Updated to include 2014-15’s latest models… This Projector Guide aims to find the Best Home Theater Projector for the Money. This BenQ W1070 review compared side-by-side with the Optoma HD25e will help you decide!
Looking for the movie theater experience at home? Tired of watching a 50 or 60 inch TV from across the room and pretending it’s like watching a movie in a theater? I can tell you from experience that nothing compares to a 100” or larger screen at home. It may sound as though a 100” screen is double a 50”. The reality is that a 50” screen is about 1067 square inches, while a 100” screen provides more than 4200 square inches of viewing area providing a much larger viewing area, and more immersive experience. Couple this screen with a surround sound system and you have your own Home Theater. If you want to check it out to compare with your current screen size, try out this online calculator here.
Jumping into the club of owning a Home Theater Projector may seem expensive. Compared to the cost of the latest large screen LCD TV’s, it is much more affordable than you think. Half or even less the cost of a 60” LCD TV can get you a 1080p full HD front projector. Here I will guide you through the best of the best when it comes to picture quality AND budget! The Optoma HD20 and later HD25 used to hold this award, but is no longer produced. So now we’ll take a look at its significantly upgraded replacement the Optoma HD25e along with other comparable, budget (Optoma HD141X) and in some cases, superior options such as the BenQ W1070 in this projector guide.
First I wanted to go over some options for placement as an overview. One way many people use this screen is in “addition” to their big screen LCD TV. With many opting to place the screen above their TV and when watching a movie, they simply roll-down the screen in front of it. Some use a powered screen for a more dramatic theater-like experience. You can even project the image on to a white wall and still get the kind of immersive experience you’re after. You may want to do this when you first get the projector to be certain of the size screen you want to buy. The projector itself can be placed simply on the coffee table, or mounted behind the viewers. Some opt to place on a shelf high above, or even get a ceiling mount. I keep mine located on top of a table next to the couch where it is barely noticeable when not in use. Remember that you want to place the projector as close as possible to the center of the screen. There are adjustment settings in the projector to account for off-center placement, but these, if used too aggressively can affect the crisp picture quality so less is more in this case. You’re probably safe to adjust 1 or two increments without noticeable changes in the picture quality however.
Another thing to consider is the amount of ambient light coming in from your windows. Any light at all will wash-out the image, so the less light, the better. Some type of window covering, whether it be blinds, or curtains is necessary if watching during daylight hours.
How Big a Room Do You Need to Get Theater-like Images?
For each projector a different distance is needed. The online calculator here. (http://www.projectorcentral.com/projection-calculator-pro.cfm) will give your precise measurements for just about any projector out there. If you have 11 feet or so, you should be able to easily get a 100” image, and both of these projectors will arrive with a “zoom” wheel to fine tune the image a bit. My projector sits near 13 feet away from the screen and I use a 106″ Model B screen from DaLite.
Home Theater at its Best!
Brightness and Contrast:
Brightness and Contrast are in most enthusiasts top qualifications for choosing a projector, and rightly so. Without enough brightness and contrast, the colors will appear washed-out or extremely muted. Brightness is measured in Lumens. A Lumen, simply put, is the “total amount” of light emitted. You may hear people calling projectors with a high Lumen rating “Light Canons”. It fits well when you think about it. Projectors are rated with ANSI Lumens. ANSI (American National Standards Institute). ANSI lumen measurements are in general more accurate than the other measurement techniques used in the projector industry. This allows projectors to be more easily compared on the basis of their brightness specifications.
· Optoma HD25e ANSI Lumens: 2,800
· Optoma HD141X ANSI Lumens: 3,000
· BenQ W1070 ANSI Lumens: 2,000
Contrast ratios on the other hand are much more difficult to compare. Contrast is defined as the ratio of the luminance of the brightest color (white) to that of the darkest color (black) that the system is capable of producing. A high contrast ratio is a desired aspect of any display. There is no official, standardized way to measure contrast ratio for a system or its parts, so ratings provided by different manufacturers of display devices are not necessarily comparable to each other. Luckily many projector manufacturers are beginning to rate their devices with the use of the full on/full off method of measurement, as it cancels out the effect of the room and results in an ideal ratio. Equal proportions of light reflect from the display to the room and back in both “black” and “white” measurements, as long as the room stays the same. Pretty much, the higher the number, the better. You want to project the best image possible to get as close to a theater image without spending more than $100k as theaters do.
- Optoma HD25e Contrast Ratio: Up to 20,000:1 (full on/off)
- Optoma HD141X Contrast Ratio: Up to 20,000:1 (full on/off)
- BenQ W1070 Contrast Ratio: 10,000:1 (full on/off)
For the full HD experience projectors boasting Full 1080P are what you are looking for. You also want to be sure the aspect ratio is 16×9 and not 4:3. 16×9 will fill your 16×9 screen without any light bleed around the edges. When you use a 4:3 projector with a 16×9 screen, it gets a bit messy with light at the top and bottom where there is no image, just grey light. Below are more specifics from the projectors I recommend. All are 1080P minimum.
- Optoma HD25e:
- Aspect Ratio: 16×9
- Resolution: Native 1920×1080 (BluRay)
- Optoma HD141X is identical
- BenQ W1070:
- Aspect Ratio: 16×9
- Resolution: Native 1920×1080 (BluRay)
Ok, this is the one feature that all Projector enthusiasts “love to hate”. With replacement lamps costing at least $150 and typically over $200 many people shy away. While this may seem expensive, we need to take into account that the bulbs can last up to 6,000 hours or more. Add it up…. That’s a lot of movies! You could even say it’s equal to one two-hour movie per day, every day, for more than eight years in Eco mode. It may outlast your LCD-TV!
