Home Theater Projectors

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Whether your family is gathering for the holidays or the neighbors are coming over to watch the big game, a home theater projector facilitates entertainment on a grand scale, surpassing the picture size of almost every TV. 

The latest generation of home theater projectors is packed with cutting-edge features, and they’re priced right. All but one of the 14 models in our survey is capable of displaying pictures in high definition and most offer Full HD (1920 x 1080) resolution. Some models are 3D adept; one has a built-in DTV tuner; another is equipped with a DVD player and robust speakers. While every model contains inputs for accommodating a variety of video source components and a computer, several can also decode content directly from an attached USB storage device.

A star performer in the world of home theater, the Panasonic PT-AE7000U HD 3D Home Cinema Projector takes 3LCD technology to the next level by incorporating 480Hz-compatible LCD panels, a higher aperture ratio and a 200 watt Red-Rich lamp. With 2,000 Lumens of brightness and a 3x optical power zoom/focus lens, the Full HD 3D projector produces visually stunning results. Hook up a 3D Blu-ray Disc player to one of the projector’s three HDMI inputs, and you’ll be immersed in both gigantism and depth. For more about the PT-AE7000U, see the B&H InDepth article, Panasonic PT-AE7000 Full HD 3D Home Cinema Projector.

The leading proponent of 3LCD technology, Epson, offers a wide variety of projectors including the equally bright Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 8350 Projector. The 1080p projector contains a manual 2.1x zoom lens and two HDMI inputs. Its energy-efficient, 200 watt E-TORL™ lamp has 2,000 lumens of brightness and lasts up to 4,000 hours, the equivalent of more than 1,300 NFL matchups.

Though the Epson 705HD Powerlite Home Cinema LCD Projector offers a native resolution of 720p, the projector is about half the price of the 8350 yet puts out 2,500 Lumens of brightness. It features 1.2x optical zoom, an energy-efficient E-TORL™ lamp and keystone correction for adjusting the image’s geometry when projected at an angle.

With a 200,000:1 contrast ratio, the higher-end Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 8700UB Projector offers one of the highest ratios in our roundup. The 1080p projector has a THX mode for exceptional performance in areas such as black levels and color gamut.

If you’re ready for big-picture 3D, consider the Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 3010 Projector. The 2,200 Lumens projector comes with two pairs of active shutter 3D glasses. It features 10-watt-per-channel stereo speakers that flank the 1.6x zoom lens. Another unusual capability (not available while the projector is in 3D mode) is a split-screen feature that enables you to project side-by-side images from two different sources. Baseball and football: together at last?

The lookalike Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 3010e Projector does a few things the 3010 doesn’t. First, it has the ability to transmit and receive high-def content wirelessly over short distances using the WirelessHD standard also promoted by Sony, Panasonic, LG, NEC, Samsung and Philips. Epson includes the transmitter; the receiver is built into the projector. Also, the 3010e contains an Ethernet jack for controlling one or more projectors remotely over a network. Unlike the 3010, the 3010e does not include 3D glasses.

The Epson MovieMate 85HD Projector is a hybrid projector/player that integrates a multi-format DVD player, speakers and carrying handle. The 2,500 Lumens projector offers a native resolution of 720p (1280 x 800 pixels) and 1.2x manual zoom. Beyond DVD movies and CD albums, the player reads MP3, WMA and JPEG files on disc. Photos can also be read through a USB host port. There’s a mic input if you want to use the projector’s two 10-watt speakers to make announcements or sing karaoke, and if you want to supplement the sound, there’s a digital coaxial audio output or, for private listening, a headphone jack. The projector weighs 9.3 lb.

The HD33 DLP Projector from Optoma Technology uses a Texas Instruments DLP chip set, instead of LCDs, to compose the miniature picture prior to projection. The Full HD projector puts out 1800 Lumens of brightness and is 3D capable with the supplied RF emitter for use with active shutter glasses (not included) such as Optoma’s ZD101 DLP Link 3D Glasses. PureMotion image processing is built into the HD33 to ensure smooth images and motion. The projector has a 1.2x manual zoom and two HDMI (Version 1.4a) inputs, among other ports.

Since 3D isn’t for everyone, the company also offers the lesser-priced Optoma HD20. With a brightness of 1700 Lumens and Full HD resolution, the DLP-based HD20 is adroit at creating pictures from 3 to 25 feet in size. The projector contains a 1.2x manual zoom but no speaker. It’s compatible with the world’s varying power standards and can accept NTSC, PAL and SECAM signals.

Those who spend too much time with a Playstation, Xbox or Wii or playing computer games should call a time out to look at the Optoma Technology GT750 Gaming Projector. This bright (3000 Lumens) DLP projector operates at a fast 120 Hz and is 3D-capable, decoding all 3D formats commonly used by Blu-ray 3D players, game consoles and set-top boxes. A built-in 10 watt audio system accompanies the action. The projector offers native high-def at 720p (WXGA resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels), as well as a maximum resolution of 1600 x 1200 (UXGA) via VGA, and 1080p over HDMI.

