-enabled phone or tablet using one of the M402X’s HDMI ports, the projector itself lacks MHL support. That means you need a special cable that can connect to a power source as well as the mobile device and the projector.

Conclusion

The NP-M402X is the wrong choice if you need to show much video. However, it also offers a lot to like otherwise, starting with its near-excellent data image quality. Beyond that, it’s easily bright enough, and the sound system is loud enough, for a mid-size room; the 1.7x zoom lens helps makes setup easy; and it offers lots of flexibility for image sources from PC-free presentations with a USB memory key to sending presentations over a network. If 1024×768 is the resolution you need, the NP-M402X offers more than enough to be worth considering.

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Ready to begin shopping for your projector? You can view the NP-M402X on our site here. You can also browse a variety of other projectors available from Projector SuperStore here. Don’t see the one you’re looking for, or have other questions? Give us a call at 888-525-6696 and one of our sales team members will be happy to assist you! 

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About NEC- NEC Display Solutions designs, produces and delivers leading-edge visual display technology for a wide variety of markets. We specialize in desktop and large-screen LCD displays, and a diverse line of projectors for customers who demand the most high-quality, reliable display solutions to meet their needs. You can learn more about NEC on their website here.

About Projector SuperStore – For over 20 years, Projector SuperStore has been the premier source for affordable Audio and Visual equipment online. We have worked with hundreds of businesses across the nation and have the expertise to help you integrate the right technology for your specific needs and bring your message to the masses. Whether you’re looking for a projector for a meeting room, a portable system for use in multi-purpose rooms, a state-of-the-art projection system for your main auditorium, the latest home theater technology or anything in between, we can help you create a system that is right for your needs and fits within your budget. View more information on our website here.

Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 5030UB Home Theater Projector Review

This review was written by Bill Livolsi and originally appeared on Projector Central. View original post here.

This year’s CEDIA trade show in Denver saw Epson refresh its entire home theater projector line. The Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 5030UB is this year’s upgrade to the Home Cinema 5020UB, one of last year’s hottest projectors. While the 5030UB is in many ways an incremental improvement over its predecessor, it is an impressive machine in its own right. Currently priced at $2,599 from authorized sellers, the Home Cinema 5030UB is an excellent value in today’s market.

While the projector is laden with features that make it easy to install and use, the primary draw of the Home Cinema 5030UB is image quality. The 5030UB’s image in both 2D and 3D is the best we’ve ever seen from Epson, and the picture on screen makes it clear where every single dollar of the projector’s purchase price went. In other words, it looks more expensive than it actually is.

The Home Cinema 5030UB is built primarily for use in a light-controlled home theater environment, and it is tailored to deliver maximum impact in such a situation. The “UB” in the projector’s name stands for Ultra Black, a designation that does not disappoint once you have the projector properly configured. For part of this review we set up the 5030UB on one of Stewart’s new screens, the Cima by Stewart Filmscreen using the 1.1-gain Neve white fabric. This screen is a superb complement to the 5030B for dedicated home theater, and it costs less than the Studiotek 130. The 5030UB already has very deep black levels and light output is highly adjustable, so this neutral white screen with low gain and a very wide 80-degree half-gain angle is ideal for dark theater installations.

In 2D, the 5030UB’s image is smooth and life-like. Highlights are bright, but not blown out, while shadow detail is excellent and overall dynamic range makes the image appear three-dimensional. Black level, which has long been the strong point of Epson’s home theater projectors, is as deep as it has ever been once the projector’s automatic iris is turned on. The Home Cinema 5030UB shares the color performance of its predecessors, with good color saturation and comprehensive color adjustment controls. The projector’s factory configurations need a little bit of fine-tuning, but this isn’t unusual in home theater projectors. The 5030UB produces a bright, engaging 3D image that makes large-screen 3D display attainable. The projector has three dedicated 3D color modes that can be fine-tuned independently of their 2D counterparts. Bright, well-saturated colors and good shadow detail make 3D viewing a pleasant experience, even for this jaded reviewer.

If you still watch a lot of standard-definition content, technologies like Frame Interpolation and Super Resolution improve image quality and give new life to your DVD collection. And while no amount of image processing can turn SD into HD, the Home Cinema 5030UB can clean up standard-definition material enough to make it easier on your eyes, now that you’re used to high definition.

SET-UP AND CONFIGURATION

The Home Cinema 5030UB is one of the most flexible projectors on the market when it comes to installation and placement, featuring a 2.1:1 manual zoom lens with horizontal and vertical lens shift, both of which have extensive range. This opens up a variety of placement options. For the do-it-yourselfer, the 5030UB’s lens configuration screams “rear shelf mount.” Rear shelf mounting is popular because it requires no special equipment or mounting hardware, except for a shelf. You can place the projector in an optimum location to minimize lens shift and achieve the best possible brightness uniformity. The projector can be placed near the rest of your equipment, so you won’t need long-run HDMI cables. It is a simple, effective way to position your projector that requires minimal cash outlay and zero time spent on a ladder, though it often requires using the telephoto end of the zoom lens, which can reduce light output by up to 44%.

