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New Projectors Rich On Colors, But Few Offering 4K Just Yet

DENVER – When it comes to video and TV tech news, CEDIA Expo 2014 brought more exhibitors and Ultra HD TV news than ever before.

But from a home-theater installer’s perspective, that message might have been somewhat mixed.

While on one hand, companies like LG and Sony had a lot to show and say about new big and even some not-sobig Ultra HD LED LCD flat-panel TVs, and even the first UHD OLED TVs, the usual cast of home-theater projector manufacturers showed only very expensive commercial-grade DLP 4K Digital Cinema projectors or pixel-shifting “enhanced 4K” models, which some attendees on the floor were satirically referencing as “Faux K.”

From the native 4K home-theater projector perspective, Sony was again about the only game in town, showing its three-chip home-based 4K SXRD models: the VPL-VW1100ES and VPLVW600ES. While not new, the entry-level “4K reference projectors” did receive enhancements, including control over IP operation and new calibration software via a new PC application, leaving competitors frustrated with the dragging heels of their microdisplay.

Most DLP projector makers said it already may be too late for a home-based 4K Digital Micromirror Device solution from Texas Instruments (TI), and have opted to move onto systems that can produce better pictures from existing DarkChip III FullHD DLP chips and other variants, bring new light engine technology to the arena or have added extravagant new styling and functional designs to projector cabinets.

Prior to CEDIA Expo, Texas Instruments told TWICE: “Although we are keeping a close eye on the home-theater market, we aren’t seeing demand for 4K-home projection because of the lack of content. If the demand for 4K home-theater content increases, the DLP chip is a highly scalable device capable of meeting the market need for higher resolutions, higher frame rates and higher contrast.”

One DLP projector manufacturer, who asked not to be named, told TWICE: “If [TI is] thinking Ultra HD is about content, it is not. It is about buzzwords. And Ultra HD is the latest buzzword.”

Similar comments were heard by DLP supporters and manufacturers around the show floor, with some adding they might consider going with other microdisplay solutions to address 4K if TI opts not to address the segment for the long term.

The following is a look at some of the home-projector technologies that did make the show:

Digital Projection Inc. (DPI) showed two commercial-grade ultrahigh- end home theater high-brightness 4K DLP projectors, using laser-illumination and LED, respectively. The Insight 4K Laser (September availability) and Insight 4K LED (Q1 2015) both offer true 4K (4,096 by 2,160) resolution.

The solid-state LED and laser illumination sources provide cost savings from lamp replacement. The laser model yields 12,000 lumens of brightness, and 20,000 hours-plus of illumination life. The LED version carries DPI’s Lifetime Illumination platform, and LED color purity. Pricing was not disclosed.

Epson showed new 3LCD projector solutions for both ends of the home cinema market. At the entry FullHD end, it unveiled the PowerLite Home Cinema 3600e, Home Cinema 3500 and Home Cinema 3000.

The models feature up 2,500 lumens of color brightness and 2,500 lumens of white brightness with up to 70,000:1 contrast ratios, 2D and 3D 1080p support and wide vertical and horizontal lens shift. The projectors offer up to 1.6x lens zoom, dial adjusted lens shift technology and a 26 percent smaller footprint than preceding models.

The 3500 and 3600e models also include two built-in 10-watt stereo speakers and Epsons Super Resolution technology for sharper edges and Detail Enhancement technology to refine surface detail.

The flagship Home Cinema 3600e adds a WirelessHD transmitter that connects up to five HDMI devices simultaneously, with one HDMI out connection and one optical port for switching between sources and MHL connectivity. The 3600e ($1,999), 3500 ($1,699) and 3000 ($1,299) solutions are shipping now.

Epson also showed new pixel-shifting technology and “reflective” laser lighting on FullHD LCD 3LCD microdisplays.

The PowerLite Pro Cinema LS10000 4K Enhancement Projector uses new pixel-shifting technology and the Pro Cinema LS9600e FullHD offers wireless connectivity.

Both models will be distributed through CEDIA and specialty dealers this fall for less than $8,000 each, Epson said. Brightness on the LS10000 is rated at 1,500 lumens of color brightness and 1,500 lumens of color and white brightness. The LS9600e outputs 1,300 lumens of color and white brightness.

Epson’s new 3LCD Reflective technology and laser light source are said to produce an “Absolute Black” contrast ratio and one of the industry’s largest color gamuts. The Pro Cinema LS10000’s 4K Enhancement technology improves sharpness, clarity and detail, shifting each pixel diagonally by 0.5 pixels to double the resolution and surpass Full- HD image quality without visible stair-stepping or pixel gaps, the company said.

Sim2 showed its Nero 3 ($14,000 suggested retail) LED-illuminated, single-chip DLP projector, using a red, green, and blue LED light engine, which negates the need for a color wheel.

Brightness was rated at 2000 ANSI lumens (1400 LED lumens) and a dynamic contrast ratio of 100,000:1 by modulating the LEDs without the need for a mechanical iris.

Other features include a wide color gamut, manual lens shift, and RF activeshutter 3D capability.

Wolf Cinema showed its SDC-40 (shipping in November at a $40,000 suggested retail) FullHD 2D/3D three-chip DLP projector using a Pro- Scaler MK II video processor.

In produces 3000 ANSI peak white performance a 30,000:1 contrast ratio, a triple-flash 3D 144Hz imaging ultra-fast refresh rate. Wolf’s E-VariScope technology provides rapid access to favorite widescreen aspect ratios (ex: 1.78:1, 1.85:1, 2.35:1 and 2.40:1) without the need for an external anamorphic lens.