Projectors for Everyone

Home Theater Wonders Target Your Living Room

Home models from Mitsubishi (top) and BenQ.
Home models from Mitsubishi (top) and BenQ.
When it comes to entertainment, business projectors can't compare to home theater models that are optimized for movie playback.

Unlike the business models we reviewed for our roundup, home theater projectors favor color accuracy and proper saturation over bright white light. Some home models also have more-versatile connectivity options, making them perfect for playing back DVD movies and high-definition TV.

Until recently, home theater projectors cost even more than their business counterparts. But recent trends indicate that this is changing. Home theater projectors are more affordable than ever--especially when you compare their prices with the cost of large-screen TVs. A portable projector is easier to reposition than a stationary TV; and you can use it to show different-size images, either on a special screen or on a plain white wall.

One of the most interesting recent developments in home theater models is the emergence of all-in-one units that combine a highly capable projector with a built-in DVD player and an internal sound system. We examined two plug-and-play combos--the 15-pound, $1200 Epson MovieMate 25 and the 7.8-pound, $1300 Optoma MovieTime DV10--and found both of them easy to use, relatively quiet, and delightfully proficient at displaying colorful images.

For people who want more than an entry-level projector, two impressive higher-end products are the $2675 BenQ PE7700 and the $2295 Mitsubishi HC3000U. Both DLP units provide a native resolution of 1280 by 768, so they're ideal for displaying wide-screen content (either DVD movies or HDTV) with a 16:9 aspect ratio.

What stands out most about these two home-oriented models, though, is the gorgeous quality of their color images. Using six-segment (red, green, blue, red, green, blue) color wheels rather than the four-segment (red, green, blue, white) wheel that most business projectors employ, both units displayed well-saturated color with excellent contrast enriched by deep blacks. The Mitsubishi unit's inclusion of TI's BrilliantColor feature (which increases color depth) likely contributed to its fine image quality.

Depending on your budget, any of these four products would be a fine addition to your entertainment center.

Richard Jantz is a freelance writer who frequently covers projectors for PC World.
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