Compared with a disastrous CES 2022 one year ago marked by empty halls with sparse exhibitors and few attendees, the 2023 show just ended in Las Vegas seemed to be back on track. Though it was nothing close to the 130,000+ attendance mark that pre-COVID shows were garnering or the 170,000 record set in 2015, the official count of 116,000 attendees gave this year's confab the feeling of an old CES. Cab lines went back to their typically Amazonian lengths, traffic around the convention center was annoyingly backed up, and the wait time at Starbucks easily ran into the "I don't have time for that" category. In other words, back to business.
For projection enthusiasts, it was also the usual, which is to say relatively light on new introductions, but not without surprises. Ultra-short throw laser TV projectors had growing presence, and a few new premium lifestyle projectors could be found. High end home theater projectors, which typically debut at CEDIA, were largely invisible.
Here's a quick rundown of what I saw around the show:
Anker. Anker wasn't on the CES floor but exhibited at the Pepcom Digital Experience pre-show event. The company was showing off the new Nebula Capsule 3 announced late last year. It's a laser-driven portable—not LED—squeezed into a tiny 3.3 inch diameter, 6,7 inch tall form factor. Resolution is 1080p and the brightness is rated for 300 ISO lumens. ProjectorCentral's review is in progress.
ASUS. We just finished taking a look at the cute little ASUS ZenBeam Latte L1, for which we will publish our review shortly, and along comes the new Latte L2 introduced at CES. It's a big step up, doubling brightness from a rather meager 300 LED lumens to 600 LED lumens, and moving from 720p to full HD 1080p. Also updated is the onboard streaming platform, which is Google-certified Android TV vs the Android-based Aptoid system in the L1.
AWOL Vision. The company was on the main floor showing off its two UST models, the LTV-2500 and the flagship LTV-3500, for which it was demo'ing newly released 3D capabilities via a recent firmware update on a 150-inch lenticular UST screen.
BenQ. BenQ showed off a small boatload of new projectors at their CES viewing room. Of greatest note to projection enthusiasts is the upcoming HT4550i, a solid-state step up model to the lamp-based HT3550. Using the latest iteration of BenQ's powerful RGBB light engine first introduced for the X1300i and X3000i gaming projectors, it's rated for 3,200 lumens brightness, and that's true ANSI, not LED lumens. Along with 4K resolution it offers 100% DCI-P3 color for HDR, and there's a significant improvement in dynamic contrast management thanks to the LED light engine: images are broken in real time into 1,204 distinct grid cells for fine adjustment of gamma by zone. Also included: HDR10+ compatibility, and the company's first 11-point grayscale adjustment for tuning of white balance. Low input lag for 4K or 1080p at 60 Hz is rated at 17.9 ms in game mode. And the supplied Android TV streaming dongle is certified for Netflix. The HT4550i is scheduled for April launch with a $2,799 MSRP. Also scheduled for release in spring is the HT2060, a 1080p LED gaming projector that's a step up to the HT205A and will be priced at $999.
Another interesting new model is the just released GP500, a box-like 4K "family projector" with a unique 360-degree audio system that can even be set in the menu to compensate for off-axis projector positions that place one side closer to the wall. It's a 1,500 ANSI lumen LED projector rated for 95% DCI-P3, and offers autofocus, 2D auto keystone, screen fit and object avoidance for easy set up. Android TV is also supplied, albeit without Netflix.
Beyond these, some new compact portables were added to the brand's line-up, and a new program was launched for the gaming community to provide projector settings specific to existing popular and newly announced gaming titles. Specific settings for several BenQ gaming projectors including the X3000i will be found online at the company's website as titles are released.
Formovie. Formovie, a relative newcomer to the U.S. market, showed off the well-reviewed Theater UST laser TV projector in the demo room at their booth, but also announced several new portable lifestyle projectors due out later this year. Notable among them is the Formovie V10, a circular 4K LED model that was recognized with a CES Innovation Award. It offers 2,500 ANSI lumen brightness, extremely low input lag of 12 ms for gaming, and a 360-degree sound system with a built-in 15-watt subwoofer for bass.
