The Laser and 4K Revolution
The InfoComm trade show just wrapped up in Las Vegas and what a great show it was with new laser-based projectors popping up everywhere and lots of action in 4K. The combination of laser technology and 4K resolution is driving a renaissance in video projection unlike anything we've seen since 1080p projectors began to hit the market more than ten years ago.
InfoComm is where you find the latest and greatest in the big light cannon class of projectors, those 5000 lumens and up. It is not a home theater show, although a few new home theater entries were unveiled which we'll note below. But the big drama was in high lumen laser and 4K products. Vendors announcing or promoting new laser-based projectors and or 4K resolution projectors were these (in alpha order):
Barco. If you need a lot of light, a long life laser and 4K, Barco gives you all of it in one package with their new F90-4K13. This unit delivers 3860x2400 resolution using TI's new 4K single-chip DLP imaging device and a laser phosphor light source that will run up to 40,000 hour life span. The F90 is rated at 11,800 "center lumens" and is designed for heavy duty 24/7 operation.
And, if you need short throw on top of it, the F90 will take Barco's new ultra-short throw lens just released at this show.
BenQ. BenQ made a new contribution to the laser revolution by introducing the LU9715 BlueCore laser light source projector. At 8000 lumens, this is BenQ's brightest option for large venue applications including museums, houses of worship, entertainment, enterprise and education spaces. This 1920x1200 projector delivers 100,000:1 contrast, 360 degree and portrait installation and 24/7-operation, with a light engine expected to go 20,000 hours. It gives AV pros a lot of installation flexibility with up to eight optional lenses. The projector features HDBaseT signal transmission and comes equipped with 3G SDI, ideal for media applications. It also gives IT managers remote monitoring and control via LAN.
Canon. Canon was putting on a great show with its new LX-MU800Z laser-phosphor driven single chip DLP projector that has just started to ship. This 1920x1200 machine puts 8000 lumens on the screen for $17,969 (iincluding the standard lens, but there are six other lenses in the family to choose from).
If you want native 4K, then the Canon REALiS 4K500ST (4096x2400) has just begun to ship at $54,990. This LCOS-based engine is rated at 5000 lumens in full power and 3750 in eco, with light from a single 250W NSH lamp. The 4K500T is loaded with features including two HDMI and four DVI-D inputs, 1.3x powered zoom 360-degree installation, edge blending, geometry correction, DICOM simulation, Crestron and AMX compatibility, and more.
Casio. Casio has been in the laser/LED hybrid business for a long time and was the first manufacturer to bring laser technology to the projector market in an affordable package. Casio was highlighting their latest laser/LED hybrid model, the XJ-F210WN, a 3500 lumen, 1280x800 transportable conference room model which was released this spring. We reviewed the F210WN in April.
Christie. Christie is an influential force in large venue projection. Among their new releases at this show is the D13WU-HS, a 12000 lumen 1920x1200 single-chip DLP projector with a laser-phosphor 20,000 hour light engine. It is constructed for a 24/7 duty cycle, comes with a variety of lens options, and has just commenced shipment this month.
Christie currently offers six very high contrast 1920x1080 laser-phosphor based 1chip DLP projectors ranging from 5,000 lumens to 7500 lumens (all with ratings of 2,000,000:1 contrast). The product line is too extensive to detail in this overview, but if you're looking for bright native 1080p models with long laser life, check out their offerings.
Digital Projection International (DPI) DPI was showing a number of laser products including the E-Vision Laser 6500 that has just begun to ship. This 1920x1200 resolution unit puts 6500 lumens on the screen and makes very little noise in the process. So it is particularly suited for board and conference rooms where the projector and the audience are in close proximity. Features include DVI, HDMI and HDBaseT inputs, a DICOM simulation mode, and built-in compatibility with Crestron RoomView Connected, PJLink - AMX SSDP and LAN.
