New Projectors from Epson, LG, and JVC Among CEDIA 2019 Highlights
Last week's 2019 CEDIA Expo had its share of big, fancy displays being touted on the show floor, including a range of 8K-resolution flat-panels and a couple of micro-LED walls that wow'd showgoers. But, as usual, the biggest and best home theater demos were delivered with...projectors. Some new models were scattered about, though introductions were less prominent than at previous shows. Perhaps the most significant announcement was for Epson's new ultra-short throw projector (see below), which hadn't been previously disclosed and puts the company squarely into the race to replace consumer flatpanels with an easy-to-install projector/screen combo. It joins similar models either being sold today or anticipated from LG, Optoma, Hisense, ViewSonic, and others. Screen makers were equally visible at the Expo, and mostly showed off a combination of new and previously existing ambient-light rejectiing (ALR) materials and frame options.
Here, listed by brand, is a rundown of what was on the floor in Denver.
Barco Residential took the opportunity to demonstrate its remarkable Bragi Cinemascope projector, a sophisticated single-chip DLP model with up to 5120x2160-pixel resolution and a solid-state RBG LED light engine with 50,000 to 75,000 hours of life depending on the power mode. Rated at 2,100 ANSI lumens officially, its apparent brightness is said to be about 30% higher than that number thanks to the LED-lumen effect. The projector makes use of its extra pixels by automatically recognizing and scaling 2.4:1 content to its full resolution, and blacks out those DLP micromirrors it doesn't need for other aspect ratios. End-user pricing is $30,000. Barco also demonstrated a variety of Display Technologies mirrored projector mounts, which allow projectors to be hidden at odd angles in ceilings or walls while still delivering their image to a screen situated across the room.
Da-Lite was touting its newest "contrast-based" Parallax ambient-light rejecting screens, which are designed to address both cost- and size-related constraints associated with the company's high-performance Parallax Pure line-up. Parallax Pure features micro-layered optical elements to acheive greater than 95% ambient light rejection, but such an approach limits diagonal screen size to 120 inches. The new Parallax Stratos, first shown at this year's Infocomm, is a 1.0 gain, dark contrast-based material that acheives 80% light rejection, and can be cost-effectively produced with no seams in sizes up to 16 feet tall (and extremely wide width). The sample shown at CEDIA was a 133-inch diagonal in a Cinema Contour fixed frame with an suggested end-user price of $2,783.
For CEDIA, Digital Projection skipped the impressive demo of its Insight 4K HFR ultra-high-frame rate commercial projector that garnered so much attention at Infocomm in June, but it did show the Satellite Modular Laser Projection System the company also teased in Orlando. Still under development until late next year, the design uses a separate chassis for the laser-based light engine that connects via optical cable to the relatively compact projection head. Three heads using different size DLP imagers are expected to be offered, including the Highlight to provide up to 20,000 lumens, the Titan for 30,000-35,000 lumens, and the Insight for up to 60,000 lumens. A DPI rep explained that multiple heads can conceivably be connected to a single laser engine to drive screens in different locations in a home or facility.
EPV Screens, the division of Elite Screens that caters to custom integrators, was showing off a 120-inch version of its floor-rising UST screen, said to be the perfect solution for UST installations where wall- or ceiling-mounted screens are impractical or undesirable. The DarkStar Max UST-FR series feature's Elite's rollable ALR UST material that rejects overhead light to mitigate wash-out and improve contrast and color saturation. The motorized table-resting aluminum housing, with a black enamel finish, is equipped with a scissor-arm mechanism that smoothly lifts the screen to full height. An infrared safety feature automatically stops the motor in the event an obstruction (such as a finger) is detected while the screen is lowered. Tab-tensioning helps keeps the material wrinkle-free even with repeated rolling—an especially critical characteristic for UST projection. The sample shown at CEDIA was utterly free of any surface waves, ripples, or defects. The DarkStar Max UST-FR is available in 100-inch and 120-inch sizes (16:9 aspect only), and comes with a full IR/RF control package.