On the other hand, a ceiling mount can look more professional. In a white-ceilinged room, the 5030UB’s white case blends in quite well. The projector’s extensive zoom and lens shift range makes it easy to target a pre-existing screen. And if you’ve already had a projector ceiling mounted, the concerns about the cost of cabling and ceiling mounts are reduced or eliminated. Combined with a retractable screen, a ceiling mount can create a “disappearing theater” which may be an advantage if you are installing in a multi-purpose room.

Table placement is an option as well. The 5030UB can display a 100″ diagonal 16:9 image from 9′ 9″, so even mid-sized rooms can accommodate large screen sizes. Placement on or below a table keeps the projector out of the way but accessible, while providing the same cable length benefits as a rear shelf mount.

The Home Cinema 5030UB’s ideal operation mode for home theater is called THX. After calibration, with the lens at its widest angle setting, our test unit produced 645 lumens with the lamp set to full power and 479 lumens at low power. In a darkened theater room, this is enough light for a 120″ diagonal 1.3-gain 16:9 screen at full power, or more than enough for a 100″ diagonal screen at low power. Larger screen sizes are easily attainable using the 5030UB’s Cinema, Natural, or Living Room image modes, or a color-adjusted Dynamic mode.

While the 5030UB is great for home theater on screens of 120″ diagonal and above, there is a case to be made for a 100″ diagonal screen of about 1.1 gain. In THX mode, even accounting for 20-30% light loss from using the center of the projector’s zoom range, the picture is bright and enticing at 100 inches. Then, when switching to 3D, the 5030UB’s 3D Dynamic mode is bright enough to give you a 3D picture that actually gets 16 foot-Lamberts to your eyes. This is something that few other home theater projectors can accomplish, and it means you get 2D and 3D pictures of almost equivalent brightness.

KEY FEATURES

Placement flexibility. Epson’s projectors feature a 2.1:1 manual zoom/focus lens with horizontal and vertical lens shift, which is also manually controlled. The zoom lens can create a 120″ diagonal 16:9 image from throw distances between 11’9″ to 25′ 1″. The lens shift has a total range of 3 image heights and 2 image widths, with the middle position putting the center of the lens at the center of the screen. The range of the lens shift is roughly oval-shaped, so you cannot reach maximum horizontal and maximum vertical shift simultaneously.

Super Resolution. Epson’s smart sharpening system, called Super Resolution, can increase the appearance of fine detail. The system identifies blurred portions of the source image and selectively applies sharpening to these areas, then compares the sharpened image to the original and attempts to minimize the differences in order to reduce artifacts. Super Resolution shows improvement compared to last year’s implementation, leading to an increased perception of detail with fewer artifacts overall. When taken too far, it can still cause mild ringing or artificiality, but a setting of 2 or 3 (out of 5) is effective while still being subtle.

Full HD 3D. Epson’s 3D system is as hassle-free as it gets. The system uses radio-frequency glasses synchronization to eliminate interference with remote control signals. The projectors have multiple dedicated 3D viewing presets which can be calibrated independently, allowing you to save more than one calibration for 3D viewing. This makes it easy to have a bright setting for television and animation and a more subtle, reserved setting for film. The 3D Glasses (model ELP-GS03) are lightweight and comfortable, and their batteries are rechargeable over USB (a cable is included with each pair). Each projector comes with two pairs of 3D glasses, and additional eyewear costs $99 from Epson. 3D brightness can be adjusted to one of three levels, which allows the user to trade between image brightness and crosstalk elimination based on the content being viewed. The default setting is Medium, which allows 25% total light transmission. Medium brightness effectively eliminates crosstalk in all but the most difficult content, and was our preferred setting throughout testing. Low brightness, at 18.5% light transmission, removes any trace of crosstalk whatsoever, but also restricts screen size due to less light making it to your eyes. High brightness, at 29.5% transmission, is great for 3D content where crosstalk is less of a concern. While we did not switch away from Medium very often, we appreciated having the option available for those times when the content demanded a different approach.

B&W Cinema. Black and white movies look their best at around 5500K color temperature, which is close to the color temperature of the commercial projection systems in use back in the 1940’s and 50’s. When you try to watch them in a mode that has been optimized for color films, they end up looking cold and uninteresting. The Epson 4030, 5030UB, and 6030UB all include the “B&W Cinema” image preset which is intended to display classic black and white films as they were originally seen in theaters. It’s a big help when you’re a fan of the classics but don’t want to adjust your Cinema calibration every time you watch a black and white film.

Picture in Picture. As the name implies, Picture in Picture (PIP) displays a small secondary image from a separate source in a corner of the larger main image. Epson’s home theater projectors have had PIP capability for years, but this year the system is able to use HDMI inputs for both images. This is a big deal — in the past, projectors typically had one set of HDMI circuitry, and could not use digital sources for both inputs. The use of two digital sources for PIP is a first for Epson home theater projectors and may in fact be unique in the market today.

Lamp. The 5030UB uses the same 230-watt E-TORL lamp, which is rated for 4,000 hours of use at full power and 5,000 hours in Eco-mode.

