Entry Level 720p Hi-Def Projectors

Looking to get into big screen HDtv? We compare four entry level projector models from BenQ, Panasonic, InFocus and Epson to give you the big picture.
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Panasonic PT-AX100U

Panasonic PT-AX100U

Features:

Resolution: WXGA-H (1280 x 720)
Display Type: LCD; 0.7" (17.78 mm) diagonally
Brightness: 2000 lumens
Contrast: 6000:1
Weight: 10.8 lbs.
Warranty: 1 year(s)

Avg. Price: $1599.99

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BENQ PE7700 Projector

BENQ PE7700 Projector

Features:

Resolution: WXGA-H (1280 x 720)
Display Type: DLP; Texas Instruments HD2+ DMD chipset
Brightness: 1100 lumens
Contrast: 2500:1
Weight: 12 lbs.
Warranty: 2 year(s)
Lamp Life: 2000 hours

Avg. Price: $1799.00

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InFocus IN76 Projectors
The Editor Pick Editor's Pick

InFocus IN76 Projectors

Features:

Resolution: WXGA-H (1280 x 720)
Display Type: DLP; Texas Instruments DLP DarkChip2 720p 12 DMD and a six-segment (RGBRGB) 4x speed color wheel.
Brightness: 1000 lumens
Contrast: 3000:1
Weight: 9.3 lbs.
Warranty: 1 year(s)
Lamp Life: 3000 hours

Avg. Price: $2199.00

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Epson Pro Cinema 810

Epson Pro Cinema 810

Features:

Resolution: WXGA-H (1280 x 720)
Display Type: LCD; Three 0.7" wide, poly-silicon TFT active matrix
Brightness: 1600 lumens
Contrast: 10000:1
Weight: 11.9 lbs.
Warranty: 2 year(s)
Lamp Life: 1700 hours

Avg. Price: $1999.00

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What research says

Two factors are very important when considering Hi-Def projectors; the light power rating or ansi lumens, which determines how bright the image will be, and the contrast ratio, which is the measure of how deep and rich your black levels are since black levels cause other colors to appear vivid. The projectors we compare here are all 720p, the minimum resolution to be considered high-definition. For this four-way comparison we also feature LCD projectors versus DLP projectors.

The Panasonic entry has recieved some good comments about its color temp and natural looking images, and in an extensive search we found 1 negative comment for every 25 rave reviews. This unit has a long throw of 174-inches or just over 14.5-feet so you can get big clear cinema wherever you can find space. This LCD unit has a strong 2000 lumen rating so in a room with ambient light it will still give a great image, the contrast ratio at 6000:1 is the second strongest in our comparison.

The BenQ PE7700 is well designed and has great connectivity with 3-set of component RCAs, HDMI, S-video, RCA video and BNC. A 9.8-foot throw with display a brilliant 100-inch DLP screen. This is a great home theatre unit for closed rooms as the contrast ratio is only 2500:1, light from windows would surely affect the picture.

Clearly one of the best designed and best looking units is the InFocus IN76. This unit can be ceiling mounted but if you choose tabletop placement the design is elegant and not too machine-ish. Five video sources, 3000:1 cinema-standard contrasting and Texas Instruments' DarkChip2 which continually optimizes the picture make this unit one very strong contender.

Last up is the Epson Pro Cinema 810 this LCD projector is serious business. Epson may not be the most familiar name in home theatre but the Pro Cinema 810 uses lots of proprietary technology that other manufacturers simply don't own. A 10,000:1 contrast ratio ensures deep rich color and the 1600 ansi lumens, while less than the others, is enhanced by filters and brightness enhancing processes.

When you make the decision to purchase to things to consider about ownership are going to be the warranty, which is usually only 1 or 2 years and the all important replacement lamp cost. Most lamp life is rated in hours, here we see that the InFocus lamp is rated at 3000 hours where the Epson lamp is only rated to last for 1700 hours. Bulb replacement can be upward of $500 depending on brand and ansi lumen rating. Consider whether this will be your "main" viewing area as well.

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