Given the ongoing push of the commercial A/V markets into large panel displays and LED tiles, you might be forgiven for thinking that projection's best days were behind it. But based on the many projector and screen manufacturers exhibiting at this year's InfoComm trade show in Orlando, and the considerable technology advances they've brought to the fair, you'd be pretty wrong. If there are two tenets you can count on today, they are these: (1) Projectors remain the best way to get a big image displayed in the most cost-effective manner, whether for lighting up the screen in a hybrid work space, entertaining theme park visitors, or blasting creative artwork onto the side of a building, and; (2) Projector makers, assisted by screen manufacturers working hard on ALR tech, are keeping the industry vibrant with ever-brighter, ever smaller, and ever more efficient products that compete quite effectively in the arena of high ambient light.

Infocomm BEST OF SHOW generic award 2023 800

The 16 products awarded ProjectorCentral InfoComm 2023 Best of Show Awards highlight these trends and some new ones, including the emergence of a new generation of high performance USTs for conference spaces, the push to 21:9 aspect ratio capability to accommodate Microsoft Teams Front Row and competing wide meeting formats, and a growing presence for 4K resolution that suggests we may finally be peeking slowly toward a day when WUXGA becomes "been-there, done-that" for the commercial markets. Of course, ProjectorCentral will be out on the floor this week in Orlando poking all the tires and looking for anything we might have missed. Stay tuned for our upcoming show report. —Rob Sabin, editor

AV Stumpfl Flex Black Pro ALR Screen

AVStumpfl flex black pro1 AVStumpfl flex black pro2 booth

Whether we're talking about TV displays or projection, achieving high dynamic range and, especially, low black level remains the most critical aspect of a dimensional, lifelike image. It's made all the harder with projection since even the absence of light used to create black will always be affected by surrounding projected and ambient light. AV Stumpfl's decades of expertise in screen material development at their Austrian R&D facility has now resulted in this remarkable black projection surface that is said to provide state-of-the-art contrast in high ambient light conditions. Low-brightness LCD and LCoS projectors need not apply for this gig—given the Flex Black Pro's ultra-low 0.11 negative gain (no, that's not a typo) you'll ned to bring out the heavy DLP guns. But if you can throw enough firepower at it, you'll be rewarded with stunning images in the brightest of light, all from a a flexible, foldable, and washable material that's available seamless at up to 175 inches and scales up from there as needed.

Barco G50 Series DLP Laser Projectors

Barco G50

Barco's reputation for build quality, reliability and service are legendary, but you might be quick to dismiss them for everyday installs that don't demand one of the huge workhorse projectors the company is best known for. The new G50 series should go a long way toward changing that impression. As Barco's most compact, lightweight, energy-efficient and affordable line yet, it could vastly expand the brand's reach with prospects targeting higher ed, conference/meeting rooms, museums, houses of worship, theme parks, and other applications well-served in the 6,000-to-8,000 lumen range. The three initial 1DLP, laser-phosphor models are said to offer exceptionally low TCO (total cost of ownership), and are supported by a full range of lenses with throws from 5.5:1 down to a UST zoom at 0.37-0.4:1.

Christie 4K22-HS 4K 1DLP Laser Projector

Christie CHRI4195 HS High Front

After a debut at ISE in Barcelona earlier this year, Christie's 4K22-HS is getting its first domestic coming out party at InfoComm and easily took a Best of Show Award for being the industry's first 4K, single-chip DLP projector at its powerful 22,500 ISO 21118/19,000 ANSI lumen brightness. The projector does four-phase/240 Hz pixel-shifting on its 0.95-inch, 1080p native DMD to achieve the required 8.3-million pixels on sceen to declare 3840x2160 resolution, and boasts Christie's Bold Color+ red/blue dual laser-phosphor technology for better color. All the usual HS series features are here , too, including an excellent selection of zoom lenses plus a 0.38:1 UST, built-in Christie Twist tech for warping and blending, and compatibility with Chistie Mystique alignment/calibration software. Ultimately, though, the big news here is a more affordable DLP option in this brightness class than existing 3DLP models, in a smaller, more manageable 96-pound form factor.

Digital Projection Titan 41000 4K 3DLP Laser Projector

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Two new projectors in Digtal Projection's 3-chip DLP TITAN series—a 45,000 ISO/42,000 ANSI lumen WUXGA and the 41,000 ISO/36,000 ANSI 4K-UHD piece awarded here—respresent the brand's latest, state-of-the-art engineering and boast a number of advancements. Along with being these being brightest TITANs yet in their respective 4K and WUXGA classes with up to a 27% boost over earlier models, they are said to be 13.3% smaller, 7.4% lighter, and 3 dBA quieter than their predecessors. Perhaps most important to the environment and for cost-of-ownership, they are 15% more energy efficient from a lumens-per-watt perspective. All the classic TITAN features appear as well, including the company's ColorBoost+Red red-and-blue laser technology for well saturated color, an IP6x sealed optical engine requiring no filter replacements or cleaning, lens memories, and a variety of helpful set-up features. It all adds up to yet another classic, powerhouse projector for rental/staging or theme park applications.

