$999 HD1080p compared to High End 1080P Home Theater Projectors

We need to start this article with a caveat. Typically we don’t do head-to-head video comparisons like we are doing here, for multiple reasons. For example, the camera used to shoot the demo may impact the image in a way that that does not match our experience in person. If the recording camera locks in on one image, it can make a brighter projector look dimmer than a dimmer projector, or it can give the appearance of improved contrast when it does not appear that way in person.

That said, we still wanted to provide video that would help users determine if the new 1080p true HD $999 projectors or the current best selling projectors are a better fit for their needs. So, below is an atypical video head-to-head comparison of the new Optoma HD20 projector and the Epson Home Cinema 6500 UB projector which is meant to provide a broader overview of the two categories of home theater projection – new entry level DLP, and high end LCD.

Please Note : You will see some artifacts from the compression of the video that are not caused by either projector. Particularly when our narrator passes in front of the screen, or when the image is moving quickly. These artifcats were not present before compression. If you are interested in a higher quality version of this video, leave a comment below.

Quick Video Log

  • 0:08 – 1:50 : Product overviews / specification comparison
    Product manager Rodney Laney goes over the basics, from lumens and contrast to features of these two units.
  • 1:53 – 2:25 : Contrast comparison
    Note the more visible gray on the ‘black bars’ and in the space scene in the projector on the left. This is to be expected since the projector on the right has a significantly higher contrast ratio. The difference was a bit more obvious in person.
  • 2:30 – 3:30 : Zoom lenses compared
    No surprise here, there is very little zoom on the Optoma, and a nice 2x zoom on the Epson. Most of our high end projectors feature either manual, or power 2x zoom.
  • 3:32 – 4:20 : Lens shift demonstrated
    No surprise here either, there is no lens shift on the new entry level DLP projectors. This helps keep the chassis smaller and the cost down, but it also makes installation more challenging. If you plan to use your projector in multiple locations, lens shift and zoom can save a lot of frustration.
  • 4:20 – 5:01 : 60hz vs. 120hz
    The most dramatic difference between the two images was due to the video processing capabilities. The 120hz Epson simply out performs for video quality (as does the Panasonic PT-AE3000U and Sanyo PLV-Z3000). The video, upon close inspection, can pick up the difference in clarity. But in person it is dramatic. It is as if the actors are being filmed on stage. They appear to be live in front of you. It’s almost holideck-ish! Some also describe it as a 3-D quality.
  • So What’s the Word?

    Optoma HD20 Projector in actionIf you are looking to step up to 1080p home theater projector but have a limited budget, $999 will get you a true HD 1080p 300-inch image, with very good black levels, more portability, and a somewhat minimal feature set. If you are looking to upgrade to true HD with a crisp – almost stage like – image, more installation flexibility with 2x zoom and lens shift, then the high end LCD home theater projectors will be the way to go.

    High End LCD Home Theater Projectors
    * Prices may change, please click through for current pricing and rebates.

    New Entry Level DLP Projectors

    If you have more questions about the differences between these products, pricing questions, or any other projector related needs, leave a comment, send an email to webmaster(at)projectorpeople.com, or gives us a call at 1-888-248-0675. Thanks for reading!

    Epson Ensemble HD Home Theater : Literally Everything You Need in One Box!

    Epson Ensemble HD home cinema package

    Some kids like doing their homework, some kids copy their friends work, and still others charm their way into good grades. The latter is the category where you might put the ideal buyer of the new Epson Ensemble HD Home Theater Systems. The Ensemble is a truly charming – and totally put-together – package for any buyer who doesn’t want to do their homework – but really wants to succeed.

    It’s Easy

    If you’re technically minded, putting together a home theater system is probably sounds like fun. But if you either don’t have time to understand all there is to know about HD home theater, or you really just want the HD experience without all the work involved, then there is an Epson Ensemble HD package that is just right for you.

    One of the great benefits to purchasing a package is that you get most of all that you need in one purchase. But even with a good package, there may be some things that are not included. A subwoofer cable tripped me up over the holidays, as I was setting up my new Tannoy speakers. Who knew that wouldn’t be included in the box? So I had to wait till I got back to the electronics store to hear Rock Band at full volume.

