Holiday Guide to Business Projector Savings

[ This is a repost of our Projector People Post Business Newsletter Tech News from December 2009 ]

It’s time once again for our Holiday Projector Buyer’s Guide. Here we try and provide some general guidelines for finding the right projector, and we include some money saving tips along the way so you can be sure you are getting the best possible value for your dollar. We’ll start with some tips on business projectors, crossover projectors, and we’ll also preview our home theater guide. And as an added bonus, we will include links to parts of our website where you can find rebates, promotions, discounts, and such. Alright. Let’s get jingling!

Projector People : Savings Places

Before we get into our technical guide, here are a few pages that might lead to savings for you. Our demo projector inventory (usually very limited use projectors), rebates and promotions, Deal of the Day, and other specials we may featured are linked below.

Alright, now that you know where to find deals, let’s talk about how to find the right projector. Projectors for business are smaller, faster (to start up and shut down), brighter, smarter, and cheaper than ever before. I know we say that ever year, but it’s still true. And hopefully it always will be. So, let’s get you up to date on what you can expect in performance and price from a business projector today.

Projector Brightness : More Lumens for You!

2500 lumens seems to be the new benchmark for entry level business projectors. Home theater projectors make up the majority of projectors under 2000 lumens. This is good news for small business buyers because it means just about any projector (no matter how cheap) will get the job done in a small room without outside light. The room may lack the cheer of sunlight, but your $399 projector will look nice and bright in that space. One notable exception would be the new pocket projectors which are drastically dimmer in the 10 to 100 lumen range

Recommended Brightness by Room Size
Room Size Minimum Lumens Suggested Price Range Estimates
Multiple Locations (portable) 3000 lumens $799-$1499
Small Conference Room 2000 lumens $499-$1299
Large Conference Room 3500 lumens $1999 – $4999
Auditorium / Classroom 4500 lumens $2499 – and up

SAVINGS TIP : Features like wireless, networking, and higher (particularly HD) resolution will add to the cost of your projector. If you don’t need ’em, don’t pay for ’em. How do you know if you need ’em or not? Ask the questions… do you have an HD source to watch HD video? Do you have a wireless compatible laptop? Do you have a network in your office? I know, simple stuff, but skipping features is your best way to save money on a projector. But then, features like lens shift, auto-keystone correction, economy modes, and others may be extras you don’t want to live without. You’ll have to determine your budget and needs, but know that there are lower-priced projectors that lack some features you might be able to live without.

Projector Resolution : Sources, Sources, Sources

The key to selecting a projector resolution is to know your source. Like any good reporter, you should investigate the who, what, where, why, when, and how you will use your projector. If your business uses primarily VHS videos (because that old training video is still on a VHS tape) then resolution is not going to be an issue. Go as cheap as possible and save some cash. But if you are viewing detailed spreadsheets or drawings from a computer, you’ll need to invest in a higher resolution. And, if you take your projectors home for the weekend and watch on your Blu-ray player, then it’s time to consider switch to an HD widescreen resolution. If you want to do all of the above and more, HD is probably still the way to go, but call a Projector Expert for some good advice.

Resolution and Recommended Usage
Resolution Recommended Usage
SVGA Only for use with older sources such as VCRs, older computers, etc.
XGA A better choice for 4:3 sources such as NTSC DVD players, many laptop computers.
WXGA Best for widescreen laptops
SXGA+ Best for applications that require high-detail
HD Best for applications with video as primary viewing
3D Best for schools, architects, engineers with that particular need. (3D is a feature on some new DLP projectors)

SAVINGS TIP : An SVGA projector might cost a hundred bucks less in the short run, but as technology progresses it may not be supported by newer sources (computers, etc.). If you have 4:3 sources, investing in XGA will be more “future-proof.”

Connectivity
Connection Type Good to Have Because
Dual VGA / component flexibility. Most common connection type.
HDMI Playing video. Common on newer video sources – DVD players, etc.
S-Video A back-up for older video sources. Particularly useful in school settings.