DPI also featured the new E-Vision Laser 7500, also 1920x1200 resolution and rated at 7,500 lumens. This model offers geometry correction, edge blending, Lens Memory presets, and DICOM simulation. It can also be paired with DPI's new ultra-short throw (UST) lens (0.38.1). This combo will produce an image width from as little as 6.9' and up to about 24'. Like the Laser 6500, the E-Vision Laser 7500 also has built-in compatibility with Crestron RoomView® Connected, PJLink - AMX SSDP and LAN.
Eiki International. Eiki also used InfoComm to expand its product line. Among eight new models that will begin to ship next month is the EK-810U, a 1920x1200 single chip DLP projector which puts out 8000 ANSI lumens using a red/blue laser phosphor light engine expected to last 20,000 hours. This projector has full 360 degree vertical installation capability, an IP6X sealed optical engine, and a 33 dB audible noise rating in eco mode, quite low for this much light. It is priced at $17,995 without the lens. You can step down in price $3,000 by opting for the sister model, the EK-811W, which is the same projector with a 1280x800 resolution (also shipping next month).
The EK-810 and 811 are big machines, weighing over 60 lbs. If you want a lot of light in a much smaller transportable package, the Eiki EK-600U might be just the ticket. This one gives you 6000 lumens at 1920x1200 resolution, in a 13.6 lb package. Also shipping next month for a retail of $4,195.
Epson. The dramatic new Epson Pro L25000U was on the floor pumping out a whopping 25,000 ANSI lumens using a laser phosphor light engine rated at 20,000 hours of life. It uses inorganic native 1920x1200 3LCD chips, and Epson's 4K enhancement pixel shift technology quadruples apparent resolution to 3840x2400. The L25000U comes with a variety of optional 4K-ready lenses and is targeted for rental and staging, and permanent installation where 24/7 duty cycles are required. It should be shipping in the third quarter at an MSRP of $99,999.
Hitachi. Hitachi debuted an 8000-lumen laser-based 1920x1200 installation projector they are calling the LP-WU9750B. This is their first single chip DLP laser projector. It is built for 24/7 duty cycles, can be installed 360 degrees or portrait orientation, and can be configured with any one of seven of Hitachi's 9000 series lenses. The WU9750B has edge blending and warping, geometry correction, DICOM simulation, motorized zoom, focus and lens shift. It has five digital inputs and supports Web Control, PJLink, Crestron Roomview, and AMX. This model will begin shipping next month.
NEC. NEC has been in the laser business for a while and was showing the PX803UL, an 8000 lumen 1920x1200 large venue projector that was released earlier this year. At $19,999, the PX803UL comes with a family of six optional lenses and sports all of the features pro AV installers need including edge blending, image warping, geometric correction, Crestron Roomview compatibilty and much more.
Panasonic. Panasonic is a major innovative force in large venue projection and their InfoComm booth is always enormous. This year they were showing an engineering pre-release model of the PT-RQ32KU, which was the highest resolution projector we saw at the show. Designated 4K+, it has a native resolution of 5120x3200, or double the pixels of native 4K. It is driven by a 20,000 hour laser light engine that puts out 27,000 center lumens (26,000 ANSI). We don't know the price, but you've got some time to save up for it, as it won't be released until January, 2017.
Panasonic was also displaying a trio of DLP 1920x1200 laser-based installation models at substantially different lumen outputs -- the PT-RZ570U at 5200 lumens, the PT-RZ970U at 10,000 lumens, and the big daddy PT-RZ31KU putting out a scorching 30,000 lumens.
Optoma. Optoma was showing a prototype of their new single-chip DLP 4K laser phosphor projector. This unit offers not only 4K and laser, but a 0.18:1 ultra short throw capability that puts a 100-inch image on a wall from just two inches away. Rated at 3,300 lumens, this model should have application across multiple markets including home theater, digital signage and anywhere that 4K detail is desired in a small package. Optoma expects to bring this projector to market in Q1 2017.
