What's a good entry level front projector?

Discussion in 'Displays' started by Elias A., Jul 2, 2003.

  1. Elias A.

    Elias A. Stunt Coordinator

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    Hi, I'm a new member of the forum, but I've been lurking here for a week or so. I already have a decent home theater setup, based around a Mitsubishi 46 widescreen RPTV. I'm thinking about upgrading to a front projector, but I'm having a hard time deciding which one to go with. I don't want to spend more than $2,000 for the projector if I can help it. I have a dedicated home theater room with basically no ambient light. The room is about 15 feet long by 20 feet wide, with an 8 foot ceiling. The ceiling is accoustic tile, so hanging the projector may be an issue. I have two rows of seats, one at 9 feet from the wall and another at 13 feet.

    From looking on Projector Central and this forum, it seems like my best bets are either the Infocus X1, the Sanyo PLV Z1, or the Panasonic L300u. Can anyone help me select the right projector for my room?

    Also, any thoughts on screen size? I'm thinking about 40.5" X 72" (82.5 inches diagonal), which would be about 1.5 times the distance from the front row seats to the wall. However, I'm a bit concerned about screen door effect at that distance. Also, any suggestions about which screen I should get would by helpful. I'm thinking about getting a Da-Lite Perm Wall with a gray high contrast screen.

    I'm also wondering if it's going to be a problem to hang the projector from the ceiling, since I have accoustic tiles which probably can't handle much weight. I could try putting the projector on a shelf behind the rear seats, but then it would only be about two feet from the back wall, which might not be enough distance to allow proper heat dissipation.

    Any suggestions would be very helpful.
     
  2. NathanH

    NathanH Stunt Coordinator

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    May I suggest the Panasonic L-200U as a good entry level PJ as well? There is a great thread going on that one right now. Just bought an X1 here and am feverishly awaiting its arrival...
     
  3. Erik Farstad

    Erik Farstad Supporting Actor

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    As a Z1 owner I'm obviously bias...but you have a good list going there and given your room and setup you'll be happy with whatever you decide...if sensitive to rainbows don't go X1 and if you're concerned about screen door go with the 300U but make sure the added price of the 300U ($500 or more over the Z1) is worth it to you. More questions, but I know for $1,700 or less you can get a Z1 and a perm wall screen! [​IMG] Then have money left for cables and some movies!!!

    E
     
  4. Elias A.

    Elias A. Stunt Coordinator

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    Thanks, I would consider the L200U as well, based on the specs. However, I haven't been able to find out much about the L200U, other than some favorable comments on this forum. Projector Central doesn't seem to have a review of this projector. Also, I'm a bit concerned about Panasonic's short warranty and reportedly poor customer support.

    As far as rainbows go, I haven't had a chance to demo any DLP units yet, so I can't say if they're a problem for me. However, the comments about the X1 elsewhere on the forum make it seem like many people notice them, although some don't seem to mind. I'm pretty picky about picture quality, so I can imagine rainbows driving me nuts.

    I'm also not crazy about the fact that the X1 is native 4:3 instead of 16:9. Seems like you'd be losing resolution if you used it for widescreen movies, as I intend to do. However, most people seem to be very impressed with the pq on the X1, so maybe that's not such a big deal. It just seems to me that if you're watching primary anamorphic widescreen DVD's, then you'd want to have a native widescreen projector like a Z1 or L200U/L300U.
     
  5. Erik Farstad

    Erik Farstad Supporting Actor

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    Elias..sounds like you've narrowed down your choices then! [​IMG]

    E
     
  6. Rick Guynn

    Rick Guynn Second Unit

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    You are not going to be able to mount any of those three on the back wall. The throw on all of them is just too short. If you can't find a way to hang them, you may to have to arrange seating so that you can table-mount the projector.

    RG
     
  7. Elias A.

    Elias A. Stunt Coordinator

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    Rick, that's pretty much what I suspected. I might be able to make do with putting the projector on a table for now, until I can figure out some kind of solution to the ceiling problem. There must be some way to mount a projector to an accoustic tile ceiling, right? Maybe I can use a long extension pipe going into the ceiling and screw it to a stud or something.

    Selecting the right projector is really a crap-shoot for me, since there doesn't seem to be any local showroom where I can demo any of the units I'm looking at. I guess I can take my best guess, and if it doesn't work out I can return it and get something else. Anyone know which store has the best return policy?
     
  8. Joseph Bolus

    Joseph Bolus Cinematographer

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    I can tell you that two of my co-workers have purchased Z1's and that they have both been very satisfied with them.

    One of my co-workers initially purchased the X1, but both he and his wife were able to see the rainbows, so he returned it in favor of the Z1. He has the Z1 projecting to a 110" 16:9 DIY gray screen, and I must say that the black level appears more than adequate with his setup. With this particular installation a ceiling mount for the projector wasn't possible (due to a vaulted ceiling), so he has the projector mounted on a small shelf near the top of the ceiling of the opposite wall. His seating area is only about nine feet away from the 110" screen, but even so the "screendoor" effect is not terribly distracting. It's a really nice setup.