SAVINGS TIP : If you plan to sneak the projector home on weekends for some movies and gaming, an HDMI connection is a plus. However, a dual component / VGA connection will do the trick if your source (receiver, gaming system, DVD player) has component video out.

So there you have just a few of the basics of business projection. Still have questions? Call a Projector Expert for more advice and information.

Cross Over Projectors

A couple years ago there were business projectors that touted their ‘work and play’ capability. You’d hear the call to “Take this projector home on the weekends!” But more recently, there are also home theater projectors that are promoting their versatility in work environments. This usually means that they have added a VGA input, and that they are a bit more portable than other home theater projectors. Either way, if a projector has both a computer (VGA) input and an HDMI connection, you’ve probably got a projector falls into the cross over category. If you aren’t picky about specific home theater features, or having a perfect image, and you want a versatile projector, one of these might be a good choice for you.

Home Theater Projector Guide

This has been a breakthrough year for low prices in home theater projection. We have broken two barriers. Entry level true HD 1080p home theater for $999 and high-end home theater for as low as $1999. That’s good news for buyers that have been watching and waiting for lower prices.

But since the price gap has narrowed between categories, there are still questions about the “real” difference between entry level, mid-level, and high-end projection. Of course there are always questions about which projector is the best in each category. So, we will be providing you with the short answers to these questions this week, and following up on our blog next week with further detailed analysis. We’d love to do it sooner, but as of this week, we still don’t have all the contending products in stock to offer further review.

So, to start, let’s break up some of the more popular models into their respective categories. This is pretty well covered territory on our blog, but in case you haven’t been following, we’ll go through it again.

Entry Level Home Theater

Mid Level Home Theater

High End Home Theater

So, that’s the category break down for our most popular models this home theater holiday season. We’ll offer a more comprehensive breakdown next week, but for now you can use our handy Projector Comparison Tool to check them out spec for spec. We also have a couple comparison’s of these products already published on our blog. Here, here, and here.

Video of Home Theater Projectors

If you’d rather just see it for yourself, we’ve some video of some of our most popular in action. We have recently added the Panasonic PT-AE4000U, BenQ W6000, and Vivitek H1080FD to our Home Theater Showroom. We’ve also taken some video of the Vivitek H1080FD, Panasonic PT-AE4000U (low quality), and Optoma HD20. We will be adding more as soon as we have a chance to do some head-to-head shootouts.

Whew! That’s going to do it for this week, but check back our blog next week for our home theater guide and more information. And if we don’t see you before, have yourself a Happy Holiday and a Wonderous New Year!



New 1080p Home Theater Projectors Compared : Featuring Panasonic PT-AE4000U and Epson Home Cinema 8500 UB

Panasonic PT-AE4000U

What’s the latest in 1080p HD home theater projectors? The biggest news to date has been the introduction of the $999 true HD home theater projectors. But recently big players like Epson and Panasonic have announced new, upgraded products coming out soon. The new products have higher-than-ever contrast ratios, some improvements on cool features, and very aggressive pricing.

New $999 Entry Level Projectors

We have already done some comparison of new entry level $999 1080p projectors (here and here). We haven’t had a chance to put together any hands on comparison of the projectors because there is limited availability on most of the popular models. We have had some inventory of the Optoma HD20 projector recently, but they sell very quickly. The Vivitek H1080FD and BenQ W1000 models have not come into stock yet, so we have only seen the pre-production models in person as of the date of this story. So, for now, let’s focus on the more recent news from the higher-end of the home theater projector spectrum.

New Higher End Home Theater Projectors

To start, we will compare the initial specifications of what we think will be the most popular new high end 1080p projectors; the BenQ W6000, Panasonic PT-AE4000U and Epson Home Cinema 8500 UB. I say initial specifications because there are sometimes technical tweaks made before their final releases and those changes can alter the specifications. So, here’s a chart of the initial specs for what we suspect will be the big players in high end home theater.

