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.

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[ 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.

Sanyo Doubles PLV-Z3000 Rebate thru End of March!

Sanyo PLV-Z3000 rebate

Sanyo has just announced that its formerly $200 rebate will be a $400 – at least until the end of March.

What does that mean to the 1080p home theater projector shopper? It means there is now a slight price advantage for the PLV-Z3000 over it’s chief competitors (Panasonic PT-AE3000U and Epson Home Cinema 6500 UB). The Sanyo produces a very good 65000:1 contrast ratio and is solid on features. Compare prices and specs below. Click links to compare complete specs.

Best Selling 1080p Home Theater Projectors

Other low priced 1080p options.

Here are a couple of the lowest priced 1080p home theater projectors out there. Contrast is typically lower, and features are left off to keep the price down on these entry level deals.

[ see full list of 1080p Home Theater Projectors ]

You see what happened was…

You will notice that rather than one simple $400 rebate, Sanyo has two separate $200 rebates running. This is (as Art at Projector Reviews pontificates) probably for legal reasons. The original $200 rebate doesn’t officially end until the end of April, so rather than cancel the existing rebate, they sweetened the deal by just adding on another $200. Otherwise there would be sure to be those who would try and ‘double dip.’ Understandably.

Frame Interpolation : Is it an Issue?

Our friends at Projector Central have recently posted a great article about “Frame Interpolation.” This has been the topic on some of the larger AV Fourm sites (like AVSForum.com) and has also been mentioned by some of our customers. We had intended to post about the issue, but Projector Central beat us to the punch. They have a very informed and complete report on the issue, so I am going to link to them and follow up with your report later. Here are some excerpts.

In the past four months we’ve seen several new 1080p projectors released with a feature known generically as frame interpolation. The new Epson 7500UB and 6500UB have it, as does the Sanyo Z3000 and the Panasonic AE3000. Epson calls it FineFrame, Sanyo calls it Smooth Motion, and Panasonic calls it Frame Creation. But it is all the same concept: the projector evaluates the differences between individual frames of film or video, and creates interim frames to be inserted between the real frames in the source. The objective is to reduce motion judder and provide a cleaner, more artifact-free viewing of film and video material. Two complaints have been circulating about frame interpolation technology. One is that it can make a movie look more like digital video, something which people are calling, somewhat derisively, the Soap Opera effect. In essence, the complaint is that it makes a film, which has a slightly surreal and sensual quality, look like a CNN Situation Room HD broadcast, which by comparison is hard, cold, clear, and real (sometimes disturbingly real). When James Bond begins to look like Wolf Blitzer, you know you have a problem. The second complaint is that, while frame interpolation can reduce or eliminate much of the film judder we see in movies, it sometimes introduces other artifacts which may be just as problematic. For example, instead of the judder, we may see some ghosting as subjects move across the screen, or some unnatural disintegration of the picture during momentary fast pans of the camera. These complaints are well-founded. Some frame interpolation systems do indeed produce these undesirable side effects. But if it is done well, the picture can be virtually free of artifacts while it retains that mystical film quality. Ideally, what you will see is a clean, stable, but still filmlike image that many will find irresistibly engaging.
When to Use Frame Interpolation

… Among the 1080p projectors that have frame interpolation, the Epson 6500 UB produce a more obvious digital video effect than do either the Panasonic AE3000 or the Sanyo Z3000. Thus, we would not use the 6500 UB’s frame interpolation when viewing regular movies. However, this does not mean that it has no application. For example, if you happen to be a fan of animated films, the digital video effect is irrelevant. The Pixar movie Cars has a reasonable amount of judder and flicker when played at 1080p/24. But when you engage the frame interpolation system on the Epson 6500UB, it has nothing but a beneficial effect on the image. … If you watch a lot of sports in HD on channels broadcasting in 1080i, you may find frame interpolation particularly attractive. For whatever soap opera effects are present in the video system you have, they are irrelevant in sports – you want that maximum reality effect. Of course, Fox Sports, ESPN, and ABC all broadcast in 60p format, so frame interpolation is not needed. But with sports broadcasts in 1080i, it can help.

So as Projector Central sees it, use the Frame Interpolation when watching sports broadcast in 1080i, animated digital films, HD music concerts, but not when watching some regular films – though the degree of video noise can vary by title. There is dissent in the user comments, but then there’s always dissent in the comments! So to read the entire article click here. Its a slightly longer, but easy read.

Art over at Projector Reviews mentioned this in his Epson 6500UB review :

As mentioned above, I consider frame interpolation to be a secondary feature, far less important overall, than black levels, brightness, sharpness, and color accuracy. Most of us never missed it, and, so far, the Epson UBs are part of a very short list of projectors that do support 96 and 120 fps interpolation. In a perfect world, Epson will solve this, and come up with a firmware fix. If they do so, excellent, but even with these issues, my enthusiasm for this projector remains strong.

He also explains with a bit more details what is actually happening with each of the frame modes on the Epson 6500UB. You can read the entire review here. The afformentioned bit is just a few paragraphs up from the bottom of the page above and below the football image.

So that’s a broad overview of the Frame Interpolation for you. We will keep you posted on the issue as the information comes out.