Low to moderate fan noise. Perhaps due to the use of a relatively low-wattage lamp in a large chassis, none of Epson’s new home theater models creates much audible noise in eco-mode. Eco-mode is nearly silent, and sitting any farther than a foot away from the projector means you won’t hear it running. In full lamp power mode the fan noise can be noticeable during quiet interludes in a film, but it is low in pitch and not overly distracting.

Warranty. Each projector has, at minimum, a two-year warranty which includes 90 days of lamp coverage.  Up to two years of additional warranty coverage is available for purchase on the 5030, if desired.

Automatic iris. Epson has perfected the automatic iris by creating a system that is both effective and unobtrusive. The iris deepens black levels in scenes with low illumination. It has two settings, Normal and High Speed, with High Speed being the more aggressive of the two — the iris in High Speed appears to react more quickly than in Normal mode.

Connectivity. Dual HDMI ports, 3-RCA component input, a 12V trigger, and an RS-232C port for external command and control. The Home Cinema 5030 has a wireless model, the 5030UBe, which also include a WirelessHD transmitter with 5 additional HDMI inputs and MHL compatibility.

Calibration and customization. The menu system gives the user total control over color, contrast, and gamma. Each projector features full RGB Gain/Bias controls for grayscale adjustment as well as a full color management system for fine-tuning gamut. Each projector also has at least some amount of control over gamma. Ten user memory locations allow you to save different calibrations for the same image mode without overwriting your previous settings.

Panel alignment. The panel alignment system can correct for convergence errors, which are almost an inevitability in a three-chip light engine. As the projector is used and components age, there may be some tiny shifts in the positioning of the LCD panels used to create the image. Using the panel alignment system, you can correct for these shifts without sending the projector out for service, thereby reducing downtime and expense.

2D picture quality. The best reason to purchase the 5030UB, hands down, is image quality. The 2D picture from the 5030UB is high in contrast, impressively three-dimensional, and after calibration has spot-on accurate color. Thanks to an aggressive and effective automatic iris, the 5030UB offers the best black level performance found in any projector in its price range, period. Detail is sharp and clear even without the use of Super Resolution, though that technology can make detail pop even more than it already does. Frame interpolation is very effective at reducing judder in 24p material, and shows few artifacts.

3D picture quality. If you care about 3D theater, the 5030UB delivers a compelling experience. The 3D image from the 5030UB has no noticeable flicker, almost zero crosstalk, and is bright enough to display on large screens. That last point is crucial; insufficient brightness is a major cause of headaches and eye strain when watching 3D movies and video. The 5030UB’s 3D Dynamic mode is bright enough to power a 100″ diagonal 1.3 gain screen at 16 fL. That measurement was obtained using the Low 3D brightness setting and already accounts for light loss from the 3D glasses. Using those same settings, the Medium brightness setting is just about bright enough for a 120″ diagonal screen. To top things off, Frame Interpolation is available in all 3D image modes.

Frame interpolation. Frame Interpolation is a technology that reduces the appearance of judder and motion blur by adding interstitial frames to a source video signal. Frame Interpolation has three settings as well as an Off switch (it starts out disabled). Low, the most conservative setting, does not eliminate judder but also has the least noticeable digital video effect. Normal, the next setting, drastically reduces judder but can increase the appearance of DVE in some content. We found the appearance of digital video effect to be highly content-specific. Some films show DVE on Low, while others do not show much DVE even with Frame Interpolation set to High. Low is a safe all-purpose setting for reducing judder in most film and video, though, so we left FI set to Low for the majority of our testing.

PERFORMANCE

Light output. When it comes to light output, the Home Cinema 5030UB is exceptionally flexible. On the high end of the scale is Dynamic, which on our projector measured 2230 lumens with the lens at its widest angle setting. Before adjustments, Dynamic has a greenish cast, but is useful whenever maximum light output is needed. On our projector, we were able to reduce the green tint to a tolerable level using the RGB Gain/Bias controls for the cost of about 200 lumens, but the end result is a much more balanced picture that is useful in a greater number of situations. Living Room mode, measuring 1735 lumens on our projector, has a bluish tint that pushes color temperature up to around 8000K. This cooler tone actually helps to fight ambient light, which is predominantly yellow, when the projector is used in a living room or other non-theater environment. However, Living Room is also a great mode to use if you want a bright, engaging picture that does not require a lot of fiddling with the controls. By taking the Color Temperature slider from +3 to +1, you’ll end up with a picture that measures 6300K to 6500K across the grayscale with no effort on your part. Making this color temperature adjustment lowers light output slightly to 1550 lumens, an 11% decrease. Natural and Cinema mode, at 871 and 805 lumens, are quite similar, with only some differences in gamma and color gamut separating them from each other. Both Natural and Cinema default to low power lamp mode, though the measurements above were taken with the lamp at full power.

The 5030UB includes a preset called B&W Cinema that is tailored for the display of black and white movies. Coming in at 740 lumens with the lamp at full power, B&W Cinema has a color temperature around 5500K, which is ideal for old black and white films.

