- LED light source, RGBB, lasts life of the projector
- HDR10 support
- Substantial vertical and horizontal lens shift
- Four HDMI ports
- Full HD 3D
- Built-in smarts include link to Aptoide store and the ability to download and run streaming apps
- Mediocre black level
- HDR shows obvious color shifts with default settings in all color modes, particularly for red and orange
- No HLG support as shipped, although it's planned for a future firmware update
The black level from the ViewSonic X100-4K's LED light engine may disappoint videophiles who only watch in a dark room, but the projector delivers a highly watchable picture for dim to moderately lit environments, along with a solid-state light source that eliminates lamp replacements.
The ViewSonic X100-4K, with a street price of $1,699, is one of only a few LED home theater projectors that offers both 4K UHD resolution and a brightness rating above 1,000 lumens—specifically, 1,200 ANSI lumens or a more impressive sounding 2,900 LED lumens.
More important, the X100-4K delivers good enough image quality to be worth watching. It shares the tendency of many LED projectors to paint photorealistic images with some colors outside of a realistic range, but it doesn't do that with all of its color presets even with default settings. It's also easy to tweak for even more accurate color. For serious enthusiasts, the relatively high floor for black level is more of an issue, but that really translates to its being a better choice for viewing in dim-to-low level ambient light rather than in a dark room. (More on that later.)
The X100-4K is built around an RGBB LED light source, rated at 30,000 hours, and a 0.47-inch DLP chip, which uses TI's XPR fast-switch pixel shifting to put a full 3840x2160 pixels on screen. It supports HDR10 high dynamic range content, and ViewSonic says users will be able to add HLG, the emerging HDR standard for broadcast TV, through a future firmware update.
LED projectors can look brighter in dark rooms than you would expect from the ANSI lumen measurements. However this subjective brightness advantage varies from one model to another. (For more on LED brightness ratings, see the ProjectorCentral article Are "LED lumens" a Real Thing?) For the X100-4K, my judgment of the appropriate image size for the brightness was close to the standard recommendation for the ANSI lumen measurement. At a measured 1,069 ANSI lumens in Movie mode after calibration, the image on my 90-inch diagonal, 1.0-gain white screen was suitable for a range of viewing environments from dark to dim or moderate ambient light.
Physical setup is straightforward. At 6.3 x 16.4 x 18.2 inches (HWD) and 16.9 pounds, the X100-4K is one of the few LED projectors designed for permanent home theater installation. Its 1.2x manual zoom and both vertical and horizontal lens shift offer good flexibility for setting up on a table top, on a bookshelf in back of the seating area, or inverted in a ceiling mount. With the projector sitting on a table, and the shift at its lowest point, the bottom of the image was below the centerline of the lens by roughly 55% of the image height. From that point I was able to shift it up by just a bit less than the 65% of the image height defined in the spec. The horizontal shift was +/- 25% of the image width both in the spec sheet and my measurements.
Other setup features worth highlighting include four HDMI 2.0b ports, the powered focus, and the ability to connect by wired network or by Wi-Fi, using the supplied Wi-Fi dongle. Either type of network connection lets you take advantage of voice control through Alexa or Google Assistant or stream shows from Netflix, YouTube and other sources using apps downloaded from the Aptoide Android-based app store.
We've reported in other reviews that the Aptoide apps for the major streaming services are an insufficient replacement for those from a Roku, Amazon, or Apple 4K streaming media player. It's not clear from my testing whether that's also true for the X100-4K, which I tested using YouTube and ABC streaming apps, but not with any 4K paid subscription apps. One hopeful sign is that in my tests, I was able to install the apps and navigate through them to pick video to watch 1080p content without any problems. YouTube 4K video seemed to display at the right resolution—and with nicely saturated, vibrant color—but repeatedly froze for something less than a second on camera pans. Unfortunately, there's no way to tell whether the repeated stops were due to the Aptoide apps or a bandwidth problem on my internet connection.
Note that you can also connect to iOS or Android devices for screen mirroring and upgrade the firmware through over-the-air (OTA) updates. By default, the projector is set to check for updates when you turn it on and, if it finds one, ask if you want to update the firmware.
