Home Theater Review

 

Video Projector Reviews

No high-end or dedicated home theater is complete without a high definition video projector. Video projectors are the only way to truly capture that big screen experience you get from going to the movies without leaving your home. There are many different types and styles of projectors ranging from the ultra affordable to well over six figures, with virtually every manufacturer offering some sort of product in each price category; companies such as Digital Projection, Epson, JVC, Sony and others. While DLP based designs may be popular in your local cinema, the home theater market boasts many different technologies from which to choose including, LCD, SXRD, D-ILA, DLP and even LED. Some newer projectors are even capable of displaying the latest 3D content available on Blu-ray 3D.

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Epson Home Cinema 2030 LCD Projector Reviewed

Epson Home Cinema 2030 LCD Projector Reviewed

By Adrienne Maxwell

Overall Rating
4 Stars
 

Just a few years ago, the introduction of a sub-$1,000 projector with a 1,920 x 1,080 resolution was major news, but now a quick perusal of a site like VisualApex.com reveals a number of full 1080p models at or close... Read More

 
Home Theater Review's Best of 2013 Awards

Home Theater Review's Best of 2013 Awards

By HomeTheaterReview.com

Overall Rating
0 Stars
 

It's that time of year again. The HomeTheaterReview.com staff has discussed all the products reviewed over the year and decided which ones rated the best. Check out our list of the best of 2013. Read More

 
Epson Home Cinema 5020UBe LCD Projector Reviewed

Epson Home Cinema 5020UBe LCD Projector Reviewed

By Adrienne Maxwell

Overall Rating
4 Stars
 

Epson continues to expand the company's Home Cinema line of projectors, with often impressive results. Adrienne Maxwell give the Home Cinema 5020Ube projector a try to see if it continues the streak. Read More

 
BenQ W1070 DLP Front Projector Reviewed

BenQ W1070 DLP Front Projector Reviewed

By Andrew Robinson

Overall Rating
4 Stars
 

BenQ has made a name for itself in recent years as a more affordable option for consumers' home theaters. Andrew Robinson puts the BenQ W1070 to the test to see what it can really offer the consumer. Read More

 
SIM2 Nero 3D-2 Single Chip DLP Projector Reviewed

SIM2 Nero 3D-2 Single Chip DLP Projector Reviewed

By Andrew Robinson

Overall Rating
4 Stars
 

HomeTheaterReview.com writer Andrew Robinson put the SIM2 Nero 3D-2 into his reference system to see what the DLP projector could. Turns out, the Nero 3D-2 can do quite a lot. Read More

 
Panamorph CineVista Anamorphic Lens Reviewed

Panamorph CineVista Anamorphic Lens Reviewed

By Andrew Robinson

Overall Rating
4 Stars
 

Most home theaters don't show off film content in its proper format. Panamorph offers a solution in the CineVista anamorphic lens. Andrew Robinson tests out the lens to see if it adds to the experience or takes away from it. Read More

 
BenQ W7000 DLP Projector Reviewed

BenQ W7000 DLP Projector Reviewed

By Adrienne Maxwell

Overall Rating
4.5 Stars
 

More and more the home theater is becoming a multi-purpose space for many enthusiasts. It was with that in mind that Adrienne Maxwell reviewed the BenQ W7000 projector. Read More

 
Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 8350 HD Projector Reviewed

Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 8350 HD Projector Reviewed

By Andrew Robinson

Overall Rating
4.5 Stars
 

A first-time projection enthusiast has a lot to digest to make a decision. But if Andrew Robinson's time with the Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 8350 projector is any indication, this projector may be a good fit for such a person. Read More

 
Epson Home Cinema 5020UBe 3D LCD Projector Reviewed

Epson Home Cinema 5020UBe 3D LCD Projector Reviewed

By Andrew Robinson

Overall Rating
4.5 Stars
 

While value oriented projectors are delivering better and better performance, that is not always the case. Andrew Robinson puts the Epson 5020UBe projector to the test to see what it is made of. Read More