Optoma also debuted the new Optoma ZU510T, a 5,500 lumen 1920x1200 laser phosphor DLP projectors in the 4,000 to 6,000 lumen range currently in market - filling a need in the mid-range ProAV category. Developed for maximum flexibility and reliability, this 5,500 lumen ProAV solid state laser projector includes a fixed lens with horizontal and vertical lens shift, offering a unique 1.2:1 - 2.16:1 throw ratio and a digital zoom of 1.8x - enabling it to cover a wide range of interchangeable lens capabilities without having the need to buy additional or change lenses. The ZU510T also streamlines integration, with two built-in 10W speakers and a variety of inputs, including two HDMI and HDBaseT, allowing users to easily send and control AV content using a single CAT5 cable. With anticipated availability of later this year, and a $4,500 to $5,500 (final price TBD), the ZU510T is a reliable, flexible and cost-efficient option for boardrooms, university auditoriums, museums and other mid-sized venues.
Ricoh. Among the biggest surprises to us was the remarkable expansion of the Ricoh projector product line. Last time we looked, Ricoh's projector line was limited and narrowly focused on unique interactive multi-user solutions. So we were caught by surprise to see almost two dozen models in their booth, most of which have been introduced in the last 12 months -- everything from a 1 lb palm projector to a new 1080p home theater projector, to several laser-based installation models, all the way to the new PJ-KU12000, a 12000-lumen 1920x1200 dual-lamp installation projector priced at $18,000+. Somebody at Ricoh decided to get aggressive about the projector market.
The home theater model is the Ricoh PJ HDC5420. Priced on the street in the mid-$800 range, this 1920x1080 DLP projector sports the highly desirable 6-segment RGBRGB color wheel and two HDMI inputs, one of which is MHL enabled. The 1.36x zoom offers placement flexibility, and the 2500 lumen rating suggests ample light for both dark room viewing and low ambient light. It has just begun to ship this month.
Sony. Sony has had a number of 3LCD laser models in its line, but two new SXRD-based 4K laser projectors were featured -- the VPL-GTZ270 and VPL-GTZ280. Both are native 4K (4096x2160) and use laser to produce up to 5000 lumens with a life up to 40,000 hours. The GTZ270 is intended for use in planetariums, theme parks and museums, while the GTZ280 with infrared light output for night vision is designed for visualization, simulation and training applications.
ViewSonic. ViewSonic unveiled the LS820, a laser phosphor driven home theater projector with a light engine life of up to 20,000 hours. This native 1080p DLP projector is rated at 3000 lumens and 100,000:1 contrast, and it has the unique advantage of ultra-short throw. The LS820 has an RGBRGB color wheel and Rec.709 calibration so it is targeted for home theater and other applications for which color accuracy and saturation are critical. The LS820 has a street price of $2,999 and will begin shipping next month. Released with the LS820 is ViewSonic's new and proprietary ambient light rejection screen that is simple to assemble and very light weight, making it easy to hang. This package looks like it will have application in conference rooms and boardrooms as well as consumer home theater.
ViewSonic also announced the LS810 and LS830, two commercial variations of the LS820. They have the same laser light source but different color wheels to allow for up to 4000 lumens of brightness. The LS810 is 1280x800 resolution, while the LS830, like the LS820, is 1920x1080. All three of these models have dual stereo 8W speakers and are networkable.
Vivitek. Vivitek came to the laser party with its new DU7090Z, which delivers 6000 lumens at 1920x1200 resolution via single chip DLP. Its laser phosphor engine is anticipated to go 20,000 hours--and it's a downright peaceful 20,000 hours too, with an audible noise rating of only 33 dB in full power mode and 30dB in eco. Vivitek claims this is the quietest laser projector in its class, and it might very well be. It comes with a 5 year or 20,000 hour warranty, whichever comes first, and it has a host of features including 360 degree installation, full HD 3D, HDMI 1.4, DVI-D, BNC inputs, Crestron Roomview and pretty much any LAN control compatibility you want, four corner geometric correction, and option for black or white casework.