Although most people will want to connect to an external sound system, potentially using the 3.5mm stereo analog or S/PDIF optical outputs, the X100-4K includes an onboard set of 20-watt Harmon Kardon stereo speakers that can fill a large family room with good enough sound quality to be usable.
Here's a more complete list of the ViewSonic X100-4K's key features:
- 3840x2160 native (and maximum) resolution with 0.47-inch DLP XPR chip
- 2,900 LED lumen, 1,200 ANSI lumen rating; measured at 1,115 ANSI lumens
- RGBB LED light source; 30,000 hour rated life
- Smart features include voice control through Alexa and Google Assistant
- Built-in web-streaming platform for apps like Netflix and Hulu from the Android-based Aptoide store
- HDR10 compatible; HLG compatibilty planned with future firmware update
- 3,000,000:1 rated dynamic contrast ratio
- Frame Interpolation for 2D and 3D to smooth motion
- Four HDMI 2.0b ports (w/ HDCP 2.2)
- 1.2x zoom lens
- Powered focus
- Vertical and horizontal lens shift; total shift of 65% of image height, +/-25% of image width
- Full HD 3D with DLP-Link glasses
- Dual 20-watt Harman Kardon stereo speakers; connects to external audio systems using 3.5mm analog or S/PDIF optical port
- 4K video playback from USB memory with built-in USB media player
- Wi-Fi dongle included
- 3-year warranty; 1-year on light source
Color Modes. The X100-4K offers four color preset modes for SDR plus two User modes. If you're willing to pay for professional calibration, it also supports adding ISF Day and Night modes to the list. You can adjust each mode independently for each input, but note that some settings are global. Change the Frame Interpolation setting for any HDMI port, for example, and it changes for all the color modes for all of the ports.
For SDR content, Movie mode delivered the most accurate color with default settings. As with many, if not most, projectors, all the other color modes—Brightest, TV, and Gaming—were designed for other purposes than watching movies, and showed noticeable-to-obvious shifts in hue for at least some colors, most visible in this case in oranges and reds. Measurements using Portrait Displays Calman color calibration software, a Murideo Six-G signal generator, and an X-Rite i1Pro2 photospectrometer confirmed these subjective observations.
None of the modes offered good contrast or sense of three dimensionality in dark scenes, primarily because the black level wasn't low enough to deliver a high contrast ratio. Movie mode came in third of four on this score. However, its better color accuracy still made it the preferred choice both for using the projector straight out of the box, and as the starting point for calibration.
Even with Movie mode's default settings, most colors on my white screen were close to what they should be. Four of the six Delta E readings for color—the measurements of how far off target the six primary and secondary colors are—were well below the desirable maximum of 3, where any color error is negligible. Three of those were even below 2. And the two measurements above that range were only at 3.2 and 4.9.
I measured the out-of-box Gamma at 1.89, a bit below the default setting's 2.2 label. Changing the setting to 2.5 gave the closest match to the 2.4 target for a dark room, measuring a still acceptable 2.25 after calibration.
The Brightness (black level) setting needed to come down a touch, which yielded darker—though still not dark enough—blacks, while contrast (peak white) needed to go up a few steps. Changing the color point settings to bring the two slightly high Delta E readings below 3—and also lower the error for the other four primary and secondary colors even further—didn't take long. The Default RGB grayscale balance was also not far off before calibration and was easy to tweak to make it even better. I measured color temperature with default settings at 6,382K, which is close to the desired 6,500K. The final reading after adjusting red, green, and blue Gain and Offset was a barely changed 6,360K.
At full power before calibration, I measured the image brightness on my 90-inch, 1.0-gain white screen at 47.6 foot-lamberts (ft-L). Changing to Eco mode dropped the brightness to 30 ft-L, which is generally considered more appropriate for a dark room. Eco mode also lowered the black level, which improved contrast in dark scenes. However, it hurt contrast in brightly lit scenes, presumably because of the lower contrast ratio due to lower brightness.
I wound up switching to Dynamic Black 2 mode for viewing, which looked nearly identical to full power mode for brightly lit scenes, while delivering darker black, and slightly better contrast, in dark scenes. Note that white brightness in Dynamic Black 2 mode is also the same as in the full power mode. Although that's brighter than SMPTE recommendations for a dark room, it's within the range that some prefer.
