Projector People Cedia 2009 Round-Up

Aspect Ratios What was the projector buzz at CEDIA this year? $999 true HD 1080p home theater projectors (of course), a new Epson projector with a 200,000:1 contrast ratio, LED technology expands, and the absence of Panasonic. We’re going to run through each of these below, and link to a few more CEDIA round-ups that may also be of interest.

CEDIA 2009 Projector News At-A-Glance

For those who prefer bullets to paragraphs, here’s a bullet point round-up:
  • Sub $1K DLP projectors shipping soon (Mid-September to Early October).
  • New Epson Home Cinema 8500 UB projector (replaces 6500 UB) features 200,000:1 contrast. No MSRP yet. Will be under $3000.
  • New Epson Home Cinema 8100 projector (replaces 6100 UB) improves brightness (1800 lumens) and contrast (35,000:1). Sells for $1599 (plus initial $100 rebate). Ships November.
  • (UPDATED 9/21) Epson Home Cinema 705HD will replace the Home Cinema 720 with a price point of under $750.
  • Watch for price drops on the Epson Home Cinema 6100 and 6500 UB.
  • LED projectors continue to improve, move beyond pocket projecting category.
  • New Mitsubishi HC3800 impresses critics. $1499 MSRP.
  • InFocus to release new ScreenPlay projector. Limited dealers.
  • Sanyo yet to release news of any new Home Theater units.
  • Panasonic PT-AE4000 announced in EU, but no reports of release in the U.S. We hope to have an answer on this soon! (Updated 10/16 : Now released in the USA) (Updated 10/16/09: See comparison of Panasonic AE4000U, BenQ W6000 Epson Home Cinema 8500 UB here.
Read on for details and explanations…

Sub 1K Projectors

Optoma HD20 $999 DLP Projector We have already covered much of the $999 true HD projector story in previous posts (here, here, and here), so we won’t go in to much more detail here. The most frequent questions we hear are “Which one is best?” and “When can I get one?” Since we have yet to see the BenQ and the Vivitek post-production models, we haven’t been able to form any opinions yet. We will give some comparison reports when we have a chance to compare them all. But we do have some information on ship dates. Here’s what we’re expecting as of today. These projectors may come earlier, or later, than we expect. Any pre-ordered items will be shipped in the order they were placed.

200,000:1 Contrast : New Epson Home Cinema 8500 UB

Epson Home Cinema 8500 UB As if a 75,000:a contrast ratio wasn’t good enough, Epson has tightened up those pixels for an impressive 200,000:1 contrast spec on their new Home Cinema 8500 UB. As good as the Home Cinema 6500 UB was, under the light controlled and perfectly calibrated circumstances of CEDIA, the 8500 UB looked like it topped the 6500 UB. Hard to say without a head to head comparison, but either way, the 8500 UB looks like another winner. The only unanswered question is how competitive will the MSRP be? Some would argue they need to get price competitive with the new $999, but realistically, these higher end projectors are more expensive to make. We will soon have the answer, but for now we do know the price will be under $3000. Also from Epson, the Home Cinema 8100, which will replace the Home Cinema 6100 – a higher brightness, lower contrast, native 1080p projector. The 8100 has improved previous brightness specs and contrast to 1800 lumens and 36,000:1 contrast respectively. Neither the 6100, nor the new 8100 offer 120hz, which some might argue is not a bad thing*, and with the lack of 120hz you will pay a little less. It’s reported MSRP is $1599 (plus initial $100 rebate) which is a big drop from the price for the release of the 6100 just a year ago. The Home Cinema 8100 should ship first, and hit the shelves around mid-October. The official MSRP has not been released on the Home Cinema 8500 UB, but it is reported to be under $3000. It should be available for purchase sometime this November. * A Little Ditty About 120Hz It should be noted that some viewers are not fans of 120hz because it creates an ‘artificial’ looking image. I recall watching “Pirates of the Caribbean” on a 120hz flat panel TV and thinking that it looked particularly ‘stage like’ – like a very good reproduction of a PBS Great Performances rather than a motion picture. There purists have a point in their desire to keep the image looking more ‘filmlike,’ but it does appear that this more super-real image is the direction video will be taking in the future. Epson, for example, went to some expense to improve the performance of the 120hz in their 6500 UB unit to satisfy customer issues. But, for now, those who prefer a more traditional image can turn off 120hz on their home theater projector. We’d love to hear what you all think of the 120Hz if you have it. Leave a comment if you have something to share!

