High End 1080p Home Theater Projectors Compared

As you wish, readers! That’s our motto!

We have had many requests to see the Epson Home Cinema 8500 UB and the Panasonic PT-AE4000U head-to-head, so we’ve put together a video comparison just for you! We are also including a lesser known (perhaps ‘underdog’) DLP projector; the Vivitek H5080 to the shootout.

So, let’s start with the video (view it here or below). Then we will move on to some additional analysis of what we saw in our shootout.


Video Timeline Breakdown : Hammer Time


  • 0:00 – 0:21 – Introduction to yellow shirt
  • 0:22 – 0:40 – Epson Home Cinema 8500 UB overview
  • 0:45 – 1:00 – Vivitek H5080 overview
  • 1:00 – 1:20 – Panasonic PT-AE4000U overview
  • 1:20 – 2:00 – Three projectors compared for color in default dynamic range
  • 2:05 – 3:15 – Lens shift and zoom capability, and additional features on Panasonic PT-AE4000U
  • 3:15 – 3:40 – Close up video from the Panasonic PT-AE4000U
  • 3:40 – 5:30 – Lens shift and zoom capability on the Vivitek H5080
  • 5:30 – 6:00 – Close up video from the Vivitek H5080
  • 6:00 – 6:40 – Lens shift and zoom capability and features on the Epson Home Cinema 8500 UB
  • 7:00 – 7:25 – Close up video from the Epson Home Cinema 8500 UB

High End 1080p Projectors : Pros and Cons

As you can see, Rodney looks ravishing in yellow! And he’s given a nice rundown on the primary differences between the three projectors. Feel free to share your own opinions below, and here is a cheat sheet for shoppers of pros and cons between the three 1080p projectors.

Epson Home Cinema 8500 UB projector review

Epson Home Cinema 8500 UB

Pros: 2-year warranty with no specified hour limitation*, 120hz, THX color mode, (best in class) 200:000:1 contrast ratio, broader zoom range than Panasonic AE4000 and H5080

Cons: Manual (but not cumbersome) lens shift and zoom, x2 HDMI inputs (versus x3) , mid range MAP price at $2499 ($200 rebate may apply. See here for latest promotions and best price.)

* There is no specified limit to the number of hours you can use the Epson Home Cinema 8500 UB within the 2-year warranty period. This won’t be an issue for most users, but to those who use the projector over 2000 hours in the first year or two, it can provide some peace of mind. The Panasonic AE4000 has a 1 year warranty standard, with an additional year of warranty with mail in rebate. Both the AE4000U and the 8500 UB have a 90-day lamp warranty. Vivitek offers just 30 days on the lamp and 1 year on the projector.

Vivitek H5080 projector review

Vivitek H5080

Pros: Two (2) optional lenses available for short or long throw if needed, DLP technology (a plus for some buyers) with lens shift (not common on a DLP projector), very good color out of the box.

Cons: 60hz, 25000:1 contrast (lower than AE4000U and HC 8500 UB), limited lens shift and zoom, cumbersome lens shift controls, highest MAP price at $2999.

Panasonic PT-AE4000U projector review

Panasonic PT-AE4000U

Pros: Power zoom, lens shift, and focus, very good zoom and lens shift range, preset for recognizing aspect ratios (video from AVForums explains feature here), 100,000:1 very good contrast ratio, lowest MAP price at $1999.

Cons: Slightly red color space out of the box (possibly due to red rich lamp technology), warranty limited to just 2000 hours of use.

[ For a complete comparison chart of specs, click here ]

Projector Shootout : In Person Opinions

During the shootout, our Projector Experts shared their opinions about the three head-to-head. We were given a demo Vivitek H5080 projector that several took home – out of the goodness of their hearts – to review. The H5080 won over over most all of those who took it home. One or two even reported that it was among the best DLP home theater projector they have seen to date.

In our shootout, the Vivitek H5080 got the most positive reviews of the three for color representation with out of box settings. The H5080 was also lauded for its 120hz-like clarity, even though it’s a 60hz unit. There were others who gave the Epson Home Cinema 8500 UB the nod (including myself) for color. Color wise, most felt the Panasonic PT-AE4000U was pushing red (possibly because of the ‘red rich’ lamp technology). Whatever the out of the box settings were, all three are fine tuneable, including a “THX” mode on the Epson Home Cinema 8500 UB and a bunch of tweak-friendly features on the Panasonic PT-AE4000U.

As for features, the Panasonic PT-AE4000U, has all the right moves. Power zoom and lens shift are nice features to have (even though some may only use them once) and the menu includes lots of tools for tweakers. It also featured the widest lens shift range, though it appeared to be second to the Epson HC 8500 UB on the zoom range. The THX setting also looks nice on the Epson 8500 UB, and will be a plus for some buyers. If you have a very short or very long room, the Vivitek is one of the only home theater projectors in this price range that offers optional lenses.

Panasonic PT-AE4000U, Epson Home Cinema 8500 UB, and Vivitek H5080: All Good

The short story, as it usually is, the that the average home theater buyer would be happy with the picture quality of any of the three high end home theater projectors we included above. The decision for most buyers will probably come down to the more technical elements like throw distance, and desired features like 60hz or 120hz frame rate, number of HDMI inputs, or a coolness factor like power zoom and lens shift. And for those who are flexible about features, at least you have this low rez youtube video to help you choose! No problem. You are welcome!

Projector Showroom Updates Coming Soon!

We will soon be adding the Epson Home Cinema 8500 UB, BenQ W1000, and the Optoma HD20 to our HomeTheaterPeople.com showroom. Also the new brand new LG Electronics CF181D has just been added to our site as well as the showroom.

1080p Home Theater Projector Shootout in Video

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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.

Brightness

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

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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.

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[ 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.

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[ 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.

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[ 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.

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[ 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.

P1050013

[ 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.