From Triple Flash to 4K, what were the best projectors this year?
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7,431It's been an interesting year for projectors and very much a period of transition.Yes we saw Sony amaze us all by delivering a native 4K projector for less than £9,000 but the developments haven't all been at the higher end of the price scale. We saw Optoma announce their HD91 LED projector at a previously unheard of price of £2,999 and we saw BenQ include Triple Flash, a technology we'd previously only seen on a £30,000 Sim2 projector, on their sub-£1,000 W750. We also saw manufacturers continue to experiment with alternatives to bulb-based systems, with LED-Laser hybrid offering the best hope of a bright, stable and long life light source - if they can just tame green.
The projector itself has also grown in popularity, becoming less of a niche product and moving out of the home cinema and into the lounge. A projected image is no longer the preserve of the enthusiast, as more and more people appreciate the impact and enjoyment that big screen entertainment can offer at home. Whether it's movies, sports, TV, games or especially 3D, they all benefit from a bigger picture. Perhaps most importantly this kind of cinema experience can be achieved for a fraction of the cost of a big screen TV.
There's no doubt that 2014 will be another exciting year and we can expect to see new 4K models and projectors aimed at the lifestyle market, helping to broaden the technology's appeal. But what about this year, you ask? Well, in descending order of price, here are our favourite projectors from 2013.
Sony VPL-VW500With the VW500, Sony laid down a gauntlet to the rest of the projector industry.
Sony caused quite a stir at IFA in September when they announced the VW500, a native 4K projector that would retail for around £8,500. To put that in perspective, the only other 4K consumer projector - Sony's VW1000 - retails for £17,000, so the Japanese giant was clearly laying down a gauntlet to the other manufacturers. Whilst they had to shave off a few corners to hit the price point, the resulting projector was still hugely impressive. It included all the features found on its more expensive sibling and even added some more, including HDMI 2.0 inputs and a full CMS. The resulting images were amongst the best we have seen, with great blacks, superb motion handling and highly accurate colours. When it comes to 4K the higher resolution really pays dividends on a big screen and the VW500 took full advantage of a native feed, delivering breathtaking detail. However, thanks to Sony's Reality Creation image engine, the upscaled 1080p images also looked spectacular, with Blu-rays in particular showing just what the VW500 was capable of. Aside from some minor 3D issues, there was nothing we could fault the Sony on and it deservedly picked up a Highly Recommended award in our review.
JVC DLA-X55In the X55, JVC finally have a mid-priced projector that combines black levels, a CMS and eShift.
We have been asking JVC to release a mid-range projector for years now, something to bridge the gap between the budget X35 and the higher-end X75, and in 2013 we finally got our wish. The X55 incorporates many of the features found on the more expensive X75 such as e-Shift2 and a colour management system along with a more attractive price pointy of £4,999. Obviously JVC had to cut a few corners to hit the price point, so we lose THX and ISF certification, the motorised lens cover and higher build quality but most of the other features remain intact. Needless to say, this being a JVC projector the blacks are superb and the image has a genuinely film-like quality. Whilst not a native 4K projector like the VW500 - and we really must criticise JVC for their misleading marketing - the e-Shift2 does deliver a greater sense of detail and resolution with 1080p material. The colour accuracy and motion handling are also excellent, resulting in a class performer that is certainly worth the price. In fact given the performance and cost we awarded the X55 a Best Buy badge when we reviewed it at the start of the year. JVC have just started shipping their latests range of projectors but we have yet to receive review samples, so they will have to wait until 2014.
Epson EH-TW9100Epson's TW9100 offers one of the best LCD projector performances we have seen.
The TW9100 might have been very similar to its predecessor but it retained that projector’s strong points and built on them. The result was the best LCD projector we reviewed in 2013, with great features, excellent build quality and an impressive performance, all for £2,899. There’s a centrally mounted lens, with a motorised lens cover, although sadly no motorised lens controls which means no lens memory feature. The TW9100 does include a wireless unit however, allowing you to connect up to five HDMI devices without running a cable to the projector itself. Epson also include two pairs of active shutter glasses and a well designed remote. The menu system is simple but informative and the TW9100 has a full set of calibration controls, which resulted in a highly accurate image. Motion handling was also very good, especially with 24p content and the video processing was excellent. When it came 2D content the TW9100W was a fantastic performer, delivering accurate and detailed images, with surprisingly good blacks. With 3D content it was even more impressive, producing bright and immersive pictures that were free of crosstalk. As a result the Epson TW9100 picked up a Highly Recommended award in our review.
Optoma HD25In terms of performance and price it's hard to beat Optoma's HD25.
The HD25 was a real game changer when it was released in the first quarter of this year, offering many of the attributes of Optoma’s more expensive models but at a previously unheard of price point. The HD25 cost only £799 and whilst it had a rather cheap chassis and you had to buy the 3D glasses and RF transmitter separately, the performance for the price was remarkable. Optoma had managed to include quite a few features, including a CMS, and as a result the HD25 could deliver an incredibly accurate greyscale and colour gamut. The video processing wasn’t quite as impressive, with some minor deinterlacing and scaling artefacts but with high definition content the results were excellent. Motion handling and image detail were superb as we would expect from a single-chip DLP projector but the use of a colour wheel might result in rainbow artefacts if you're susceptible. The 2D performance was excellent, with bright images and decent blacks, whilst the 3D images were completely free of crosstalk and highly immersive on a large screen. In terms of performance and price it was hard to beat the HD25, which is why it was awarded a Recommended badge in our review.
BenQ W750Triple Flash for £600, where's the catch?
The BenQ W750 might be the cheapest projector on this list but it managed to deliver a performance that would have put more expensive projectors to shame. The chassis is small which makes installation easier and whilst there is some light spill and noise, it's also very bright - making it ideal for use in a living room. The out-of-the-box greyscale and colour gamut were extremely accurate and there were sufficient calibration controls to tweak the W750 to a near reference performance. The W750 only uses a 720p chip but the video processing was excellent and it’s doubtful you would notice the lower resolution on anything but a very big screen. The motion handling was also excellent, although the blacks could have been better. We found that with 2D content, the W750 could produce a picture that really punched above its weight, although since the W750 is single chip DLP those that are susceptible to 'rainbows' should demo first. The inclusion of Triple Flash is remarkable in a projector costing only £589 and the 3D was fantastic, with a total absence of distracting scaling artefacts, crosstalk and flicker. As a result the W750 deservedly won a Recommended award in our review.
Well that's our shortlist for 2013 - perhaps you own one of these projectors or perhaps you think there's one we've missed? Maybe you're one of those people who has finally dipped their toe into the big screen waters or perhaps you've finally moved up the price range? Whatever your thoughts, we'd love to hear them in the thread below.
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