With the World Cup finally upon us it pays to think outside the square when looking for a big-screen football experience, and a projector gives you a much bigger picture for your money than a television ever could.
What was very recently an exclusive AV club, membership to 1080p projection has suddenly become available to the masses. Full-HD projection has never been as affordable, and for the same price as your average-sized LCD or plasma TV you could be relishing in a HD picture at least twice as big.
Shopping around pays dividends and there are some fantastic HD projector deals to be had. We often hear complaints from CNET user reviews that we are being ripped off here in Australia, compared (mostly) to pricing in the US market. One model in this group test attracted precisely this sort of feedback — Mitsubishi's HC3800, which has an Aussie RRP of $3299 (and a "street" price of around AU$2500). In the US it can be bought for around AU$1000 less than the best deal you'll locally cut. Couple of things — firstly, the US market is at least 10 times bigger than ours and with the wildly oscillating Aussie dollar, things aren't looking that fiscally pretty when you do such international price conversions. And let's not forget the juice factor — 110 volts versus 240V generally puts a major dampener on importing US models, not to mention grey import warranty issues.
Anyway, back to the five projectors in hand. Least expensive is BenQ's W1000. OK, it's got its shortcomings, but if you're on a budget, both initially and with its on-going lamp replacement running costs, it makes plenty of financial sense. So too, does Optoma's HD20 and both models represent the best value-for-money 1080p projection currently available.
Spending a bit more generally means you'll reap high-definition dividends also. Next up the dollar scale out of this fivesome is said price-queried Mitsubishi HC3800. Side by side, it gives a smidgen more HD bang for the extra bucks compared to both the BenQ and Optoma, although it's a close-run thing regarding the latter projector. Add the similarly priced Epson EH-TW3500 into the mix and the choice becomes a bit tougher. Dollar for dollar, we'd probably opt for the Epson, given its greater placement and installation flexibility, but the physical bulk of the unit may not suit all.
Only one out of this collection stands (picture-wise) head and shoulders above the others — Sony's VPLHW15. It's a good AU$1000 more (after haggling) than the Mitsubishi or Epson, but once you've clapped eyes on its sumptuous image, anything less just doesn't seem quite as watchable.
So, price does make a difference, but the fact remains, Full HD projection has never been this affordable or accessible. Just 12 months ago there's no way you'd even entertain the thought of 1080p projection unless you had a dedicated AV room with screen and deep pockets. Thankfully, it's now within most people's reach, for the price of a teeny-weeny TV in comparison.