For HDR input, the menus offer the same list of preset modes as for SDR, including the ISF modes if you've implemented them. However, the settings for HDR and SDR are independent of each other. For any given mode and input port, the projector automatically switches between SDR and HDR settings to match the current source.
Using default settings, none of the four HDR modes delivered good color accuracy or contrast. All four had errors for primary and secondary colors with double digit Delta Es, and for scenes I'm familiar with, hues didn't match what I know they should look like. In TV mode, some colors in movies and video, particularly reds, were outside of a realistic range. All four modes also brightened up images in movies far too much. For gaming, the higher brightness can be an advantage, since it can let you see something in dark areas more quickly. However, it robs movies of dramatic visual impact and realism—night scenes looked like they were filmed in bright daylight. Even worse, some scenes that were more brightly lit looked washed out, and others were close to it.
With no obvious best mode to start with for HDR calibration, I settled on Movie mode. It didn't offer the best color accuracy, and it didn't do the best job avoiding overbrightening of either dark scenes or brightly lit scenes, but I judged it as having best balance of the four modes for how it handled both dark and bright scenes.
After calibration, accuracy of the color primaries and secondaries was significantly improved. I was able to bring the Delta E to the desired level of less than 3 for one primary and one secondary color, and to a range of 4.1 to 6.8 for the other four. I was also able to tone down the unwanted lightening of both dark and brightly lit scenes by changing the gamma setting from the default 2.2 to 2.35. The measured brightness was a little lower than for SDR, at 134.8 nits (39.3 ft-L).
Keep in mind that although the X100-4K supports HDR10, it falls short of delivering the full DCI-P3 wide color gamut found in most of today's HDR content. ViewSonic rates it at 125% coverage of the Rec.709 HDTV gamut, based on coverage of area in a 2D slice of the gamut. After calibration, I measured the color volume for SDR at 120.9% coverage of Rec.709. The measurement for HDR after calibration was 125% Rec.709 (85% DCI-P3, 57.5% Rec.2020).
1080p/SDR Viewing. After calibration, color accuracy for 1080p/SDR viewing was good, but the projector needed some additional tweaks to get the best image. My first step was to confirm that—as ViewSonic claims—both Dynamic Black power modes deliver noticeably better contrast than the Full or Eco power modes. For my tests, I used Dynamic Black 2, because, thanks to a firmware update to address how the projector handled low-level details—which ViewSonic sent during our evaluation—it delivered the better contrast between the two Dynamic modes for dark scenes. There was only a subtle difference between the two modes in brightly lit scenes.
I also wound up adjusting gamma. Although the setting I used for calibration gave me a measurement closer to the right target gamma on paper, my go to dark scenes lost too much shadow detail. In one dark scene in LaLa Land, where Mia and Sebastian are walking near a dark wooded area along a road lit by streetlights, the calibrated settings lost all detail in their faces. Similarly, in Batman v. Superman when Bruce Wayne as a boy first spots bats hanging upside down in the proto batcave, the scene was too dark, losing shadow detail, contrast, and sense of three dimensionality.
Changing the gamma setting from 2.5 to 2.35 improved the shadow detail, contrast, and three dimensionality in dark scenes without making the bright scenes look washed out. Changing it to 2.2 improved it even more, and left both dark and bright scenes with more than acceptable contrast. Blacks weren't satisfyingly dark with any gamma setting, and there was still some loss of shadow detail, but the image was far more watchable.
In the batcave scene, for example, there's what amounts to a black frame around the bats. The high black level robbed the scene of some of its visual impact, but the contrast was good enough to show most of the individual bats, with the reflected light from their eyes standing out as bright pinpricks of light. And the contrast was good enough to still give the image a sense of three dimensionality.
The good news is that color accuracy was spot on in every scene I looked at that I'm familiar with, including the vibrant colors that are scattered throughout La La Land and the more subtle colors in Argo. For movies I'm not familiar with, the color was well within the realm of realistic, from beginning to end, including the lush greenery and blue sky in the (presumably) British countryside and the streets of pre-automotive London in Enola Holmes on Netflix.
I also tested the X100-4K with ambient light. Not surprisingly, turning on high hat lights in the room—as you might in a family room at night—killed contrast and washed out color on my 90-inch screen. However both contrast and color saturation held up nicely when I turned on a single floor lamp instead. When I switched to an 80-inch 1.0-gain white screen in an actual family room, the image was easily bright enough to stand up to the high hat lights on at night, and quite watchable on an overcast day with light streaming through the windows.
