Whether its value, performance or cutting-edge technology, there's a projector for everyone
It's been an exciting year for projectors with cutting-edge new technology finally reaching the consumer.Sony remains the champion of Ultra HD, with the only native 4K projectors currently available at anything approaching a realistic price. However both JVC and Epson have developed technologies that allow for a higher resolution experience despite using 1080p panels; whilst all of these projectors can accept a 4K signal and use wider colour gamuts and 10-bit video depth. In addition both the Sony and JVC projectors can support High Dynamic Range (HDR), which should allow you to take full advantage of new formats like 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray. Although the Epson doesn't support HDR, it does use a laser light source which brings its own advantages and delivers the widest colour gamut. Of course despite all these new advances there's still a healthy market for Full HD projectors and BenQ have recently launched a new range that is designed to deliver a performance that meets the current industry standards. So here, in order of price, are our favourite projectors of 2015.BenQ W2000 - £799
BenQ have spent the last few years quietly producing an excellent range of projectors that combine both performance and value. They can't necessarily compete with some of the bigger home cinema names in terms of features and absolute image quality but, there are few projectors that offer as much bang for your buck as a BenQ. Their latest model the W2000 is has been specially designed to deliver accurate colours compared to the current industry standard of Rec.709. If you're thinking "aren't the standards changing?" that's true, however the majority of the content we will be watching for years to come will still be using Rec.709. In addition many people are happy with Full HD and don't feel the need to upgrade to Ultra HD 4K, so there is still a healthy market for cheaper 1080p projectors. The W2000 is a single-chip DLP projector, which helps keep the costs down but make sure you don't suffer from rainbows (a colour fringing artefact that some people can see with DLP projectors using a colour wheel) before buying. The build quality is reasonable but intended to hit a specific price point; whilst setup is easy and the projector is simple to use.
That makes the W2000 ideal for whipping out whenever you need some big screen action and its diminutive size means you can easily store it when not in use. Whilst it's best to use a dedicated projection screen, you could even use a white wall initially just to get things started. The BenQ is also bright, making it ideal for rooms with light coloured walls or ceilings but this brightness generates a lot of heat, so there is some fan noise. The W2000 demonstrates all the benefits of DLP technology, with a bright and detailed Full HD image, great motion handling and excellent 3D. Thanks to BenQ's efforts the colour accuracy is better than previous generations but the use of a colour wheel still restricts the gamut, especially in terms of green. Aside from the already mentioned rainbows, the other limitation of DLP is that the blacks are also mediocre; although given the kind of rooms that the W2000 will be used in that probably won't be a major issue. Considering you can pick the BenQ W2000 up for just £799 it's an absolute bargain and the perfect way to take your first steps into the world of big screen projection.
JVC DLA-X5000 - £3,999
If you're already a projection convert and are looking to take that next step, then the JVC DLA-X5000 could be the ideal choice. It's JVC's latest entry-level D-ILA projector and comes in a choice of black or white. The exterior design might be identical to previous generations but there have been quite a few changes on the inside that allow the X5000 to take advantage of upcoming 4K formats like Ultra HD Blu-ray. The inclusion of e-shift4 means that the projector can not only deliver a higher perceived resolution with Full HD content but it can also accept 4K signals and thus deliver actual higher resolution images as well. The X5000 might not be full native 4K but it's debatable if you could actually tell the difference at sensible viewing distances. In fact the consumer electronics industry has realised that higher resolution alone isn't enough and it's here that the X5000 delivers with full HDMI 2.0a/HDCP 2.2 inputs and support for High Dynamic Range. This means that not only will you be able to take advantage of the higher resolution on offer from new 4K formats but also benefit from 10-bit colour depth, wider colour gamuts and HDR.
Whilst these future-proof features are obviously important, the X5000 also delivers a fantastic picture with Full HD content, utilising all the image technology for which JVC are justifiably famous. The X5000 is brighter this year, partly to support HDR but also to allow the projector to be used in rooms with more ambient light; although if you want to take full advantage of the native black levels we would recommend getting your room as dark as possible. Despite the lower claimed contrast ratios, once properly setup we felt the performance of the X5000 was on a par with previous generations whilst still offering increased brightness. The out-of-the-box greyscale and colour accuracy was also superior to previous generations and overall the calibration controls were very effective. The combination of all these factors meant that the X5000 delivered an accurate film-like picture that is sure to delight projector fans everywhere. The 3D performance was also excellent, with bright and detailed images that revealed plenty of depth without introducing crosstalk; making the JVC DLA-X5000 a superb all-round performer.
Epson EH-LS10000 - £5,499
If your budget is a bit higher then you might want to consider Epson's ground-breaking EH-LS10000 laser projector. This uses a three-chip Liquid Crystal on Quartz (LCoQ) design combined with a laser light source. Although that description doesn't do justice to how revolutionary this new projector actually is in terms of the technology involved. Epson's LCoQ design means that, like JVC's D-ILA which uses a similar Liquid Crystal on Silicon approach, the LS10000 can deliver superior blacks compared to either standard LCD projectors or DLP projectors. Although the use of bulbs still dominates the projector market, they are inherently limited in terms of their long term stability and life span. The LS10000's use of a full laser light source means that it promises almost instant on and off, a brighter image, better colour accuracy, a wider colour gamut, a more consistent performance, limited dimming and a 30,000 hour life span. Whilst the Epson isn't a native 4K projector it can accept a 4K signal and it includes a 4K enhancement feature to produce a higher perceived resolution. The LS10000 includes plenty of other features such as a motorised lens cover and a lens memory function for those that use a scope ratio screen. It also supports 3D and comes with two pairs of active shutter glasses, as well as a backlit remote control and a simple but effective menu system that includes extensive calibration controls.
