Sometimes there are many new home theater projectors being unveiled at the annual Consumer Electronics Show. Sometimes there aren't, and the CES 2007 that just wrapped up in Las Vegas was one of them. So we will forego a full show review. However, we want to spotlight what in our view were the two most important developments of the show as far as home theater projectors are concerned ....
Epson was showing its new 1080p LCD projector for the first time in the United States. The Powerlite Pro Cinema 1080 is scheduled to commence shipments in the next month or two at a price of $4,999. This unit is configured with a 2.1x zoom lens, extensive lens shift, and inorganic LCD panels to ensure long term image stability. It is the first of the 1080p models to feature HDMI 1.3, and it is rated at 1200 ANSI lumens and 12,000:1 contrast. This looks like it could be one of the most competitive home theater offerings we've seen from Epson in quite a while.
JVC was also showing its new DLA-HD1, a 1080p resolution D-ILA projector which is rated at 15,000:1 contrast and 700 ANSI lumens. Don't let the relatively low lumen rating throw you. This is an actual rating based upon D6500 calibration. In reality, the projector produces plenty of light to fill a very large screen. It is also important to note that the 15,000:1 contrast rating is achieved without the use of a variable iris, so one can expect contrast to outperform competitive models that quote specs of "up to 15,000:1" based on variations of the iris from scene to scene.
JVC was demonstrating the competitive strength of the HD1 by showing it side by side against the Sony VPL-VW50. Now, of course there are a thousand ways to bias trade show demos, either intentionally or inadvertently. So while trade show demos can provide tentative information about the potential of a product, we form no firm opinions based on them. With that caveat, this particular demo showed that the HD1 appears to have a substantial advantage in black level and saturation over the VW50. Clearly, the objective of the demo was to allow viewers to see those particular strengths of the HD1, and they were indeed striking. But in addition, after getting past the obvious differences in black level and color saturation, we saw precisely the same inherent softness in the VW50's image that we had noticed when we had the VW50 in the lab. In this side by side comparison, the HD1's image was obviously the sharper of the two. Whether this advantage will continue to hold under closer scrutiny in our own lab remains to be seen.
Nevertheless, the DLA-HD1 is a product that warrants further attention as it is certainly capable of delivering a beautiful, well balanced image. Moreover, that image can be achieved with very little calibration work. During the demo, the menus were opened to show that the picture being viewed was based almost exclusively on factory default settings, with only minor adjustments to green and blue.
This 1080p projector will be marketed by two separate divisions of JVC under different model numbers, different marketing programs and different channel distribution. The DLA-RS1 will be marketed by the Professional Products Division, and the DLA-HD1 will be marketed by the Consumer Products Division. With its new 1080p models selling at estimated prices of about $6,300, JVC appears likely to capture a much greater share of the home theater projector market in 2007 than it has in years past.