What is a good projector for installations
The best projectors
Projectors have also been very popular outside of the office for some time. Especially as a replacement for a large TV or outdoors for public viewing at major events such as the soccer world championship. But video projectors are also a great experience for a cozy movie evening, which is why home cinema enthusiasts also rely on a projected image.
But no projector can do everything equally well. For public viewing you need a very bright projector, as this does not take place in darkened rooms. For home cinema, on the other hand, high contrast and natural colors are more important. And anyone who wants to watch films or television in the living room needs something in between.
We have therefore divided our projector test into three categories so that everyone gets the projector they need.
What's the perfect picture?
As soon as the television broadcasters finally switch their programs to FullHD format with 1,920 x 1,080 pixels, the hardware and film industries are already one step further: with Ultra High Definition (UHD), four times the FullHD resolution is available on the screen and display , the image then consists of 3,840 × 2,160 pixels. UHD has long been standard for televisions, but far from being standard for projectors. Projectors that can cope with this flood of pixels have so far been very expensive.
UHD makes projectors work up a sweat
However, this does not mean that the UHD standard has been fully exhausted, because in addition to the higher resolution it also allows a larger contrast range (High Dynamic Range - HDR), as well as a color space that by far exceeds the previously required. The higher contrast range - i.e. a lighter white with darker black at the same time - poses enormous challenges for projectors.
While there is still potential in both directions in screen technology - that is, both deeper blacks and more brightness - projector systems only have a limited ability to deliver more brightness with a constant black value.
The larger color gamut, on the other hand, is already possible with many projectors. Often, however, they only create an accurate color representation after extensive calibration. At best, a precisely adjusted color space is already defined in the presettings and can be called up.
Different rules apply to presentations and public viewing
This mainly applies to projectors in home cinemas, only to a limited extent for the living room and hardly for presentations and public viewing, because there a high light output has the utmost priority. Of course, that doesn't mean that you can't watch the movie after the football broadcast using a bright projector. But then you have to accept some color deviations: rich green often tends towards yellow, which increases the impression of brightness. Often the colors are generally a little cooler, white then shows a slight tendency towards blue.
Although there are usually picture presets with the name Cinema, Cinema or Film, the effect is usually not as effective as with a real home cinema projector. However, it will not achieve the brightness that is necessary for projections in bright rooms or outdoors.
Technology overview: DLP, LCD, UHP, LED
With LCD technology, the amount of light for the respective image is controlled by the more or less translucent LCD chip. So-called DLP projectors do it differently, here the light from the projection lamp is reflected by the finest folding mirrors on a chip as required.
DLP versus LCD - two technologies with strengths and weaknesses
The annoying rainbow effect (RBE) of DLP projectors, to which some people are sensitive, does not occur with LCD projectors. Why is that? The image from LCD projectors always consists of the three basic colors red, green and blue. However, there is a slight misalignment of the three colors here, which is noticeable in fine hems in the form of lines and thus reduces the impression of sharpness. The exact coverage of each pixel with all three basic colors is called convergence, and the offset is called convergence error.
The light source is the same for both DLP and LCD technology - namely a UHP lamp (Ultra High Performance). It gets so hot that it has to be cooled, but its lifespan is limited. Although it can be several thousand hours of operation, it still has to be changed at some point - especially since the color temperature changes due to age and so optimal color rendering is no longer guaranteed.
UHP lamps have to be replaced - that can cost money
If you think now, simply change the light bulb and you're done, you're wrong. Because UHP lamps for projectors are expensive: you have to pay between 100 and 400 euros for such a replacement lamp. For this reason, among other things, it makes sense to operate in Eco mode, the lamp then lasts longer and the fans run quieter.
LED and laser
Alternative technologies are slowly paving the way for light sources: especially in the area of presentation and business, long-lasting, energy-efficient and robust light sources are in demand, after all, such a projector is also transported from time to time. The same goes for all-rounders for the living room and for projectors for watching packs anyway. But alternative light sources are also becoming increasingly popular in classic home cinema.
A few years ago, Optoma was the first manufacturer to use LEDs as a light source in the home theater with the HD91, but today there is no longer any manufacturer who exclusively relies on UHP lamps; everyone has at least one model with a laser or LED as a light source.
The prices have also dropped significantly due to the successively increasing number of units. The laser projectors in our test are more expensive than their UHP counterparts, but this can now be compensated for by the better energy efficiency and longer service life. For companies or customers in general who use a projector (also) for presentations, this question simply does not arise, the decisive factor is that the light source lasts the entire life of the projector without any problems, thus avoiding maintenance costs and downtimes as far as possible.
