CEDIA, the home theater industry's chronically ill-timed trade show, just wrapped up in Indianapolis yesterday. This is the show where vendors typically unveil not-quite- ready new products to be delivered in the not-too-distant future just in time to miss half of the fall buying season. And to boot, the vendors are always forced to sacrifice their Labor Day weekend scrambling to get ready for it.
But this year something exciting happened. Several manufacturers said, "Why wait for CEDIA? We want to get OUR show on the road NOW!" So we had more new home theater projectors announced in July and August than we've ever seen. This is great news because it allows channel sales activity to start early. Dealers and resellers can do order/inventory planning and vendors can get shipments moving so buyers can get their hands on the latest home theater projectors earlier in the football season. Everyone wins. We wish all vendors could get their new home theater projectors announced in July and August.
This year's summer releases included the Sony VPL-HW30ES, a 3D-enabled 1080p SXRD projector which started shipping in July for $3,699. The Panasonic PT-AE7000 was unveiled in late July, and will begin shipping in another two to three weeks. Reviews of the Sony HW30ES and Panasonic AE7000 have already been posted. We have also posted a shootout covering the differences between the two.
Meanwhile, Optoma announced a trio of new 3D 1080p models in August, including the entry level HD33 at only $1499 which is already shipping (see HD33 review here). The Optoma HD3300 at $1999 and the top of the line HD8300 at $4,499 should be available momentarily. We plan to have a review of the HD8300 done within three weeks. (The HD3300 is essentially an HD33 packaged for a different sales channel.)
In August we got an advance look at the new Mitsubishi HC7800D, their new mid-range 3D 1080p projector priced at $3,495. The 3D on this unit is clear as a bell and a pleasure to watch. You can expect to see the HC7800D come to market around November, and we plan to review it next month prior to release.
Also in August,Runco announced and began shipments of the LS-1, an extremely low priced (by Runco standards) 1080p single-chip DLP projector. This unit retails at $3,995. The LS-1 incorporates the ISF™ (Imaging Science Foundation) calibration suite for optimal performance in various rooms and lighting conditions. Runco's offering of a 1080p projector at this price point will provide opportunity to reach a larger consumer base than the company has targeted heretofore.
Finally, the folks at Epson tipped their hand a week before the show and pre-announced three new 3D-enabled 1080p models using their new 480 Hz D9 panels. The most aggressively priced unit, the Home Cinema 3010, delivers full HD 3D with two pairs of 3D glasses and an emitter for only $1,599. It is rated at 30,000:1 contrast and 2200 lumens, and is scheduled for shipment next month. There is a fascinating dogfight shaping up between the Epson 3010 and the Optoma HD33 as the only two 3D capable 1080p home theater projectors around $1500.
Epson's Home Cinema 5010 and Pro Cinema 6010 are the higher performance models, rated at 200,000:1 contrast and 2400 lumens. The differences between them are related to marketing channels. The Pro Cinema 6010 is packaged for the custom installer. It includes ISF Calibration for customizable settings, an extra lamp, a ceiling mount, a third year of warranty, and a cable cover for flexibility in installation.
The Epson 5010 will be more widely available through online resellers, and is a less expensive package designed for the DIY home theater enthusiast. Pricing on the 5010 and 6010 is not yet finalized, but the price of the 5010 will be under $3,000 and the price of the 6010 will be under $4,000. These models should be available in November.
The two Home Cinema models will also be offered with wireless capability. Those models will be known as the 5010e, to be priced under $3,500, and the 3010e, which will be $1,799.
Epson still plans to release the 1,000,000:1 contrast, reflective LCD based Pro Cinema 610000 that was announced last year. Currently this model, which is not 3D-enabled, is scheduled for shipment prior to year end. Epson says plans for the Home Cinema 21000 and 31000, also announced last year, have changed. There is currently no plan to release them in the United States in the near future.
New Releases at CEDIA
Despite all of the advance release activity, there were some new home theater projectors unveiled at CEDIA that the world had not heard of yet.
Panasonic followed up their introduction of the PT-AE7000 with a release of the PT-AR100, a new entry level 1080p model priced at an MSRP of $1999 (the official street price is always lower and not yet announced). This one is not 3D, but the big news is that it is rated at 2800 lumens and 50,000:1 contrast, so it is designed for ambient light situations in a way that most home theater projectors are not. The AR100 has many of the features common to Panasonic home theater models, including 2x zoom, H&V lens shift, frame interpolation, Detail Clarity Processor, and so on. If you don't have a dedicated theater room and you like to watch large screen TV and movies with some light on, this one may be for you. The AR100 is scheduled to ship in November. We will review it as soon as we can, but we have no arrival date for the review unit.
