Best Buy Projectors of 2016
A projector for every requirement and every budget
There's has never been a better time to buy a projector.This year we have seen new models that offer incredible value, remarkable image accuracy and the latest innovations in display technology. You can now pick up a projector for under £600 that can deliver a decent big screen image, a low input lag and even 3D, making it perfect for watching sport and movies or even gaming. There are projectors that deliver a proper home cinema image at previously unimaginable price points, whilst there are others that now support Wide Colour Gamuts (WCG), High Dynamic Range (HDR) and 4K Ultra HD. Whatever your requirements or budget, there's a projector for you and these are the best we've seen this year.
Optoma HD27 – £549 – Best Buy
Yes you read that price correctly, the Optoma HD27 can be picked up for as little as £549, which is amazing value when you consider all that it offers. It's an ideal all-in-one home entertainment projector for gaming, big screen sports, movies and 3D. Crucially, the HD27 also manages to perform all the tasks with a nice degree of quality and accuracy. In fact, it can meet the Rec.709 colour standard, which at the price point is a major achievement and added to good brightness levels, great motion and excellent 3D it is an absolute steal for the money. It does suffer a little from rainbow effects so it will be worth getting a demo to see if that affects you before buying and, of course, DLP black levels are pretty poor at this price point.
However, given the intended use of this projector and the types of environments it will be used in, we don’t really see those as major negatives at all. Its build quality is sturdy so will handle being moved around and it performs really well with gaming and big screen sports. But the biggest plus point here is the 3D film performance that is stunningly good and probably better than many far more expensive projectors. When you consider the price point and performance, the HD27 is the kind of projector you could almost buy on a whim. When we reviewed the Optoma HD27 there was no question that it deserved a Best Buy badge and, as a budget all-rounder, it's ideal for anyone thinking of trying some big screen home entertainment.BenQ W3000 – £1,199 – Best Buy
The BenQ W3000 moves up the price range but it still delivers fantastic value for money. Since it is also a DLP projector the black levels will be poor but if you want inky blacks and great shadow detail you're going to have to spend a lot more money. Some people may also suffer from rainbows, so, once again, we recommend demoing before buying. However, don’t let those comments put you off going down the projector route because in all likelihood you are going to be using it in a living room with light walls and ceilings and with the curtains closed. This straight away raises the black floor of the room when compared to a home cinema bat cave and, as such, the blacks are not as perceivably poor in comparison. Once you've eliminated that problem and assuming you don't suffer from rainbows, the rest of the plus points easily outweigh those inherent issues.
This is a cracking home entertainment projector for gaming, sports, movies and 3D viewing, which it does with excellent brightness and, thanks to the CinemaMaster technology employed in the colour wheel, superbly accurate colours as well. Input lag is excellent for gamers at 38ms and for sports fans there is a frame interpolation feature to smooth out fast-moving football and other sports. In terms of movies the BenQ does a commendable job with good brightness and accurate colours mixed with strong video processing and good motion at 24p. 3D movies are outstanding on the W3000 and this is one of the biggest plus points for this machine. Overall, the W3000 is a remarkable performer for this price point and only the next projector on this list offers up any real cinematic competition, but is still £700 more. The BenQ W3000 easily won a Best Buy badge in our review, so why not try one out, we think you'll be pleasantly surprised.
Sony VPL-HW45ES – £1,899 – Best Buy
The Sony VPL-VW45ES might be a bit more expensive than the previous two projectors we mentioned but if you want accurate cinematic images with decent blacks, good shadow detail and stunningly accurate colours for under £2,000 there is simply no other choice to be made. The projector is attractively designed and well made, it has a decent set of connections, a useful remote control and an intuitive menu system. It's easy to set up but the projector uses manual lens controls and Sony have dropped the dynamic iris found on the more expensive VPL-HW65ES. Aside from that the HW45ES includes an impressive set of features for the price, including Sony's Reality Creation image processing software.
Of course it isn't perfect and there are compromises to be made with the environment it needs to be used in and it is not able to accept an Ultra HD 4K signal, nor does it support HDR. However, given that the majority of your viewing will still be in high definition, either via broadcast, streaming or disc formats, that isn't a huge problem. So in a normal blacked out living room the HW45ES is quite exceptional in terms of value for money versus performance and is the most compelling mass market big screen projector we have seen in a long time. If you can wait a few more years for the 4K Ultra HD standards to settle and the technology to trickle down the projector market, the Sony VPL-HW45ES makes the perfect stop gap.Epson EH-TW7300 – £2,199 – Best Buy
Until the arrival of this projector, Sony largely had the sub £3,000 projector market to itself with the VPL-HW45ES and the VPL-HW65ES both offering exceptional value and performance. However, the Epson EH-TW7300 simply blew the competition out of the water in terms of features and picture quality. The fact that the TW7300 could accept an Ultra HD 4K signal and support both WCG and HDR was impressive enough but the fact that it could do so for a price of £2,200 was simply unheard of until now. With the TW7300 you get full compatibility with Ultra HD Blu-ray (and other 4K sources) thanks to Epson's 4K enhancement feature which is like JVC’s eShift in that it shifts the pixels 0.5 of a pixel diagonally to create a faux 3840 x 2160 resolution for playback of 4K sources. It isn't a native 4K projector but it does produce a higher level of perceived resolution with ultra HD 4K sources.
