Poor Image Quality: Is it my projector or the other components?

Justin Adelson

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I purchased my home in 2013, which had a home theater and THE best home theater equipment installed...back in 2000. Needless to say, I had to update the majority of the equipment for modern technology. I had a local home theater shop install and calibrate my new projector, which is a Sony VPL-HW50ES. Long story short, I have been a little disappointed in the overall image quality when watching rented or purchased on-demand movies. The images are not very crisp and the blacks do not have the depths I was hoping for. I wanted to get the opinion of this wonderful forum if my expectations were too high for this projector or if my setup or home theater components could be causing the less-than-adequate image quality.

Setup:
Sony HW50ES Projector
Elite Screen, Sable Frame, AcousticPro 1080P2 - 100-inch, 16:9
Marantz Pre-Amp AV7701
Verizon Fios
Fios to Pre-Amp: Amazon High Speed HDMI with Ethernet
Pre-Amp to Projector: Monster 16' 1000HD HDMI

Note about the house coax wiring: The main feed goes from my Verizon hub into a six-way coax splitter; the hub is is about 20 yards/60 feet from the splitter as the crow flies (doesn't factor in up the walls and around corners). The projector set top box is only a few feet away from the cable splitter.

I know my projector won't have the crispness that a high-end flat-screen will have, but for the original price, I was hoping that the image would be better. I do know that some home theater experts recommend Blu-Ray over cable; I am expecting that to be a secondary reason for the quality of the imagery.

So, it is my projector, cable box, or am I just crazy? Thank you for your input!
 

Josh Steinberg

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The images are not very crisp and the blacks do not have the depths I was hoping for.
Hi Justin!

Am I reading your post correctly in that you watch streaming content exclusively on your projector?

In my experience, while streaming looks perfectly fine on my 50" TV, when I use my projector on a 100" screen, I can clearly tell the difference between streaming and a Blu-ray disc, the Blu-ray wins every time. I would recommend watching an actual Blu-ray disc rather than a stream before making any changes. What you're describing above sounds exactly like the differences between streaming and/or cable and discs on my system.
 

Justin Adelson

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Hi Justin!

Am I reading your post correctly in that you watch streaming content exclusively on your projector?

In my experience, while streaming looks perfectly fine on my 50" TV, when I use my projector on a 100" screen, I can clearly tell the difference between streaming and a Blu-ray disc, the Blu-ray wins every time. I would recommend watching an actual Blu-ray disc rather than a stream before making any changes. What you're describing above sounds exactly like the differences between streaming and/or cable and discs on my system.
Thank you for your feedback. I am watching these movies on through my cable box via on-demand. I am technically not streaming them as someone would from their computer, but I am not watching them through a physical medium like a Blu-Ray disc.
 

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The quality of cable box on demand, in my experience, is far inferior to an actual disc. On a TV about 50 or 60 inches, you'd probably never notice, but once you start blowing up to 100" or larger, my experience is that the difference becomes readily apparent.

Figure on a disc, you're devoting anywhere from 20-50gb of data towards presenting the movie. On a stream or on demand service, its closer to 2-5gb for a movie at best. After a certain size, you're gonna start to see that difference playing out just as you described.
 

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Justin - Welcome to the forum - I think you may be blaming your projector for what is ultimately the fault of your content provider. Content delivered by anything other than OTA or Blu Ray is likely compromised in some way. The old adage applies which is "the output can never be better than the source." CNET actually heaped praise on your particular projector in 2013 for it's black levels. Feed it some amazing content and I suspect you'll see equally amazing results.
 

Justin Adelson

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Thanks for the feedback. It is reassuring to know that the projector I bought isn't the issue; I didn't expect it to be since I did a million product searches and comparisons.

I've never been much of a disc buyer since we do not watch a ton of movies at the house or at least plan out movie nights ahead of time. Are there any digital/on-demand services that provide the best picture such as Netflix, Amazon, or Apple? Or is all the content providers going to be the same?
 

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Thanks for the feedback. It is reassuring to know that the projector I bought isn't the issue; I didn't expect it to be since I did a million product searches and comparisons.

I've never been much of a disc buyer since we do not watch a ton of movies at the house or at least plan out movie nights ahead of time. Are there any digital/on-demand services that provide the best picture such as Netflix, Amazon, or Apple? Or is all the content providers going to be the same?
In Canada Netflix's regular package is limited to 720p content, although the premium package does offer higher resolution content. I can't really speak for Amazon or Apple, as we've never used either of their services. Hopefully, others who use these services will weigh in.

CHEERS! :)
 

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Thanks for the feedback. It is reassuring to know that the projector I bought isn't the issue; I didn't expect it to be since I did a million product searches and comparisons.

I've never been much of a disc buyer since we do not watch a ton of movies at the house or at least plan out movie nights ahead of time. Are there any digital/on-demand services that provide the best picture such as Netflix, Amazon, or Apple? Or is all the content providers going to be the same?
I have done a little bit of comparing, trying to gauge how the same digital master appears from different sources. I've been able to directly compare a Blu-ray version to iTunes (via AppleTV) to Vudu to Amazon. In my opinion, the Blu-ray always wins, Apple generally looks second best, Vudu is a little bit behind Apple, and Amazon is far behind. Netflix is usually about the same as Vudu. The downside with Apple is that you need an AppleTV device for streaming (as opposed to the others which work on a variety of devices) but it really does look better to my eyes. The thing with streaming though is that your mileage may vary; it seems common that many of us get different results trying to use the same products.

Netflix (and some other companies) still offer Blu-ray disc-rental-by-mail subscription packages, that also may be worth looking into.

As a test, you could also purchase a Blu-ray of a new release title that includes Movies Anywhere digital access. This will give you not only the disc but also the ability to stream it from iTunes, Vudu and Amazon, which would give you a chance to compare them all with your own eyes and see what looks best to you.
 