When it comes to pure home theater image quality, THX mode is hard to beat. It has more accurate color than the 5030UB’s other image modes, which calibration improves even further, and the best contrast performance as well. THX mode at its factory settings measures 690 lumens with the lamp at full power and 512 lumens at low power. Our calibration, which improved both white balance and color gamut, resulted in a final light output of 479 lumens.

Most projectors’ low lamp modes reduce light output by a consistent percentage in all image modes, but this is not the case on the 5030UB. Switching from “Normal” to “ECO” lamp in Dynamic mode reduces output by 21%, but making the same adjustment in Living Room mode results in a 28.5% reduction. Cinema, Natural, and THX modes all lose 26% when dropping to low power lamp mode. Please note that in THX mode, the low power lamp setting is called “Normal” while full power is called “Extra Bright.” In all other image modes, low power is “ECO” and full power is “Normal.” That can get a touch confusing, and is why we’ve opted to use the terms “full power” and “low power” in this section.

The 5030UB’s 2.1:1 zoom lens allows different amounts of light to pass depending on zoom position. The lens’s wide angle position passes the maximum amount of light, which is reflected in our lumen readings above. But the maximum telephoto setting, which produces the smallest image size at a given throw distance, restricts light output by 44%. As an example, THX mode drops from 512 lumens to 287 lumens with the lamp at low power — a significant reduction that could affect your choice of screen size. This is important to keep in mind when mounting your projector.

Contrast. The UB on the end of the 5030UB’s name stands for Ultra Black, and if anything that’s a modest assessment. The 5030UB has an automatic iris that effectively combines aggressive performance with unnoticeable operation, leading to the best black levels available in a home theater projector in this price range. When combined with the projector’s sparkling highlights and well-defined shadow detail, the end result is a projector that can handle the most difficult Blu-ray content without breaking a sweat. The dynamic range of the 5030UB’s image gives it a three-dimensional quality that makes it a real pleasure to watch.

If you want to fine-tune the 5030UB’s handling of shadow detail, the projector has very good controls for gamma adjustment, allowing you to individually adjust ten points along the gamma curve. If you are more visually-minded or lack the required hardware to do a full calibration, the system will also allow you to pick a point in the image and then make adjustments from there. That can be especially helpful when you can see what’s wrong in the image and want to fix it right away.

Color. When evaluating color on a home theater projector, we are looking for two things. The first is good, if not great, color performance straight out of the box. The second is the ability to fine-tune the projector until it looks even better. The Home Cinema 5030UB delivers both. Straight out of the box, the 5030UB defaults to THX mode. On our test unit, factory-preset THX mode has a consistent grayscale that measures around 6000K. If you don’t own the equipment needed to calibrate your projector and don’t want to pay someone else to take a crack at it, you can adjust the color temperature slider upwards by a point or two and call it a day. The only problem with this quick calibration is that it lacks green, so while the red/blue balance is almost right where it should be, the picture still looks wrong. On our projector, we corrected for this by adding green and then decreasing red by a few points. The result is a smooth, consistent grayscale that’s right around 6500K across the board, aside from a tiny spike at 100% illumination. The 5030UB has a full color management system, and while the gamut in THX mode wasn’t far from the Rec. 709 color space to begin with, we found the system exceptionally easy to use. We ended up making a significant improvement to the 5030UB’s color gamut with just a few minutes’ work using our color meter. Living Room, at its default settings, measures right around 8000K, but as stated earlier it can be corrected with a quick nudge to the Color Temperature slider. The end result isn’t nearly as precise as the THX calibration above, but it is definitely serviceable. Cinema mode can be every bit as accurate as THX mode, given a little bit of work. The factory settings of our projector give Cinema too much green and a color temperature that ranges between 5900K on the low end and 6400K on the high end. After reducing red and increasing green a bit, our final Cinema calibration actually measured brighter than the factory setting thanks to the extra green, and grayscale tracking was much improved as well. What’s impressive about the 5030UB isn’t that it can be calibrated, because all modern home theater projectors can be calibrated if you have enough time and patience. What is impressive is how easy it is to calibrate the projector, given a color meter and an hour’s time. By the end of our adjustments, we were left with three accurately-calibrated image presets that wrung out every drop of the 5030UB’s potential.

Input lag. If you’re into gaming, you’ll want the least input lag possible. That is achieved by switching from “Fine” Image Processing to “Fast.” This setting is designed specifically to reduce input lag, and resulted in only 37 milliseconds of lag, a touch over two frames. While this isn’t the fastest home theater projector on the market, it is certainly a marked improvement over last year’s 5020UB at 50 milliseconds. Note that “Fast” processing has a softening effect on the picture that reduces the appearance of fine detail, and this reduction in apparent resolution is most visible when there is a lot of small text or other detail on the screen. Depending on what kind of game you’re playing, that softness could be invisible, obvious, or anywhere in between. If you use the standard default settings, which include “Fine” Image Processing, the 5030UB measures 91 milliseconds of input lag, equivalent to five and a half frames of a 60fps signal. That’s slower than last year’s Home Cinema 5020UB (67 ms) and equal to the Home Cinema 5010 (92ms). Several features increase input lag even more when activated. Frame Interpolation is the worst offender at 183 milliseconds, or about 11 frames. It did not matter which level of Frame Interpolation was applied; all three settings result in the same increase. Super Resolution, on the other hand, only increases input lag to 102 milliseconds or six frames, a half-frame increase over the baseline. The end result is that the 5030UB is faster in “Fine” mode but slower in other modes than the 5020UB was last year. Since gamers who care about input lag are unlikely to use anything but the fastest setting available, this comes out as a win for the new model.

