Projectors for Installs, the Redux.

OK, so I saw a comment on Maxine Giza’s “10 Projectors” article that was posted on August 26th at 8:42 PM. I’m giving CI the benefit of the doubt that it was deleted accidentally, but since it is gone, I will restate it here:

I had hoped that I would finally find an article that would give real world comments on products used by integrators, but sadly this is just a cut and pasted vendor advertisement. Why are these better suited than other projectors? Under what conditions were they installed and what were the results? It would be nice to see a tab devoted to products installed and comments from installers about each one. I know this will impact advertising but it may also wake up some of the manufacturers to realize changes need to be made before they are left behind. Let’s start with the 2,000 hour lamp life and the cost of replacements.”

I can’t add to why the 10 projectors here were chosen over any others, but in the spirit of giving readers more of what they want, I have compiled some commentary on a handful of projector manufacturers and their offerings at large.

I want to preface the following with this note. One of my project managers uses a phrase that I love, “Horses for Courses”. It is true to the core. I don’t know much about horses though, so I likened these models to cars we all know instead. All of the following brands have their place in our market, (In fact I have used most of them at one time or another) and excel in certain environments. Some may even have one or two models that may break the mold I am casting them into here, but all in all, here is my take on the projector landscape and most of its major players.

Optoma and BenQ

In the installation world, these are bang for your buck models. They offer HD resolutions up to 1080p, decent brightness, and a good warranty. Don’t expect a ton of control features or color accuracy. That’s not the goal here. The goal is a high number of fairly bright pixels at a low cost. Small boardrooms are a good home for these if price is a factor, and the room is a standalone system with a laptop input driving the show. I think Kia makes a car called the Optima, so easy call here.

Hitachi

Cut and paste the description for Optoma and BenQ here, but add the description “Short Throw”, and you will know when to use Hitachi instead. Hyundai, but not Genesis.

Boxlight

This is a great projector for a no frills classroom or military environment. It has high brightness and a great price point, but there is a glaring lack of 1080p in this line up. If all of your projects are XGA and WXGA, this could be a good workhorse. They have a bulbs for life program on many models as well, which can help in maintenance costs over time. Again this is a boxy, no curves, utility piece of gear. I think of it as the Scion XB of the projector world.

NEC and In Focus

The projectors for teachers. Lower cost, but with some integration features if you need them like 12 volt triggers, control ports, etc. They offer models with HD resolutions as well. The higher Lumen In Focus models are good for House of Worship installs as well. Think Honda.

Epson

The market leader in projectors. There is a strong education contingent for Epson as well based on their heritage and resolutions. The most notable piece they have is their interactive piece, the BrightLink 455WI. If you need an interactive short throw projector for white board applications, and don’t want to navigate the waters of eBeam, Vaddio, Smart Technologies, Team Board etc, as well as the myriad of software and mounting options, Epson is your go to. The BrightLink model comes packed in a box with projector, mount, software, VGA cables, etc, ready to go. Just add screen. I think of this brand as Toyota.

Sony and JVC

These are two players I think have carved out more of a Home Theater niche, but do have commercial models. They are more HD friendly than the Epson crowd, and offer similar brightness to the Panasonic models. They have some models with lens options and are all in all I feel a middle of the road product. They take cues from the other guys upstream, but don’t quite get there. Nissan maybe.

Panasonic-

Serious Training Rooms, Hotels and Universities, (a ton of Universities), use Panasonic. They have a wide range of brightness, resolutions, and interchangeable lenses for different throw distances. If you have an application that needs more light and more install options, you will find a match here. I would deem this an Acura, a step up from Honda, but not a Mercedes.

Mitsubishi-

One word “warranty”. 3 years, 24 hour replacement. These also have all of the plusses of the Panasonic models above. Varying brightness up to 7,000 lumens, interchangeable lenses, and lots of resolution choices make these good for a wide variety of installs, including House of Worship and Auditoriums. They also have a mirrorless short throw projector for tricky installs that still require sharpness at the edges and color accuracy. Oh, did I mention the warranty. I know Mitsubishi makes a car, but this surpasses that. Audi comes to mind here.

Barco, Christie, and Digital Projection Inc

I group these together as the high end. Brightness to 15,000 lumens, dual bulbs, 2 and 4k models, 10 and 12 bit color processing, edge blending modules, 3 Chip DLP models, HD-SDI inputs, and the like make these the only choice for production quality projection. If you are doing a Theater, Museum, Performing Arts Center, TV studio, Awards Show, Editing Room etc with a projector, you most likely can’t go downstream from here. These are higher in cost and require more maintenance but will do exactly what you want, and do it accurately. BMW, Mercedes, Porsche

Projection Design

Projection Design offers a lot of the pros of the Barco, DPI, Christie group. They built a lot of the old Christie models, so they should. They do have some odd resolution choices as well including 2538×1080 (2:35:1 native) and 2560×1600.

They also have versions where the bulb sets in a rack based box, and the light is relayed through a liquid filled tube to the actual projector (perfect for installations where getting to bulbs is problematic or may mess up an edge blending scenario). However, the choice of color wheels, etc make this a projector that can be extremely accurate when need arises, but also needs someone with an experienced hand to specify. This is an exotic sports car, high performance, but potentially finicky if you don’t know how to drive it.

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