Front Projectors

Recommended HD Projector Under $1K – Panasonic PT-AX200U

I see lots of requests for good HD projectors under a grand, and one exceptionally good choice is currently the Panason PT-AX200U.

Panasonic PT-AX200U

This unit is an LCD projector with 1280x720p resolution. It has a 2:1 manual zoom/focus lens with manual H/V lens shift. She throws a 100″ diagonal 16:9 image from 9.9′ to 20.3′ back.

2 HDMI inputs, 1 VGA, 1 component, 1 S-Video (don’t use this)

This unit throws a great image, and with the horizontal and vertical lens shift, placement is very versatile. 1080p stuff just looks great.

In this is your budget and HT projection is your fix, don’t miss this model for consideration.

Projector vs. Plasma/LCD Displays

I’ve heard people ask why would they want a projector over an LCD or Plasma display.

The short answer is: Size.

You can easily have a 90-120 inch screen in your home, ultimately providing your own theater experience. This does come with a few trade-offs, however. The setup, maintenance and controls are more involved on a projector and the viewing environment needs to be different. For example, your grandmother probably doesn’t want to sit in a darkened room or care to know how to select the correct input, aspect ratio, and adjustment preset on the PJ while matching output on your switcher/receiver/pre-pro setup. She just wants to flip the thing on and watch some Golden Girls, yer?

The beauty in an LCD TV or Plasma is just that – turn it on and it works. And the picture is grand – great clarity and colors. For general day-to-day viewing, this may be preferred, especially if you’re just plain lazy. (Nah, not you!)

There’s just something about watching and 8-10′, yes that’s FEET, screen in HD. Watching movies, TV series, and sporting events in glorious HD at this size is something grand you can’t just put into words and do the experience justice. I am just not interested in anything less anymore. I have some nice Sony units in my home (30-32″) that just don’t get used. I literally haven’t turned my main smaller unit on in months. If I’m going to take the time to watch something, fire up that HD DLP projector and I’m immersed in the world that is presented.

So, if you hate settings and tinkering for best picture, etc. you may be happy with a Plasma/LCD for the ease of use. But, for a fraction of the cost, you should be aware that you can have your own movie house in your home. If you’re not the do-it-yourself kind of person for technical or electronic equipment, consider paying someone to set it up and teach you how to use it. You won’t be sorry.

Optoma HD80 1080p Projector Now Available Under $3K

Optoma HD80 1080p Projector
Optoma have brought us our first 1080p DLP projector under three grand, and this beaut is now available in local stores.

Seen as low as under $2500, the maximum HD resolution for truly big screen viewing is more affordable than ever for DLP.


Brightness 1300 ANSI Lumens
Resolution Native 1080p (1920 x 1080)
Contrast Ratio 10,000:1 (Max)
ANSI Contrast 518:1
Inputs Two HDMI, DVI w/HDCP, S-Video, Composite Video, Component Video, RS-232, +12V Trigger

Pilfering through the end user reports and reviews at AVSforums for this unit, we find very complimentary statements such as:

After spent a few hours playing with HD80 last night, all I can say is this is one hell of a projector! Highly recommended to anyone whose looking for a best image quality at a lowest possible price.

It is a very nice machine, I think almost everyone would be happy with it.

the picture is just gorgeous with great blacks. It looks good with minor adjustments.

I’d recommend the HD80 to anyone looking for a powerful projector with high resolution.
We watched some movies tonight that I thought would be so/so but not so on this projector. Things looks very good,

Right now I’d say this is the 1080p DLP to get.

I’d expect this PJ to be a huge seller for the videophile looking for a lower priced deal market.

I was quite impressed. It was VERY bright and VERY sharp. I didn’t notice anything wrong with the colour. It was well saturated, and primaries and secondaries seemed to be in the right place.

I am still looking for an in-depth pro review, as I don’t have my hands on one of these units yet, so stay tuned.