 
Panasonic PT-AE8000U 3D HD Front Projector Reviewed

Panasonic PT-AE8000U 3D HD Front Projector Reviewed

By Andrew Robinson

Overall Rating
3 Stars
 

The Panasonic PT-AE8000U is part of the wave of affordable projectors coming to the market. Andrew Robinson puts the PT-AE8000U through its paces to see if it stacks up to its competition. Read More

 

Everything You Need To Know About front Projector HDTVs

1.0 Background

1.1 What is a front-projection video display (HDTV)?
1.2 Brief History of the front projector
• Oil Film Projectors
• CRT (Cathode Ray Tube)
• Kloss Nova Beam
• Early digital projectors
• Today's 1080p projectors
• 4k digital cinema
2.0 Technology

2.1 What is CRT?

2.2 What is DLP?
2.3 What is D-ILA?
2.4 What is SXRD?
2.5 What is LCD?
2.6 Multiple chip projectors vs. single chip designs
2.7 HDMI inputs and cables
2.8 Video Processing

2.8.1 In the projectors

2.8.2 External Processors
3.0 Installation

3.1 All about mounts, lifts, cooling
3.2 Throw distances
3.3 Light output (SMPT standards)
3.4 Keystone Distortion
4.0 Video Calibration

4.1 What is Video Calibration?

4.2 ISF
4.3 Why projectors don't look right straight out of the box
4.4 Calibrating for each source
5.0 Contrast Ratio

5.1 How all-on/all-off tests give 30:000:1 measurements

5.2 Why contrast ratio can't be the only measure of a good projector
6.0 Matching a Front Projection HDTV with a Screen

6.1 Gray screen materials
6.2 Matching light output of a projector to a screen
6.3 The importance of a dark room

7.0 Notable Front Projectors

7.1 Advent VideoBeam
7.2 Kloss Novabeam
7.3 Sony G90
7.4 Vidikron Vision One
7.5 Sony Ruby
7.6 Runco DTV 1200
7.7 Sony Qualia 004
7.8 JVC D-ILA 12000
7.9 Meridian 810 Reference Video System


1.0 Background

1.1 What is a front-projection video display (HDTV)?
A front-projection video display is an electronic device that converts electronic images encoded as video back into light, which is then projected and focused onto a separate screen located some distance away from the projector. Unlike film projectors, there are few moving parts (in most), and picture quality is determined by a much larger number of controllable adjustments found in both the consumer user controls and in factory service menus.

1.2 Brief History of the front projector
Oil Film Projectors: The Eidophor was a television projector designed to create theater-sized images, using electrostatic charges to deform an oil surface suspended on a floating, rotating glass disc. Dr. Fritz Fischer and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology conceived the idea in 1939 (in Zurich) and the first prototype was unveiled in 1943. It is best known for its larger screen appearance in Mission Control at NASA throughout the early part of the American Space Program (1968). The Taleria was the brand name of a large-venue video projector made by General Electric. A light valve, consisting of a rotating glass disc that was continuously coated with oil and modulated by light from a Xenon arc lamp, created the images sequentially. An electron beam, similar to the one in a cathode ray tube, traced a raster on the glass, deforming the surface of the oil. Where the oil was undisturbed, the light would reflect into a trap. Where the surface of the oil was deflected, the light from the xenon lamp would pass through the glass, to a lens and onto the screen, forming an enormous image.

CRT (Cathode Ray Tube): As early as 1972, Sony (Japan), as well as Advent Corporation (USA), released the first CRT projectors that featured three small (four-inch), high-brightness Cathode Ray Tubes. Similar to the workings of tubes used in a conventional TV of the time, a beam of electrons painted an image on the inside, phosphor-coated face of the tube, one each for the red, green, and blue channels required for color video. The image generated was focused and enlarged by a sequence of lenses onto a screen, similar to but smaller than those used in most commercial cinemas. High overall brightness (300 ANSI Lumens), large contrast ratio (1,000,000:1) and long tube life of 10,000 hours made this design capable of superior performance, while generally requiring a more sophisticated initial set-up and calibration than other technologies of the time.

