Five Best Home Theatre Projectors

If you want to save a little space in your living room or use your wall as a massive TV screen, switching to a home theatre projector can make sense. There are plenty of projector models to choose from that offer great value for money and bright, vibrant, full HD video. Here's a look at five of the best, based on your nominations.

Photo by Lee Haywood

This list is dominated by two retailers (Epson and Optoma), and several of the models listed are not the most current releases. However, they're still widely available through eBay and other online outlets.

Optoma HD33

The Optoma HD33 is a 3D ready projector capable of full 1080p HD video and offering bright, vibrant images on a screen up to 300 inches. It sports a 4000:1 contrast ratio. Whileofficially it's a discontinued model, you can find it online with a little shopping around. The HD33 offers offering a wealth of connectivity options, including two HDMI ports, a VGA port, component video, composite video, RS-232 and a +12V trigger, as wella VESA 3D port on the back. Optoma's projection lamp is rated for 4000 hours of use (3000 in "bright mode"). If you can get your hands on one, the HD33 is a great option for your home theatre, but dowatch out for the "rainbow" effect that comes from having only one DLP processor.

Epson EH-TW3600

Sold in other markets as the Epson 8350, the EH-TW3600 is another well-regarded but officially discontinued model full. It's 1080p HD, 3D-ready projector that's small but packs a bright, beautiful picture. It's bright at 2000 ANSI lumens and offers a remarkable 50,000:1 contrast ratio. It stands out from some of the others because it offers three different DLP chips, which can minimise "rainbow" effects. It features two HDMI ports, component video, composite video, S-video, one VGA port, and an RS-232C port. Its lamp is rated for 4000 hours of use. Some readers noted that it can display screen sizes well over 100 inches with remarkable picture quality.

Optoma HD25/HD25-LV

The Optoma HD25 and its "large venue" higher-lumen cousin the HD25-LV are the successors to the now-discontinued Optoma HD20. The only major difference between the HD25 and the HD25-LV is that the latter is meant for larger spaces, and is brighter as a result. The HD25 offers 2000 ANSI lumens, while the HD25-LV packs 3200 ANSI lumens in the same package. Both models sport a 20,000:1 contrast ratio, offer full 1080p HD and are 3D-ready, and can project onto screens up to 301 inches. They both also offer two HDMI inputs, two VGA-in, a VGA-out port, a 3D VESA Port, composite video, two audio inputs, one audio output, a RS-232C port and a USB port. Both models rate their lamp life at 6000 hours (3500 in bright mode).

Epson EH-TW6100/TW6100W

Known as the 3020 and 3020e in other markets, both these Epson models are full 1080p, 3D ready projectors that are on the leading edge of Epson's home theatre line. As such, it's not a cheap option, but the performance is excellent. The TW6100W The major difference between the 3020 and the 3020e is that the latter comes with wireless HDMI, and includes a wireless HDMI dongle Both models sport three-chip optical engines, are bright at 2300 ANSI lumens, and feature a 40,000:1 contrast ratio. They promise screen sizes of up to 300 inches. Both models feature two HDMI ports, component video and composite video, VGA out, RCA stereo out, one USB port, and an RS-232 port. Both models rate their lamp life at 4000 hours (5000 in "ECO mode").

Optoma GT750E

The Optoma GT750E is designed to be a gamer's projector for small spaces, but its capabilities aren't limited to full-motion gaming. It's a 720p model, and it's also 3D-ready. It packs 3000 ANSI lumens and a 3000:1 contrast ratio, so it will serve you well in a modest space. Don't be overly concerned about it being a 720p system amongst a bunch of 1080p projectors — it's still a solid design. The GT750E sports a variety of connectivity options, including two HDMI ports, one VGA port, an S-video input, acomposite video input, one stereo RCA audio-in and out, and an RS-232 port. The lamp is rated for 4000 hours in standard mode or 3000 hours in bright mode.

An honourable mention this week to the BenQ W1070 1080p 3D Projector, which is also a great-value model.

While the projector will be the most expensive component, there's much more to building a great home theatre than just a projector. You need a decent-sized and dark space and a good screen to project onto. A wall can work, but it won't look as good as if you take the time to get a decent screen, or paint the wall specifically for projection.

Have something to say about one of the contenders? Want to make the case for your personal favourite, even if it wasn't included in the list? Project your thoughts in the comments.


Comments

    For bang for buck, I LOVE the Casio XJ series,
    http://www.casio.com/products/archive/Projectors/Slim_Projectors/XJ-A240

    The lamp life is phenomenal (SIGNIFICANTLY higher than most if not all other brands), and the picture is excellent for the price. I paid $1000 for the XJ-A240 about 3 years ago. It gets a lot of use - and I haven't even noticed a dimming of the bulb. My previous projectors all went through a bulb every 12-18 months (in economy mode).

    When I first heard about the Casio series, I was sceptical. However, the person that put me onto this projector is what I'd call a certified projector nut. At the time, he had about 5 projectors - the most expensive was worth about $50,000 (it was a high end Sony with the biggest piece of glass I've ever seen in my life). I asked him what he thought was the best projector at the time. His view was that the Casio XJ-A240 was king. Whilst is was the worst performing of all of his projectors, he felt that there was little difference between his "best" and his "worst" projector. After forking out $400 every 18 months, the lamp life convinced me to give it a try.

    I run my Casio on a 3m wide screen (which is not quite was wide as my friend's 10m wide screen) - but beggars can't be choosers... It's hard to pick a fault with the image quality.

    Btw, I don't work for Casio, I know no-one who works for Casio, sells Casio, profits from Casio - you get the idea.

    From all reviews I've seen the new BenQ W1080ST is way better than the GT750E. It's full 1080P short-throw for starters, and has apparently great 3D, comes with 2 pairs of 3D glasses, is very bright, great out-of-the-box colour etc. It's the one I'm looking at getting soon for my mancave :)

    So this is not really the "best" projectors, but rather, some reasonable projectors that are somewhat inexpensive.

    FYI: The TW-3600 is NOT 3D capable. I've got one. I researched the hell out of these "entry" level projectors and this thing is freaking awesome. Best $1100 I have ever spent on H-Fi / Home Theatre gear. Looks amazing on my 100" screen.

    The Viewsonic Pro9000 is a laser/LED hybrid that, whist more initially, has a 20,000 hour lamp life. You might have to hunt one down or import, however.

    Ummmm JVC DLA-X35??? more expensive but is what I would consider a good starting point for the "Best" home theatre projectors. I have installed many HD33's and 25's and had many units DOA or with faulty lamps.

    Oddly these are mostly Optoma, and no Panasonic? No JVC? I smell a rat.

    Had my HD33 for over a year now having upgraded from an old Epson that was just about to give up after 7 solid years service. HD33 looks great, use it for PS3, movies and it cops a hammering during Premier League season with Fox Sports HD and it looks fantastic. 3D is a gimmick, I think I used it twice for a laugh on the ESPN 3D channel. Very happy with the projector.

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