Going further, I took a look at the image in both a dark room and with ambient light on my Screen Innovations Slate 1.2 ALR screen—more to see the effect of the gray screen material on the black level and contrast at both lighting levels than to see how much of boost the good ambient light rejection added. As with any projector, the gray screen material improved contrast and black levels a bit, but not enough in a dark room to satisfy a serious home theater enthusiast.
The X100-4K earns a mixed score for rainbow artifacts. I saw only a few, but they were more obvious than I expect with LED models. As with any single-chip DLP projector, if you are bothered by rainbow artifacts, or don't know if you are, be sure to buy from a vendor who allows easy returns, so you can judge the issue yourself.
Note that frame interpolation (FI), which was off by default, offers three levels. With both 1080p SDR and 4K HDR, the Low level delivered significant smoothing for judder along with an obvious digital video effect. Both increase at each step up to the Mid and High levels. You'll probably want to turn the feature off for movies and filmed TV shows, but might want to use it for live and recorded shows, including sports. The FI also works with 3D.
UHD/HDR Viewing. The X100-4K's HDR is necessarily limited by the high black level and a gamut that covers only a little more than Rec.709. However, it does a lot better with HDR input than some projectors by providing a highly watchable image with nearly the same overall brightness as it delivers for SDR.
All of the comments for SDR viewing for contrast, black level, and the benefits of using one of the Dynamic Black power modes apply to HDR viewing as well. In addition, note that unlike most projectors with HDR, the X100-4K doesn't have a labeled HDR brightness control you can adjust for each movie to compensate for variations in how it implements HDR. And although it offers the equivalent in the guise of Low, Medium, and High settings for EOTF, I didn't find the settings useful. I saw very little difference between Medium and High settings in either dark or bright scenes, and the low setting delivered noticeably low contrast in dark scenes for the movies I tried it with.
Note that ViewSonic said it plans additional tuning to improve the projector's HDR tone-mapping in a future firmware update. But in the meantime, I found the standard Gamma control was far more useful than the EOTF control for adjusting for the variations among movies. The 2.5 gamma setting worked best for most HDR movies, but some looked better with a 2.35 setting.
The key difference in image quality between SDR and HDR viewing for the X100-4K is in color accuracy. For those movies I looked at in both SDR and HDR, colors were a bit more saturated in HDR, with some hues slightly off. In the opening scene in La La Land, for example, colors were vibrant and eye-catching, but blues were a little lighter and reds a little more orange than they should be. And in Batman v. Superman, the scene where the salvaged kryptonite is carried to the beach was ever-so-slightly yellow-shifted—so slightly that I doubt I would have noticed if I weren't familiar with the scene.
That said, the color shifts were small enough that flesh tones and memory colors like grass and sky looked well within the realm of realistic. In scenes I'm not familiar with, I didn't notice any colors that looked suspiciously off.
I also ran the ProjectorCentral 10-bit HDR Grayscale test animation, which verifies 10-bit processing from input to image. In the dark gray wheel (video IRE levels from black up to 20), I saw some very subtle banding—at a level where I had to be closer to the screen than normal viewing distance to be sure it was there—from roughly the 12% to 75% of the way from black to gray (from midway between 1 and 2 on a clock to 9). The first 10% to 12% was a solid black. From a normal viewing distance, however, the dark wheel looked like a solid black over the first 10% or 12%, with only a barely visible hint of steps in the gradient after that.
3D Viewing. The X100-4K supports Full HD 3D using DLP-Link glasses, but I ran into several issues with it, including difficulty getting any of four sets of glasses—including one provided by ViewSonic—to sync reliably to the signal. In addition, every time I switched the source from 3D to 2D, a vertical bar of pixels moved from the middle of the image to the extreme left, and the only way I could find to restore the image was to power the projector off and back on. At this writing, ViewSonic has not been able to reproduce either problem. However, it's still investigating both and expects that if a firmware fix is needed you'll be able to download it using the OTA update feature.