Kloss Novabeam: Created by famed audio and video inventor Henry Kloss and based on his pioneering work on CRT projectors at Advent Corporation, beginning in 1972, this projector utilized a special variation of the CRT gun called a Schmidt-Cassegrain, which folded the necessary magnification optics into a mirror design at the very back of the tube. Considerably better light output could be achieved, with a considerable improvement in detail and color accuracy. It also was considerably less expensive to manufacture, making the Kloss Nova Beam the largest and most owned front projector during the early 1980s. A portable model, designed to project onto a white wall or sheet, was made available in 1982, featuring a computer monitor input, allowing for the first consumer VGA (640 x 480i) front-projection system for home or office.

Early Digital Projectors: The limitations of analog front-projection technology, which lasted until the last four years of the twentieth century, were eclipsed by American company Hughes joining JVC in 1996 to research alternative large-venue projection alternatives. Together, they created ILA = Imaging Light Amplifier (an analog reflective LCD system combined with an infrared CRT as the imaging device), capable of unheard of light output (>12,000 ANSI Lumens) and greater than HDTV resolution (2,000 x 1,200) - The JVC D-ILA-12K = c $250,000. But Texas Instruments' invention of the DMD (Digital Micro Mirror Device) created the now-familiar DLP (Digital Light Processor) projection engine at the same time. DLP uses millions of tiny pivoting mirrors to create an image. Beginning in 1999, DLP and LCOS (D-ILA and SXRD) would begin their long journey toward replacing analog projection systems in both movie theaters and private homes.

Today's 1080P projectors: Since the introduction of HDTV-compatible television sets by Zenith in the US (1996), many projectors have gotten by calling themselves "high-definition," while only offering either 720P (1,280 x 720P) or 1080i (1,920 x 1,080i) resolution, both of which are technical decimations of full HD = 1080P (1,920 x 1,080P). Higher resolutions require more processing power and this level and speed of data processing was prohibitively expensive until as recently as 2005. Most often, external scalers have been added to a projector package in order to more completely recreate the signal. In fact, even today (2008), only a fraction of the HDTV front-projection viewing public actually has seen what the format truly has to offer, although this will likely change shortly.

2.0 Technology

2.1 What is CRT?
A Cathode Ray Tube is a vacuum tube device that is used to create an image electronically. As early as 1939, black and white commercial television broadcasts began in the United States, using early direct-view CRT sets (you looked right at the surface of the tube) that were roughly nine inches diagonal and black and white only. But due to the Second World War, no evolution, competitive commercial programming or distribution were available until after 1952. Color CRT televisions became a commercial reality beginning in 1964, as a result of competition with movie theaters, and continue to this day in sizes as large as 40 inches diagonal and in both 4:3 and 16:9 aspect ratios. In 1971, Sony and Henry Kloss, working at ADVENT, pioneered the first commercial CRT-driven front projection televisions, ushering in an era of movie-like presentations of video programs as large as 25 feet diagonal. The largest tube television at the time was only 25 inches.

2.2 What is DLP?
Digital Light Processor engines are composed of millions and millions of miniature microscopic mirrors, developed by Texas Instruments beginning in 1996 (called DMD = Digital Micro-Mirror Display). A white light source, usually a UHP (Ultra High Pressure) or Xenon bulb, is directed toward the DLP chip, which reflects or deflects the light, with each mirror equaling one pixel on screen. It offers the highest current contrast ratio (CR) and refresh rate (120,000 Hz) of any commercially available technology.

2.3 What is D-ILA?
Direct Imaging Light Amplifier is a reflective LCD technology developed by JVC into a viable projector in 1999, called LCoS (Liquid Crystal on Silicon). It allows the electronics needed to run the imaging device to be hidden behind the chip, allowing for a greater fill factor of 91 percent and avoiding the dreaded "screen door effect." It is the second technology to be offered in the 4K resolution.

2.4 What is SXRD?
Sony's proprietary version of LCoS features a unique vertically aligned organic liquid crystal lattice, further refining the ability for this imaging technology to be the most seamless, other than CRT, with a 92 percent fill factor and an eight microsecond refresh rate. This made it the first technology to be implemented in a 4K projector, and soon will also offer the potential of 8K and beyond.

2.5 What is LCD?
The Liquid Crystal Display utilizes a special form of liquid silicon that, when energized, can become either transparent or opaque. It was first commonly used in wristwatches as an alternative to LED (Light Emitting Diode) technology. Monitors, televisions and projectors utilize a light source shining through the LCD panel, as opposed to reflecting off of it, as is the case with LCoS. In all likelihood, you are viewing this text on an LCD computer monitor.

