What makes a great home theatre projector?
Home theatre projectors are becoming more affordable and the improvement in lamp life and value means you don't just have to use these devices for watching big events.
Our projector tests take around three weeks and are designed to give each projector a fair go at providing a good picture in the appropriate environment.
While you can't always get your room absolutely 'light tight', you definitely get the best out of these products when the lights are low.
Our expert testers
Our technical staff includes testers that have sat on Australian Standards committees to make sure the home entertainment devices you buy are safe. They've also had a major influence in getting MEPS (mandatory energy performance standards) implemented so the products you buy today use significantly less energy.
How we choose what we test
We select a range of the latest release projectors in what would be considered a medium price bracket. Once we confirm the models are readily available, our buyers go out and purchase the models to test, just as you would. Because these models are often available at different times of the year, sometimes we can't buy the latest model in a retail store although we know it's coming soon. This issue arose with the latest projector test for the Epson EH-TW6700W – however, for this model, we borrowed a unit from the company and returned it after the test.
Occasionally we'll include a brand that's outside the mainstream to check that we're not missing a bargain, or something better than the main brands can deliver.
How we test
The most basic and important part of our testing is that it's a comparison of the relative merits of each projector against the others in the test. The final scores are based on a range of individual scores which our testers produce as they work their way through the test method.
We gather a lot of information about the projector including its weight, available screen area of the projection, connections (Wi-fi, Bluetooth etc.) and any other materials supplied with the projector such as 3D glasses and cables etc.
HD and SD video performance
To check the picture and colour, the lighting in the room is kept very low and three panel members evaluate the picture quality, watching a variety of footage from DVD, Blu-ray and video game sources as well as a photo.
The panel of testers pays particular attention to a projector's ability to produce images without colour banding, rainbow or screen door effects, jerkiness in pans, blurred or vibrating detail, or colours bleeding in high contrast or very intensely saturated parts of the image. They also check that there are no trails behind fast-moving objects on the screen.
Ease of use
We assess how easy it is to use the on-board controls and on-screen displays to perform several common tasks. Careful attention is paid to being able to easily find and use the most commonly used controls, as well as finding those you may only need once in a while.
If you've ever lost your remote control you'll know how essential it is for using any home entertainment device. The tester checks the size and spacing of the buttons, dials or touch pads to make sure they're easy to reach, logically grouped and not too close together. Labels should be big enough to read and of sufficient contrast to be easy to read in low light. The remote's overall size and shape is assessed for how well it fits in the hand and how easy it is to use with one hand.
A power meter measures the power used by the projector in standby mode.
This is measured at right angles to the noisiest side. A sound meter is placed one metre from the projector and takes a reading for 20 seconds.
Prices are recommended retail, as supplied by manufacturers – you should be able to better this price in any store.
Overall score is made up of HD video quality (45%), SD video quality (20%), remote control (15%), ease of use (10%), sound quality (5%) and standby energy use (5%).
Standard definition includes footage from DVD movies, technical assessment of noise levels, jaggies etc. and free-to-air broadcast sports footage.
High definition includes footage from a Blu-ray movie, technical assessment of noise and free-to-air broadcast sports footage.
Ready to buy?
If you're ready to start comparing models, take a look at our latest home theatre HD projector reviews. If you want to do a bit more research about what to look for in a telly, check out our projector buying guide.