The World Cup Projector Shoot-Out!

These projectors won't lose their nerve on the penalty spot

by Steve Withers May 21, 2014 at 3:39 PM

  • Whilst nothing quite beats the excitement of actually being at a football match, the fact that the FIFA World Cup takes place in Brazil this year means most of us won’t get that chance.
    The distance, the cost and the thought of being greeted by heavily armed Brazilian riot police will no doubt put many fans off the journey. The likelihood that the England team will be home before most of their supporters is probably another factor. However thanks to advances in modern technology and some thoughtful kick-off times to tie-in with the European TV schedules, the experience of watching the games at home will be almost as good, considerably cheaper and a good deal more comfortable. However, whilst average TV screen sizes have undoubtedly been increasing over the last few years, when it comes to bang for buck, the projector is still king.

    You can get an image far bigger than even the largest TV, without taking up very much space and all for less than a 55-inch flagship model. If you want to invite your friends around and impress them this is one of the best ways to do it and the experience of everyone watching the game on a big screen will create genuine atmosphere and a real sense of occasion. Yes you could get a similar experience down the pub but this approach will result in a lower drinks bill and your own projector will almost certainly be better setup. Most of the projectors we will discuss in this article can be easily put away when not in use and you can even use a white wall for projection, so space really isn't an issue.

    This projector line-up is more of a five-aside team than the full starting eleven but hopefully there should be something for all tastes and pockets. So let's get out of the tunnel and out onto the pitch to see which projectors can fill your living room with the World Cup this summer.
    A late addition but worth the wait, Sony's HW40 has everything you need and all at a great price.

    Sony VPL-HW40ES - £1850 rrp

    Sony has been dominating the projector market recently but their latest addition burst onto the scene like the projector equivalent of Ross Barclay, picking up a Best Buy badge in the process. Announced only a couple of months ago and hitting the streets right now, the HW40 uses Sony's SXRD technology and offers an excellent combination of performance and features. It's also very attractively priced and currently retails for £1,850, which is nearly £1,000 less than the similarly specified HW55 but only loses the dynamic iris and 3D glasses in the process.

    The build quality is excellent, with a nicely designed remote control, two HDMI inputs and a well laid out menu system. The HW40 has manual zoom, shift and focus controls for the lens, making setup very easy; although this is a reasonably large projector so a more permanent setup would be better. However what you might lose in convenience, you make up for in performance, with the HW40 delivering fantastic big screen images. The pictures from this great projector are detailed and natural straight out-of-the-box, so you won't have to worry about the pitches looking radioactive, whilst the motion handling is good and you have the option of using Motionflow if necessary. There are also decent calibration controls if you want to take that route.

    The images from Blu-rays were equally as impressive, so the HW40 has uses well beyond the World Cup, and there's excellent support for 3D, but you'll need to buy some glasses. The HW40 can deliver a bright picture without producing much noise, making it ideal for rooms with lighter coloured walls, whilst the black levels are also very good; so the Sony is the perfect choice for anyone wanting the best of all worlds.

    Epson EH-TW7200 - £1899 rrp

    Epson have been carving a profitable niche for themselves in the home cinema market, creating an interesting line-up of projectors to compliment their already extensive range of data grade projectors. The manufacturer are the main supporter of LCD technology, now that Panasonic have gone AWOL, and they have leveraged off the back of their huge production capability to deliver projectors that combine build quality, features and performance at a competitive price. The TW7200 is a perfect example, picking up a Recommended badge when it was reviewed, the Epson retails for around £1,899.

    That puts it head-to-head with Sony's new HW40 but the TW7200 also includes a pair of glasses and a motorised lens cover. Otherwise the two are quite similar, with the TW7200 using the same chassis as the more expensive models and including many of the same features. The Epson has manual zoom, shift and focus lens controls, along with a well designed remote control, effective menus, two HDMI inputs and calibration controls. Unlike the HW40, the TW7200 does include a dynamic iris, although we found it noisy and largely ineffective in practice, and it includes a pair of 3D glasses. However it doesn't have frame interpolation, which can help with fast paced sports action like football. The TW7200 is certainly bright, so it can light up a big screen and handle white walls better than many projectors but it can be quite noisy.

    Like the Sony, it's a fairly large projector, so it would benefit from a more permanent installation but setup is easy. The picture quality is excellent and whilst not as accurate out-of-the-box as the HW40, it is still capable of a natural looking and detailed image. Again the performance with Blu-ray and support for 3D means the TW7200 has a life well beyond the World Cup and besides, once you go big there's no going back. The only downsides to the use of LCD panels are that the gap between the pixels is larger, meaning they might be visible if you project a very large image, and the light path can't be sealed, which could result in dust blobs. However, overall the Epson TW7200 is a strong contender for this summer and definitely one to watch.
    Epson continue to fly the flag for LCD projectors and the TW7200 is a worthy addition to their line-up.

    BenQ W1070 - £600 rrp

    If you're looking for big screen action without creating an equally big whole in your bank balance, a single-chip DLP projector could be just the ticket. The BenQ W1070 currently retails for only £600 and picked up a Recommended badge when it was reviewed. Despite the low price, it still manages to look the part with its two-tone effect and brushed metal finish, whilst its small size and light weight makes it perfect for quick setup. Of course, once you take a closer look the budget nature of the projector becomes more obvious, with a small and rather cheap lens, large grilles with excessive light spill and a noisy fan. There are manual controls for zooming and focussing the lens, which are quite fiddly to use, and unusually for a budget DLP projector there is also a limited amount of lens shift. Sadly the remote control is a bit fiddly, difficult to use and has no backlight.

