The New HDMI 1.4 Standard and 3D Projectors

HDMI 1.4 for projectors

The majority of the pre-CES buzz has been about the emergence of 3D into the home. So, while we don’t have a lot of information on 3D projectors just yet, we can take this opportunity to discuss the new HDMI 1.4 standard which will be the most common method of delivery for a 3D display. CES will undoubtedly deliver more information about new 3D content and the displays that can show them and we will post more about those developments here. But in the meantime let’s start with the crucial component that is already ready for 3D – the HDMI 1.4 cable standard.

What’s New About HDMI 1.4?

Previously we posted information on the HDMI 1.4 standard that was probably a bit too pessimistic. Yes, there will be five different cables available for purchase, but for the purposes of home and business projection there will really only be two varieties of use to most home and business projector users – “Ethernet” equipped and “high speed” HDMI. There is also “standard speed” HDMI, which may do the job for some users, but it can’t deliver full 1080p resolution or a 120hz frame rate.

So what’s different from HDMI 1.3 to the new 1.4 standard? Per HDMI.org, any HDMI 1.4 cable has to have the bandwidth and shielding to perform the following functions:

HDMI 1.4 Standard Functions

  • HDMI Ethernet Channel
  • Audio Return Channel
  • 3D Over HDMI
  • 4K x 2K Resolution Support
  • Expanded Support For Color Spaces
  • Micro HDMI Connector
  • Automotive Connection System

(source : HDMI.org )

Note : Keep in mind, not every HDMI 1.4 cable will perform each of the functions mentioned above. There will be five different “versions” of the cable available. But only a couple will be related to home theater. The ‘micro HDMI’ connection, for example, looks like it will be offered on cameras, phones, and possibly pico projectors in the future. The new ‘micro’ cable is about half the size of the previous version – making it very easy to mistake for the smaller USB connector. The automotive standard is obviously designed for the auto industry. So there shouldn’t be too much confusion when you shop for an HDMI cable for your projector or TV.

Pro Cable Guys Have Been Ready for 1.4

In the cable business, a few manufacturers are well ahead of the game. Comprehensive Cables, for example, has had cables that meet the ‘high speed HDMI’ standard for several years now. So, if you have a professional grade Comprehensive HDMI 1.3 cable you bought a few years ago, from ProjectorPeople.com it should still work using your new 1.4 enabled 3D ready source and display.

This is because when Comprehensive designed their 1.3 cable, they exceeded the official requirements, perhaps in anticipation of the 120hz and native 1080p displays that came to market last year. Whatever their motivation, this is great for buyers of Comprehensive product. It also makes good business sense for them, because they have not had to retool their entire HDMI line to meet new 1.4 specifications. So, everyone’s a winner!

Some of the ultra cheap HDMI cables you’ll find were not designed to perform up to the new 1.4 standard – since they didn’t have to be. So if you bought a cheap cable and are wondering if it’s compatible with the new features mentioned above (and even 120hz) including 4k x 2k resolution, 3D, and 1080p support (required for only the ‘high speed’ HDMI 1.4 cables) as well as the audio return channel (for crisper audio) – you’ll have to check the specs. And if you need to buy a new HDMI cable, check the specs.

Just Say HDMI! (And Leave the Numbers Out of It)

HDMI manufacturers are no longer allowed to display the standard (i.e. 1.4 or 1.3b) on their packaging. In order to avoid confusion, they have been asked to address their cables in terms of performance and features. So, instead of promoting “HDMI 1.4” on their packaging, they will have to say something like “3D Ready” or “120hz Compatible.” This is to avoid confusion for the average customer who doesn’t want to do research, but who knows what they want. Since if you’re reading this you most likely to your research, be aware that 1.4 won’t (or shouldn’t by rule of HDMI.org) be on your HDMI cable literature.

3D Almost Ready for Prime Time… Almost

While some cable makers were ahead of the game on this one, manufacturers who make the sources and displays have had more challenges in making 3D affordable. It does appear that multiple manufacturers have worked out many of the kinks and will be making efforts to produce displays that can deliver 3D visuals.

The buzz at CES is that there will very soon be sources and displays at reasonable priced that can make 3D a reality in your home. In fact, ESPN has announced a 3D channel, as well as ABC and other affiliate stations. This is great news for sports enthusiasts who have been dying to have balls fly at their face in their own home. There may be other viewers who are not entirely ready for 3D, but for others, it’s a dimension whose time has come. Either way, it’s coming your way soon.

3D Projectors on the Horizon?

You bet they are! And there are even a few available now. However, thus far, most of the 3D love has been directed at learning and education tools market. But after CES, you will feel the love directed at you, the consumer. We promise to fill you in on what’s available in 3D as soon as we get the details. BenQ and LG are among a few who have already made announcements this week.

The Glasses Ceiling?

One issue some viewers will have with 3D technology of today is the need to wear special glasses. While this is probably no surprise since we’ve been wearing glasses at all our 3D movies in the theater, many people just prefer to be glasses free (as any Lasik provider will tell you). Also, with some of the current technology, the glasses can cost as much as $200 a pair. Why $200? Because in some cases the glasses actually generate the ultra-fast flickering movement that creates depth. In other technologies, the motion is created in the display, and the glasses serve as a filter alone. More on the types of 3D projector technology in a future post.