Optoma HD80 Product Detail

InFocus IN76 Play Big DLP Projector Review

InFocus IN76 new DLP projector

Well, the release for the IN76 is upon us. I have been eagerly anticipating this machine since I first saw pics of her. I am an InFocus fan – I prefer their DLP machines for my HT.

Audioholics is cranking out some great review coverage lately, and the cherry for this week is this preliminary look at a pre-production IN76 Big Play 720p DLP machine. (Thanks guys!)

It looks like this machine may be the trick to beat in this price range. Great performance and good looks to boot – ain’t she a beaut?

Basic info and specs:

  • 1280 x 720 native resolution (true HD)
  • Pixelworks processing which reportedly handles 1080i a bit better than Faroudja
  • HDMI (2 available if you use the M1DA input for HDMI), component, S-Video and Composite connections
  • Both HDMI inputs are HDCP compliant (not found in the review – this info came from elsewhere, see below)
  • Quiet design
  • Limited rainbow artifacts
  • Good color calibration out of the box
  • Sealed optics
  • Medium throw – 100″ screen, mount the PJ 11-14 feet back
  • Fixed offset – 100″ screen, mount the PJ with the lens 7.5 inches above the screen (mount closer to ceiling for cleaner install)

Datasheet (PDF)

Picture Quality
HD Broadcast Material
“Colors were nicely saturated and there was plenty of detail in the HD images. Contrast appeared excellent, and the black levels were very respectable – in fact, blacks were some of the best we have seen from an InFocus projector (InFocus is rating the contrast ratio on the IN76 as 3000:1). Overall, it was a very impressive image with the typical “WOW” factor you get when blowing up an HD image to the type of screen sizes that front projection makes possible.”

“In terms of brightness, the IN76 falls into the “brighter than average” category. InFocus rates it at 1000 lumens, but we have learned to take ALL manufacturer brightness/lumen claims with tremendous grains of salt. We are big advocates of brighter projectors, as so many people we talk to want to go with screen sizes of 110” diagonal or greater, and many home theater projectors are not really suited for screen sizes much beyond 100”. Based upon what we saw here, I would say that the IN76 would be good up to screen sizes of 110”, but not much beyond that. ”

DVD Performance
“DVD clips looked very good, with the same richness of color and contrast we noticed on the HD clips. Due to the fact that we had the IN76 for just a limited amount of time, we didn’t spend a great deal of time evaluating scaler/deinterlacer performance. Unfortunately, since so many systems we see these days end up having the scaling or deinterlacing done by the source (a cable box, a satellite dish receiver, an upconverting DVD player, etc), we feel that the internal scaler/deinterlacer is becoming less important to the overall performance of the piece from a real world perspective.”

In Comparison
Compared to the Panasonic PT-AE900U, another 720p machine but of the LCD variety, the IN76 did very well.

Notable image differences
The Panny 900U has a bit less SDE (Screen Door Effect) due to it’s Smooth Screen technology. However, due to this technology the picture is quite a bit softer.
The Panasonic test unit did not have uniform color across the screen.
The InFocus IN76 showed deeper blacks, better color saturation, and better depth giving the image an appealing 3D look.
Darker sequenced scenes looked smoother on the Panasonic, due to graininess of the IN76’s dithering noise.
In a nutshell, the image smoothness was superior on the Panny, but the InFocus unit had better contrast, deeper blacks, and the 3D pop.

“The InFocus IN76 seems to have exactly the right features at exactly the right price point. It makes a great entry level high definition projector for someone who wants DLP technology and an excellent true 720p HD image without breaking the bank. In comparison with the LCD competition at the price point, we feel the DLP based IN76 to have a superior image in most regards plus what we have found to be a more reliable technology. While the picture of the IN76 is not quite as bright or as smooth as what can be found on higher end DLP projectors using the larger Dark Chip 2 or Dark Chip 3 DMDs (including Infocus’s own SP-7205 or SP-7210), it is also considerably less expensive, sexy looking, and very quiet to boot! Since the unit we had to evaluate was a pre-production model, we look forward to taking another look at it when the actual production models start shipping. If we find any performance differences at that point, we will report on them here!”