LIMITATIONS

No anamorphic stretch. An anamorphic stretch mode enables the projector to vertically scale a 2.4:1 movie to fill the projector’s 16:9 pixel matrix, This signal can then be horizontally stretched using an anamorphic lens to create a 2.4:1 Cinemascope format picture. With this type of set up, all 2:4 movies as well as all16:9 and 4:3 content are displayed at the same picture height, so the rig is commonly referred to as Constant Image Height (CIH). Since the 5030UB lacks an anamorphic stretch mode, you cannot use it with an anamorphic lens without adding an external video processor.

Manual lens controls. The 5030UB has some of the best placement flexibility of any projector thanks to its 2.1:1 zoom lens and H/V lens shift. However, all of the projector’s lens adjustments are manually operated rather than powered. This can make it more difficult to initially adjust the projector’s focus, since adjustments must be made from the projector itself. When a projector has powered focus, you can make your adjustments while standing near the screen, making it easier to see what you’re doing. Manual adjustments also make it more difficult to use the projector’s zoom to simulate an anamorphic lens and CIH setup. You can do it if the unit is shelf or table mounted, and you want to reset the zoom position when you change the aspect ratio of your subject matter. But some projectors with powered zoom lenses incorporate a feature that automatically zooms the image to a number of pre-set positions, allowing you to use the projector on a 2.4:1 screen without the cost or bother of an anamorphic lens, and without the need to manually reset the zoom when switching from 2.4 to 16:9.

No ISF certification. Epson’s new Pro Cinema projectors include ISF certification, but the Home Cinema 5030UB does not. Note that the ISF-certified models do not include any additional calibration controls, as is the case on some other manufacturers’ home theater projectors.

Grayscale adjustments shared. The 5030UB has excellent color controls, but there is one limitation: the projector’s RGB Gain/Bias adjustments are shared between image modes. In other words, if you adjust grayscale tracking in Cinema mode and then switch to Living Room mode, the RGB Gain/Bias controls will still be set to the values you added in Cinema. If you want to save independent calibrations for each mode, you’ll have to use the projector’s Memory settings. Luckily, there are ten of them.

CONCLUSION

The Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 5030UB is, on its face, an incremental improvement to last year’s 5020UB. The specifications are similar enough, despite a significant increase in contrast, and there are no groundbreaking new features to differentiate this model from last year’s version. However, the small, incremental changes made to the 5030UB come together to create an image that is smoother, more film-like, more three-dimensional, and overall more polished than the image created by last year’s projector. And that is saying quite a bit, especially since last year’s model was already a compelling, polished home theater projector.

The bottom line is this: the Epson Home Cinema 5030UB’s strengths are its stellar picture quality and abundance of features that make the projector a pleasure to use. While it has some weaknesses, they tend to be related to anamorphic video or the finer points of calibration. If you’re looking for a powerful home theater projector that is great for both 2D and 3D video, it’s hard to go wrong with this one.

Projector SuperStore is an authorized Epson dealer and service center. You can view the 5030UB, the 5030UBe, and the rest of the Epson product line on our site here.

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About Epson – Epson America, Inc. is the U.S. affiliate of Japan-based Seiko Epson Corporation, a global technology company at the forefront of technological revolutions in imaging, robotics, precision machinery and electronics. Epson offers an extensive array of award-winning image capture and image output products for the consumer, photographic, business and graphic arts markets. The company is also a leading supplier of value-added point-of-sale (POS) printers and transaction terminals for the retail market. Founded in 1975, Epson America Inc. is headquartered in Long Beach, California.
About Projector SuperStore – For over 20 years, Projector SuperStore has been the premier source for affordable Audio and Visual equipment online. We have worked with hundreds of churches across the nation and have the expertise to help you integrate the right technology for your specific needs and bring your message to your congregation without complicating it. Whether you’re looking for a projector for a meeting room, a portable system for use in multi-purpose rooms, a state-of-the-art projection system for your main auditorium, or anything in between, we can help you create a system that is right for your needs and fits within your budget.
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This review was written by Bill Livolsi and originally appeared on Projector Central. View original post here.

Optoma’s New Home Theater Projectors

 

optoma_gridOver the past few weeks, Optoma has introduced their new line of 1080p projectors.  With several new models added to the list, it can be hard to differentiate between them and choose the right one for your application. This helpful grid lists the key features of each model and compares them to the others.