There's no doubt that laser projection is the future, it can deliver enough brightness to handle less than ideal conditions and you can use the projector for watching TV or gaming without having to worry about the bulb dimming. The out-of-the-box accuracy was very good and the projector capable of a reference level of accuracy after calibration. The use of a three chip LCoQ design also meant that the LS10000 was able to deliver the kind of black levels and contrast performance previously only seen on JVC projectors. The Epson produced some lovely 2D images with plenty of detail, natural-looking colours, great blacks and decent motion handling. The 3D performance was just as good, with bright images that were free of any crosstalk. There are plenty of other great features too, with the 4K Enhancement control working well in its lowest setting and the motorised lens controls and memory function making setup easy, even for those that use a scope ratio screen. The main negatives for the Epson are that it isn't a native 4K projector, the HDMI inputs aren't full 2.0 and there's no HDR. On the plus side it can accept a native 4K signal, it supports a DCI colour space and has 10-bit video processing, which means you can still take advantage of UHD Blu-ray when it arrives. So if you're looking for cutting edge technology then £5,499 doesn't seem too high a price for the Epson EH-LS10000.
JVC DLA-X7000 - £5,699
The JVC DLA-X7000 is the big brother to the entry level X5000 and offers a number of additional refinements that make the £5,699 asking price quite reasonable; especially when compared to some of the competition. The X7000 comes in a glossy black chassis and includes a motorised lens cover; the build quality is excellent and the projector is both THX and ISF certified. It uses the same chassis as previous generations but, like the X5000, includes plenty of new features designed to take advantage of upcoming 4K formats like Ultra HD Blu-ray. The inclusion of e-shift4 means that the projector can not only deliver a higher perceived resolution with Full HD content but it can also accept 4K signals and thus deliver actual higher resolution images as well. The X7000 might not be full native 4K but it's debatable if you could actually tell the difference at sensible viewing distances. It also includes full HDMI 2.0a/HDCP 2.2 inputs and support for High Dynamic Range; which means you can not only take advantage of the higher resolution on offer from new 4K formats but also benefit from 10-bit colour depth, the DCI colour space and HDR.
The X7000 delivers a fantastic picture, regardless of the nature of the source, with gorgeous deep blacks and wonderful colour accuracy. The images are natural and detailed, creating a marvellous film-like quality and the X7000 is brighter this year, primarily to support HDR. The superb blacks and increased brightness result in an improved contrast performance and the out-of-the-box greyscale and colour accuracy were very good; whilst the calibration controls were effective. The motion handling was also good and there are loads of useful features including flexible lens memory, a dynamic iris and pixel adjustments. The 3D performance was also very good, with bright and detailed images that revealed plenty of depth. In fact, the combination of all these factors meant that, despite not being native 4K, the JVC DLA-X7000 can deliver a wonderful performance that is sure to delight projector fans everywhere. The price tag certainly isn't cheap but the X7000's performance and features make it a tough projector to beat. Our full review is coming soon.
Sony VPL-VW520ES - £8,799
The VPL-VW520ES is Sony's latest mid-range 4K projector and sits above the entry level VW320 and beneath the flagship VW1100. This latest model is identical to the previous VW500 in terms of specifications and the only major difference is the addition of HDMI 2.0a and support for High Dynamic Range (HDR). Otherwise it's essentially the same projector with an attractively designed chassis that has an air intake around the the high quality lens and exhaust vents on either side. There are connections at the side and overall the VW520 is easy to set up and operate thanks to a well designed menu system. The build quality remains good and the feature list is good, whilst the implementation of Sony's Reality Creation image engine remains impressive. Naturally 4K content looked superb but even with lower resolution material the VW520 retained excellent levels of detail. The combination of image accuracy, clarity and dynamic range, along with good motion handling and processing resulted in deep detailed images that were excellent.
The motion handling was good and the black levels are improved, although if you want there is also a dynamic iris to help boost the contrast performance, but we found it intrusive and noticable in use, so it is best left off. The out-of-the-box colour accuracy was also good and the calibration controls were effective. In terms of future proofing the Sony uses HDMI 2.0a inputs and it supports 10-bit video depth, along with HDR. However we found the HDR performance to be rather disappointing and not yet fully operational. If you want a native 4K projector, then Sony is currently the only game in town and the VPL-VW520ES offers a good level of future-proofing. However aside from being native 4K it isn't any better specified than JVC's X7000 and at £8,799, it's three thousand pounds more expensive. So whether you feel the VW520 is right for you will depend on how much importance you place on a native 4K performance and, as the consumer electronics industry has realised, there are other factors that are just as important.
So there you have it, five projectors that can deliver both performance and cutting-edge technology regardless of your budget. If you don't have much to spend then you will be surprised by the level of performance that the BenQ can deliver but if money's no object then you can choose between the inky blacks of the JVCs, the laser light source in the Epson or the native 4K panel in the Sony. One thing is for sure, whichever model you choose you'll be seeing some of the best big screen images imaginable.
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