New Video Projectors: Ready for HD and More


Since September, fans of video projection have been wide-eyed with excitement over announcements of a string of new models, each better-looking and better-performing than the ones before them. All these models, intended for home theater use, feature a 16:9 wide screen aspect ratio, with 1280x720 resolution; this fits perfectly with the HDTV 720p standard and is also compatible with 1080i. The growing number of seemingly identical models doesn't make life easy for consumers who want to make an informed choice. For this reason, we decided to test the video projectors that are most representative of the new 720p wave, and at the same time bring you up to date on the different technologies they use.

The Contenders

Our overview of 720p models concentrates on models in a price range of $1,200 to $3,500. Below that price, the products available aren't HD ready, and beyond that range we're in another category, that of projectors for truly wealthy aficionados.

The models we selected are the Hitachi Ultravision HDPJ52, the Sanyo PLV-Z4, Panasonic's PTAE 900U, Sony's VPL HS51 and HS60, the Mitsubishi HC 3000, Epson's Powerlite Cinema 550, and the Infocus Screenplay 5000. These eight models have numerous points in common, but also a few special characteristics that may make all the difference when it comes time to make a buying decision.

Birds Of A Feather Flock Together

The saying in this section's title is especially true when you're talking about tri-LCD projector models. They're all are based on a 16:9 aspect ratio with a resolution of 1280x720, and they're all ready to receive HDTV signals via the HDMI, DVI, or YUV connections.

The resemblances don't stop there, either. All these models also feature automatic iris adjustment systems. This new technology, launched by Sony on their famous VPLHS51, can now be found on all brands. Why? Because it's an effective way of closing the performance gap between tri-LCD and DLP projectors where black depth and contrast ratio are concerned.

Barely a year ago, everyone agreed that the DLP technology was the best and justified its expense, yet today almost the opposite seems to be true. While DLP remains expensive and maintains a slight advantage for black depth and displaying details in dark scenes, tri-LCD is close behind on both those points. It also brings advantages of its own, such as invisible pixels, rich colors, and unmatched flexibility of installation. And tri-LCD projectors are often equipped with vertical and horizontal lens shift and a powerful zoom, at prices that top out at $2,500.

So the war is raging, and we'll make our contribution to peace by giving you a closer look at the eight models we selected for this exclusive and exhaustive test.