    The W1070 supports 3D, although at this price you can't expect any glasses to be included but at least they're cheap to buy. The BenQ includes a simple and easy to navigate menu system that includes calibration controls, impressive for a projector at this price. The out-of-the-box accuracy could have been better but the inclusion of these calibration controls does offer the chance to improve things. Since the W1070 is a single-chip DLP projector it can deliver very sharp and detailed pictures and the motion handing is superb, making it ideal for end-to-end footballing action. Black levels are never a strong point of DLP projectors but the fact that the BenQ is bright makes it perfect for rooms that are less than ideal. As is always the case with a single-chip DLP projector, those that are susceptible will see rainbow artefacts, so bear that in mind.

    However, if this isn't an issue the W1070 can reward you with some very enjoyable big screen images, allowing you to impress your friends for a minimal outlay. DLP projectors are also especially good with 3D and the W1070 was no exception, delivering a great performance. The BenQ W1070 will slot into the team nicely this summer but will still be able to deliver plenty of big screen TV, movie and gaming action come Christmas. If you're tight for space as well as budget then you might want to consider the very similar BenQ W1080ST. This projector uses a short throw lens, which means you can position it very near the wall and still get a big screen image. Handy if you planning on using a smaller room in the house as a World Cup 'man cave'.

    Optoma HD25 - £800 rrp

    Optoma's HD25 single-chip DLP projector is nearing the end of its life cycle but you can still pick it up for around £800, which is fantastic value. Obviously the HD25 is a budget projector so there's a plastic white chassis, large grilles and built-in speakers that you'll probably never use. The lens controls are manual which makes accurate focusing a two man job and there’s no lens shift so careful placement is important. However there are two HDMI inputs, an adequate remote control and an easy-to-use menu system. The HD25 supports 3D although you'll need to buy the emitter and glasses separately but it does at least include some decent calibration controls.

    The HD25 might well be a budget projector but it can deliver a surprisingly accurate greyscale and, whilst the colour gamut wasn’t quite as impressive, it was still reasonably good. So the pitches and team shirts should look suitably natural this summer, although if you want to calibrate the Optoma that's also an option. The HD25 can deliver great looking and detailed images, especially with a high definition source, and since this is a DLP projector the motion handling is superb. However, as with the BenQ, the use of a colour wheel might result in rainbow artefacts if you're susceptible.

    The HD25 can be very bright but this comes at a price and the Optoma does produce quite a bit of heat and thus fan noise. Typically for a DLP projector the black levels aren't great but regardless of what you are watching, the HD25 can deliver an excellent big screen experience in your home. If you decide you want to add 3D, that's also an option, and being a DLP projector the Optoma can produce great 3D images that are completely free of crosstalk. The Optoma HD25 is a solid all-rounder that can provide an engaging performance and a decent set of features to those on a limited budget; it's certainly worth a trial and should be considered for anyone's starting line-up.
    BenQ and Optoma add DLP projectors to our starting line-up and both offer great performance and value.

    JVC DLA-X35 - from around £2200

    JVC's D-ILA budget projector is the Frank Lampard of this list, an experienced older player that will be hanging up its boots after the World Cup. In fact JVC will stop selling the X35 in June, so you'll need to be quick but you should be able to pick one up for around £2,200 and that will include two pairs of 3D glasses and an emitter. Whilst this is more than any of the other projectors on this list, the X35 is the daddy, with a large and very well built chassis and a host of useful features. This is a serious home cinema projector and it's big and heavy, so a permanent installation is essential.

    However the motorised lens controls make this very easy, and the inclusion of a lens memory feature means that you can use the X35 with a 2.35:1 screen if you really want to go big. There are limited calibration controls on the JVC but the out-of-the-box accuracy is very good and thanks to a well designed remote and an intuitive menu system, setup is simple. The X35 has a host of features but it's big selling point is its native blacks, so there's no need to resort to a dynamic iris. The JVC isn't as bright as the other projectors on this list, meaning it isn't ideal for rooms with white walls, which would wash out the great blacks. Although if you can darken your viewing environment, you'll be rewarded with a genuinely film-like picture and the JVC is pleasingly quiet in operation.

    That means that once the World Cup is over, you'll still have a top class projector for both 2D and 3D content. The image itself is both natural and detailed, whilst motion handling is good, with Clear Motion Drive - a frame interpolation feature - should you feel the need. The JVC X35 might be nearing the end of its playing career but it still delivers a fantastic performance and if you ever needed a projector you can rely on putting one in the back of the net from the penalty spot, this is it.
    JVC's ageing X35 still offers superior performance and can be picked up for a song.
    If you combine any one of these projectors with a multi-channel audio system, the result will be almost as good as being there. In fact it will be better because it will be considerably cheaper and you won’t have to contend with queues for the toilets or England’s inevitable early exit in a penalty shoot-out. And after the disappointment of the World Cup has faded from your memory, you'll still be able to invite your friends around for movie nights.

    Are you thinking of going the projection route this summer? Have you already bought a projector on this list or perhaps we've missed one that you think is worth mentioning? If so, we'd love to hear your views in the attached thread below.

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