A few key features to note are Full HD native resolution, 3D capability and Dual HDMI on all 4 models and up to 6,000 hours of lamp life and 3,200 lumens brightness on certain models.

Optoma is a leading manufacturer in the projector industry, offering quality products and an affordable price, they provide solutions for not just home theater enthusiasts, but also for corporate and education environments as well. Their products combine superior image processing technologies with exceptional engineering in order to deliver images that are bright, crystal clear and finely-tuned for tone and color.

Projector SuperStore is an authorized Optoma dealer. You can view the projectors mentioned in this post on our site here.

WHAT DOES “3D READY” MEAN? DISPELLING THE MYTHS ABOUT 3D PROJECTION

What Does “3D Ready” Mean?
Dispelling the Myths about 3D Projection
Updated 2/17/12

Bill Livolsi, August 19, 2010

If you are like most consumers, you think “3D Ready” means a projector is ready to display 3D in all its various forms. Well, that’s not quite true. Many 3D Ready projectorsare available right now, as you read this article, but 3D is still a confusing subject. What 3D signal sources will work with your 3D projector? What do you need to know to make sense of all of this stuff? After finishing this article, you will know exactly what 3D is and how it works.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect the current state of 3D projection as of February 2012. -bl

What is “3D Ready?”

To differentiate 3D projectors from their 2D brethren, there is usually a logo on the case declaring their 3D capability. But what does this logo actually mean? In short:a 3D Ready projector will accept and display at least one stereoscopic 3D transmission format. By transmission format, we mean the 3D signal format used to transmit from your source–a computer, set-top box, game console, or Blu-ray player–to your projector. We are not talking about the difference between passive polarized 3D glasses and active shutter 3D glasses (if you need more information about these display technologies, see our article “The 3D Renaissance“).

3D Transmission Formats

At last count, there are at least four stereoscopic 3D transmission formats currently in wide use, called frame sequential, frame packing, side-by-side, and checkerboard. There are other transmission formats as well, but we will focus on the four main formats for now.

Frame sequential. Frame sequential, also occasionally called page-flip, is in some ways the simplest of the 3D formats. A frame sequential signal is a full resolution picture sent at 120 frames per second to the display. The frames alternate in sequence, so the display receives a left eye frame, then a right eye frame, then a left eye frame, and so on. This is simple because the projector itself does not need to do any decoding of the source; it just needs to be capable of accepting a 120Hz signal. Correspondingly, this format requires a lot of bandwidth, since it is essentially sending a full resolution signal at 60 frames per second for each eye. This is double the bandwidth of a comparable 2D signal.

In the world of projectors, frame sequential is an important format. Today’s inexpensive DLP projectors that are touted as “3D Ready” accept only frame sequential 3D. And at this writing, their 3D capability is limited to a maximum of 1280×720 resolution. Currently, the only way to send them such a signal is to use a computer, such as one equipped with NVIDIA’s 3D Vision system. Consumer electronics like Blu-ray 3D players and set-top boxes do not output frame sequential 3D. In short, all those inexpensive DLP 3D Ready projectors you’ve been seeing do not work with Blu-ray 3D or broadcast 3D content–it’s PC or bust.

Frame packing. Frame packing is closely related to frame sequential, but they are not the same thing. Frame packing sends the left and right eye images to the projector simultaneously, stacked on top of one another with a small space between them. Essentially, the source sends one giant double-height frame instead of two smaller frames. The signal is transmitted at either 24Hz or 60Hz. The projector must then separate the two images and display them sequentially.

Frame packing is the default format used in the HDMI 1.4 specification, and any product labeled as HDMI 1.4 compatible must support this format. It is the standard output format of Blu-ray 3D players, though some have additional options. Frame packing requires more processing power on the part of the projector, since it must separate the two frames and then display them in sequence.

Side-by-side. In the side-by-side transmission format popularized by DirecTV, two frames are compressed to half of their original horizontal resolution and sent simultaneously. For a 1080p signal, which is 1920×1080 pixels per frame, this would be two 960×1080 frames side by side. The projector then separates these compressed frames, expands them back to their original 1920×1080 format, and displays them sequentially. Side-by-side comes in both interlaced and progressive variants, with interlaced taking up less bandwidth and progressive being higher in image quality.

As you might imagine, this format loses some resolution in the process of compression and subsequent expansion. Essentially, it leaves you with half resolution to each eye. At this writing, DirecTV is the only game in town using the side-by-side format, but it should be compatible with newer (2010 model) 3D televisions and current DirecTV HD boxes. Older 3D televisions probably will not be able to display this format, and the inexpensive DLP “3D Ready” projectors that have been brought to market thus far cannot display it either.

Checkerboard. Many DLP 3D Ready televisions (not projectors) accept what is called the checkerboard format. In this format, the two images for left and right eye are interleaved, with every other pixel going to the opposite eye. Look at an actual checkerboard and pretend the squares are pixels. The black squares would go to the left eye, while the red squares would go to the right eye. The television separates the two interleaved images and displays them sequentially. The resulting images are half-resolution.