Comparison Chart : New 1080p Home Theater Projectors

Projector Panasonic PT-AE4000U Epson Home Cinema 8500UB BenQ W6000
Resolution 1920 x 1080 1920 x 1080 1920 x 1080
Panel/Chip 3LCD D7 3LCD D7 DLP
Brightness 1600 lumens 1600 lumens 2500 lumens
Contrast 100000:1 200000:1 50000:1
HDMI Inputs 3 2 2
120 Hz Yes Yes No
Lens Powered zoom (2x)/Powered focus Optical zoom 2.1:1 1.5:1 Manual Zoom, Manual Focus
Lens shift H 40% & V 100%, manual H 47% & V 96%, manual Manual Lens Shift (see here)
Noise 22 dB (economy mode) 22 dB (economy mode) 32 dB
Warranty 1 yr. pj, 90-days lamp (2 yr. after rebate if applicable) 2 yr. pj, 90-days lamp 1 yr. pj, 90-days lamp
Street Price $1,999 MAP $2999 MSRP $2,799 MSRP
Expected Release Dates Late October Late October/Early November Available now  
Full specs Panasonic PT-AE4000U full specs Coming Soon BenQ W6000 full specs

As you can see, much like last year (and the year before that) we are seeing dramatically higher contrast ratios, lower introductory prices, and more high performance features.

Lower Projector Prices: More Hollar for Your Dollar

Every year we write a sentence like this; “Last year you would have paid $$$ for a projector of this quality,” and this year is no different. The Panasonic PT-AE3000U and Epson Home Cinema 6500 UB came in at an aggressive (at the time) $2999 price point last year. This year, you’ll pay $1000 less than last year for a projector with higher contrast, better video processing, and some cool new features.

However, with this aggressive introductory pricing, we don’t expect to see these prices dropping again anytime soon. The fact that these came in this cheaply initially is probably due in part to pressure from the release of the $999 1080p DLP projectors.

Contrast Ratios: Say “Hello” to Six Figure Contrast Ratios

How is a 60,000:1 contrast ratio different from a 100,000:1 contrast ratio? Not quite as dramatic as it sounds, but there is a visible (palatable) difference in the picture quality. A higher contrast image actually feels crisper than a lower contrast image. But in reality, both a 60,000:1 and 100,000:1 contrast ratios look very good. In three years we will compare the new 1,000,000:1 projector the 100,000:1 projector and see how dramatic the difference is.

For now, these high contrast ratios really separate the business “crossover” projectors from true home theater models. Unless you are a serious videophile, or visually particular, you’d most likely be happy with anything over 10,000:1 contrast in your home theater.

New Features: Panasonic PT-AE4000U

We’ve had the introduction from Panasonic on their new product, so we are more familiar with the new features of the PT-AE4000U than the new Epson’s. So we should have more information on the new Epson features coming soon.

Projector Central did a comprehensive review of all the new features on the PT-AE4000U (read here). We also took some video of our tech session with Panasonic and are including it below. Two interesting new features for videophiles are the automatic lens memory and new video adjustments.

[

Panasonic PT-AE4000U : A Technical Introduction from Projector People on Vimeo.

This was recorded with a mini HD camera and without a tripod. There are shaky bits throughout. To save yourself time, click here for a breakdown of content by minute for this video.

The Unsung Midrange 1080p Projectors

Mitsubishi HC3800 projector

While the new high-end projectors attract most of the press these days, there are also some interesting options available in the ‘mid-range.’ What keeps us from calling these high-end projectors? Essentially its lower contrast ratios, less advanced video processing (like no 120hz), and some missing features. So if you don’t have the funds for a $2k projector, but you want a little more than the $1k projectors have to offer, a mid-range projector might just have all you need and will save you a little cash.