    It’s Fast

    But with the Epson Ensemble HD systems, they have thought of everything. Each cable is included, and is packaged together for each step of the project. The speakers are integrated into the screen, so once your screen is installed your front and center speakers are mounted too. Also, your rear speakers are housed in the projector mount, and the speaker and projector can be powered by the (included) power cables that connect to the subwoofer. No additional power outlets are required. And all your cables can be hidden away in special molding that has a peel and stick adhesive and sticks right to your ceiling. So you have a solution for hiding cables, complete power to your system, and everything you need is shipped together.

    Since everything is included, it is possible that you could have all of the electronic components installed for a home theater in one weekend, without leaving your house!. In fact, the remote control is pre-programed, so it’s ready to go when you open the box. There is even an installation video to help you piece together all the parts if you don’t like to read manuals. We have it online here.

    It’s Cool

    HDMI 1.4 Release

    As if a 100-inch image with HD resolution and surround sound isn’t cool enough, the Ensemble system includes an AM/FM tuner and an iPod input built in to the receiver and more. The receiver also includes a PC card slot for quick and easy viewing of photographs, and you can listen to the music without dropping your screen for an impromptu dance party.

    It’s Included

    The Epson Ensemble HD system takes the ‘everything’s included’ concept to the next level. The pallet of boxes shipped to you includes all the screws, cables, nuts, bolts, components, wire covers, that you need to do the entire installation. Here is what’s included in the Epson Ensemble HD Home Theater System :

    • Your choice of three HD Epson projectors (Epson Home Cinema 6500 UB, 6100, or 720)
    • One (1) 100-inch electric screen with integrated speaker (center, right, left)
    • One (1) custom 5.1 surround sound system with 10-inch subwoofer
    • One (1) AV controller with dual HDMI inputs, built-in progressive-scan DVD player with 1080p upconversion and AM/FM tuner.
    • One (1) pre-programmed remote control with LCD display.
    • All mounting brackets, cables and wire management tracks.

    It’s Easy, Fast, Cool and Included

    Technically, I suppose you actually are doing your homework by reading this article, but now you’re pretty much done. If you have been waiting to purchase till you had all the info you need for a killer Home Theater, your work is done here.

    We Have Video!

    Take a sneek peek into our Epson Ensemble HD home theater system training. You can watch our complete, slightly edited for time, Ensemble HD training session with Epson’s National Training Manager. The video includes an overview of each of the ‘pieces parts’ included in the system. Give your self a half hour to watch the complete video. It is available on YouTube (in 3 segments) and Vimeo.

    Watch our Epson Ensemble HD Home Theater system training Video

    Have you ever dreamed of becoming a Projector Expert? Of course you have! And now you can. Sit back and watch 20 some minutes and learn all there is to know about the new Epson HD projector packages. Watch and learn below.

    Epson Training Session : Epson Ensemble HD Home Cinema Systems June 2009 from Projector People on Vimeo.

    New Epson Projector Rebates!

    Epson Instant Coupons and Rebates

    Projector People is now offering exclusive rebate savings on select Epson PowerLite business projectors. Also, Epson Home Cinema and education rebates have been extended into July!

    Epson PowerLite Business Projector Rebates

    The following Epson projectors have Projector People exclusive rebates from 06/10/09 – 07/10/09. Take advantage of these special reduced price offers while they last!

    These Projector People exclusive rebates above are valid from 06/10/09 – 07/10/09

    Epson Home Cinema Projector Rebates

    Epson Home Theater projector manufacturer rebates have been extended. As has our exclusive offer on the Epson Home Cinema 6500 UB – get a 25 foot HDMI 1.3 cable, and universal projector ceiling mount through 7/15/2009.

    See all Epson projectors and details on all available rebates and promotions on our Epson Projectors list page:

    As always, you can call a Projector Expert between the hours of 8:00am and 8:00pm Monday – Friday for advice on which projector is best for you, for package pricing, and any of your projector related questions.

    1080p Home Theater Projector Shootout in Video


    We have already blogged about our 1080p projector shootout and showed some of the photos from the day. Now we are ready with the corresponding video. The video is located on YouTube (and embedded below) and on Vimeo. The Vimeo video may be a little higher quality.