Epson surprised CEDIA showgoers with several ongoing demos of its previously unannounced UST projector, dubbed the LS500 Laser Projection TV. The LS500 is a 4K-compatible follow-up to Epson's several-year-old LS100 1080p projector and utilizes the company's latest 4K PRO-UHD pixel-shifting technology with a trio of 1080p LCD imagers—the same combination found in its new long-throw home theater projectors. Epson touts 4,000 ANSI lumens of light output and a rated 2.5 million:1 contrast ratio (along with the usual 3LCD benefits of equal color brightness and no rainbow artifacts), and specifies the color space as full Rec.709. The projector recognizes HDR content, however, and features the wide-range 16-point HDR brightness adjustment introduced recently in the Home Cinema 5050UB projector.
Epson is specifying a maxium 120-inch diagonal, 16:9 image for the LS500, and is packaging it with a UST ALR screen at the 120-inch size for $5,999, or the 100-inch size at $4,999. It will be available at the end of this year or early 2020 from Magnolia and through Epson's custom integrator network. Although the accompanying screens are supplied directly to Epson by an unnamed screen supplier, a company rep explained that integrators who would prefer to mate the LS500 with a comparably-performing UST screen from their favored screen brand will be able to do so and receive a credit back.
The LS500 is being offered in either black or white, with a design that features a prominent lens housing that raises the optics above the top of the projector's rectangular case and is said bring up the image offset and help improve geometry and focus at the far corners of the screen. The front panel of the projector sports a woven grill that hides a small utility dual-speaker audio system (for which Epson makes no claims for audio quality) as well as a control panel, focus lever, and a cavity with a USB port where an included Android TV dongle can be plugged in. Web streaming options include Netflix, HBO, Showtime, YouTube, ESPN, and others. The system features a voice-activated remote for use with Google Assistant.
Epson's booth prominently showed three LS500 systems in both the 120- and 100-inch sizes in a brightly lit area, where it was demonstrated showing a recorded sports feed offering four simultaneous games on a 120-inch screen, each appearing as a 60-inch diagonal image (as would be available from the ESPN app's Multicast feature, for example). Also shown was recorded footage of live videogame play of Destiny 2. Epson says the input lag on its engineering samples of the LS500 has been measured at just under 19 milliseconds, which should make it suitable for competitive play on demanding first-person shooters.
Elsewhere in its booth, Epson demonstrated a well-tuned Pro Cinema 6050UB (the commercial A/V version of the HC5050UB) in a dark-room theater with a 120-inch Stewart 1.3-gain screen, and the company introduced two new budget projectors that were not demo'd but should be of interest to ProjectorCentral readers upon their release this fall. The Home Cinema 3800 and Home Cinema 3200 are priced respectively at $1,699 and $1,499 and bring Epson's 4K PRO-UHD pixel-shifting technology to a new low price point. They will replace the HC3100 and HC3700. The primary differences in the models is in contrast ratio, where the HC3800 is rated at 100,000:1 and the HC3200 is rated at 40,000:1, and in a dedicated rear-facing dual-speaker audio system for the HC3800. Both offer 3,000 ANSI lumens and Epson's usual 3LCD architecture. These projectors handle HDR10 content while providing Rec.709 color gamut, and each offers a pair of HDMI 2.0/18 Gbps ports to handle UHD content at 60 Hz frame rate with HDR. Both also support 3D. A newly designed glass lens provides up to +/-60 percent vertical and +/-24 percent horizontal lens shift. Both models will be available in October at Best Buy and in November at Amazon.
FIBBR was one of several companies on the CEDIA floor touting various long-distance HDMI solutions, but the company's new Ultra8K Series HDMI V2.1 cable caught my eye thanks to its guranteed 8K rating. With its hybrid design that uses optic fiber for the video signal and transmits multiplexed control/data information via copper, the F-H3M-U8K offers the 48 Gbps bandwidth required for full HDMI 2.1 utilization...at distances up to 20 meters (65 feet). It'll handle 8K resolution at 60 Hz with HDR with 12-bit depth and uncompressed 4:4:4 color. A 10-meter length (approximately 33 feet) will set you back $1,799. For more immediate and less demanding needs, FIBBR was also promoting its Ultra Pro2 Series HDMI V2.0 hybrid cable, which offers 21 Gbps bandwidth and costs $249 for 10 meters.