2.6 Multiple-chip projectors vs. single-chip designs?
In the case of a front (or rear) digital projector, there must be three colors (red, green and blue) combined together to create a color image. In a single-chip DLP engine, a color wheel spins in front of the light source quickly, changing it sequentially to create a full color image. This method can create rainbow artifacts, which some people find distracting during fast action sequences or quick horizontal pans.

2.7 HDMI inputs and cables:
With the move towards digital HDTV throughout the world, a secure digital connection between sources and displays was created in 2003, called the High-Definition Media Interface. Essentially possessing the same electrical characteristics as DVI-D - a computer connection interface, but featuring both a much smaller 26-pin connector and a dedicated-copy protection scheme, HDCP (High Definition Copy Protocol) - HDMI is currently the only sanctioned communication method between certain copy-protected HDTV media like Blu-Ray, HD-DVD, Cable Satellite and their intended displays.

2.8 Video Processing
is used to translate one resolution (like VGA = 640 x 480P) into another, usually higher resolution (like HDTV = 1,920 x 1,080P), as well as to adjust aspect ratios (like zoom, full and letterbox), and even clean up and remove noise and artifacts to produce a clearer, more transparent image. Faroudja was the first company to create high-end consumer video processors in conjunction with projector reseller Runco for their seven-, eight- and nine-inch CRT front projectors in order to create stunning images from NTSC sources like DVD and laserdisc (1997). There are now at least 20 different companies making video scaling products.

2.8.1 In Projectors:
Beginning with the first portable industrial digital projectors available in 1999, a clear and obvious need for video translation, or "scaling," was apparent. This was largely because these first digital projectors had a native resolution that was significantly higher (2,048 x 1,200P) than the desktop resolutions used by most people at that time (800 x 600P). Scaling a smaller resolution up to the larger one afforded by the projector allowed for a maximum image size and reduction in artifacts.

2.8.2 External Processors:
The need for external video processing began with higher than VGA sources and direct-view monitors around 1996, arising from the desire to scale video information (640 x 480i) up to computer resolutions (800 x 600p and higher). This required sophisticated A/Ds, processing and D/As operating well into the gigahertz region, a feat that up until this time had taken a room full of equipment and computers in order to accomplish in real time. With companies like Faroudja and Snell & Wilcox pioneering military-grade video enhancers, it was only a matter of time before commercial versions became available through Faroudja and Runco, beginning as early as 1997.

3.0 Installation of Video Projectors


3.1 Mounts
(Many projector-specific) mounts are used to attach a projector to the ceiling so that sight lines are maximized, both for the audience and the projector's relationship to the screen. If a projector must be hidden when not in use, a motorized lift is often the solution. Sometimes, additional cooling or special exhaust venting is required, because the amount of heat generated from brighter and larger bulbs can become excessive in smaller home theaters.

3.2 Throw distances
In general are the relationship between the lens magnification and the distance between the projector and the screen. A typical value of 2:1 would indicate that the projector must be located at a distance from the screen that is twice the width of the screen. Therefore, if the screen were 10 feet wide, the projector would have to be located 20 feet back from it.

3.3 Light output
Light Output as defined by SMPTE & ANSI standards for home theater projectors, are between four and 96 foot-Lamberts, achieved with bulbs capable of between 100-10,000 ANSI Lumens. Clearly, darker light outputs (lower numbers) require a dedicated, light controlled environment in order to achieve a satisfactory contrast ratio (CR), otherwise the image will be washed out. Higher light outputs are capable of creating images that can compete with daylight in the same viewing environment. The choice varies based upon screen size, projector distance, ambient light and personal taste. In movie theaters, the specification is 16 foot-Lamberts.

3.4 Keystone Distortion
A characteristic image aberration that is apparent when a projector is not mounted squarely in reference to the screen. The effect on the image is that either the top and bottom or the left and right sides will diverge on one side, causing objects portrayed to appear taller or fatter. Some projectors (beginning in 2000) began incorporating a digital "Keystone Correction" feature, which adjusted the image geometry electronically along one or two of the sides of the image. This had the unfortunate side effect of throwing away critical resolution.