New LED Projectors

We have covered the new ‘pocket projectors’ fairly extensively too (here, here, and here). But new and improved versions of first generation products are also coming soon. But there are other categories of LED projectors that we have neglected a bit; LED installation projectors, and small (but not pocket) portable projectors. Optoma PK-101 pocket projector Pocket LED Projectors Optoma has announced their PK-102 pocket projector, which follows the first generation PK-101 we had and tested earlier this year. There have also been some improvements in connectivity, that might make it a more attractive option for sales people on the go. The pocket projectors are still not terribly bright, but they are a cool toy for the early adopter. This category shows a lot of promise in the fun, portable, gadget world. So, if you bought the first generation iPod, this is a product to consider. And it’ll work great with your new iPod. Portable LED Projectors While brightness is improving in these small, but not pocket sized projectors, they still don’t quite have the power to produce an image bright enough to combat ambient light. Controlled environments do these little LEDs well, however, with some really nice, rich images. We have seen some nice units in this category, in particular, a promising LG model like this one that may come to market soon. The model we saw included a USB slot that ran some very nice video off of a USB thumb drive, as well as a mention of a future FM transmitter which could broadcast audio from the projector to a station on your radio. These projectors have a lot of potential. Expect to hear more about these soon. Installation LED Projectors Vivitek and Projectiondesign offered a brighter new LED projector that could arguably used in an installation environment, but realistically, without controlled lighting, the 600 or so lumens provided will not be quite bright enough in a large venue setting. However, in a controlled space ( for example a closed video game or flight simulator) that is used frequently and for long periods of time, the long lasting LED lamp would be a money saver. Again, this category is still developing, but does show a lot of promise.

No News from Panasonic on the PT-AE4000

Panasonic projection was noticeably absent for the display floor this year. At this time, we still don’t know for sure if they will be releasing their new PT-AE4000U in the U.s. The projector has been released in the UK, and was featured at a major EU consumer electronics show just a couple weeks ago. So, what will Panasonic do? And if they don’t release the PT-AE4000 in the U.S., what prompted that decision? The predecessor Panasonic PT-AE3000U was one of our best-selling 1080p unit this past year, and a new Panasonic will be sorely missed. We will, of course, keep you updated as soon as we hear anything.

Other CEDIA Projector News

Mitsubishi HC3800 projector Mitsubishi is creating some buzz on review sites like ProjectorCentral.com and ProjectorReviews.com with their new HC3800. InFocus may be releasing a new ScreenPlay model this year as well, with limited distribution. The InFocus SP8602 will retail at around $4999. Sanyo has not announced any replacements to their PLV-Z3000 or Z700 projectors just yet. That about sums it up for our look at projection and CEDIA 2009. We are linking to a few more round-ups below, in case you are interested in non-projector CEDIA news. More CEDIA RoundUps Home Toys CEDIA RoundUp Stewart Screens, Atlantic technology, and a Mitsubishi projector mention among other featured products. DigitalTrends Best of CEDIA 2009 Vizio LED TV, Sony’s first connected Blu-ray player, bathroom LCD TV, Panasonic VIERA plasma with wireless, $175,000 JVC projector, New Blu-ray Recorders from JVC, iPhone control Ap. Projector Reviews A look at new home theater projectors (or lack thereof) from BenQ, Sanyo, Panasonic, and InFocus. In two parts. Part two coming soon.

Pico Projector Innovation

Let’s say you had the technology to create a tiny projector. It’s cool. People are talking about it. But beyond an on the fly presentation of travel photos from your cell phone or a portable DVD player accessory, what else can be done with this micro display? How can this display change the world as we know it?

Texas Instruments, creators of the DLP Pico projector technology, has so much confidence in human ingenuity, they are going to give industrious inventors a chance to figure that out for themselves. A new Pico Projector Kit will include all the components needed to integrate a projector into just about anything computerized.

What’s in the Kit?

A bunch of stuff MacGuyver would love. The company reselling the kit for $349 retail is Digi-Key. Based in Thief River Falls, MN, they are one of the larger distributors of electronics components. From the press release here’s what’s in the box:

The kit will contain an HVGA resolution DLP projection device, a three color LED, a power supply, and a video cable connected to a BeagleBoard which boasts an OMAP35x processor, supported by Linux. (source : Market Watch)

Who Are the Likely Pico Projector Innovators?

From the sound of things, there are a number of specific markets that might be served. From general consumer interest products to industrial markets, and even medical applications, or perhaps even some more unusual uses. From the press release :

“We are very excited about offering TI’s DLP Pico technology to our customers. The Pico Projector Development Kit will enable the development of a wide array of embedded systems in the high-growth medical, industrial and consumer segments, creating flexibility and options on how information and content is shared. With regard to the pairing of the pico projector and the BeagleBoard, it will be fun to see what engineers come up with using these two gadgets,” said Mark Larson, Digi-Key president and COO.
Potential applications for this kit include simple 3D measurement applications, virtual cosmetics, augmented reality, battery or USB powered display applications, projection of video and images, and miniature applications that do not have space for a large display.

Where Can I Buy a Pico Projector Development Kit?

Unfortunately we don’t carry the kit at ProjectorPeople.com. However it is available online from Digi-Key’s website (part number 296-23836-ND).

Needless to say we are excited about the potential applications for this micro projection technology. As Sinatra might say “The best is yet to come, my friends.” We are keeping our eye on it, but not looking directly into the light because that might damage our retinas.