Why do you need to know this, since projectors do not support this format? Well, checkerboard is important for its legacy status. Older DLP 3D Ready televisions would accept checkerboard and nothing else, and many of these televisions were sold in the past few years. When consumers discovered that their televisions were not compatible with broadcast and Blu-ray 3D formats, they were understandably incensed. The solution came in the form of converter boxes that are able to convert frame-packed or side-by-side 3D to checkerboard TV for display on DLP televisions. This is important because DLP 3D Ready projectors cannot display checkerboard 3D. If they could, it would be a simple matter to buy a conversion box and live happily ever after. However, converter boxes that change frame-packed or side-by-side 3D into frame-sequential 3D are not available, and the converter boxes for televisions output checkerboard 3D and nothing else.

A note about HDMI 1.4 One of the important things included in the HDMI 1.4 standard is a list of 3D transmission formats that must be supported by any device claiming 1.4 compliance. The catch is that a non-HDMI 1.4 device can still support these transmission formats. An excellent example is Sony’s Playstation 3 game console, which can play 3D games and Blu-ray 3D movies even though it is an HDMI 1.3 device. Some projectors may have HDMI 1.3 yet be able to decode frame-packed 1080p 3D. To determine a projector’s compatibility with modern 3D transmission formats, you need to look beyond the bullet points on the spec sheet and find out what transmission formats it is actually compatible with.

The Takeaway

The currently available, inexpensive DLP “3D Ready” projectors are good for a lot of applications. For gaming, nothing beats the big-screen experience of 3D through aprojector. In education, they can be used to display diagrams of three-dimensional shapes and objects, from electronic dissections to statues in Art History courses. But as far as home video is concerned, they have some serious limitations. They are incapable of displaying frame-packing and side-by-side, the two most popular and important 3D transmission formats for video. While most of these products are designed as data presentation projectors, people have been buying them in the hopes of using them for home theater anyway. Without support for the right formats, you will find yourself purchasing another 3D projector in the future once support for these formats is incorporated. As in all things, caveat emptor–let the buyer beware.

If you want full 1080p 3D projection, look for one of the many HDMI 1.4 compatiblefull HD 3D projectors available. Prices start at $1499, with a notable cluster around the $2500-$3500 mark. These projectors will indicate somewhere in their specifications that they are HDMI 1.4 or Blu-ray 3D compatible, and that’s your cue that they are safe to purchase.

Looking forward: the future of 3D projection

3D has changed a lot since 2010 when we first published this article. These days, it is more common to find a projector that is full HD 3D compatible than it is to find one that is only 3D Ready. Blu-ray 3D is already well established, and a wide selection of movies is making its way to market slowly but surely. Several satellite and cable providers will occasionally show 3D programming, as enough of their subscribers own 3D displays that it is worth their time to do so. As long as you keep your head about you and make sure you know exactly what you’re buying, in-home 3D can be a rewarding experience.

What Does “3D Ready” Mean? Dispelling the Myths about 3D Projection

What Does “3D Ready” Mean?
Dispelling the Myths about 3D Projection
Updated 2/17/12

Bill Livolsi, August 19, 2010

If you are like most consumers, you think “3D Ready” means a projector is ready to display 3D in all its various forms. Well, that’s not quite true. Many 3D Ready projectors are available right now, as you read this article, but 3D is still a confusing subject. What 3D signal sources will work with your 3D projector? What do you need to know to make sense of all of this stuff? After finishing this article, you will know exactly what 3D is and how it works.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect the current state of 3D projection as of February 2012. -bl

What is “3D Ready?”

To differentiate 3D projectors from their 2D brethren, there is usually a logo on the case declaring their 3D capability. But what does this logo actually mean? In short:a 3D Ready projector will accept and display at least one stereoscopic 3D transmission format. By transmission format, we mean the 3D signal format used to transmit from your source–a computer, set-top box, game console, or Blu-ray player–to your projector. We are not talking about the difference between passive polarized 3D glasses and active shutter 3D glasses (if you need more information about these display technologies, see our article “The 3D Renaissance“).

3D Transmission Formats

At last count, there are at least four stereoscopic 3D transmission formats currently in wide use, called frame sequential, frame packing, side-by-side, and checkerboard. There are other transmission formats as well, but we will focus on the four main formats for now.

Frame sequential. Frame sequential, also occasionally called page-flip, is in some ways the simplest of the 3D formats. A frame sequential signal is a full resolution picture sent at 120 frames per second to the display. The frames alternate in sequence, so the display receives a left eye frame, then a right eye frame, then a left eye frame, and so on. This is simple because the projector itself does not need to do any decoding of the source; it just needs to be capable of accepting a 120Hz signal. Correspondingly, this format requires a lot of bandwidth, since it is essentially sending a full resolution signal at 60 frames per second for each eye. This is double the bandwidth of a comparable 2D signal.

In the world of projectors, frame sequential is an important format. Today’s inexpensive DLP projectors that are touted as “3D Ready” accept only frame sequential 3D. And at this writing, their 3D capability is limited to a maximum of 1280×720 resolution. Currently, the only way to send them such a signal is to use a computer, such as one equipped with NVIDIA’s 3D Vision system. Consumer electronics like Blu-ray 3D players and set-top boxes do not output frame sequential 3D. In short, all those inexpensive DLP 3D Ready projectors you’ve been seeing do not work with Blu-ray 3D or broadcast 3D content–it’s PC or bust.