Hisense. The big projection news for Hisense—and for CES 2023 as a whole—was the announcement of the world's first 8K UST laser TV projector, an honor also claimed by Samsung with its own 8K model (see below). Multiple reports prior to CES suggested (and I confirmed at the booth) that the Hisense unit uses a brand new 0.94-inch DLP chipset from Texas Instruments that's capable of producing the required 33 million pixels for 8K. What's not confirmed (but is presumed) is that it's a native 4K chip that undergoes a four-phase pixel-shift to achieve 8K/60 Hz resolution on-screen, not at all dissimilar to how JVC achieves 8K resolution in its best 3-chip LCoS-based laser projectors. The demo unit shown was a very large projector whose form factor was further expanded out by an Atmos- and DTS:X-capable Harman Kardon-built sound system (with an outboard wireless sub, similar to Hisense's old L10 models). No lumen spec was released, but the projector at CES was mated with a 120-inch fresnel screen that, with its gain, allows the system to output a claimed 400 nits brightness. The projector has an RGB triple laser light source to hit full coverage of BT.2020 gamut.
Hisense officials on the show floor offered slightly conflicting information about when the model might be released in the U.S. It's likely to be in 2024, perhaps with an official launch at the 2023 CEDIA, and the price estimate discussed was a breathtaking $25,000-$30,000. Considering that there's presently no 8K content to speak of, there's little argument for actually releasing such a product any time soon.
More pertinent for shoppers in the coming months are updates to Hisense's L9G and L5G laser TV bundles to create the new L9H and L5H series. These remain, respectively, the brand's key entries in the triple-laser and single-laser categories and they remain fixed-focus models specifically bundled to a 100- or 120-inch screen. These are offered strictly with a fresnel screen this year—no more lenticular "cinema" option—but it's an updated screen design that's said to better tame the reflected ceiling wash above the screen that is common to fresnel UST ALR screens. Key upgrades to both lines include an upgraded OS with Google TV streaming platform that includes Netflix certification, Dolby Vision suport, an ATSC 3.0 off-air tuner, Airplay 2, and improved contrast. These are expected to reach market in late Spring, with the L9H coming in at $5,500 and $6,000 for the 100- and 120-inch versions respectively, and the L5H at $3,999 and $4,499 respectively.
Also announced was the single-laser PL1H, a 2,100-lumen standalone model capable of casting an image from 80- to 120 inches. Geared more for a moderate to dark environment, it's due in March at a cost of $2,499 with features that include Dolby Vision HDR, a Google TV streaming platform, and Dolby Atmos sound.
Finally, the new C1, colloquially called the Cube, seems to be the world's first 4K RGB triple-laser portable lifestyle projector able to achieve 107% of BT.2020 color gamut. It features 1,600 ANSI lumens, along with sophisticated auto keystone, auto focus, and obstacle avoidance technology for quick setups on images from 65 to 150 inches. Dolby Vision HDR, a JBL audio sysem, and Hisense's VIDAA operating system and streaming platform are key features. Alexa and Apple Airplay are on board as well. MSRP is $1,999, though it should be widely discounted when it arrives sometime in the second half of the year.
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JVC JVC was on hand at CES primarily to demonstrate their flagship DLA-NZ9/RS4100 LCoS-based D-ILA projector. But the company also announced a change to the low end of its line-up with a new replacement model for their LX-NZ3 4K DLP laser projector. Like the NZ3, the LX-NZ30 is offered as a bright, lower-cost entry model for customers who want the ability to watch TV or play video games in ambient light and don't require the high performance of the company's pricey D-ILA models. Improvements include a jump in brightness from 3,000 to 3,300 ANSI lumens, which helps with both high ambient light and with getting more punch out of HDR. More critically for gamers, the new projector supports high frame rate signals up to 1080p/240Hz with latency rated as low as 6.25 milliseconds. A new DisplayPort 1.2a input terminal allows connections to gaming PCs that offer this option, and a USB-C Direct Connect input has also been added. The NZ30 comes with a flexible 1.6x zoom lens with wide lens shift (±60% vertical and ±23% horizontal). Pricing is set at $3,499 with availability in black or white come late March.
