Next month (Sept. 2016) is the time for the largest home theater oriented trade show in the USA – CEDIA Expo 2016 (14-17 Sept. in Dallax TX). It’s also the time for the largest consumer electronics show (including Home Theater products) in Europe – IFA (2-9 Sept. in Berlin, Germany). Traditionally video projectors, and often related products, have been introduced at one or both of these annual trade shows. This blog discusses what new home theater projectors (with a focus on 4K compatible models) we expect to see announced and perhaps demo’ed at these events. The information provided in this blog is a combination of officially released information, rumors from generally reliable sources, and educated speculation.
I’ll discuss what we expect to see in the way of home theater projectors from the mainstream manufacturers.
EPSON – With unusual timing, for Epson, the replacement models for Epson’s popular mid-level models were already announced back in June. These include the Home Cinema models 5040UB and 5040UBe (pictured below) and the Pro Cinema models 4040 and 6040UB. The most prominent update of the previous generation models is the inclusion of pixel shifting technology along with the projector’s 1080p 3LCD display chips to offer support of 4K UHD video inputs (Epson calls this “4K Enhancement”). This brings “4K-lite” capability into the market segment of mainstream, moderately priced, home theater projectors. Previously the JVC DLA-RS400, with a list price of just under $4,000, was the least expensive projector to offer similar “4K-lite” pixel shifting technology. In addition to the pixel shifting for improved resolution, these new Epson models also support High Dynamic Range (HDR) and Wide Color Gamut (WCG) as being offered by 4K UHD Blu-ray discs and some on-line streaming video services. List prices for the new Epson Pro Cinema models range from $2699, for the model 4040 up to $3999 for the 6040UB. The Home Cinema 5040UB lists for $2999 while the version with wireless HDMI (model 5040UBe) lists for $3299.
In addition of the “4K-lite” projectors mentioned above, Epson has been offering for the past several months lower-end 1080p models including the Home Cinema models 740 (720p), 1040 (1080p) and 2040 (1080p). Some of these models were introduced nearly a years ago and it’s possible that Epson will have something new to announce at CEDIA Expo or IFA for the budget end of their wide range of projectors.
Two years ago Epson introduced their flagship Pro-Cinema projectors, models LS10000 and LS9600. The LS10000 featured pixel shifting for “4K-lite” resolution while the LS9600 was as conventional 1080p projector. These were Epson’s first projectors to use “LCD Reflective” display technology (equivalent to LCoS) and both models used a laser-based light engine. I expect Epson to announce a replacement for at least the LS10000 at CEDIA Expo. This is speculation on my part, but given that Ultra HD Blu-ray discs are now available, I would expect Epson to introduce a replacement model with improved support for this new 4K/UHD video source. More specific, the likely enhancements would include support for 4K/UHD HDR and improved support for WCG video sources. Also the light output may be increased to better accommodate the display of HDR content.
JVC – Last year JVC enhanced their pixel shifting technology for “4K-lite” and added improved 4K/UHD support by accepting and displaying 4K/UHD video with HDR and WGC, such as available from 4K/Ultra HD Blu-ray discs. JVC also last year increased the light output of their projectors and lowered the price on their entry-level model. We reviewed both the entry level model DLA-RS400U as well as the flagship model DLA-RS600U and found both to offer outstanding performance. So what’s next from JVC? There is what appears to be a well informed source in Europe claiming the JVC will introduce/demo a native 4K resolution flagship projector at IFA and CEDIA Expo that will also feature a laser light engine. We do know that JVC has previously produced both 4K projectors as well as projectors with laser light engines for the professional and simulation markets and I have previously heard from JVC sources, going back to 2014, that native 4K displays for consumer projectors were being investigated. From the rumored information it appears this new JVC native 4K projector would sell in the $30,000 (or perhaps a little less) price range. While this would certainly be expensive, such a projector from JVC would compete directly against Sony’s VPL-VW5000, which carries a $60,000 price tag. Again, this is based on an unconfirmed rumors, but it does appear there may very well be some factual basis for this rumor.