This unit is now shipping, and I am looking forward to more info and reviews. I may just purchase one of these myself, I’ve been suffering from acute upgraditis for a couple of months now.

InFocus IN76 Play Big DLP Projector Preliminary Review

For more info, check out the IN76 thread at AVS forum, where Bob Williams, engineer at InFocus, is answering consumer questions. This is where I found the dual HDCP compatibility info above.

InFocus IN72/ IN74 / IN76 User Guide (PDF)
InFocus IN72/ IN74 / IN76 Reference Guide (PDF)

Sony VPL-HS51A Projector Review

Sony VPL-HS51A Cineza Projector
The HT addicts over Audioholics have good review of Sony’s Cineza LCD projector, the VPL-HS51A.

I still remember when I first caught the projector bug a few years back, I was viewing them at local dealers. I saw one of the early Cineza models, and I remember wondering why they named it something that sounded like a variation of the common cold. Anyways, on to the review:

Resolution: 1280x 720 (Yes, true HD)
Native Aspect: 16:9 – an HT requirement
Contrast: 10,000:1
Brightness: 1200 ANSI lumens
Inputs: HDMI with HDCP, component, S-Video, composite and HD15
Lens Shift: 100% vertical, 50% horizontal

As inherent with LCD projectors, this unit has some SDE (Screen Door Effect) when viewed at a distance of 1.5 X screen width. This can be a problem for some, depending on your desired or actual screen size and viewing distance.

“I was also greatly impressed by the vibrancy of the color as well as the detail that showed up throughout the [Madagascar] film. Good examples f this would be Alex’ mane and the abundance of fur and plant detail that was shown throughout the film. It seemed that every scene contained at least one element that looked like it could be touched and handled from the seating position.”

“One other thing I was looking for in viewing HDTV was how well the Sony handled mediocre input sources such as the output from my digital cable box. It seemed to handle both component video and HDMI output from the box without any issues and the 1080i and 720p source material was clean and crisp with no visible artifacts beyond the compression associated with the cable channel. ”

“Just as the Panasonic PT-AE900U I recently reviewed set a new standard for interpixel LCD spacing, the Sony Cineza VPL-HS51A sets a new and impressive standard for black level detail in an LCD projector. This will be a bar others will need to match and the result will be better products for consumers and customer installers to integrate into their systems. At its street price there is some stiff competition, but we can definitely recommend the Sony without reservation. ”

Sony VPL-HS51A Cineza Full Review


Toshiba’s ET20 all-in-one 5.1 Surround, DVD Player Projector

toshiba et20

Toshiba has announced the all in one ET20 projector/5.1 surround system/dvd player. And yeah, it looks like E.T. to boot.

I’ve never been fond of all-in-one units of any variety, but for some this is request. I guess if you live in a box, grabbing all your gear in one swipe can make it easier to relocate.

This thing is expected to be available next month, I’m curious how it will (under)perform. Not to have a biased opinion, that is…

Engadget – Toshiba’s et20 all-in-one 5.1 surround DVD projector

Panasonic AE900U Projector Deal

Panasonic PT-AE900U LCD Projector
Henning over at HDBlog found a great deal on the Panny PT-AE900U projector through Visual Apex.

You get the projector with a 2-year warranty, plus a bonus blockbuster rental card for $1548 after rebate. This projector normally runs around 2 grand, so that is a steal.

Check it out – Audioholics

Source –

Review: Panasonic PT-AE900U LCD Projector

panasonic pt-ae900u lcd projector
Home Theater Mag sing their praises of the Panasonic PT-AE900U projector in this new review:
“Yep, there’s a lot to like about the PT-AE900U, but versatility is undoubtedly its greatest asset. We’ve looked at several HD LCD projectors over the past year, some of which carry lower MSRPs than this one. However, all of those projectors came with some caveats, while the PT-AE900U is wonderfully caveat free. It’s simply a great choice for someone looking for a well-rounded, midpriced projector.”

