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A Look at the Best Home Theater Projectors of 2009

written by: Debasis Das•edited by: J. F. Amprimoz•updated: 10/29/2009

Top of the line home theater projectors are built with LCD, DLP or LCoS technologies. There are a whole range of projectors available that cover different resolutions. However, there are enough true HD resolution projectors available today and we consider only these. Read on.

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    Introduction

    For getting the movie theater kind of experience in home theater, the projector is possibly the best option. Projectors give you the largest possible screen compared to actual screens. When choosing a good projector, you must look at some important specifications. First of these is the technology. The contenders are LCD, DLP and the new LCoS (Liquid Crystal on Silicon) technologies. Some manufacturers call it by different names. Sony calls in SXRD, JVC D-ILA etc.

    In general, LCD probably gives you the best color definition but tends to show pixellation and could be an irritant if you watch movies that use high levels of compression (MPEG2 and MPEG4). DLP projectors do not show that as prominently and have the best object definition. LCoS is possibly the best in object sharpness and color definition. LCoS is the costliest followed by DLP and then LCD. Brightness, resolution, and contrast ratio are some other important specs we look at below. With a projector, the lamps needs replacement, so the lifetime specs of the lamp of the projector you buy are an important consideration.

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    Some Important Specifications

    Brightness tells you how bright the projected picture will be. This should be in the range of 1000 to 3000 ANSI Lumens. This usually defines the brightness of the light leaving the projector lens system. As you move the screen the brightness falls off so this spec will also give you an idea of how far away the screen can be from the projector.

    On the resolution front you need 1920 x 1080 or the full 1080p for true HD movie enjoyment. 720p can be a trade off if you are pressed for budget. The next important thing is the contrast ratio and this is the ratio of brightness between the darkest pixel and the brightest pixel. The contrast ratio spec gives you a good feel of the sharpness of the scenes you'll see on the screen. This ratio as a moving scene is playing, as in a movie, is the dynamic contrast ratio and 15,000:1 to 35,000:1 is quite common. Some projectors may even go up to 100,000:1.

    Lamp life, typically, is 2,000 to 4,000 hours and will possibly cost you around $300 each time.

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    Some Top Projectors

    For finding top performers we restrict our search in the 1920 x 1080 resolution group only. This is the full HD capable projectors brigade. The performance is also dependent on the media source feeding the projector, obviously. Assuming the feed is ideal, we looked at some reviews and a few top projectors figure in most of them. Noteworthy performers were rated high on both user reviews as well as editor's reviews in the results surveyed. Each of these are very good performers and trying to grade them strictly in order is pointless. Important specifications are indicated and you would notice how these are very close to each other. The final deciding factor could well be very subjective or come down to which you can find for the best price.

    Panasonic PT AX-3000U: Technology-LCD, Resolution-1920 x 1080, Brightness-1600 ANSI Lumens, Contrast-16,000:1, Weight-15.9 lbs, Size-18.1” x 11.8” x 5.1”, Price-$2,000 to $2,500

    Sanyo PLV Z3000: Technology-LCD, Resolution-1920 x 1080, Brightness-1200 ANSI Lumens, Contrast-16,000:1, Weight-16.5 lbs, Size-15.7” x 13.6” x 8.1”, Price- $2,000 to $2,800

    Samsung SP-A900B: Technology-DLP, Resolution-1920 x 1080, Brightness-1000 ANSI Lumens, Contrast-12,000:1, Weight-21.6 lbs, Size-16.9” x 18.4” x 7.8”, Price- NA, only through dealer

    Sony VPL-HW10: Technology-SXRD, Resolution-1920 x 1080, Brightness-1000 ANSI Lumens, Contrast-30,000:1, Weight-22 lbs, Size-16” x 18.3” x 7”, Price- $ 2,600 to $3,700

    Samsung SP-A800B: Technology-DLP, Resolution-1920 x 1080, Brightness-1000 ANSI Lumens, Contrast-10,000:1, Weight-22 lbs, Size-15.4” x 18.9” x 8.3”, Price- NA, only through dealer

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    Conclusion

    You’ll need to check the prices of the lamp and the lifetime hours to figure out the total cost of ownership. The acoustic noise level (caused by the lamp's cooling fan) is specified by the manufacturers and that could influence your decision if you don't generally keep your volume up that loud. Finally of course, the question of which of the pictures as projected do you like best when seen in person would be the deciding factor. With the field narrowed down to these five top projectors, it should not be too difficult to actually check out the visual appeal.