Epson BrightLink 770Fi 3LCD Interactive Laser Projector

Epson BrightLink 770Fi

Epson developed something close to the perfect interactive projector platform with its 2019 release of the 5,000-lumen BrightLink 1485Fi, and while that model remains available, the company has now migrated much of this technology to a more compact and lower-cost solution in the BrightLink 770Fi. Rated at 4,100 lumens, its specs and features are otherwise nearly identical, including the ability to project at 21:9 or 16:6 aspect ratios, something that was rare when the 1485Fi came out but has become increasingly important. For an interactive classroom/conference projector, it allows for an interactive whiteboard function to coexist alongside presentation content. The 770Fi is also loaded with frequently used software apps, supports dual-pen or finger-touch interaction, comes with WiFi sharing from mobile devices via Epson's iProjection software, and delivers crisp detail from its three native 1080p-resolution LCD chips.

Epson PowerLite 810E 3LCD UST Laser Projector

Epson PowerLink 810E

Those familiar with Epson's LS800 UST laser TV introduced last year for the home theater space will recognize its basic chassis and cosmetic design in the PowerLite 810E, but this new model targeted at the business market is another thing entirely. Critically, it carries over the LS800's ground-breaking, super-sharp 0.16:1 throw ratio lens, which in this case throws a 4K-enhanced image of up to 160-inches diagonal—with an 80-inch image requiring just 1-inch of clearance from the screen wall. But the 810E is highly customized for commercial environments, designed to project on a screen or virtually any wall and present an image that nicely rivals the brightness of a panel display, without the size limitations or glare. To that end, Epson has provided features such as powerful 5,000-lumen brightness from the 3LCD light engine, multi-projector edge-blending, HDBaseT connectivity, and, of course, a 21:9 aspect ratio option for MS Teams Front Row. There's also a new Epson Setting Assist app to speed installation. As a UST projector, the 810E is easily integrated into work spaces on a rolling cart, a credenza (see the customized solution below introduced by Salamander Designs, another of our Best of Show Award winners), or via an optional wall mount.

LG Electronics ProBeam BU70QGA 4K 1DLP Laser Projector


LG's Business Solutions unit has been a quiet disrupter in commercial projection in recent years, supplying compact, well-equipped laser projectors in the low-to-mid brightness class. Their 4K models have typically been the most cost effective in the 5,000- to 6,000-lumen class, and include features like built-in WiFi and webOS apps not found on the competion. The ProBeam BU70QGA, with 7,000 ANSI lumens, 4K resolution, and an attached 1.6X motorized zoom lens, is the new flagship in more ways than just brightness. It's LG's first projector to offer the user-friendly webOS Smart Signage 6.0 platform, offered till now only on LG's commercial panel displays. In conjunction with a high performance SOC (System-on-Chip) processor, it facilitates on-board management of content distribution and playback, including through LG's ConnectedCare cloud-based device management solution, and opens the BU70QGA up to the many third-party signage apps already supporting the platform. Additionally, it supports built-in edge-blending for multiprojector setups, automated setup for focus, zoom, and keystone, and even a Screen Rotation function that allows landscape or portrait projection without physically moving the projector.

LG Electronics CineBeam PU700R 4K Portable LED Projector

LG PU700R product LG PU700R lifestyle

Compact lifestyle projectors that can pop out of a closet for a quick set-up or come along for a vacation have emerged as a growth category, driven in part by a contingency of Millenials, Gen-Zers, and even younger viewers gaining their first exposure to projectors for entertainment and other uses. In 2022, Samsung embraced the notion of the lifestyle projector as design piece for the home with its cylindrical FreeStyle model that resembles a spotlight, but LG has upped them here with the elliptical CineBeam PU700R. It similarly offers a swivel base to embrace easy setup and the odd trend toward projecting onto ceilings, as well as a multi-color/multi-pattern mood-lamp feature. But the internal tech leapfrogs the competition with full 4K UHD resolution, HDR dynamic tone mapping, and a full 1,000 ANSI-lumen rating from its LED engine that drives reasonably bright images up to 120 inches. Good auto-setup driven by TOF (time-of-flight) sensor technology is on board along with LG's webOS streaming platform. Nine different picture modes and respectable image quality complete the package.

