These are pioneering times in the world of home cinema projectors, with a clutch of burgeoning technologies looking to grow into the gap made by new use cases and the growing feeling from consumers that bigger is definitely better when it comes to watching films and TV.
There's a huge amount of interest for projectors with laser light sources (which offer longer life spans and no warm-up times) and for those more flexible models offering ultra-short-throw (which aim to bring the big screen into more everyday life).
While 2021 has seen an impressive second wave of such machines – not to mention an improvement in the portable projector space too – it remains, for the time being, the more traditional lamp-based, long-throw designs that offer the best picture at the right price.
For the second year in a row, the utterly superb JVC DLA-N5 (DLA-NX5 if you're in the US) is a simply delightful option for those with some money to spend. This native 4K projector is beautifully black and cinematic, and a terrific choice for anyone getting serious with a dedicated home cinema room.
JVC has recently announced an update to its native 4K D-ILA range, which we look forward to reviewing ahead of next year's Awards, but the N5/NX5 remains the entry-level machine to accompany the new JVC DLA-NZ7, NZ8 and NZ9.
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Below this level, it's all about Epson and its 3LCD projector range. While DLP machines might offer more black depth and more punch, there's something reassuringly natural about the way that both the Epson EH-TW9400 (Epson Pro Cinema 6050UB) and Epson EH-TW7100 (Epson Home Cinema 3800) create their pictures.
With great subtleties to their shading and their careful nuance to colour production, they offer two more affordable budgets with which to test the waters of home cinema. That makes two years on the trot for the TW7100 and three for the TW9400. For an even more reasonable entry into the market, the five-star Epson EH-TW7000 (Epson Home Cinema 3200) is well worth a shout.
Equally, a slightly cheaper first native 4K projector would be the superb Sony VPL-VW290ES (Sony VPL-VW325), which replaces that the previous Award-winning Sony VPL-VW270ES (Sony VPL-VW295). Were the 290ES not so close in price to the JVC, it might have been a different story for Sony this year.
Let's see what happens in 2022. But right now, the two excellent Epsons and the joyous JVC DLA-N5 are the beamers to beat.
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