    As we already discussed in our blog post a couple weeks ago, each of our six projectors displayed good video. Unlike shootouts three years ago or so, all of the projectors we demoed are bright enough, have good color, and display video with limited artifacts. And all but one of our tested models were designed specifically for the home theater market. We threw in the Optoma TX1080 because it’s a good crossover option for those who want a widescreen business projector that does good video.

    So, without further ado, please feel free to check out the video. It’s not fancy, by any stretch, but it does give you a chance to see the models side-by-side. Below are some of the things that the camera may not show exactly as we saw them.

    What the Camera Couldn’t See

    We wanted to film all five (technically six) projectors at once, playing the same content, since that is one of the most frequent requests. But like with any comparison like this – there are some limitations to our professional video camera. that means some of the most noticeable differences between the units we saw in person are not apparent in the images you see.

    Black Levels

    The black levels were far superior on the Epson Home Cinema 6500 UB, the Sanyo PLV-Z3000, and the Panasonic PT-AE3000U – with the overall ‘blackest blacks” nod going to Epson. The Sanyo PLV-Z700 showed the worst blacks in our test with out of the box settings.

    120hz Superiority

    The projectors with 120hz processing (again the Epson Home Cinema 6500 UB, the Sanyo PLV-Z3000, and the Panasonic PT-AE3000U) looked incredible in person. They look good in the video, but even in scenes with just a little movement – like people walking through the metro station – the difference was remarkable and obvious. We hope to get some HD video that can capture the difference soon.


    The camera tends to adjust for brightness, finding a happy medium that makes all the images look their best. The good news here is that there was not much to report. All of the projectors looked about the same in terms of brightness although there are a few hundred lumens difference between some of them. In fairness to the brighter projectors, the images were relatively small since we had to get them all on the wall. If we made the images bigger, the brightness difference would have likely been more apparent.

    Help Us Help You!

    This is our first attempt at a shootout video, and we are still learning how to best provide you with the most useful content. One lesson we learned this time is that we need to use an HD camera. Yes, it does seem like the obvious choice. Yes we will do it next time. However, even with an HD camera we still have limited bandwidth on sites like YouTube and Vimeo. So, I think next time we will offer a higher resolution HD video feed for you to download at your leisure. We have also had requests to do some reviews with calibration settings. We are still considering this. Please feel free to share your thoughts and ideas! You can do so by replying to the newsletter email, or send your thoughts to webmaster@projectorpeople.com

    Vimeo Version

    1080p Projector Shootout : Sanyo, Panasonic, Epson from Projector People on Vimeo.

    [ some artifacts are visible from the Vimeo compression. Click here for larger version.

    YouTube Version

    Quick Reference Video Log

    Projector order in video : Sanyo PLV-Z700, Sanyo PLV-Z3000, Panasonic PT-AE3000U, Epson Home Cinema 6500 UB, Epson Home Cinema 6100, and Optoma TX1080.

    • 0:00 – 3:05
      Product introductions. Our product manager mentions ‘black bars’ visible in person, but do not show up on the camera. Example of DLP “flicker” at 02:12 – 02:28 is visible on camera, but not visible to the naked eye for most viewers.
    • 03:06 – 04:11
      Discussion of black levels in each product (sales person obscures view of the Sanyo PLV-Z3000)
    • 04:12 – 04:59
      Example of 2X zoom on the Panasonic PT-AE3000U.
    • 05:01 – 06:15
      Lights on brightness check and brightness discussion.
    • 06:16 – 6:55
      Brief discussion of 120hz. Unfortunately the differences are not very visible here.
    • 07:00 – 07:37
      Color contrast mentioned
    • 07:42 – 8:30
      Nice action comparison. 120 hz mentioned again.
    • 08:33 – 08:55
      Close up of 120hz projector (Epson Home Cinema 6500 UB). You may notice the improved quality. In person, this image looked almost 3-D.
    • 09:00 – 10:00
      Final round up.

    1080p Home Theater Projector Shootout


    We finally got a chance to do a shootout with our best selling 1080p projectors, including one we had yet to see in person, the Sanyo PLV-Z3000. The shootout was also filmed, and we will have that video for you soon available now. But, as a preview, we thought we’d also post some of the photos we took to get your gears greased.

