Affordable 4K Projectors Comparison - Placement Flexibility, Audible Noise

September 14, 2017 / By Art Feierman

In this section of our comparison, we discuss the affordable 4K capable projectors in terms of placement flexibility and audible noise levels.

Placement Flexibility

This one’s easy – it’s all Epson. All the Epsons are the same in this regard, sporting a motorized 2.1:1 zoom, and huge amounts of lens shift, both vertical and horizontal. All features are motorized.

Both Optomas and the Vivitek have 1.6:1 zooms – still respectable – and a decent amount of vertical lens shift only, so they come in poor seconds to any of these Epsons. All features are manual.

Thanks to motorized focus on the Epsons, it certainly is easier to get the sharpest possible image while focusing, because you can stand by the screen – super close, while adjusting with the remote. With the Optoma and Vivitek projectors, you are back – typically 10 to 20 feet back depending on screen size, trying to see well enough to get the focus dead on.

As a minor side note – I find the Epson optics to be a tad better than the Optoma at maintaining focus from center to edge. I honestly didn’t take that close a look at the Vivitek because it was an early engineering sample, but I had no particular complaint.

All of the Epsons discussed here offer Lens Memory, which, if you simply are going with a 16:9 screen (HDTV), matters little.

But, if you are a movie first person, thanks to all of these Epsons offering that Lens Memory feature, it’s practical. For many of us, it is highly desirable to own a “wide screen” – Cinemascope style where the screen is 2.35:1 (HDTV is 1.78:1), thus much wider than regular TV. That gives me my largest viewing area when watching most movies. (Many pre-WWII movies were not widescreen, some even 4:3 (1.33:1), and today, most made for TV movies, and some animated movies are shot in HDTV format, but the vast majority are still wide screen.

That gives any of these Epsons a NO CONTEST WIN for those wanting to go wide screen. One major screen manufacturer tells me that well over 10% of their screen sales these days are wide screens, which is impressive since, if you consider it, the HC4000 Epson (plus one aging Panasonic still around in its 5th year), are the only two under $2000 projectors that offer Lens Memory. Most over $5000 projectors do offer it, but, of course, under $2000 is where the bulk of projector sales are.

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Oh, you could go widescreen with the Optoma or Vivitek. But, if you did, every time you switched back and forth from a wide screen movie, to HDTV, sports, etc., you’d have to get up, and adjust the zoom, lens shift, and most likely the focus.

If your projector with manual lens controls is ceiling mounted, or on a high rear shelf, doing those lens adjustments frequently is total impractical, unless you don’t have high ceilings AND you are basketball player tall, so you can easily reach the projector. Even so, you wouldn’t want to!

For the rest of us, it’d be time to break out the ladder. Even less practical! Note: High rear shelf isn’t that likely with the Optoma or Vivitek, because with only a 1.6:1 zoom, most setups won’t let the projector bet that far back.

Even if your Optoma or Vivitek is set up table top, it’s still a pain! I know, because I switch back and forth all the time when reviewing projectors, so it’s always get up, adjust, then later, adjust back to the previous. Argh! You just don’t want to go that route!

Audible Noise

It’s a strange world – a decade ago, the DLP projectors were typically noiser than their 3LCD competition, but in this contest, the UHD65 and the Vivitek are noticeably quieter than the Epson at full power. How much? Well, on paper, the Epson claims 31 db vs Optoma’s 28 db, but I’d say that the Epson is more like 5 db noiser.

In Medium brightness mode, the Epson drops noise level dramatically and is quieter than the Optoma at full power. Now, the Optoma does have an eco mode, but to use it, you have to turn off Dynamic Black, which I wouldn’t recommend, as it helps slightly on black levels.

When you need max lumens, the Epson has a lot more than the Optoma, but is also a bit on the noisy side. The Epson for normal brighter room viewing, for example, for watching HDTV, is still a bit brighter in Medium power than the Optoma at full power.

Where you do need to run the Epson at full power, and put up with the extra fan noise, is when viewing HDR content. Ultimately, other than the Epson at full power, all modes on all these projectors are pretty quiet!

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