JVC demonstrated a new DLP laser projector at CEDIA, the 3,000 lumen LX-NZ3 (available in black or white) priced at $3,699. According to JVC officials, the company was hearing demand from the field for a sub-$4,000, relatively high-brightness option suitable for ambient-light viewing to go along with its well-respected high end home theater projectors. Utilizing the latest 0.47-inch DLP XPR chip, the projector offers Rec.709 color space and HDR compatibility with JVC's Auto Tone-Mapping feature as introduced early this year in its native 4K projectors. That system utlilizes the available metadata encoded in HDR programs to automatically apply a fixed, best-compromise tone-map.
Of greater interest to home theater enthusiasts, however, was the announcement just prior to the show of a firmware update for those native 4K models that brings a much more advanced "frame-adaptive" auto HDR function. The update, which will be available in October free of charge for all owners of the DLA-NX9/RS3000, DLA-NX7/RS2000, and DLA-NX5/RS1000, will allow those projectors to bypass the encoded metadata in HDR10 programs and provide gamma adjustments on a frame-by-frame basis, thus providing optimal image quality on all scenes of a movie with no compromises required. Demos in JVC's theater room using the NX-9 looked very promising. We'll report on the effectiveness of the new arrangement in our upcoming review of the DLA-NX7.
It was no surprise to see LG Electronics demonstrating its new HU85LA ultra-short throw projector at CEDIA (review pending), but the company also had on static display a previously unannounced projector, the HU70LA, which is due out in the fall. This compact UHD-resolution model features a DLP XPR chip and an LED light engine rated to deliver 1,500 ANSI lumens and 150,000:1 contrast ratio. Also on board is the same frame-by-frame dynamic tone-mapping technology used effectively in the HU85LA, and the same WebOS 4.5 operating system for the on-screen interface and Google Assistant-based voice control. Price is expected to be $1,799.
Though not exclusive to the projector category, professional calibrators and serious enthusiasts who perform their own display calibrations were treated at CEDIA to a look at a sophisticated new signal generator from Murideo, maker of the popular Six-G 4K signal generator used by many calibrators and reviewers (including us at ProjectorCentral). The Murideo Seven Generator offers a large 7-inch high definition display, and provides a plethora of video test signals and functionality via CalMan software control or directly from its membrane keypad; RS-232 and IP network control are options as well. Among its stored test patterns are 1080p and 4K/UHD patterns by ISF and by Bill Wetzel, as well as HDR10 patterns from Diversified Video Solutions. The Seven is also said to allow generation of true native 10-bit and 12-bit signals in 4K/HDR (vs. upscaling 8 bit signals), and it provides enough on-board memory (896 GB) to allow uploading and playback of HD or 4K/UHD video clips as well as additional test patterns. It also serves as a full function HDMI audio generator, and provides input lag/latency testing of both video and audio signals. It's expected to go on the market shortly for about $4,000.
Panamorph was on hand in Denver promoting its Paladin and Paladin DCR anamorphic lenses used for constant-height screen setups with with 2.35 or 2.4 aspect ratio 'Scope-style screens. Available for a variety of popular projectors, the Paladin DCR (Digital Cinema Resolution) is designed for projectors with native DCI 4K resolution (4096x2160), while the Paladin is for UHD-resolution (3840x2160) projectors. The lenses sell for $8,995 and $6,995 respectively.
Screen Innovations was pitching the compact Solo2 motorized screen it first showed at Infocomm, loaded with its ST short throw ALR screen material, one of just a few rollable UST screens on the market. But the big focus at SI's very busy booth was on an expansion of its motorized shade offerings, including a side-channel dual-shade option that should interest home theater owners. In the configuration shown on the floor in Denver, a translucent shade guided by side rails for day-to-day use was backed by a second, motorized blackout screen that can be lowered independently when full darkness is required. The big introduction, however, was the Janus shade hub, which delivers power and control for up to 8 shades in a 1.75-inch tall, 1/2-rack width component...or 32 shades within 2 RU.
