CES 2019: The "Ultra-Short" Show
The 2019 Consumer Electronics Show wrapped up on Friday, and if there was a single resounding theme for projectors it was that the ultra-short throws are about to hit the living room—big time.
Indeed, no fewer than five manufacturers showed off new UST projectors dedicated for home theater use, four of them new to this segment of the UST category. The one veteran—Hisense—came to Vegas with its third-generation, boasting a three-laser configuration that should raise the bar even higher for this emerging niche.
For those following projector trends these last couple of years, the surge should come as no surprise. Hisense was undoubtedly ahead of the curve when it launched its first Laser TV for the U.S. market in 2017. It combined a console-style UST projector with an integrated TV tuner, streaming platform, and premium sound system, and came with a 100-inch, ambient-light-rejecting UST screen.
Conceptually, systems like this represent a more affordable alternative to 85-inch and larger flat-panel TVs while avoiding the usual impediments to the bigscreen projector experience: the requirements for cumbersome installation at the back of the room and the need to control ambient light. Prior to the appearance of that $10,000 Hisense system, only Sony offered a UST laser model for home cinema. It's most current offering is a laser 4K model that costs $25,000.
With Hisense jumping in, some other manufacturers saw the opportunity to take UST out of the classroom and quickly repurposed commerical models for the home market. But the new models shown at CES are clearly designed for your family room, and offer long-life laser or LED light engines, built-in internet streaming capabilities, and an integrated sound system of some kind.
Here are the UST and other projector highlights from the show.
Hisense 4K Laser TV. Hisense will be putting most of its focus in 2019 on selling the company's 2nd-generation dual-laser Laser TV systems, which were first shown at CEDIA last September and are just rolling out now. The 100-inch model 100L10E ($9,999) and 120-inch model 120L10E are 4K DLP projectors that use a combination of red and blue lasers and a phosphor color filter to achieve wide color gamut and HDR10 compliance; they're rated for 3,000 lumens of light output. Other features include a TV tuner for hook-up of an external antenna, built-in WiFi with Hisense's proprietary VIDAA smart TV platform for streaming popular apps, Alexa-enabled control through the remote's microphone, and an integrated Harman Kardon sound system with dedicated wireless subwoofer.
But the big announcement at CES was the new model 100L7T 4K Smart TriChroma Laser TV, a 3rd generation model that uses three lasers to directly achieve even wider color gamut. By utilizing separate red, green, and blue lasers, the TriChroma system is said to acheive 96.6% of the Rec.2020 color space. Although most HDR content today is mastered to the more restricted DCI-P3 color space, UHD signals deliver their color in a larger Rec.2020 envelope, and the color limitations of consumer UHD displays are among the factors that have held back the release of full Rec.2020 content. So the appearance of the first display products that can acheive something close to full Rec.2020 is encourging for home theater enthusiasts.
The 100L7T features a similar form factor and feature mix as the earlier Hisense Laser TVs and is rated for 3,500 lumens of typical brightness. As with other models, it will ship with a dedicated 100-inch UST screen. Availability is slugged for late in the year, and pricing has not yet been announced, though prospective buyers should anticipate a premium over the current 100-inch model that sells for $9,999.
Optoma P1. As previously reported, Optoma showed off its model P1 laser entertainment system, featuring a 4K laser-driven UST projector combined with a proprietary Android-store-based smart-TV platform for streaming of popular apps. It offers both Alexa and Google Assistant voice control as well. This DLP projector can throw up to a 120-inch image with up to 3,000 lumens of output and has a rated 2,000,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio. An integrated four-driver soundbar, designed by Optoma's sister company NuForce, delivers an enhanced home theater audio experience.
Rated for 2,500 lumens of brightness, the HU85L will feature a 0.19 lens that can throw a 90-inch image from just 2 inches off the screen surface, or up to a 120-inch image from seven inches away. It offers LG's well-regarded WebOS operating system, the brand's ThinQ AI technology for voice commands, and a stereo sound system. It's expected to reach market by fall. Pricing was not announced.
VAVA 4K TV Laser Projector. VAVA, a relatively new lifestyle electronics brand founded in 2015 and best known to date for its portable bluetooth speakers, headphones, and home- and dash-cams, showed up at CES promoting a 4K UST laser projector with an Android-based smart TV system and a 30-watt integrated Harman Kardon stereo sound system.
The projector is said to have 3,000 lumens of brightess, 3,000:1 contrast ratio, and compatibility with HDR10 content. It can project an image of up to 150 inches from its relatively compact 21 x 14 x 4-inch chassis. Price is expected to be around $3,500 when it goes to market later this year.
Viewsonic X1000-4K. Viewsonic's new laser UST entry is the X1000-4K, which uses a 0.25 lens that projects images up to 100 inches.
As previously reported, the X1000-4K offers up 2,200 lumens and, like some other models introduced at CES, has an integrated Harman Kardon soundbar system. Unlike the laser-driven models, however, the X1000-4K uses a long-life, 30,000 hour LED light source. Consequently, it's expected to boast an attractive $1,799 street price when it hits the market this summer.