UPDATE (10 August): Confirmation – the JVC UK web site now has a IFA preview and JVC USA web site a CEDIA preview for the new DILA 4K projector using “BLUEscent” (i.e., JVC’s trade name for their blue laser/phosphor wheel technology).
As for JVC’s current projector line-up, I would expect these models to be most likely continued for another year, or at most, slightly updated versions to be announced at CEDIA Expo/IFA.
SONY – Last year at CEDIA Expo Sony announced upgraded versions of their lower-end native 4K projectors as well as announcing a new flagship model VPL-VW500o ($60,000) using a laser light engine. That latter projector didn’t begin shipping until a few months ago so I don’t expect any replacement for the VW5000 to be announced at this year’s CEDIA or IFA shows. However, the previous flagship, and now aging, model VPL-VW1100 was carried over again for 2016. I would expect Sony to announce a replacement for the VPL-VW1100 to offer support for such capabilities as HDR, HDMI 2.0a, and improved WCG compatiblity with 4K/Ultra HD Blu-ray discs. There are some unconfirmed rumors floating around the web that a VW1100 replacement will have a laser light engine, but with lower light output than the flagship VW5000.
As for Sony’s lower-end (but still rather expensive) native 4K models, HDR support was added last year, but WCG, supporting least DCI P3 color space, is lacking from the current models. Also these models do not have full bandwidth for their HDMI 2.0 input. So perhaps, Sony will offer up replacement models for their VW3xx, VW5xx and/or VW6xx series of projectors that will be capable of more fully supporting the features offered by the latest 4K/UHD video sources, i.e., Ultra HD Blu-ray discs and streaming 4K video sources, and upgraded to provide full bandwidth HDMI 2.0a (or 2.0b) inputs. This is all speculation at this point, as Sony has not yet released any official information on their planned product introductions.
DLP 4K PROJECTORS – Last year during CEDIA Expo Texas Instruments (TI) held private showing of an engineering model 4K DLP projector. Consumer home theater projectors based on the TI 4K chip-sets are now forecast to begin shipping within the next few months. This design uses pixel shifting, but unlike pixel shifting projectors from JVC and Epson, the TI design starts with a display chip that can display one half the pixel count of a native 4K display while the JVC and Epson projectors use 1080p display chips which only have one fourth the pixel count of a native 4K display. This means with the DLP approach the full 8M pixels of a 4K image/frame can be displayed as two 4M pixel sub-images. As with conventional 1080p DLP projectors that use a single display chip plus a rotating color wheel, these new DLP 4K projectors can still be subject to a visible “rainbow effect”. This results from using a single display chip and sequentially displaying the red, blue and green sub-images. In fact the initial designs for the 4K DLP projectors appear to provide a maximum effective color wheel speed of 3X while the better home theater 1080p DLP projectors frequently offer 5X or 6X speeds. I assume the 3X limitation is due to the need to display each 4K image as two half resolution sub-images. That would mean that a color wheel rotating fast enough to provide 6X speed in a 1080p DLP projector would, at that same mechanical rotation rate, only be providing 3X speed in a 4K DLP projector.
So who is going to be offering these 4K projectors and what will be demo’ed at CEDIA Expo (or IFA)? Both Optoma and Benq have already announced plans to release 4K DLP projectors in the 2nd half of 2016. These are expected to include both entry-level lamp-based models, with prices starting in perhaps the $5000 price range, as well as more expensive LED based models. Neither Benq nor Optoma are listed as exhibiting at CEDIA Expo (however, Optoma is listed as exhibiting at IFA). in any case, there is always a chance their projectors might show up in some other exhibitor’s booth at CEDIA Expo. It’s also possible one or more of the more upscale DLP projector manufactures, that do have exhibit booths at CEDIA Expo (e.g., Digital Projector, SIM2, etc.), will announce a 4K projector using the new TI 4K chipset.
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