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Thanks for the feedback. It is reassuring to know that the projector I bought isn't the issue; I didn't expect it to be since I did a million product searches and comparisons.

I've never been much of a disc buyer since we do not watch a ton of movies at the house or at least plan out movie nights ahead of time. Are there any digital/on-demand services that provide the best picture such as Netflix, Amazon, or Apple? Or is all the content providers going to be the same?
I can understand your position for general viewing. I watch a ton of Netflix but its mostly comedy specials or old TV shows. Where top quality audio and video matter, such as with big budget films in my case, I want that Blu Ray if I can get it. Whenever you place a delivery service along with the Internet [which cancels any and all guarantees] between you and your content, quality will likely suffer.
 
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In Canada Netflix's regular package is limited to 720p content, although the premium package does offer higher resolution content. I can't really speak for Amazon or Apple, as we've never used either of their services. Hopefully, others who use these services will weigh in.

CHEERS! :)
I don't think this is accurate. I regularly get 1080p streams off Netflix in Canada in a "standard" package. The premium package adds the ability to stream to more than 2 devices and access to 4K content. Contrast this with amazon video, which supports 4K streams for Prime subscribers where a 4K stream is available.
 

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I don't think this is accurate. I regularly get 1080p streams off Netflix in Canada in a "standard" package. The premium package adds the ability to stream to more than 2 devices and access to 4K content. Contrast this with amazon video, which supports 4K streams for Prime subscribers where a 4K stream is available.

I suspect it is as the same applies in the US. You need at least the mid-level plan for HD.

upload_2018-1-25_17-32-38.png
 
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Tony Bensley

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I don't think this is accurate. I regularly get 1080p streams off Netflix in Canada in a "standard" package. The premium package adds the ability to stream to more than 2 devices and access to 4K content. Contrast this with amazon video, which supports 4K streams for Prime subscribers where a 4K stream is available.
I distinctly recall reading somewhere in the Netflix literature about 720p being their standard for the standard plan. Perhaps, that's just the bare minimum?

CHEERS! :)
 
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Canadian Netflix offers 3 different plans. Basic is SD, Standard is 1080p and Premium is 4K. I have the standard plan and the 1080 quality is excellent - I have to look very closely to tell the difference between blu-ray.
 

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I have done a little bit of comparing, trying to gauge how the same digital master appears from different sources. I've been able to directly compare a Blu-ray version to iTunes (via AppleTV) to Vudu to Amazon. In my opinion, the Blu-ray always wins, Apple generally looks second best, Vudu is a little bit behind Apple, and Amazon is far behind. Netflix is usually about the same as Vudu.
That's been my experience, as well. iTunes has become my go-to service for rentals. One of its benefits is that the quality is consistent, not variable. Unlike Netflix, which usually takes a couple of seconds to ramp up to full quality, iTunes either plays properly or buffers until the bandwidth is sufficient.
 
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One of the things I don't love about Netflix streaming is that (on my devices at least) it seems programmed to work on a "play any version at all costs" mentality. I've tried to watch a movie where it may start at 480p, ramp up to 1080p, drop back down to 720p, and bounce around all of those - sometimes even sinking to 360p. Technically, yes, the movie played uninterrupted, but it gets very distracting. I'd rather it buffer a little longer before starting (like iTunes does) rather than jumping around like that.
 

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One of the things I don't love about Netflix streaming is that (on my devices at least) it seems programmed to work on a "play any version at all costs" mentality. I've tried to watch a movie where it may start at 480p, ramp up to 1080p, drop back down to 720p, and bounce around all of those - sometimes even sinking to 360p. Technically, yes, the movie played uninterrupted, but it gets very distracting. I'd rather it buffer a little longer before starting (like iTunes does) rather than jumping around like that.
Which is why I signed up for a 150Mbps internet plan.
 
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Which is why I signed up for a 150Mbps internet plan.
I have a higher plan, I'm not sure the exact number offhand - the problem is my cable company doesn't consistently deliver what they advertise. If I try watching a movie after midnight, no problem, but at 8pm when everyone else in the neighborhood also is trying, all bets are off. Though it does seem to have gotten a little better in the past year and I've had fewer complaints about the service overall than, say, 2-3 years ago.
 

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I'm lucky, because my plan is quite consistent. It helps that I'm running 2 dual band routers.
 
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I'm lucky, because my plan is quite consistent. It helps that I'm running 2 dual band routers.
Which is why I signed up for a 150Mbps internet plan.
At the risk of being redundant, Internet performance is always hit and miss, no matter what ISP's advertise. For most content this is acceptable and goes unnoticed but for video it matters. The plan you have simply means YOUR ISP won't throttle your speeds. Other links in the content delivery chain might, for whatever reason they choose. I love Netflix, You Tube, etc but I don't depend on them for critical viewing.

That said, I still want that plan! :)
 
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Stephen_J_H

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At the risk of being redundant, Internet performance is always hit and miss, no matter what ISP's advertise. For most content this is acceptable and goes unnoticed but for video it matters. The plan you have simply means YOUR ISP won't throttle your speeds. Other links in the content delivery chain might, for whatever reason they choose. I love Netflix, You Tube, etc but I don't depend on them for critical viewing.

That said, I still want that plan! :)
The majority of my viewing is still disc-based, but it's nice to be able to stream Netflix, Shudder and Amazon Instant Video with no quality drops. My usage is "technically" capped at 1TB/month, but (a) I've never gone over; and (b) because I signed up early, my ISP granted me unlimited status. During peak hours, my bitrate will drop to between 70-90 Mbps, but I've seen speeds close to 200 during non-peak hours.
 
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