Two new mid-range projectors coming soon are the Epson Home Cinema 8100 and the Mitsubishi HC3800. The HC3800 is getting rave reviews from Projector Reviews and Projector Central. And though we have yet to see the Epson Home Cinema 8100 in action, it’s likely to benefit from Epson’s technological strides in home theater and be a very nice low price alternative in 1080p. It’s also 3LCD which is preferred by some buyers – and most of the other low cost alternatives utilize DLP technology.

What’s Left in 720p Projectors?

Panasonic PT-AX200U projector

Not a heck of a lot. And the price points are not really dropping because there just isn’t any more room to do so. Our Panasonic PT-AX200U started out at $999 when it was introduced, and has stayed consistently around that price. With features like lens shift and unique gaming mode – if it remains in production – it’s still a great projector. Its brightness and native 720p (much of broadcast HD’s native resolution) make it a great match for the football season and sports all year round. And it’s a great projector for gaming too. Epson also has a new “karaoke” projector in their MovieMate line with built-in DVD and speakers with native 720p resolution. Also available in 720p is the underdog Sanyo PLV-Z60.

That’s All for Now, But More to Come!

That’s about all we have to cover today, but there will be more to come on the Epson Home Cinema projectors, and on the Panasonic PT-AE4000U as well. We will keep you posted on any more projector related news, as always.

Rich Reviews : New Optoma HD20 $999 1080p HD Projector

IMG_9594

Scene from Wall-E on the new Optoma HD20 projector.

One of our Projector Experts took the new Optoma HD20 home for a trial run. The setup was not fancy. Rich just used his existing home theater’s pulldown gray screen and played a few Blu Ray movies for the wife and kids. Below are a few photos he took to share with you and some thoughts from Rich on the performance of the new $999 HD projector.

Rich says :

I took home the HD20 last night for a test run. We watched the 5th Element on Blu-ray. Wow! This thing is crisp! Very Sharp. Colors look decent, flesh tones are nice. I found the Cinema setting with Graphic gamma setting the best black levels and color combination. With the lamp on econo mode it’s almost silent and the black levels improve.

IMG_9580

Good flesh tones on the Optoma HD20. You see freckles and subtle changes in skin color.

IMG_9582

More flesh tones. 🙂 But a nice rich black with some visible details on the neck.

IMG_9590

Red can sometimes be a problem for a DLP projector, but this is a natural red and pink. Also a lot of detail in color. BrilliantColor seems to work well on this projector.

Rich says :

The menu is very limited and I couldn’t find a way to save different presets. It’s not in the same league as the $2000-$3000 units. But for $999 it’s actually a great bang for the buck. Oh and you must get a Blu-ray player!

Optoma HD20 Quick Specs

Here are the manufacturer specifications for the HD20. It’s just the basics. Click here for more specs.

Optoma HD20 projector
  • Resolution: HD (1920 x 1080)
  • Display Type: DLP
  • Brightness: 1700 lumens
  • Contrast: 4000:1
  • Warranty: 1 year
  • Lamp Life: 3000 hours

The HD20 can produce an image of up to 300-inches and comes with a backlit IR remote control. It is one of the first true HD 1080p projectors to be released at a very aggressive $999 price point.

Want Your Own Optoma HD20?

You know we’ve got ’em. You can find more information about the new Optoma HD20 here, including the full specs, some pictures of the product, and manufacturers data sheet.