Samsung. Samsung joined Hisense (see above) in announcing one of the industry's first 8K UST projectors. A prototype for its new Premiere 8K triple-laser was demonstrated without final cosmetic and was sunk into a display base, and it was unclear if Samsung is using the same new 0.94-inch DLP chip (as it is rumoured) or has approached this with a different solution. That chipset, which was co-developed by Texas Instruments and Hisense, is said to use a native 4K DMD with four-phase pixel shifting applied to achieve the 33 million pixels on screen required for 8K. This is similar to what's done today to achieve 4K with a 0.47-inch native 1080p DMD in many DLP projectors, or to what JVC does with the native 4K LCoS chips in its premium projectors to achieve 8K. What we do know is that the Samsung 8K Premiere is a triple-laser RGB rated for 4,000 lumens and better than 100% BT.2020 color gamut. It'll throw a 150-inch image with its backside 12.2 inches from the wall, and enjoy auto-focus, auto-keystone, and auto-leveling for easy setup. The built in audio system is a Dolby Atmos 5.0.2 channel system designed by Harman Kardon, with expandability to 7.4.1. Pricing and availability haven't been announced, though the speculation is that it could reach market around summertime.
Separately, Samsung announced a refresh to its Freestyle lifestyle portable introduced last year. Aside from bolstering up internal memory to support Samsung's cloud-based Gaming Hub, the company added a Smart Edge Blending function that allows users to easily blend the image from two new-gen Freestyles for a wide 21:9 image or a staked 16:15 projections.
XGIMI. XGIMI impressed us last year with the highly sophisticated Intelligent Screen Adaptation auto-setup technology on its Horizon and Halo+ models, which incorporate super-fast auto-focus, auto-keystone, auto-edge detection for placement on screens and auto-obstacle avoidance that resizes the picture in a matter of seconds if it detects something on the wall that would otherwise interfere with the image. However, those projectors require the flashing up of a test pattern when the projector is first placed or moved to allow it to get its bearings, thus interrupting the viewing experience. But the company's new Mogo 2 Pro portable is the first to use XGIMI's next-generation ISA 2.0 tech to speed the process and completely eliminate the test pattern for a more fluid user experience. The key is use of a more sophisticated 3D ToF (Time of Flight) sensor that collects 10,000 times more information about the room surroundings than its predecessor. Intelligent eye protection has also been added to quickly dim the laser and keep the little ones safe if they stick their face in the projector's beam.
Along with adding the new ISA system, the upcoming Mogo 2 Pro update to the original Mogo Pro and Pro+ adds an additional 50 lumens to bring this entry-level model up to 350 ISO lumens. 1080p resolution with HDR support are also offered, along with a sandstone-textured Mocha Gold finish.
ViewSonic. ViewSonic appeared at the Pepcom Digital Experience event showing off a new budget LED home theater and gaming projector, the X2-4K. Based in part on the 1080p X2 model that we reviewed last year, it's a 4K projector rated for 2,900 LED lumens and offering a 0.69:1 to 0.83:1 throw ratio. A distinguishing feature are dedicated settings worked out to specifically mate with Xbox Series X gaming consoles. Harmon Kardon speakers are built-in as well. The X2-4K is expected to be available in the second quarter of 2023 at an estimated street price of $1,599.
Yaber . Yaber is one of several brands new to the U.S. participating in the budget lifestyle segment, and their Pico T1 was something of an eye-catcher on the CES show floor. Though the meager 110 ANSI lumen rating from its RGB LED light source and 540p resolution (960x540 pixels) would seem to eliminate it from many applications, it's unusual form factor—just over a half-inch think and no taller than a typical smartphone—provides attractive portability. To accommodate the size, the projector has no internal battery, but Yaber ships it with both a wall power supply as well as a rechargeable, 10,000mAh powerbank that's also useful for charging your smartphone. You can feed the projector video signals through its mini-HDMI port using a supplied HDMI-to-mini-HDMI cable, or via a dedicated USB-C port (there's a second USB-C used for feeding power only), or even via WiFi for iOS, Android, or Windows mirroring. It ships with a magnetic tripod stand, a compact remote control, and a nice carry case to transport the projector and all accessories. Current price is $289 on Amazon.