Ethernet over HDMI 1.4

The ultimate goal for the folks who designed the HDMI standard was to create a single cable that can carry audio, video, and data. While HD audio and video are covered, the data and controls have not yet been adopted by display manufacturers. It appears it is too costly to integrate the new technology just yet. Watch for more on this, and what it may mean for customers who want a fully integrated large scale projection system or home theater enthusiasts who use a home network.

As of yet, there aren’t any manufacturers who have implemented the new Ethernet over HDMI into their projectors. Comprehensive cable says that they expect to have a cable ready for Ethernet over HDMI soon, but there won’t be any displays that utilize it (affordably) till at least 2011.

Let Us Know What You Think!

HDMI 1.4 for projectors

There are still questions about the viability of 3D. At Cowboy stadium, for example, their giant display 3D experiment only lasted about 7 minutes before it was booed off the gargantuan moni-staur.

So we’d love to get your feedback if you’re in the mood to share. How do you feel about having 3D entertainment in your living room? Would you upgrade your display (TV or projector) to enjoy 3D content? Would you be willing to wear 3D glasses or do you prefer to wait till you can see 3D without glasses? Would you rather companies innovated with Smell-o-Vision and rumble seats?

Follow Projector People’s visit to CES on Twitter for updates on Projection Technology and more.

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.

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New 1080p Projectors Compared

What’s the latest in 1080p high definition projection? Four new 1080p projectors show promise as the best selling HD projectors of tomorrow. Those are the Sanyo PLV-Z700, Optoma HD806, Epson Home Cinema 6100, and the Panasonic PT-AE3000U. We thought we would compare the initial specifications (they are often tweaked before their final release) for those of you just waiting to get your hands on the best new stuff coming out. Essentially we see higher contrast ratios, lower introductory prices, and more high performance features. Okay, let’s start with our chart.

New 1080p Projector Comparison Chart

[ Based on preliminary specs only. ]

  Epson Home Cinema 6100 Optoma HD806 Panasonic PT-AE3000U Sanyo PLV-Z700
Resolution 1920 x 1080 1920 x 1080 1920 x 1080 1920 x 1080
Panel/Chip D7 LCD DLP 0.95″ DMD D7 LCD D6 LCD
Brightness 1800 2000 1600 1200
Contrast 18,000:1 8,000:1 60,000:1 10,000:1*
HDMI Inputs 2 2 3 2
HDMI Version 1.3a 1.3 1.3 1.3b**
Lens 2.1x Optical Zoom, Manual Focus 1.2x Manual Zoom and Focus 2x Optical Power Zoom/Focus 2x Manual Zoom
Lens shift H 50% & V 100%, manual None H 40% & V 100% H 50% & V 100%
Noise 22 dB 32 dB Not yet spec’d 21 dB
Warranty 2 yr. pj, 90-days lamp 1 yr. pj, 90-days lamp 1 yr. pj, 90-days lamp 3 yr. pj, 90-days lamp
Street Price $1999 MSRP $2599 MAP $3499 MSRP $1995 MSRP
Extras   optional anamorphic lens
DVI input too
2.35:1 w/o anamorphic lens  
Full specs Coming Soon Optoma HD806 full specs Coming Soon Sanyo PLV-Z700 full specs

* Expect Sanyo to post dramatic improvements to this spec before release date.
** We are trying to confirm this. Sanyo reports the HDMI 1.3b input on their projectors is the same dimension as 1.3a HDMI, but with more pins.

A Big Contrast

Contrast ratios are coming in around the 10,000 to 60,000:1 range. But as the numbers get higher, the specification seems to mean less and less. Back in the day when people wanted to bring their work projectors home on the weekends – with 400:1 contrast ratios – contrast ratios were a serious consideration. But the visible difference between 10,000:1 and 60,000:1 contrast is not nearly as dramatic as it sounds. That is not to say that it doesn’t mean something, at least, but a 10,000:1 projector looks MUCH better than a 400:1 contrast projector. But unless you can make your room nearly black, the difference between 60,000:1 and 10,000:1 is not nearly as noticeable.

More Sizzle for your Nickel

This year there seems to be an emergence of more high-performance HD options around the same prices as some of last year’s entry level products. That’s good news for buyer’s who have been planning to spend around $3,000 based on last year’s prices, since they will get more for their money this time. Here’s a link to a blurb on Gizmodo about the Panasonic PT-AE3000U, dropping prices, and the high quality of this new $3000 projectors.

New 1080p Projectors : Product Photos

These photos were not taken by a professional photographer, as you can clearly see. They were taken by a professional product manager with many years of experience in the audio visual industry, and no natural photographic talent. I would show his photo but he doesn’t photograph well either. 🙂


Panasonic PT-AE3000U

Panasonic PT-AE3000U and the AE2000U Upgrades


Panasonic PT-AE3000U projector

Panasonic PT-AE3000U projector


Panasonic PT-AE3000U projector with Panasonic developers

Panasonic PT-AE3000U projector and developers


Sanyo PLV-Z700 projector

Sanyo PLV-Z700 projector