IMG_9596

Kung Fu Panda on the Optoma HD20

Rich Reviews : Epson Home Cinema 6100 Projector

Projector Expert Rich Morgan took home another HD projector for review (see his Sanyo PLV-Z700 review). Coincidentally, he reviewed the projector on the day of the Champs Sports Bowl Game. Rich also happens to be a fan of one of the teams involved in the game, but we won’t mention who, so that we do not alienate any of the National Championship Gator fans. Here are some pictures and comments from Rich and the Epson Home Cinema 6100 (sometimes called the Epson HC6100)

Epson Home Cinema 6100 projector

[ Photos from the “Band of Brothers” HBO Series now on Blu-Ray. ]

Rich says : “I would say at the new price point the Epson Home Cinema 6100 is in a class by itself. Better than the ‘budget units’ and close to the better ones.”
Epson Home Cinema 6100 projector

[ Photos from the “Band of Brothers” HBO Series now on Blu-Ray. ]

Epson Home Cinema 6100 projector

[ Photos from the “Band of Brothers” HBO Series now on Blu-Ray. ]

Rich says : “My biggest surprise is having a bright image at the same time as deep black levels. This is a great choice for outdoor movies… actually I used it outside for some of the FSU bowl game. Didn’t take any pictures… couldn’t hold my camera AND a (beverage).”

Ups

  • Sharp, bright picture (1800 lumens / 18000:1 contrast)
  • Price point very competitive
  • Accurate color with good flesh tones (even muted tones as in “Band of Brothers”)
  • 2-year warranty

Downs

  • Some visible video noise (not 120 hz)

Conclusions

For around $1,700 (after $200 rebates) the Epson Home Cinema 6100 outperforms cheaper projectors in the category. It falls between high performance and entry level pieces and is a good mid-range option for buyers who want a bright, new 1080p projector with good contrast at a lower price.

Panasonic PT-AE3000 Price Announced : A Shocking $2,499!

Panasonic PT-AE3000U

This morning Panasonic announced their new PT-AE3000U will be priced at just $2,499.

This is a bold and aggressive price point from Panasonic, particularly when you consider that their last home theater 1080p product was considered by many to be the best on the market for the last year. When you factor in the additional features like Lens Memory (makes your screen 2.35:1 CinemaScope with the touch of a button) and the improved 60,000:1 contrast ration (read more about the new features here) this is a remarkable price.

One AV blogger, Duncan Madden at AV Review UK said in his initial write up for the PT-AE3000; “Available this very November, Panny is hush hush about the price, but that flagship moniker should prepare you for the worst.” [complete post ]. And just a day ago we predicted a $3,499 MAP (minimum advertised price) with a lower street price and we said we would keep you updated.

So, as promised, here is your update : with the aggressive pricing coming directly from Panasonic you should expect street prices to stay close to the $2,499 price announced today. There may be dealer incentives as the holidays and Super Bowl draw closer, but dramatic price drops are unlikely in this writers opinion.

Why Go So Low?

Maybe it’s the tough economy. Maybe they are just continuing on their low price entry strategy they started last year when they released the AX200 at $1,299. Or possibly they are just trying to encourage the competition to think of joe-six-pack since its an election year. Whatever the reason, the $2499 MAP on the new PT-AE3000 is sure to be a temptation for shoppers who have been just waiting for the right time to buy a 1080p projector. And that Lens Memory feature is VERY cool.

What About the Panasonic PT-AE2000U

Expect the AE2000U projector to get a little cheaper. It still has an extra warranty and Blockbuster card associated with it that Panasonic has to honor till the end of the month. We did drop our price on it today (you’ll have to add it to cart or request a Quick Quote to see the better price) by a couple hundred bucks, so it’s a few hundred less than the new AE3000 and it will ship today (the AE3000 won’t ship until the end of October).

And what About the Panasonic PT-AX200?

Last year Panasonic blew the doors off the 720p market with their PT-AX200U projector (for home theater and video gaming) in part because if their aggressive price from the get-go of just $1,299. With features like lens shift, zoom, light harmonizer, great 1080p scaling, gaming mode and 2000 lumens of brightness, the AX200U should have been on any perspective buyer’s watch list, and it sold like hot cakes. The AX200 was among ProjectorPeople’s best sellers and should remain a rapid seller with its new $999 price point. Too bad you don’t get that Blockbuster card deal along with it anymore. Oh well, you’ll just have to keep the extra cash in your pocket.

That’s all for now! Come back again soon.