Optoma ML1080 Portable RGB Laser Projector

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Discrete RGB laser architecture brings the advantage of wide color gamut, typically at or beyond BT.2020 limits, and high color saturation, but has typically been reserved for higher end projectors. Only recently has RGB started to show up in some portables, and none as small or affordable as Optoma's diminutive ML1080. With an expected $999 street price, it is the most compact RGB laser projector out there, weighing just 2.2 pounds. With 1,200 claimed lumens of brightness, it's said to be the brightest projector at its size, and it's made to serve both consumer and commercial applications, even shipping with an RS232 serial adapter that allows remote fleet management through the Optoma Mangement Suite (OMS) platform. The ML1080 also has built-in wireless sharing from up to four devices via the Creative Cast feature. Along with 1080p resolution and color reproduction suitable for an art exhibit, photography, or movie viewing, it's easy on the eyes thanks to a pleasant, minimalistic form factor that won numerous design awards, and the projector has also been recognized for its green, environmentally-friendly size and construction. An ML1080ST short-throw version is also planned.

Panasonic Connect PT MZ20KL 3LCD Laser Projector

Panasonic PT MZ20KL

Epson grabbed headlines last year with its remarkably compact EB-PU large venue series, including a pair of models that delivered 20,000 lumens from a chassis weighing under 54 pounds. Panasonic has done them one (or more) better here with its PT-MZ20KL, which now lays claim to being the smallest, lightest, and quietest 20K-lumen, 3LCD projector out there. Most critically, it delivers its 20,000 lumen brightness on a standard 120 volt AC power circuit, while Epson's model requires a 220 volt line to reach its full rated output. This new series, which also includes WUXGA-resolution models at 16,500, 14,000, and 11,000 lumens, also offers enhanced features that simplify installation, including NFC functionality for easy transfer of settings among multiple projections, optional lenses including a 0.33-0.35:1 UST zoom, a Black Level Correction function to make edge-blending easier on curved screens, Remote Preview LITE to check images even when you can't project content (e.g., during rehearsals), and a pre-activated Geometry Pro upgrade kit.

Panasonic Connect PT-REQ12KU 4K 1DLP Laser Projector

Panasonic REQ12

Panasonic is aiming directly at the immersive live entertainment space with the PT-REQ12 series, which stands out at InfoComm as the brand's first 1DLP, 4K models in their brightness class—the PT-FRQ60 series, introduced in 2022, tops out at 6,000 lumens vs the 12,000, 10,000, and 8,000 lumen models offered in this new family. But along with its Quad Pixel Drive technology delivering up to 3840x2400 resolution, the PT-REQ12 is also notable for its built-out feature list, including some capabilities moved down from Panasonic's 3DLP lineup. It is said to be first 1DLP projector to feature a hermetically-sealed optical engine with liquid-cooling to insure reliability, and a new lens lineup features improved contrast, increased lens-shift range to facilitate a wider range of installation positions, and powered peripheral focus adjustment by remote control—a previously manual-only function. The projector is also compatible with the optional ET-SWR10 Real-Time Tracking Projection-Mapping System that projects onto fast-moving objects for interactive applications and stage performances. Multiprojector setups are supported by Panasonic's NFC settings-transfer feature and the Smart Projector Control app. Furthermore, I/O is highly customizable thanks to an Intel Smart Display Module (SDM) slot.

Salamander Designs Integrated UST Cabinet/Credenza

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UST projectors have the distinct advantages of projecting a large image from a miniscule throw distance measured in inches, completely unemcumbered by shadows cast by presenters or audience, and with no more complex installation than required for a stand-mounted television. Furniture maker Salamander Designs saw that promise and jumped in early when UST laser TVs emerged for the home theater market, creating a class of customized credenzas that nicely hide the projector away in a well and protect the design integrity of the living space. With Epson and other projector makers now focusing more on high-brightness USTs for hybrid business environments, it was a natural for the company to apply themselves to an attractive, easily-deployed piece for office board rooms, training rooms, schools and universities, and the like. This first model is designed to work specifically with Epson's new PowerLite 810E, itself a Projector Central Best of Show Award winner (see above). The cabinet features a sturdy aluminum frame and pinch-out rear panels for easy access, with room for all supporting audio, video, power and other components inside. Furthermore, the unit is highly customizable with options like a conference camera mount, custom interior storage, and bolt-on accessories including an active cooling system, footing and wall-mount kits, and a concealable IR repeater system. All-in-all, Salamander has provided integrators with a simple and quick way to house a complete and attractive office A/V solution.