Other Projector News
Though UST introductions grabbed the CES spotlight for the category, there were some other new and trendsetting projectors to marvel at. In particular portability was a secondary theme of the show, as exhibited in some new lifestyle models.
For example, two cube-like projectors seen at the show more closely resemble a piece of carry-on luggage than the sophisticated projection systems they really are. The Optoma UHL55, which began shipping last fall, and the new Viewsonic X10-4K, are clearly designed for convenient transport to different locations, and boast features that guarantee quick-and-easy set up.
The Optoma UHL55 is an LED-driven 4K DLP projector priced at $1,599. Rated for 1,500 lumens, its fixed lens can deliver a 100-inch image from less than 9 feet from the screen or wall, and auto-focus and auto-keystone features provide simplified setup. A built-in Android-based smart TV streaming platfrom is included, along with Alexa and Google Assistant voice control and Bluetooth capabilities for streaming music from a smartphone to the integrated speaker system
With a similar form factor, Viewsonic's X10-4K offers a convienient carry handle for easy movement from room to room or home to office. It puts out a rated 2,400 "LED lumens" and is equipped with a 0.8 fixed short-throw lens with auto-focus and auto-keystone capabilities. The X10-4K's Android-based smart TV platform is enabled by on-board WiFi that also allows Alexa and Google Assistant voice control. Bluetooth is also integrated for audio streaming to the Harman Kardon stereo speaker system from phones and tablets. Like its ultra-short-throw sibling, the X1000-4K mentioned above, the X10-4K is a 4K DLP projector with UHD resolution and HDR10 compatibility, though with Rec. 709 color. The targeted street price will be $1,499 when it becomes available in spring.
Meanwhile, the pico projector category remains hot. Viewsonic announced an enhanced version of its well-reviewed M1, the Viewsonic M1+. It offers all the features of the original M1—854x480 resolution, built-in battery playback, on-board dual-speaker Harman Kardon audio, 360-degree projection, full HD 3D playback, 16 GB of internal memory, and a clever stand—while adding integrated WiFi and streaming as well as Bluetooth wireless audio. Perhaps more critically for some gamers, it offers a direct connection via USB with Nintendo's Switch game console. Set for spring availability, street price of the M1+ will be $349 while the original M1 remains at $299.
Miroir showed off its new super-compact M631 Ultra Pro DLP Projector, a portable about the size of a trade paperback book featuring full 1080p resolution and an LED light engine. Its rated for 700 lumens and throws images up to 120 inches. Motorized focus, adjustable from the included compact remote, simplifies the setup, and the projector runs about 2 hours in its Eco mode on a single battery charge. It's due to hit the market in early February at $649.
A few more projector and screen exhibitors were tucked away in the home theater demo suites at the Venetian hotel. Among them was JVC, which showed stunning images from its just shipping RS3000 (also known as the DLA-NX9) on a 120-inch diagonal Screen Innovations Slate 1.2 screen. Though SI was not technically exhibiting at the show, its ALR screens were widely used among projector makers, especially its specialized UST material that rejects light from all angles except directly below the screen.
The RS3000/DLA-NX9 is JVC's new $17,999 flagship, featuring native 4K imagers combined with e-Shift pixel-shifting for 8K on-screen resolution. Given the bit of extra delay JVC has endured in getting all its new 4K projectors out the door, the company announced just before the show that it would gift a rebate for an extra projector lamp with any purchase made through January 31st of the RS3000/DLA-NX9, RS2000/DLA-NX7, or RS1000/DLA-NX5. That's a $599 retail value.
Elite Screens showed a variety of its ambient-light rejecting screens, including its premium ISF-certified Darkstar 9 material, which was previously only available through Elite's EPV pro division but is now being sold through consumer channels as well. The 106-inch diagonal shown at CES was mounted in a traditional felt frame and sells for $2,499. A new AEON CLR 2 (ceiling-light rejecting) material, also ISF-certified, was demonstrated at 103 inches diagonal. The sample featured a fine, narrow-bezel frame for a free-floating look and sells for $999 at in that size and configuration. Other highlights included the Yardmaster 2 CLR series and Saker Tab-Tensioned retractables. Wolf Cinema, which can always be counted on for some of the best-looking pictures at any trade show, was again exhibiting with Seymour-Screen Excellence and wowing attendees with images from the 8K-resolution TXF-3500, about $40,000 retail. A Wolf ProScaler MK8 processor was paired with the projector. The company is said to be working on delivering new models that will range down to about $5,000 for its entry-level 4K DLP machine.
SSI had mated the TXF-3500 with its Ambient-Visionaire Black ambient-light rejecting material, but the 0.9 gain version that provides an even higher degree of edge-to-edge uniformity and wider viewing angle than the 1.2 gain material. It retains the exceptionally smooth and artifact-free surface that this material is known for as well as an exceptional 12x contrast boost. The screen was mated with the company's White Bias LED backlight system, which we reported on at the 2018 CEDIA Expo.