With economy mode you gain more than 2,000 extra hours on a bulb and typically lose very little in detail (unless your room has a lot of uncontrolled lighting sources). I use mine exclusively in this mode. With these projectors including ultra-dynamic bulb controls, the apparent contrast can be striking an no loss of detail noticed. As the bulb ages (typically at about 75% of its useful lifespan), its brightness will be affected. You can use the bulb beyond the rated lamp life, however it will typically provide a subpar viewing experience and I don’t recommend it.
- Optoma HD25e: 3,500 hours (6,000 hours in eco-mode)
- Optoma HD141X offers up to 6,500 hours.
- BenQ W1070: 3,500 hours (6,000 hours in eco-mode)
Both of these projectors work in 2D mode, but if you’re interested in how they stack-up for 3D, read on:
- Optoma Hd25e
- This 3D projector supports all HDMI 1.4a mandatory 3D formats: side-by-side format and top and bottom format to allow for easy hook up with peripheral to deliver 3D content. 3D content and 3D glasses are required for 3D entertainment. Optoma DLP Link 3D glasses are sold separately.
- Uses radio frequency 3D glasses that don’t require line-of-sight or light pulses in the image to maintain synchronization.
- BenQ W1070
- The W1070 supports multiple forms of 3D–including HDMI, Blu-Ray, 3D broadcasting, video games and NVIDIA 3DTV PC connectivity. With no crosstalk thanks to DLP technology and new glasses designed for comfort and peak image quality. 3D glasses are sold separately.
- Summarizing one Cnet reviewer: For a projector at this price I was blown away by how good the 3D image was. No TV for this price can give you an image with this much depth and lack of crosstalk. The glasses also helped to enhance contrast giving a higher sense of a “black” background.
With the right inputs, your new projector will work with everything you already own, and a few future items as well. Without them, you will be scratching your head to find creative solutions to get everything hooked up. Lately projector manufacturers are providing more than enough connections for most people.
- Optoma HD25e: HD131Xe is identical.
- HDMI 1.4a: 2
- Component video: none
- Composite video: 1
- VGA: 2 in – 1 out
- RS-232: 1
- BenQ W1070:
- HDMI 1.4a: 2
- Component: 1
- Composite video: 1
- RS-232: 1
- S-Video: 1
Green by Design:
- Use less than one-watt power consumption in standby mode—: up to 75 percent savings compared to many other projectors.
- Limit energy use, with automatic shut down settings.
- Employ long-life materials and components.
- Use components that are lead-free on all printed circuit boards.
- Comply with RoHS standards to phase out the use of hazardous materials.
Both the Optoma HD25e, HD141X and BenQ W1070 offer an amazing value for the prices they go for. The Optoma has a higher contrast rating, however the BenQ offers dynamic power saving features they claim provides an ultra-vivid picture quality. When it comes to the overall look of the picture, we simply fell in love with the BenQ. Optoma’s DynamicBlack system is supposed to adjust the image to intelligently increase contrast. What it actually seems to do is increase fan noise for several seconds at a time without much of a tangible effect on the image itself which may bother some if the projector is located close to the seating area.
This comparison below shows an example of BenQ’s dynamic image:
This feature and its color reproduction, including one of the smoothest color gradations we’ve seen (including on many LED TV’s) is what sets it apart and has us recommending the BenQ W1070 as the best home theater projector for the money. Its vertical “lens-shift” (causing no degradation in picture quality and lacking on the HD25) is the one feature for those of us without the perfect mounting location yearn for giving you more flexibility in mounting off-center in the vertical axis, such as a coffee table. For a great quality big cinema-like picture, you just might not be able to beat the BenQ W1070 for the money.
Don’t forget the most important thing to do with your new projector; Calibration! Without calibrating your projector the picture just won’t look realistic to you. Flesh-tones will appear pink or pale, colors will look overblown or washed-out. We recommend the WOW (World of Wonder) disk for this purpose as it works well and has easy to understand menus for just about everyone compared to some of the other technical oriented options out there.
Where to buy?
Getting the best price tip! You can add an item to your cart on Amazon at any time and don’t have to purchase right away. Each time you visit your cart Amazon will note at the top any pricing changes. Your own personalized price-tracking tool. Makes it much easier to track what you want to buy later.
With this BenQ W1070 review you might be ready to try it out. You can buy the BenQ W1070 also at Amazon and always with free shipping available and one of, if not the best price when compared to other online stores, especially considering the free shipping. Click here to view on Amazon.
You can buy the Optoma HD25e at Amazon. Currently they have free shipping available and from what I can tell, the best deal when compared to other online stores, especially considering the free shipping. Click here to view on Amazon.
The Optoma HD141X is also available at Amazon. In rooms with great control over ambient light, the drawback of lower contrast and lumens may make for a great deal.
Looking for a screen? See our guide to projector screens here. Or take a look at this is 106″ model by Da-lite is a great high quality screen for use with a darkened room or one with some minor ambient light spill. Da-Lite models are known for their long-lasting attributes where many other cheaper screens mechanics fail after a few years or even develop “waves”. Amazon has the lowest price by far even after verifying with other projector specialist stores. Click here to view on Amazon.
Have questions? Feel free to contact me anytime and I will do my best to answer your questions or provide suggestions.