The TW7300 can deliver superb sharpness thanks to a high quality lens, reproduce the full EOTF PQ curve accurately for HDR compatibility and produce a convincing dynamic range. Once you factor in the accurate colours to the DCI-P3 standard thanks to the Epson cinema filter, the TW7300 finds itself competing with projectors many times more expensive. In the Rec.709 picture preset the accuracy out of the box is also excellent with superb coverage of the greyscale and colour gamut, so your normal Blu-rays can also be enjoyed as they were intended. Then add in fully motorised lens controls for focus, zoom and shift along with a lens memory function for scope screens, and a motorised lens cover, and you can start to see just why the TW7300 is such a special projector at the price point. Quite frankly nothing comes close to the Epson EH-TW7300 in terms of performance and features for the price.
JVC DLA-X7000 – £5,699 – Best Buy
It's an indication of how good the Epson EH-TW7300 is that it can compete with the JVC DLA-X7000, despite the latter projector costing over £3,000 more. However there is one area where the JVC remains supreme and that's in terms of its contrast ratios. The X7000 never fails to impress with it’s cinematic images, strong black levels and stunning detail. Although it isn't a native 4K projector, it never really misses out in the resolution stakes thanks to JVC's eShift4 4K enhancement feature. When comparing the X7000 side-by-side with the Sony VW550 there is almost no difference at a sensible viewing distance. Aside from its ability to accept a 4K signal, the X7000 also supports both WCG and HDR, allowing you to get the most from the new Ultra HD Blu-ray format. Although a projector will never be able to deliver the peak brightness of a TV, it can still deliver a higher dynamic range with improved detail within the shadows and the highlights, as well as a wider colour gamut. The X7000 tracks the PQ EOTF for HDR very well, although it does slightly crush at the low end and clip in the peak highlights.
However it also covers almost the entire DCI-P3 colour gamut and tracks that professional standard very well within the domestic colour gamut of Rec.2020. When it came to streamed 4K video the performance was also superb with excellent colour reproduction right out of the box and stunning sharpness. Motion is good for a D-ILA projector with no induced judder or unnatural blur and 3D performance was also strong for those still interested in the format. Upscaled Blu-ray also looked stunning with no signs of back door noise reduction or processing getting in the way of the image quality. Also when set up correctly in the best out-of-the-box settings (or calibrated) we didn’t see any of the issues with video noise. In fact, when reviewing the X7000 we struggled to find much to complain about, including the price which is around £2,000 cheaper than the previous X700 generation and £3,000 less than Sony's VW550. So it should come as no surprise to discover that once we added up the build quality, design, features, performance and price, the JVC DLA-X7000 became yet another Best Buy award-winning projector this year.
Sony VPL-VW550ES – £8,499 – Highly Recommended
If you want a native 4K projector in the sub-£10,000 price bracket there is still only one game in town and that's Sony. The company's latest 4K projector the VPL-VW550ES certainly put in a superb performance when it came to picture quality and it could handle the new Ultra HD Blu-ray format, delivering a very compelling HDR performance for a projector. It also has a good stab at DCI colour accuracy for wide colour gamut content, although not as wide as some of the cheaper competition. It also has fabulous black levels with stunningly good dynamic range when used in its ideal environment which is a complete bat cave. Although for a projector costing £8,500 we would have like to see a better level of accuracy out of the box in terms of greyscale and colour. The VW550 uses the same remote control as its cheaper siblings, is made of plastic and doesn’t have a motorised lens cover but the fact is that using native 4K panels is still very expensive and costs had to be cut somewhere although, thankfully, picture performance hasn’t suffered. The real question is whether this projector is worth £3,000 more than the JVC X7000 or four times better than the Epson TW7300?
The Epson, whilst very good, cannot compete when it in terms of black levels and dynamic range but it handles colour and DCI colour better and manages to map the EOTF curve and greyscale very well. Ultimately it's a case of diminishing returns as you spend more and the Epson does very well at its price point. The real test for the Sony is against the X7000 and here it gets very close indeed. The VW550ES has just that little bit more composure with HDR content than the JVC, with more shadow detail retrieval in the lower reaches of HDR content where the JVC crushes detail. It's also better in the highlights where the X7000 clips peak whites when following the PQ standard and the Sony doesn’t. However, with normal Blu-ray using the Rec.709 standard the JVC is probably just slightly ahead. So that £3000 difference is really going to be down to the individual and their priorities. However there's no denying that the Sony VPL-VW550ES is a superb home cinema projector that can keep up with today’s changing technology and provide a very compelling HDR performance for a projected image.
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