Along with touting their ClearPix ISF-certified screen material, Screen Research was at CEDIA showing off its DecorMask tailor-made screen masking option. This allows design-conscious homeowners to insert a third, vertical motorized mask over the screen with an image of their choosing, turning the normally white projection screen into a piece of art when not in use.
As usual, Seymour Screen Excellence shared a booth at CEDIA with Wolf Cinema and provided a superb home theater demo of its remarkable Enlightor Neo acoustically transparent, 0.8 gain screen material in a 172-inch diagonal 'Scope-style widescreen format. Wolf drove the video portion with its 4000 Mk II projector, a new 10,000 lumen, updated laser DLP model that features a two-color red/blue laser. It's priced at $40,000. Seymour also introduced a sophisticated new motorized masking system called the Adjustable Ratio Theater (ART). Unlike traditional masking systems, the ART is built piece-by-piece directly on the wall rather than assembled and hung, which allows for remarkably large installations. Available in 2-way or 4-way masking configurations, the system runs up to 20-feet tall and 30-feet wide, with 350 inches of viewable image width and 120 inches of masking when closed down to a 4:3 aspect ratio.
SIM2 was demonstrating its pre-existing xTV line of laser-driven UST projectors, which it offers in both tabletop and flush-mount versions. But its most impressive demo featured its Dual Nero 4S HDR Projection System, which uses two of the company's Nero 4S UHD HDR projectors stacked to deliver a total of 10,000 lumens to the screen. One of the projectors, with 6,000 lumens of brightness, projects the bright highlights in a UHD HDR image, while the other projector, at 4,000 lumens, handles the lower brightness details to help preserve black levels. The system is said to provide 13.5 F-stops of dynamic range, approximately matching the capabilities of the human eye. This compares with about 7 F-stops on a typical UHD HDR projector. The cost is $65,000.
Sony had little projector news at this year's CEDIA after filling out their line with some fresh models last year, though I half-expected to see a replacement for the company's laser-driven 4K UST entry, the VPL-VZ1000ES, which is getting long in the tooth and looking rather bulky and expensive at $25,000 compared with its fresh UST competition this year. The company's only projection announcement was of a firmware update that brings Digital Focus Optimizer and Dual Contrast control, two features previously offered only in VPL-VW995ES, to the VPL-VW885ES and the flagship VPL-VW5000ES. But big-screen enthusiasts were abuzz with the news that Sony's modular Crystal LED micro-LED wall display system would be available for the first time to the residential market. Sony has been showing this spectacular-looking display at trade shows for years now, and demo'd the 16 foot x 9 foot version that measures in at 219 inches diagonal and provides 4K resolution. Cost? Approximately $877,000 installed, including a 5 year service agreement. The smallest version available is 109-inches diagonal with 2K resolution (the pixel pitch of these modular walls is fixed, so their resolution scales with the size of the display), which is priced around $300,000. Sony's micro-LED wall competes directly with Samsung's Wall display, which features 4K resolution at 146 inches diagonal and sells for about $400,000.
Stewart Filmscreen was pitching its Balon borderless edge screen, which features a wrapped tapered edge to create a true floating image. It was shown with the company's Phantom HALR 1.0 ambient-light rejecting material in a 9 foot x 16 foot seamless screen, and with the optional backlight. Also on display was the newly-updated Luxus motorized housing first shown at Infocomm.
Stumpfl is an Austrian screen manufacturer building its presence in the U.S. They showed their Fullwhite borderless and Decoframe fixed frame screens. Decoframe is a stylish and eye-catching black aluminum option with the profile of a classic wood picture frame; it's an attractive departure from the usual felt-wrapped black-bordered screen. The company showed it with their ALR screen material in a 94-inch wide by 58 inch tall format.
Severtson Screens was at CEDIA touting their ALR screen material, which has an industry-leading 170-degree viewing angle and is available at up to a 120-inch diagonal (16:9) screen size. It's available for the company's Impression Series fixed frames. The 100-inch, 16:9 version is priced at $4,640.