4.0 Video Calibration
An essential tool used to obtain the best and most accurate picture quality possible. Any display can be calibrated; all displays require regular adjustment in order to produce repeatable, accurate results.

4.1 What is Video Calibration?
Beginning with the first color CRT direct-view televisions (1953), regular adjustment of the monitors used in the broadcast studio was critical. The red, green and blue guns required careful adjustment of the Gain (White) and Bias (Black) for accurate reproduction. Later (1971), with the beginning of the commercial CRT projector, the same RGB adjustments would remain critical. Calibration was therefore a necessity for the technology to achieve an accurate image. As a result of video pioneers like Joe Kane and the Imaging Science Foundation, consumer understanding of calibration has reached an all-time high, demonstrating that manufacturers rarely produce flat-panel or projection video displays without seriously adulterating the image, straight out of the box. The only way to produce an accurate image is through calibration.

4.2 ISF
The Imaging Science Foundation was started by Joe Kane and Joel Silver in 1994 to make both consumers and manufacturers aware of proper set-up and adjustment of video displays and projection systems. They have trained and certified several thousand video field calibrators who are available for house calls to make any display look its most accurate. Rates range from $350 to $2,500, depending upon the technology and number of sources.

4.3 Why front video projectors don't look right straight out of the box
Because television and projector manufacturers believe most consumers want to view a hyper-realistic image, they adjust their products to look bluish, offer excessive sharpness and deliberately throw away resolution to create a noise-free picture. Contributing to the problem greatly are modern movie theaters that do not follow the standards established by the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE), resulting in images that appear dark and suffer from poor focus, color timing and registration, which causes frame weave and judder.

4.4 Calibrating for each connected source
A critical part of any calibration, even in a substantially digital video world. Several different standards are in place for high-definition sources governing resolution, black and white levels, gamma and color space, which are not always automatically set up correctly out of the box. It is therefore necessary to play back test signals via discs or test generators through any new or previously unadjusted projector and to measure and then verify by eye the absolute accuracy of the image quality.

5.0 Contrast Ratio
Contrast Ratio (CR) describes the relationship between 100 percent signal (white) and zero percent signal (black). There are several different methods used to evaluate contrast ratio, including ANSI, On/Off, Apparent and Spectral. The greater the CR, the more realistic the reproduced images will appear.

5.1 All-on/all-off tests
All-in/all-off tests like those that give 30:000:1 Contrast Ratio (CR) measurements, are only important given certain well-heeled presentation conditions using CRT, DLP, Plasma and LCoS technologies. Any light present in the room can wash out and/or change the optical function of human vision, so that these great numbers are in fact meaningless. Projectors are frequently capable of superb images with as little as 3,000:1 CR, which represents only 10 percent of some recent manufacturers' amazing CR ratings.

5.2 Why contrast ratio can't be the only measure of a good projector
So many factors contribute to an accurate image that contrast ratio is frequently misunderstood. Consider the example where the brightest part of the image is 100 percent and the darkest part of the image is 1000 times darker, or 0.1 percent. The eye has no difficulty identifying the darkest parts of the image. In fact, most movie cinemas are lucky to achieve 300:1 CR on screen, and this is frequently considered the de facto standard for motion picture playback.

6.0 Matching a Front-Projection HDTV with a screen
Matching a Front-Projection HDTV with a screen is another critical step in installing a front projector. Here are some key elements:

6.1 Gray screen materials
Gray screen materials can increase CR and were first introduced in 2003 by Stewart Filmscreen Corporation, in conjunction with Joe Kane Productions. Their research led them to utilize the existing Stewart Studiotek 130 (a 1.3-gain screen also developed with the help of Joe Kane, specifically for home theater CRT projectors, in 1996), but instead of a neutral white surface, they chose an 18 percent neutral gray. This choice results in improved contrast ratio and black level in certain digital front projectors that have poor to medium black level retention. It also rejects ambient light coming from the area around the screen, improving CR by as much as 18 percent.