Sharp NEC NP-PV710UL 3LCD Laser Projector

Sharp NEC PV710UL

The industry's ongoing trend toward more lumens out of smaller and smaller boxes has resulted in some remarkably high-powered and compact projectors, but the focus in the 5,000- to 7,000-lumen brightness class so far has been on new models that save money and size with a permanently attached zoom lens. That's all good if the supplied zoom suits your needs, but what if you need compact size and low weight along with the flexibility of interchangeable lenses, or simply want to upgrade to more brightness while taking advantage of a suite of lenses you may already own? Sharp NEC has addressed this niche with the NP-PV710UL, which lays claim to being the most compact laser projector with interchangeable lenses at 7000-lumens and up, coming in at 19.8 x 6.60 x 16.2 inches (WHD) and 24.7 pounds. Spec'd at 7,100 lumens with WUXGA resolution and 4K/60 signal compatibility, it utilizes a family of bayonet lenses, including some with motorized zoom, focus, and lens shift, and ships with the NP13ZL, a highly accommodating manual 2.0X zoom that should work well with existing cabling and power in replacement installs. The projector is also compatible with older PA series manual lenses. As a bonus, this new platform is exceptionally quiet with a 31 dB noise spec in ECO mode that should make the PV710UL a good fit for museums and libraries, along with classrooms where viewers are situated close by.

Sony VPL-PHZ61 3LCD Laser Projector

Sony PHZ61 front award

Sony's VPL-PHZ61 is a solid, mid-brightness install projector that earns its Best of Show stripes with a winning combination of attributes that include unusually small and light weight for its rated 6,400 lumens (16.6 x 5.1 x 13.3 inches (WHD) and 15 pounds); a nice mix of install features including an attached lens with a wide 1.6X zoon and generous lens shift (+55% V, ±15% H) and the ability to easily clone settings among projectors; and an attractive, high-value street price under $3,500. It's a low-maintenance design with a new slide out filter system and innovative clogging sensor that allows up to 10,000 hours of use before requiring cleaning. Images are impressive thanks the 3LCD design and Sony's Intelligent Settting feature that tunes (and can automatically adjust) some aspects of the picture for different environments. To top it off, Sony backs the VPL-PHZ61 up with a world-class 5-year warranty.

Stewart Filmscreen Phantom HALR Plus ALR Screen

Stewart Phantom HALF NPA lifestyle award

No one can argue about the growing demand today for effective ambient-light rejecting (ALR) screens to serve environments beyond a darkened theater. These increasingly high-tech materials, particularly when mated with today's ever-more-compact powerhouse projectors, make projection a viable and cost-effective option in lit-up consumer living rooms, commercial retail and restaurant spaces, classrooms and lecture halls, houses of worship, and others. However, many of the best ALR materials to date have had limitations on size due to either their ridgid construction or insufficient manufacturing capabilities. In its Phantom HALR Plus material, Stewart Filmscreen has now developed a high 1.3 gain, flexible ALR fabric rated for 80% ambient light rejection and high contrast that can be manufactured in a fixed frame up to 90 feet wide, or even in a motorized drop-down configuration up to 45 feet wide. The positive gain helps make the most of whatever lumens you can throw at it, and in true Stewart tradition, it is engineered for excellent color uniformity. To top it off, Phantom HALR Plus is available in several of Stewart's popular frames, and is available with the company's MicroPerf X² THX Ultra or CinemaPerf treatments for acoustic transparency.

ViewSonic X2-4K 4K LED Gaming Projector

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ViewSonic can check off a first with the X2-4K, which is the world's first "Designed for Xbox" certified projector, intended to extract the best performance from Xbox Series X/S game consoles. In particular, it'll deliver 1440p resolution at 120Hz, or 1080p at 240Hz, and went through 63 tests by the Microsoft Xbox team to verify its console compatibility. Along with low-input lag and Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM) for gaming, the unit offers a number of highly attractive features at its $1,599 expected street price. A long-life, 2,900-lumen LED light source rated for 30,000 hours means no lamp replacements, and 4K-resolution with HDR make it suitable for movie viewing. It offers a offers a tight 0.69-0.83 short throw lens and auto vertical keystone along with extensive geometry correction for quick set-ups. A Harman Kardon-branded speaker and two-way Bluetooth provide audio support, and thanks to HDMI-CEC functionality, the projector's remote can power up your Xbox. The X2-4K also supports USB-C input from compatible mobile source devices, allowing the direct streaming of content while simultaneously charging the device.

Comments (1) Post a Comment
Angelo Segall Posted Jun 14, 2023 8:09 AM PST
Hello Rob, Great review! Since you took over the charge of Projector Central is great to see how well we are kept informed about the new development and technological advances in the projection world. As an owner of a JVC DLA-X590R I am happy to hear that projection's best days aren't over. Keep up the excellent job.

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