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1080p Projector Buying Guide

With all of the high-def projectors cropping up at this year’s CEDIA expo, it’s easy for even the most die-hard home theater buffs to get blinded by the light. And with prices starting to plunge below $4,000 USD, 1080p projectors are starting to catch the attention of more mainstream buyers as well. If your home cinema is a little short on screen acreage, an HD projector is an ideal way to make the jump to the big time, but you’ll need to familiarize yourself with all the new options first. Here are four new HD projectors that should be on your big-screen radar.

Panasonic PT-AE2000Panasonic PT-AE2000

Panasonic’s PT-AE2000 pumps out a full 1500 lumens, making it the brightest of the bunch and a strong contender if your intended home theater room isn’t quite as dark as it should be. It’s also based on the well-known PT-AE1000 projector which debuted to solid reviews less than a year ago. Although gaps between pixels or “the screen door effect” shouldn’t be as pronounced on hi-res projectors with many pixels packed together, Panasonic’s proprietary Smooth Screen technology is intended to reduce the effect as much as possible. The projector’s extremely short throw enables it to cast a 120-inch image from as little as 11 feet away. We’ll know pricing information by the time CEDIA 2007 wraps up, but for now we can just count on an October release date.

Mitsubishi HC6000Mitsubishi HC6000

Mitsubishi’s HC6000 has a strong heritage rooted in the older HC5000, which was hailed for its bang-for-the-buck factor when it debuted at $4,495 USD. With the newest incarnation, Mitsubishi manages to cut the price below $4,000 USD and improve the technology within as well. The HC6000 has a boosted contrast ratio of 13,000:1 (up from 10,000:1 in the HC5000) and handles black-to-light transitions even quicker. Mitsubishi boasts that its Reon-VX Hollywood Quality Video processor can upscale 1080i and standard-definition material to 1080p with superb detail, which isn’t what most high-end projector buyers imagine doing with their new toys, but is still a practical concern. It’s 1000-lumen lamp has average output, but it really shines in extended life up to 5,000 hours and ease of replacement.

Sanyo LP-Z2000Sanyo LP-Z2000

Sanyo’s sub-$3,000 USD LP-Z2000 may very well be the projector that brings big-screen ambitions to would-be plasma and LCD buyers, due to its low price point. Despite the budget brand and tag, the Z2000 packs hardware that lets it run right alongside with more established and expensive brands. A contrast radio of 15,000:1 puts it ahead of many contemporaries, and Sanyo claims its Topaz Real HD color management system lets the Z2000 display 216 billion distinct color combinations. Like the Panasonic, it also sports a short throw for smaller home theaters, making a 100-inch screen possible from 10 to 20 feet away. Another important consideration for tight viewing rooms: Sanyo claims its fan is the quietest in the industry, so those silent dramatic scenes won’t be ruining by whirring fans.

Sony VPL-VW2000Sony VPL-VW200 and VPL-VW60

Sony actually unveiled two 1080p projectors at this year’s CEDIA: one for the buyer to whom money is not an issue, and one for the buyer to whom money is really not an issue. The VPL-VW200 and VPL-VW60 will retail for $15,000 USD and $5,000 USD respectively, with the latter hitting shelves in September and the former in October. Fortunately, they have the hardware to justify the price. Sony’ Advanced Iris technology allows both projectors to reach contrast levels of 35,000:1, which stands head and shoulders above any other HD projector in this field. Combine that with Carl Zeiss Vario-Tesar lenses and Sony’s BRAVIA signal processing engine, and the Sony projectors probably offer the best shot at a true home cinema experience. Of course, we would let your eyes be the judge before laying down $15,000 USD.