Notes on Infocomm 2008

Evan Powell, June 25, 2008

The projection industry came together again last week at the tandem events of Insight Media's Projection Summit, and the Infocomm 2008 trade show in Las Vegas. I've compiled a few notes on the most memorable developments from those events ...

• As always, many new commercial and education products were released. As we are able to get enough specifications to report, they are being entered into the database. You can find many of them in the NewsWatch section, and in the projector database.

• Extreme short throw projectors have been a rarity until now, but at this show they were hot items. New short throw models were released by BenQ, Hitachi, 3M, Mitsubishi, and Sanyo to name a few. These are being targeted primarily toward the education market.

• Though Infocomm is not a home theater show, Mitsubishi released two new home theater projectors, the HC5500 and the HC1600. Reviews on both models will be forthcoming as soon as we can get production units.

Samsung and Joe Kane were showing their latest home theater projector, the SP-A800B. This model was announced at last year's CEDIA show, but just started shipping this spring.

Canon released the world's first WUXGA (1920x1200) projector using its LCOS technology, the WUX10. The company also introduced a new SXGA+ model, the SX80. We will be reviewing the SX80 shortly.

• There were several new widescreen business projectors in 1280x800 format. To find all the projectors currently available in this resolution, go to Find Projectors and selection WXGA (1280x800) in the resolution drop down list. There are actually two very similar WXGA formats, the other being 1280x768.

Sanyo announced 4LCD technology, a proprietary spin on conventional 3LCD that includes a fourth panel. Information as to how this actually works was a bit fuzzy as patents are pending and the company was not anxious to be too specific. But the demonstration showed a conventional XGA resolution LCD projector side by side with the same model upgraded with the 4LCD light engine, and the results were impressive-much richer color, with more vibrant reds and warm hues. It will be interesting to see how this new implementation of LCD rolls out in Sanyo's upcoming product releases. We are anxious to see more of it.

Texas Instruments demo'd a prototype DLP projector with a long life LED light source. The picture looked great and very high in contrast and color saturation, but it was a bit dim. But after all, it was a prototype, and the demo showed significant promise of LED as a future light source. Certainly we will be hearing much more of this over the coming year.

Texas Instruments also set up a demo to illustrate what they called the "burn in" problems on LCD projectors. While LCD projectors do not really burn in and cause permanent damage as can happen on CRT and plasma displays, they do have what is called image persistence. This is a tendency to retain the ghost of a static image that has been maintained for a long period of time on an LCD display. Unlike traditional burn in on CRT and plasma products, image persistence is temporary and can be reversed if it occurs. We are replicating the demo staged by TI to see what sort of results we get, and we will report to you once we have tested several LCD products under a variety of potential conditions that could cause the effect. TI is certainly correct to draw attention to the potential for image persistence on LCD projectors since it is a phenomenon that does not occur on DLP products. We hope with some further testing here we can describe the circumstances that it can occur, and the steps one can take to alleviate the problem if it does.

• At the Projection Summit, Tim Anderson from 3LCD called for the adoption of a new industry standard brightness specification that would measure Color Brightness. This specification would, according to Anderson, be a more informative metric for consumers than the current industry convention of measuring a projector's maximum white light in terms of ANSI lumens. The proposal is to include a Color Brightness spec along with the traditional ANSI lumen measurement.

The rationale for this is that 3-channel projection systems, whether 3-panel LCD or 3-chip LCOS or 3-chip DLP, rely upon the sum total of red, green, and blue light to create white. On the other hand, most (but not all) single-chip DLP projectors add a white segment in the color wheel, thereby overlaying additional white light onto the red, green, and blue information. The result is a brighter projector, but one in which the color gamut is compromised. 3LCD's argument is that the consumer is unable to discern from the traditional ANSI lumen specifications on DLP projectors that color dynamics have often been compromised in order to achieve higher brightness specs. Their proposed Color Brightness metric would allegedly help bring the issue to the attention of the consumer, as well as level the playing field in lumen specs.

Texas Instrument's representative speaking in response stated that 3LCD's proposal to measure the actual sum of red, green, and blue components of light was itself not an accurate way to measure DLP-based products, and that a new lumen metric would likely create more confusion than clarity on the issue. TI's position was that the conventional ANSI lumen standard was sufficient, and that no new metric was needed.

In our opinion, both 3LCD and Texas Instruments have valid points that need to be taken into account. While the Color Brightness specification proposed by 3LCD has its own limitations and may not be a universal solution, it would certainly not be any less informative or misleading than the current ANSI lumen standard which is unable to represent competing technologies on an equal footing. Ultimately, some sort of Color Brightness specification would raise the consumer's awareness of this important issue.

Certainly, there will be more to come on this topic, as it represents a clash between the DLP and LCD titans over a vital issue in projector systems performance and specs.