That's how we tested
Every application makes different demands on a projector: while the projector does not have to shine against dreaded foreign light sources or stray light in a perfectly darkened home theater, it looks completely different when projecting in the living room, meeting room or even outdoors.
In addition to the luminosity, it is also important to be able to display dark areas in dark, ideally black, and do so at the same time as possible, since a picture usually consists of dark and light parts.
To do this, we projected a checkerboard pattern with eight black and just as many white surfaces onto a black, light-absorbing screen and measured the light emerging from the direction of the projector optics in every square, including the black ones. The screen has to swallow the light because you only want to measure what comes out of the projector, without any reflections or stray light from the normally highly reflective screen.
A combination of light, shadow and perfect colors
The ratio of white and black areas is called ANSI contrast; we have given the measured values in the table. It should be noted that the ANSI contrast is only a statement about the contrast, but not about the absolute black value, which can also be found in the table. This is particularly important for projectors for use in home theater, as you would rather see the stars flashing against a dark background than a gray one in night scenes.
In addition to the maximum achievable black value, we have also entered the maximum light output, once as manufacturer information and once the value we measured in the color-calibrated D65 Eco mode. We choose the eco mode because here accurate color rendering is more important than the highest possible light yield. In addition, the projector is quieter and the lamp lasts longer.
The illumination of the screen as evenly as possible is also an important quality feature. For the measurement, nine white areas are projected evenly onto the screen in order to then measure the light intensity of the individual points - similar to the ANSI measurement. The difference provides information about the more or less even illumination: 100 percent would be an absolutely even distribution of brightness over the entire screen.
In addition to the highest possible contrast between light and shadow, accurate color representation plays an important role, especially when watching films. All projectors have several presets, for the various requirements, most of them even have a film mode, this can also be called cinema, cinema, or something similar and usually brings the settings in the right direction, especially for color reproduction.
So we have set the projector to the economical, quieter and also slightly darker eco mode and also trimmed it to the most neutral color reproduction possible with the appropriate presetting. We photographed both results from the screen for each projector, always with the exact same exposure settings of the camera. Therefore, some images are darker than others if the projector is not quite as bright.
In reality, however, the differences are not as big as they appear in the photos. These photos are for illustrative purposes only. For almost comprehensible images, we would have to meticulously coordinate both the camera and the display through which you are viewing the photos. However, we have noted the projector settings in the caption for you, in case you would like to reproduce them at home with one or the other model.
The best home theater projector
With 11 projectors, we made a selection that gives a good overview of the current market for home theater projectors, both in terms of prices and in terms of cinematic demands.
In terms of price, our selection starts at a slim 1,400 euros, but goes up to 4,800 euros. This proud price is due for the currently cheapest projector with native 4K resolution, the Sony VPL-VW270. When it was released, the price of the predecessor VPL-VW260 dropped again by a few hundred euros. As an alternative for Sony, JVC has now sent the JVC DLA-N5 into the race. This marks the entry into 4K projection at JVC, is almost 1,000 euros more expensive, but also has a few more interesting features to offer.
Brief overview: Our recommendations
Test winner LCD
The new Epson EH-TW7400 also uses the same image generator as the predecessor, so there is FullHD resolution, which is interpolated accordingly. This trick, called eShift, also works great with the TW7400. Thanks to skilful fine-tuning, it has been possible to elicit a little more brightness from the projector and at the same time increase the contrast. This works particularly well with HDR content, i.e. the new high-contrast format. The simple installation thanks to flexible, motorized optics has remained the same, as has the living room-friendly, white housing.
Test winner DLP
The Benq W5700 brings the comfort that one expects in the price range over 2,000 euros, the horizontal and vertical lens shift together with the 1.6x zoom ensure a flexible set-up. It is compatible with 4K, HDR and even 3D content, and can even be supplied with content via a USB interface using external storage media. As a very special service, BenQ sets the W5700 correctly at the factory to the BT.709 HDTV color space and the extended DCI-P3 cinema color space; the corresponding, individual measurement protocol is included with the projector.
Native 4K projector
With the DLA-N5, JVC not only managed to catch up with Sony, but also put our previous recommendation - the VPL-VW270 - in place. Right from the start, the JVC DLA-N5 not only displays the HDTV standard color space (BT.709), it also achieves the extended DCI color space, which is also required in real cinema, at the push of a button and without calibration. In addition, the JVC shines with excellent contrast values, supported by a so-called adaptive iris, i.e. an automatic aperture.
Optoma has with the UHD350X
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