What is the best projector?

Many times we get asked “What is the best projector?” or a similar question for a different component.  People want to make sure they buy the unit that reviewers think is best, and might not have the time to go drive around town to many different dealers and see everything for themselves, or they might not even have all the units available in their town.  As nice as it would be to simply say “This is the best projector!” it often is a far more complex issue than that.For most of the past year, if you asked me what my favorite projector was I would have said the JVC X30/RS45, or one of the higher end models from them.  Watching films on those projectors was a truly accurate, cinema like experience that I enjoyed every minute of.  Of course, what I like to watch in my theater is 24p film content, with no ambient light, and very little else.  I don’t like to watch 3D, I have a very neutral screen, and I don’t usually have a group of people over to watch an event in that room.  I was also very partial to the lens memory feature as I use a 2.40:1 screen, but most people won’t be using that feature and it might be an extra expense for them.

What if I wanted to watch sports or TV all the time in my theater?  Then I might look at the Sony VPL-VW95ES more closely.  The Sony is more expensive than the JVC X30, but it had better motion for sports and TV content I felt.  However the 3D was still lacking as both projectors are a little dim, but in a totally darkened room they did a great job on my screen.  What if I really liked 3D?  Then the BenQ W7000 does a better job than any other projector I have seen for the home at a reasonable cost.  So the best projector for a 3D fan might be the BenQ then, but the best projector for a cinephile is a JVC model.

Similarly we all have preferences in what we like and don’t like in our images.  The JVC models have blacks that are not touched by any other projectors out there.  They are dark, deep, and accomplished without a dynamic iris which leads to amazing native contrast ratios.  I’ve noticed that as much as I love the JVC for movies, there is a little bit of a blur with motion on it compared to a DLP projector.  The DLP might not get the deep, dark blacks that the JVC offers, but it is fantastically sharp and has far clearer, smoother motion when watching movies or sports.  Since I usually just watch movies, I might still pick the JVC, but that better motion on the DLP sets is certainly appealing.

Another option out there are LED lit projectors, which have a wider color gamut and never dim.  These can truly pop off the screen with the rich color hues they can display, and you never need to worry about changing the bulb.  They might be expensive, but if you can afford it then they are the best projector, right?  Well, LED models also can not be nearly as bright as traditional bulb models, so you are stuck with a smaller screen unless you really have a lot of money to spend on a Runco stack, and so if you want that big screen you might need to forget about an LED and focus on a different model out there.

There are many other things to consider with your projector as well.  Does your room have a lot of ambient light?  How flexible does the installation need to be relative to the screen?  Is it a short room or a deep room?  Do you have a 16×9 screen or a 2.40 screen or something else?  How about playing video games, do you need low input lag?  Will fan noise be an issue for you, or will this be kept in a separate enclosure?  In the end, there are many projectors I can recommend to people, and there are many that I might say I prefer over other ones out of personal preference.  I can’t go out there and say “This model is the best projector out there, period!” since that doesn’t exist.  Perhaps someone will make it one day, but given all the variables out there I truly doubt it, but hopefully this sheds light on why we rarely answer this question.