6.2 Matching the light output of a projector to the screen
This is critical for creating a realistic and accurate image. Too much light can fatigue the eyes, while too little light results in a flat, dimensionless image. Typical onscreen light levels should be between four and 96 foot-Lamberts, with the ideal (according to SMPTE) being 16 foot-Lamberts, as appears at Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences screenings. However, it is much more common to see levels as low as eight foot-Lamberts in most movie theaters.

6.3 The importance of a dark room should not be underestimated
This directly contributes to overall contrast ratio. Any light present in a front-projection system can fall on the screen, washing out black levels and making the image look murky. Careful attention must be paid to the color and density of the paint or fabric used on the sidewalls and ceiling, but equally important are the colors of the carpet, furniture and drapes. When this is properly addressed, most home theaters can offer superior levels of light damping and much wider CR than their professional movie theater counterparts.

7.0 Notable Front Projectors

7.1 Advent VideoBeam
The very first consumer projection television created by Henry Kloss (Advent 1000), based on the Sony KP 7000, a four-inch, three-gun CRT, marketed in the United States beginning in 1972. Retail price began at $4,995. It required a curved silver 6.0 gain screen and continued to be sold until late 1986.

7.2 Kloss Nova Beam
Based upon the Schmidt-Cassegrain CRT, which incorporated the lens elements within the vacuum tube assembly for improved light output, CR and resolution, this series of projectors offered better performance, lower price and greater reliability to consumers seeking the best in front projectors, beginning in 1980 through 1998.

7.3 Sony G90
The finest example of CRT projection technology that first became available in 1999. It features nine-inch hexagonal electrometric focus and an all-digital signal path. No other projector thus far has been able to equal its accuracy within its resolution (2,500 x 2,000P), light output (max 330 ANSI Lumens), and Contrast Ratio (> 1,000,000:1).

7.4 Vidikron Vision One
Competitive with other cutting-edge CRT projectors, this improved version of the Electrohome Marquee 9500 featured nine-inch cathodes with six-pole electromagnetic focus and special color correction by way of red and green color filters that expand the color space to be 105 percent of the NTSC standard. Consequently, it is considered by many to be the benchmark in analog image reproduction, offering extended resolution (2,800 x 2,100) and ultra-quiet fan operation.

7.5 Sony Ruby
The first consumer front projector to feature both 1,920 x 1,080 resolution and an auto iris for improved contrast ratio, this $10,000 MSRP 3-chip SXRD was a direct descendant of the Sony Qualia 004.

7.6 Runco DTV 1200
After a decade of modifying and releasing premium versions of certain front projector engines, this one consists of the Barco DTV 1200 with added filtering on the red and green CRT lenses to achieve 105 percent of the NTSC standard and a fourth-generation external proprietary scaler that significantly improves the quality of the images with most sources.

7.7 Sony Qualia 004
Handmade in Japan, and limited to 2004 units, this Silicon eXtal Reflective Display (SXRD) technology (a variant of LCoS) first became available in April, 2004, and is the very first consumer projector to offer the full HDTV resolution of 1,920 x 1,080P. A special 1080P24 upgrade was offered beginning in 2006 that enabled the projector to handle the 24 frames per second rate that has become a staple of films distributed on Blu-ray discs.

7.8 JVC D-ILA 12000
The very first all-analog Liquid Crystal on Silicon (LCoS) projector, this totally analog projection system relied on infrared CRTs and a direct transfer mechanism to offer video projection that was superior to any earlier oil-based light engines or multiple conventional CRTs in a stacked configuration. It was used to show the first digital screenings of Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace in 1999.

7.9 Meridian 810 Reference Video System
Based on the first 4K LCoS projector designed by JVC for industrial use, but modified to use the entire imaging panel area of 4,096 x 2,400P, this 4,000 ANSI Lumen home theater projector ($185,000) features an external scaler that enhances and adapts any incoming signal from NTSC up to 2K and scales it to nearly 10 mega-pixels for use with the included Isco motorized anamorphic lens to ideally paint a 2.35:1 widescreen image as large as 25 feet wide.

8.0 Resources

• Wikipedia
• Sony
• Advent
• Kloss Video
• JVC
• General Electric
• Philips
• Runco
• Vidikron
• Christie
• Barco
• NEC