    As for me: I'm still running a (now obsolete) native 4:3 panel LCD (the Phillips SV20i) projector with a 96" 16:9 screen. This PJ only specs out at a 300:1 contrast ratio, but I'm running it with a Hoya FL-D filter to improve the "apparent" contrast ratio, and it's still "getting the job done" for me. I am now starting to feel the "update bug", though. Based on what I've seen, if I were purchasing this week, it would be the Z1. (BTW, the Z1 currently costs $1,500 less than what I paid for the SV20i in August,2000!)
     
  9. Erik Farstad

    Erik Farstad Supporting Actor

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    Elias, yes you could run a pipe through the tiles and then attach to a floor joist or ceiling rafter...what ever is up there that's solid! [​IMG]

    E
     
  10. rin

    rin Stunt Coordinator

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    The right projector depends on what your viewing habits are. If you are sensitive to rainbows you probably won't find a DLP PJ that will work for you, at least not in your price range. You also need to consider that you won't be the only one watching your projector most likely. How would movie night go over if your guests started complaining of headaches or nausea a few minutes into the film?
    If you will be watching mainly DVD's the 200U would be a good choice. If you are looking at HDTV as well then I would suggest the Z1 for it's 1/4 HD resolution. You could get either of these PJ's and have enough left over for a good screen.
    IMO, you should take a good long look at the 300U for it's smoothscreen feature. I think screendoor will be an issue at 1.5x back from the 200U or the Z1. I'm 2x back from a 86" wide screen and see some minor screendoor(only occasionally)with my Boxlight 1HD(Sanyo Z1). This really isn't an issue for me as it is so minor.
    Could you put your screen on the 15'wide wall? That would give you some more room between front row and screen.
    I think any of these PJ's would make a great addition to your home theater. Find out which one will suit your needs the best and go for it.
    You will have plenty of help here.

    rin
     
  11. Elias A.

    Elias A. Stunt Coordinator

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    Rin, that's a good point about rainbows with the X1. There's no guarantee that someone in my audience will be able to see them, even if I can't. I'm afraid that pretty much rules out the X1, which is too bad because Infocus is supposed to have excellent customer support, and the price is right. I'm pretty sure that I'll go with either the Sanyo Z1 or the Panasonic L200U, which are almost as cheap, won't have any rainbow problems, and are native 16X9.

    Joseph, sounds like your friend is pushing the limits with the size of his screen. 110 inches from a distance of 9 feet. What's that, 85% of the viewing distance? Not exactly the recommended setup, but I guess it works for him. I'd love to use a big screen like that in my room, but I'm afraid that it would really accentuate the screen door effect. Guess I won't know until I try it.
     
  12. Elias A.

    Elias A. Stunt Coordinator

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    Does anyone know what kind of line doubler the Sanyo Z1 uses? I'm thinking about selling my Silicon Image iScan Ultra line doubler and Mitsubishi 46 inch tv to pay for a new projector, but I'm not sure if I need a line doubler with the projector. I know all projectors come with built-in doublers, but some are better than others. The iScan is a very good doubler, so I'm thinking I might be better off using it with the projector, unless the projector's doubler is very good. Any thoughts?
     
  13. Rick Guynn

    Rick Guynn Second Unit

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    The Sanyo is not known for the excellence of it's line doubler. Hence, most people recommend using it with a good progressive DVD player.

    RG
     
  14. Elias A.

    Elias A. Stunt Coordinator

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    OK, thanks Rick. That's good to know. I do have a decent progressive player (a JVC 723GD), but I've been using a line doubler so that I can get better performance with non-anamorphic DVD's. I guess I can try it with the progressive player and with the line doubler and see which one works better.
     
  15. Robert James Clark

    Robert James Clark Second Unit

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    How about the Sony HS-2?

    It has only an 858x484 16x9 pixel grid (like the Panny L200u) so don't go too large with the screen, but it too is cheap and has the advantage of venting out the front so you could mount it on the back shelf with no difficulties.

    I've seen it in operation and was not overly impressed but I tend to gravitate towards the DLP type picture anyway so take my opinion with a grain of salt...
     
  16. Elias A.

    Elias A. Stunt Coordinator

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    Robert, I'm not familiar with the HS-2. I'll look into it some more. However, I really want to use a bigger screen, so if the resolution is not good or there's too much screen door effect, then it's probably not for me. Now I'm thinking I might get the Panasonic L300U because it's supposed to have less screen door effect than the Sanyo or X1. I could forego the professional screen and just build my own for now, so the extra money I save could go into the projector. But then again, maybe I should get the Sanyo and get a better screen.

    Arrrggh. Can't...make up...mind! Must...decide![​IMG]
     
  17. Neil Joseph

    Neil Joseph Lead Actor

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    Faced with those choices, I would (personally) go for the L300U and DIY screen. There are many people here that have made their own screens. Just post another thread if you need help on that.
     
  18. Elias A.

    Elias A. Stunt Coordinator

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    OK, thanks Neil. That's probably what I'll do. Unless I change my mind again, which is likely.
     
  19. Thi Them

    Thi Them Producer

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    I heard the L300U can be found for $1699 by doing a search for it on Google.

    ~T
     
  20. Rich.Swolf

    Rich.Swolf Auditioning

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    It looks like you can find the L300U for $1699 from visualapex.com, special price until 7/13/03. Still $500 more than the Z1 though. Tough call.
     

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