This was a common response from good friends of mine who were reacting to my statement “I sold my projector”. I suppose that the reaction would have been different and I said “I’m buying a new projector”, but I wasn’t.. until now.
In my Ampro Resource blog, I documented my 2nd CRT projector (my 1st being an Electrohome ECP 4100). Back in 2003 I had the upgrade bug and went from the 7″ air coupled ECP to the 9″ liquid coupled Ampro.
Early in 2005, I was finally getting to the final stages of finishing our basement – and was about to become a Dad. The idea of hoisting the 165lb Ampro onto the ceiling and the general care and maintenance of the CRT projector seemed like it was going to be more work than I was willing to put into the hobby. At the time, the Panasonic AE700 was my ‘choice’ projector. I narrowly avoided buying one, only dissuaded after seeing one in sub-optimal conditions at a local store. For the price, the image quality was far below what I had with my non-tweaked CRT.
At the end of 2007, the upgrade bug was back. I have less and less time to tinker with home theater stuff and 1080p projectors have dipped to the sub $3k price point.
Short version of the story: I’ve placed my order for the brand new Epson 1080UB – and am now playing the waiting game. Oh yeah, and the reason I sold my CRT before buying a new one – was to make sure I couldn’t back out at the last minute.. again.
Details on my buying decision etc, follow..
I have a bias against (single chip) DLP projectors, the RBE is something I can see – I’m not terribly sensitive to it, but it would bother me. That said, a 6x colour wheel makes it pretty hard to see, so please don’t be insulted if you have a DLP. This leaves LCD, LCoS (SXRD) or 3Chip DLP as be reasonable choices. My price cut off for video is $3k – so until very recently the only choice was LCD. As of early 2008, there will be some LCoS in this price range too. One day, 3Chip DLP will be cheap, today now its $10k+
Buying used was something I considered as well, but while the prices are lower on used gear – the technology is improving faster than the used prices are dropping. I did inquire about a Sony VW50 locally, but the price was just a bit too high – I do remember reading the Greg Rogers review in WSR on the VW50 and thinking – that’s a projector I would consider..
The choices I considered were:
Sanyo Z2000 – The 1st 1080p projector from Sanyo, but having seen the Sanyo Z5 in action I was impressed. It wasn’t as good as my CRT, but the image was acceptable. The Z2000 is a step up in resolution (1080 vs. 720), slightly better black, slightly brighter. Neat-o feature being the dust cleaning access panel. This was also the lowest price of the ones I considered.
Panasonic AE2000 – 2nd generation 1080p, the AE1000 got a good review from WSR. Very colour accurate out of the box, claims of nearly 4000:1 native contrast ratio (more with dynamic iris). Smooth screen technology, meaning a more film like image. A few CRT folks have reviewed the AE2000 and while its not a CRT, they said good things about it. Downside – Canadians pay a $1000 premium on this over the US price, placing it firmly out of my ballpark.
Sony VW40 – Just under the $3k barrier, but only available at the end of January 2008. No reviews, but the specs look identical to the VW50, which had good reviews – but that was last year. This year the specs/performance of the new crop show what we we missing last year (the VW60 is out now and has been reviewed in WSR). This was tempting as LCoS has a very smooth look to it (high fill rate).
Epson 1080ub – 2nd generation 1080p projector from Epson. This is the brightest of the lot. The 1st generation (Epson 1080) generally got good reviews, and at the time was a ground breaking unit for price/performance. The new UB model uses the new C2 fine D7 panels (same as Z2000, and AE2000) – and there is a lot of hype out there about the UB black level. The Canadian price, was just a little better than the US price – nice to see.
As I pointed out earlier, in the end I picked the Epson 1080UB. The Z2000 was a strong contender, but it is mostly marketed at the plug&play crowd – the Epson has a stronger following of the uber-home-theater-geek it seems. The brighter image should allow me to mount the projector near the max telephoto distance, taking advantage of the higher contrast.
“With the exception of exceedingly expensive “constant aperture” zoom lenses, the variable f-number of a zoom lens significantly changes the brightness and contrast ratio as the throw ratio is changed. Brightness is maximized and the contrast ratio is minimized at the short throw end of the zoom range, and conversely brightness decreases and the contrast ratio increases toward the long throw end of the range.” – Greg Rogers
Having the projector mounted farther back, will also lower any fan noise as it will be farther away. As well, further back means shorter cable runs from my equipment rack.
Other factors for the Epson – While their warranty is 2 vs. 3 years for the Sanyo, the customer service reports for Epson are excellent – while Sanyo seems poor. Epson is the one manufacturing the D7 panels (Sony is the only other LCD microdisplay manufacturer). The Sanyo doesn’t seem to use any internal filters, whereas the Panasonic and Epson do – this means that the Sanyo has to rely on the LCD panel to correct the light from the bulb – likely reducing its overall contrast ability.
In the end, I’m taking a bit of a risk on the Epson – but I suspect I could have bought any of these 1080p capable projectors and come away pretty darn happy.