However, I’m concerned the reviewer only used a 60 inch screen to thoroughly test this model. It seems odd that size would be used to put a projector through its paces, when most people have a 100-inch screen or better. I know some use a 60″ job, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but I wonder if any detail or other problems might not show up on smaller screen real estate.

Still, this unit has been praised by others as well, and this review does line up with them.

“The PT-AE900U offers great performance and versatility for a great price—perfect for the home theater fan who wants to enjoy the benefits of a projector in an everyday viewing environment.”

Full Review – Via

Review: BenQ PE8720 Home Theater Projector

benq pe 8720 projector for home theater
Next up, a fresh review of the BenQ PE-8720 projector. This is a mid-range priced projector (current street price is under six grand), with high-end performance. ProjectorCentral runs one of these through its paces:

“The BenQ PE8720 is a premium class projector that is available for less than a premium class price. Overall performance is excellent, and the feature set is nothing to sneeze at. With the iris set optimally, black level on the PE8720 is deep and inky, and the shadow detail makes for a very three-dimensional image that seems to pop from the screen. Deinterlacing and scaling quality is excellent, and the picture is smooth and pleasant to watch.”

Here is a great description of the price and quality range placement of Benq’s new bling:

“It is difficult to assign a 5-star “value” rating for this model, for it falls between two classes of 720p resolution products. Compared to the high end 720p models from the boutique brands that sell for $12,000 and up, the PE8720 is an absolute steal–virtually comparable picture quality for half the price or less.

If this was the only competition, the PE8720 would get 5 stars for value hands down. On the other hand, the PE8720’s street prices of around $6,000 make it substantially more expensive than the economy range 720p projectors selling for under $3,000.

Though the PE8720 will outperform them in contrast and image sharpness, the lower priced units have gotten really good lately, and some buyers may understandably think that the incremental image quality you get from the PE8720 is not worth double the price.”

So, if you are considering the high-end range, this machine should be in the running. However, if you’re looking at your total bang-for-your-buck, one of the under-$3k models would probably be most pleasing to your eye and wallet.

Review: BenQ PE8720 Home Theater Projector

Hitachi Ultravision HDPJ52 Projector Review

Hitachi HDPJ52 ProjectorHere’s a fresh review of Hitachi’s LCD 720p projector offering, the HDPJ52.

This is a native widescreen 1280 x 720 HD projector with component, VGA and HDMI inputs.

The lamp life is 2000 hours, and replacement lamps run 250 bucks.

A manual iris is included, and seemed to be a welcome addition for HD gaming, ad the extra brightness made a big difference.

In comparison to the BenQ PE7700, here is how the HDPJ52 fared:
“When viewed individually, both the PE7700 and the HDPJ52 have excellent contrast and black level, while shadow details are clearly visible. However, once seen head to head, the superior performance of the HDPJ52 becomes clear. While black levels are comparable, the HDPJ52 holds a clear edge in shadow separation and overall contrast performance.

With regards to color, the HDPJ52 clearly overtakes the PE7700. Color is rich and natural, with better saturation. Whether watching animated material or live actors, scenes seemed to pop off of the screen, and objects looked vibrant and life-like.”

And compared to the Epson PowerLite Cinema 550:
“The HDPJ52 and Cinema 550 are both impressive projectors at the leading edge in terms of price/performance. The Cinema 550 can put out more light at the sacrifice of some image quality, which makes it more suitable for multipurpose home entertainment. However, the HDPJ52 offers home theater performance that rivals the 550 and incorporates some features the 550 does not have. Depending upon your needs, either one of these projectors is capable of making you extremely happy with your selection.”

And there you have it, looks like Hitachi may have a winner on their hands.

Full Review at Projector Central
Via HDBlog