In the limited 3D testing I was able to do, brightness was obviously dimmer than with 2D (as is required by the technology to at least some extent). And although it was hard to be sure with the brief viewing window I had before the glasses lost sync, it seemed sufficiently bright for dark-room viewing. I didn't see any crosstalk in my tests, but 3D-related motion artifacts were more obvious than in most current-generation 3D projectors. Unfortunately, I couldn't keep the glasses synced reliably enough to test FI in 3D mode.
ViewSonic's website touts the X100-4K's 2,900 LED lumen rating. That makes it sound like the projector is meant for rooms with lots of ambient light, but the ViewSonic representative I spoke with cited the low noise from the dual-fan cooling system as a particular strength for using it in a traditional dark home theater as well. Many users will agree, although demanding video enthusiasts may find it hard to ignore the too-high black level and loss of shadow detail. In truth, the sweet spot for X100-4K lies between those extremes. A room with dim to the low-end of moderate ambient light will wash out dark blacks in any projector, which makes the X100-4K's high black level a non-issue. And based on my tests, it's bright enough to light up a 100-inch diagonal, 1.2-gain screen in the dim to low-end-of-moderate ambient light, or a 90-inch screen at a higher, but still moderate, light level.
Even with default settings, most people will judge Movie mode as delivering good enough color accuracy for SDR viewing, but will still benefit from switching to one of the Dynamic Black modes and adjusting the Brightness and Gamma settings. For HDR viewing, however, default color accuracy in all modes is far enough off to notice with at least some colors in some scenes, which means you'll probably want to calibrate it. That makes the X100-4K harder to recommend for those who want a projector they can use straight out of the box, but still a good choice for anyone who doesn't mind calibrating, or paying someone to do it.
Brightness. With the 1.2x zoom lens set to its widest angle setting, the brightness measurements were as follows for each color mode using Full and Eco power levels:
Zoom Lens Light Loss: The lens offers only 1.2x zoom, which isn't enough to affect brightness at the full telephoto setting.
Brightness Uniformity (Maximum Wide Angle): 85%
Lowest Measured Input Lag (4K): 67 ms at 60Hz
Lowest Measured Input Lag (1080p): 67 ms at 60 Hz
Fan Noise: ViewSonic uses a pair of whisper fans in the X100-4K to help reduce noise and rates it at 23 dB in full power mode and 20 dB in Eco. You can hear it in quiet moments in a small room, but even in full power mode it is a steady sound that tends to fade into the background, particularly in a room with ambient noise. ViewSonic recommends using High Altitude mode at 4,921 feet and above. With it on, the fan noise in a little louder, but still not enough for most people to find bothersome.
- HDMI 2.0b (x4) with HDCP 2.2
- VGA/component in
- USB 3.0 Type A (reads files from USB memory with 4K video player)
- USB 2.0 Type A (for WiFi optional dongle, reading files from memory; service)
- RJ45 LAN (x2), one for network connection, one for control over LAN)
- 3.5mm stereo in
- 3.5mm stereo out
- S/PDIF optical audio out
- 12V Trigger (x2)
- RS-232 (control)
- Micro USB (control and service)
Calibrated image settings from any third-party do not account for the significant potential for sample-to-sample variation, nor the different screen sizes and materials, lighting, lamp usage, or other environmental factors that can affect image quality. Projectors should always be calibrated in the user's own space and tuned for the expected viewing conditions. However, the settings provided here may be a helpful starting point for some. Always record your current settings before making adjustments so you can return to them as desired. Refer to the Performance section for some context for each calibration.
Display Mode: Movie
Red Gain: 98
Green Gain: 100
Blue Gain: 100
Red Bias: 100
Green Bias: 100
Blue Bias: 100
H17, S99, G118
H19, S103, G81
H-21, S100, G83
H22, S123, G99
H59, S85, G123
H-34, S95, G100
Light Source Level: Dynamic Black 2
Frame Interpolation: Off
Display Mode: Movie
Red Gain: 98
Green Gain: 100
Blue Gain: 100
Red Bias: 100
Green Bias: 100
Blue Bias: 100
H17, S99, G189
H279, S103, 179
H-29, S100, G156
H-1, S136, G195
H10, S136, G195
H3, S98, G195
Light Source Level: Dynamic Black 2
Frame Interpolation: Off
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our ViewSonic X100-4K projector page.