Frame packing. Frame packing is closely related to frame sequential, but they are not the same thing. Frame packing sends the left and right eye images to the projector simultaneously, stacked on top of one another with a small space between them. Essentially, the source sends one giant double-height frame instead of two smaller frames. The signal is transmitted at either 24Hz or 60Hz. The projector must then separate the two images and display them sequentially.

Frame packing is the default format used in the HDMI 1.4 specification, and any product labeled as HDMI 1.4 compatible must support this format. It is the standard output format of Blu-ray 3D players, though some have additional options. Frame packing requires more processing power on the part of the projector, since it must separate the two frames and then display them in sequence.

Side-by-side. In the side-by-side transmission format popularized by DirecTV, two frames are compressed to half of their original horizontal resolution and sent simultaneously. For a 1080p signal, which is 1920×1080 pixels per frame, this would be two 960×1080 frames side by side. The projector then separates these compressed frames, expands them back to their original 1920×1080 format, and displays them sequentially. Side-by-side comes in both interlaced and progressive variants, with interlaced taking up less bandwidth and progressive being higher in image quality.

As you might imagine, this format loses some resolution in the process of compression and subsequent expansion. Essentially, it leaves you with half resolution to each eye. At this writing, DirecTV is the only game in town using the side-by-side format, but it should be compatible with newer (2010 model) 3D televisions and current DirecTV HD boxes. Older 3D televisions probably will not be able to display this format, and the inexpensive DLP “3D Ready” projectors that have been brought to market thus far cannot display it either.

Checkerboard. Many DLP 3D Ready televisions (not projectors) accept what is called the checkerboard format. In this format, the two images for left and right eye are interleaved, with every other pixel going to the opposite eye. Look at an actual checkerboard and pretend the squares are pixels. The black squares would go to the left eye, while the red squares would go to the right eye. The television separates the two interleaved images and displays them sequentially. The resulting images are half-resolution.

Why do you need to know this, since projectors do not support this format? Well, checkerboard is important for its legacy status. Older DLP 3D Ready televisions would accept checkerboard and nothing else, and many of these televisions were sold in the past few years. When consumers discovered that their televisions were not compatible with broadcast and Blu-ray 3D formats, they were understandably incensed. The solution came in the form of converter boxes that are able to convert frame-packed or side-by-side 3D to checkerboard TV for display on DLP televisions. This is important because DLP 3D Ready projectors cannot display checkerboard 3D. If they could, it would be a simple matter to buy a conversion box and live happily ever after. However, converter boxes that change frame-packed or side-by-side 3D into frame-sequential 3D are not available, and the converter boxes for televisions output checkerboard 3D and nothing else.

A note about HDMI 1.4 One of the important things included in the HDMI 1.4 standard is a list of 3D transmission formats that must be supported by any device claiming 1.4 compliance. The catch is that a non-HDMI 1.4 device can still support these transmission formats. An excellent example is Sony’s Playstation 3 game console, which can play 3D games and Blu-ray 3D movies even though it is an HDMI 1.3 device. Some projectors may have HDMI 1.3 yet be able to decode frame-packed 1080p 3D. To determine a projector’s compatibility with modern 3D transmission formats, you need to look beyond the bullet points on the spec sheet and find out what transmission formats it is actually compatible with.

The Takeaway

The currently available, inexpensive DLP “3D Ready” projectors are good for a lot of applications. For gaming, nothing beats the big-screen experience of 3D through a projector. In education, they can be used to display diagrams of three-dimensional shapes and objects, from electronic dissections to statues in Art History courses. But as far as home video is concerned, they have some serious limitations. They are incapable of displaying frame-packing and side-by-side, the two most popular and important 3D transmission formats for video. While most of these products are designed as data presentation projectors, people have been buying them in the hopes of using them for home theater anyway. Without support for the right formats, you will find yourself purchasing another 3D projector in the future once support for these formats is incorporated. As in all things, caveat emptor–let the buyer beware.

If you want full 1080p 3D projection, look for one of the many HDMI 1.4 compatiblefull HD 3D projectors available. Prices start at $1499, with a notable cluster around the $2500-$3500 mark. These projectors will indicate somewhere in their specifications that they are HDMI 1.4 or Blu-ray 3D compatible, and that’s your cue that they are safe to purchase.

Looking forward: the future of 3D projection

3D has changed a lot since 2010 when we first published this article. These days, it is more common to find a projector that is full HD 3D compatible than it is to find one that is only 3D Ready. Blu-ray 3D is already well established, and a wide selection of movies is making its way to market slowly but surely. Several satellite and cable providers will occasionally show 3D programming, as enough of their subscribers own 3D displays that it is worth their time to do so. As long as you keep your head about you and make sure you know exactly what you’re buying, in-home 3D can be a rewarding experience.