LG Electronics has incorporated Liquid Crystal on Silicon (LCoS) technology to create the images cast by the LG Electronics AF115 Full HD Home Cinema Projector. Also called an SRXD panel, reflective LCD is said to lose less light than transmissive-type (3LCD) technology. The Full HD projector puts out 1500 Lumens and features a 1.8x manual zoom. The Hollywood Quality Video (HQV) chip performs motion adaptive de-interlacing, noise reduction and detail enhancement with 10-bit processing.

While the AF115 is a relative heavyweight at 21.4 lb, the LG Electronics HX301G Portable LED Projector comes in at a mere 1.7 lb. Sending forth 270 Lumens, the small projector incorporates an LED light source that, according to LG, is good for 30,000 hours of use. The DLP-type projector offers a resolution of 1024 x 768 pixels. An HD DivX decoder allows you to view content from a USB storage device. The projector has 2 of LG’s XD Engines to maximize picture quality, providing excellent color accuracy and realism. This is the home projector to get for room-to-room personal use.

 Weighing roughly the same as the HX301G but slightly brighter at 300 Lumens, the LG Electronics HX350T Portable LED Projector with Tuner comes with the unusual capability of being able to tune in over-the-air DTV stations. Assuming you have reception, all you need to attach is an antenna. And because the projector also has a built in HD DivX decoder, you don’t necessarily need to hook up a full external player; just a USB drive. The HX350T has a built-in 2 watt stereo speaker and the usual set of A/V inputs, including HDMI, in case you do want to hook up a video source component.

The LG Electronics HS201 Ultra Portable LED Projector is a DLP-based model with LED lamp lasting 30,000 hours that puts out 200 Lumens. At 1.8 lb, the HS201 is easy to carry around for photo and video presentations. You can plug in a USB device filled with slideshows or DivX SD movies to screen it. This is the only projector in our roundup that at 800 x 600 pixels is neither high-def capable nor widescreen-ready. Those showing photos or videos shot at a 4:3 aspect ratio will be well served, but 16:9 content will necessitate letterboxing or cropping. And higher-resolution content will be scaled down. Still, not everyone needs a high-def projector, and this is the lowest-priced projector in our roundup. For more about the LG models, see the InDepth article, Five New LG Projectors.

           

  Lumens Native Resolution Display Technology  Lamp Life  Speaker(s)  3D capable Dimensions (WxHxL)  Weight 
Panasonic PT-AE7000U HD 3D Home Cinema Projector 2000 Lumens 1920 x 1080 3LCD Not specified None Yes 18.5 x 5.4 x 13.6"  19.2 lb
Epson PowerLite 8350 Home Cinema Projector 2000 Lumens 1920 x 1080 3LCD 4000 Hours None No 17.7 x 5.7 x 15.5"  16.1 lb
Epson 705HD Powerlite Home Cinema LCD Projector 2500 Lumens 1280 x 720 3LCD 5000/4000 Hours Yes No 11.6 x 3.1 x 9.0" 5.1 lb 
Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 8700UB Projector 1600 Lumens 1920 x 1080 3LCD 4000 Hours None No 17.7 x 5.7 x 15.5"  16.1 lb
Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 3010 Projector 2200 Lumens 1920 x 1080 3LCD Not specified Yes Yes 14.4 x 5.4 x 16.5"  13.2 lb
Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 3010e Projector 2200 Lumens 1920 x 1080 3LCD Not specified Yes Yes 14.4 x 5.4 x 16.5"  13.7 lb
Epson MovieMate 85HD Projector 2500 Lumens 1280 x 800 3LCD 5000 Hours Yes No 13.2 x 9.4 x 5.4" 9.3 lb
Optoma Technology HD33 DLP Projector 1800 Lumens 1920 x 1080 DLP 4000 / 3000 Hours None Yes 14.2 x 4.5 x 12.2" 10 lb
Optoma Technology HD20 Projector 1700 Lumens 1920 x 1080 DLP 4000/3000 Hours None No 12.8 x 3.8 x 9.2" 6.4 lb
Optoma Technology GT750 Gaming Projector 3000 Lumens 1280 x 800 DLP 4000 / 3000 Hours Yes Yes 12.8 x 3.8 x 9.2" 6.6 lb
LG Electronics AF115 Full HD Home Cinema Projector 1500 Lumens 1920 x 1080 SXRD 4000 Hours None No 14.4" x 17.6" x 6.8" 21.4 lb
LG Electronics HX301G Portable LED Projector 270 Lumens 1024 x 768 DMD 30,000 Hours Yes No 6.3 x 2.3 x 5.4"  1.7 lb
LG Electronics HX350T Portable LED Projector 300 Lumens 1024 x 768 DMD 30,000 Hours Yes No 6.3 x 2.3 x 5.4"  1.7 lb
LG Electronics HS201 Ultra Portable LED Projector 200 Lumens 800 x 600 DMD 30,000 Hours Yes No 7.2 x 2.4 x 4.8" 1.8 lb