    Here are the products we included in the shootout :

    Note : These are all 1080p native projectors. Brightness and contrast differ, and only three of them have the 120Hz processor (the Epson HC 6500 UB, Panasonic PT-AE3000U, and the Sanyo PLV-Z3000). Check our projector comparison charts for head-to-head details of projector specs.

    Big Dif?

    While each of the images below may appear to favor one projector over another, in the actual shootout there was a consensus that there wasn’t a ‘bad’ projector in the bunch. Some – like the Epson 6500UB – had really nice black levels. Other projectors excelled in their processing ability. Still others featured particularly dynamic colors. Below we have some images and some of my personal commentary on what I saw. Others in the demo may have seen differently. I will share any of the other commentary I heard in my notes below the images.

    1080p Projector Shootout

    One of the limitations of this shootout is the image size. In order to fit them all on our wall at once, we kept the image a little smaller than most aim for in their home theater. We used 2 different HDMI distribution amplifiers to create our image, since our 1:8 HDMI couldn’t power all five on the main wall. We used one BluRay player showing the BluRay version of the movie Fifth Element. We used out-of-the-box settings for each projector, since few customers report taking the time to calibrate their image.

    Comparing the (left to right) Sanyo PLV-Z700, Sanyo PLV-Z3000, Panasonic PT-AE3000U, Epson Home Cinema 6500 UB, and Epson Home Cinema 6100.


    [ click image for higher res photo on our Flickr page ]

    The Sanyo PLV-Z700 (far left) and the Epson Home Cinema 6100 (far right) have lower contrast ratios than the three center home theater projectors. Notice how visible the “black bars” above and below the images are as a guide to determining the projectors ability to produce deep, rich blacks and colors.


    [ click image for higher res photo on our Flickr page ]

    The three center projectors all feature 120Hz rates. The Panasonic PT-AE3000U, Epson Home Cinema 6500 UB, and the Sanyo PLV-Z3000 absolutely blew away the lower priced projectors in high action scenes. Even in scenes with people walking in the movie Fifth Element the image looked almost 3-D on the center three projectors. The image was truly beautiful. Personally I never would have thought it made such a big difference, but after seeing them head-to-head, I am converted. Hopefully this will be visible on the video – which is coming soon.

    Comparing the (left to right) Sanyo PLV-Z700, Sanyo PLV-Z3000, Panasonic PT-AE3000U, Epson Home Cinema 6500 UB, and Epson Home Cinema 6100.


    [ click image for higher res photo on our Flickr page ]

    A good color comparison shot. All the projectors were set up using out of the box settings. There is still plenty of tweaking that could be done to improve color. But in our out of the box shootout there were some who preferred the color of the Sanyo, some the Panasonic, and some Epson. Viewers also sometimes reported liking the color better in one scene on one projector, and another on a different model. Personally, the color on the Sanyo PLV-Z3000 looks good to me in this photo, but in other scenes both the Panasonic and Epson shined.


    [ click image for higher res photo on our Flickr page ]

    Here’s another good shot for color comparison. I like the Epson 6500 (second from right) in this image, but all of them look good. Other viewers liked the Panasonic AE3000. The two end projectors (Sanyo PLV-700 -left and Epson HC 6100 – right) both produced very good color too, even though they are a few hundred dollars less.


    [ click image for higher res photo on our Flickr page ]

    With the lights on, they all look about the same. In fairness to the brighter models, however, these are fairly small images. If we blew up the image a few feet there would probably be a greater difference. In a dark room, the difference wouldn’t be particularly noticable.

    Shootout, Round Up

    So, in conclusion, all the projectors looked very good. If you bought one of them without seeing another directly next to it, the vast majority of viewers would be completely happy with the image on any of these models. However, if you are picky about your video, then you should invest in one of the 120Hz products. The difference is very noticeable in side by side comparison, and although you may not realize what’s making it happen, the image is going to look much crisper, and nearly three dimensional. It’s worth the extra cash if you have it.

    [ see more images at Flickr ]

    Video of our Shootout Now Online!

    There are some artifacts are visible from the Vimeo embedding compression. But you can Click here for larger/less compressed version.

    1080p Projector Shootout : Sanyo, Panasonic, Epson from Projector People on Vimeo.

    [ some artifacts are visible from the Vimeo compression. Click here for larger version.