Sony introduced a new top-of-the-line consumer home theater projector, the 4K resolution VPL-VW1000ES. 4K is shorthand for 4096x2160 or other resolutions of similar magnitude. It is about four times the resolution of 1080p HD, which means the pixels are almost invisible even with your nose six inches from the screen. The VW1000ES carries ratings of an iris-assisted 1,000,000:1 contrast and 2000 lumens of brightness. It will be sold through CEDIA channel custom installers.
The VW1000ES uses new SXRD 4K native resolution panels. Since there is very little native 4K source material commonly available, the VW1000ES projector also features a 4K "upscaler" for all conventional video/film content - SD or HD, 2D or 3D. It can also display Full HD 3D movies, as well as 2D and 3D anamorphic films. For Full 4K 3D, an integrated IR transmitter drives the projector's active shutter 3D glasses. Price is expected to be under $25,000 and shipment is scheduled for December. No word on whether the price includes the lens.
Sony was also showing their lower priced VPL-HW30AES 3D front projector, released two months ago. Also, last year's VPL-VW90ES has gotten a face lift with an updated VPL-VW95ES, including improved contrast and a much needed improvement in 3D processing. At the moment, the VW95ES is announced in Europe only, and European shipments should commence in October.
JVC.... you got some splainin' to do.....
In a press release that raised some eyebrows, JVC claims to deliver "FULL 4K PRECISION" on its newly released D-ILA-based home theater projectors. JVC says four of its new models "upconvert images to four times the resolution of Full HD," and they are "capable of projecting images with 3840 x 2160 pixel resolution." It is easy to infer from this language that JVC has just announced four new 4K models, just like the Sony VW1000ES. But these new JVC models are native 1080p resolution (conventional 1920x1080). So how do they justify such claims?
These models feature what JVC calls "e-Shift technology" which is an electronic variation of the wobulation concept that shifts the image half a pixel side to side, up and down, or diagonally and overlays the images in sequence. Thus the e-Shift process affords opportunity for improved picture definition in that sharp edged diagonals and curved edges will be smoother (less stair-stepped). So even though these projectors are not native 4K resolution, they can have the appearance of being higher resolution than conventional 1080p due to a reduction in artifacts. The effect is more noticeable on very large projected images in which the physical limitations of 1080p resolution become more visible.
How well these projectors will fit into the competitive landscape remains to be seen. JVC's e-Shift enabled models are the DLA-X90R and DLA-RS65 priced at $11,999 and DLA-X70R and DLA-RS55 at $7,999, so they are priced far below the $25,000 of Sony's genuine 4K model. But they are priced much higher than several competing 3D 1080p projectors that may meet or exceed their picture quality on a normal sized screen. When put up against the lower priced models, the question will be how big the screen image must be (and how close the viewer must be to it) for the e-Shift technology to create enough of an improvement in apparent resolution that it justifies the premium price.
JVC also announced three lower priced 3D 1080p models that do not have the e-Shift technology. These are the DLA-RS4800 ($4,995), and the DLA-X30 / DLA-RS45 ($3,499). These latter models are priced to compete directly with the Sony HW30ES and the Mitsubishi HC7800D.
All seven of the new models from JVC are scheduled for shipment in November. We will be very interested to see how the e-Shift enabled units show side by side against conventional 1080p projectors. And it will also be particularly interesting to see how the DLA-X30/DLA-RS45 stacks up against the Mitsubishi HC7800D.
Vivitek introduced the H1086-3D, a DLP based 1080p 3D home theater projector rated at 5,000:1 contrast and 2000 lumens. It will have the ability to display both native 3D and convert standard 2D sources to 3D. Priced at $1,999, it is expected to ship in December.
In the aftermath of CEDIA there is always a scramble for review units. Since they are scarce it is difficult to predict availability. We expect to see the Optoma HD8300 shortly, and that will most likely be the next 1080p review. The Epson Home Cinema 3010 and 5010 should be arriving soon, but we don't have a fixed date at this moment. The Mitsubishi HC7800D will be done in October. Stay tuned for further developments as we find out when test samples will become available.