The Art of Home Theater Projectors

CEDIA 2009 – New Home Theater Projectors – Part 1

Greetings all,

Well, I survived CEDIA, once again.  I hate east coast trade shows (ok, I know the east coast people probably think the same about west coast shows).   It means an extra day, and while Atlanta was just fine, Denver was more fun, and, geez, what would it take to get the CEDIA folks to do Las Vegas, where hotel rooms would be dirt cheap (in Sept), and the partying, even better.

But, to business – or should I say home theater projectors:

T’was an interesting CEDIA show in terms of home theater projectors.  Not so much because of all the new projectors announced, but, perhaps more by the ones that weren’t announced and the major players that were no-shows.  I guess this is the recession in action.  (Floor traffic wasn’t bad, plenty of folks there, but no doubt down from last year.)

I’ll start with the biggest news – and that’s the folks that weren’t there.

Sanyo Home Theater Projectors: OK, Sanyo was essentially purchased this past year, by Matsushita, which puts them in the Panasonic family.  How that will shake out, who knows, as they are two of the major players in home theater projector space.

More to the point, however, Sanyo has not announced any new products this fall for home theater, which has to be a first going back to the earliest Z’s in 2001?  There was some talk, previously, about Sanyo maybe refreshing its line, which might just mean some minor improvements (and price drops)?  We shall  see, but bottom line, Sanyo was absent, and it looks like we’ll have the PLV-Z60, PLV-Z700 and PLV-Z3000 around for another year, barring surpises.

Panasonic Home Theater Projectors:  This is probably the most interesting of the no shows.  Certainly Panasonic had their usual huge booth, pushing Plasmas, LCDTV’s, video cameras, and just about anything else you can think of but home theater projectors.

More to the point, at the beginning of September, at the IFA show in the EU, Panasonic announced the PT-AE4000, as their new home theater projector flagship.   So far, however, it looks like they aren’t planning to sell it in the US?  If they were, CEDIA would have been where they announced, and showed it for the first time.  I couldn’t learn anything more about the PT-AE4000 from Panasonic prior to the show, and not a peep about it, at the show.  I also spoke with several large online Panasonic projector dealers, and none of them has been told the PT-AE4000 is coming to the US.   Will Panasonic try to get by with the PT-AE3000 for another year?

In answer to that, I can tell you that they just dropped the MAP price to $2299, but that’s all the news I have for you.  Most likely, though (a little speculation on my part), is that if they don’t bring in the PT-AE4000, the PT-AE3000 will have to go down to $1999 to remain competitive,  sooner, or, more likely, later, since most of the new competition is still 6 to 10 weeks off.

Next:

InFocus Home Theater Projectors:

InFocus wasn’t expected to show at CEDIA, it’s been a couple of years.  Usually they have some presence there – advertising and a hotel suite for meetings.  I saw some InFocus presence, but no people.  Remember, InFocus got purchased, and taken private, just a few months ago, by one of the co-founders of E-Machines.  This should prove a good thing in the long run.

While InFocus didn’t show, they have already announced their InFocus ScreenPlay 8602, so let’s touch on that.  I’m still a bit sketchy about the details (I got a preliminary briefing at Infocomm back in June (in Las Vegas – they had a suite there).

The great news, is that InFocus is dropping off one of their engineering samples for me to look at, in just two days!  So, what is it?  It will be a $4999 projector (DLP, 1080p, of course), sold through authorized local installing dealers.  That’s no surprise, it’s been years since any but entry level InFocus projectors were available online.

I do believe that the InFocus ScreenPlay 8602 – or shall I call it the IN8602, or the SP8602? – will be pretty impressive.  Unlike previous projectors like the IN83, the SP8602 will be sporting a dynamic iris, so promises really good black levels (the blacks were, in my opinion, the biggest weakness of the otherwise superb IN830).  Gone is the flying saucer shape, replaced by a more traditional looking projector that can share chassis with their install business projectors.  No point in mentioning more now, as I’ll no doubt do a First Look blog about the InFocus ScreenPlay 8602 in the next week.  One last thought, one of the lower cost favorite DLP’s of mine is the InFocus X10.  From recent conversations, it seems InFocus has run out of them, but there are still some with various dealers. If the InFocus X10 on your short list, time is running out.

BenQ was missing from the show floor as well.  No matter!  I noticed a couple of their new BenQ W6000 projectors on display in other people’s booths.  BenQ’s VP Sales, was present, taking care of business in meetings, even if no booth.  Of course with BenQ, they have three rather remarkable new products, all previously announced.

First of course is the W6000.  I mention that one, because I’ve already blogged about it, and the full review will post this weekend.  The W6000 is a $2799 MAP price DLP, 1080p projector, that should hold that price based on the BenQ sales model, at least for some time.  So far, it is most impressive, a really nice mid-priced DLP, with excellent skin tones, very good black levels, and some question about the smoothness of its dynamic iris, but I am enjoying watching it very much.  It is definitely a contender in its price range, and I must note, it has a razor sharp image, that would make any 3LCD or LCoS projector, jealous.

Then the big buzz is the BenQ W1000 – that’s BenQ’s $999 1080p projector, ready to do battle with the now shipping Optoma HD20. I hope to receive a W1000 in the next few weeks.  Because it will be only the second sub-$1000 1080p projector, reviewing it will be a top priority.

Finally, BenQ will have their high end model, the W30000, which will sport an LED light engine instead of the traditional lamp.  It will be very expensive for sure.  (the Vivitek LED projector we reviewed last month is $14,999).  Should be most promising, although the pricing of these first generation LED light source projectors, pretty much assures that they won’t be big sellers.

OK, That covers the major no shows at the CEDIA show.  And concludes Part 1.  I’m splitting this CEDIA report into parts, not because I’m long winded (I am) but, three articles gets more traffic, than just one, when it comes to folks finding them when searching.

In Part 2:  The new entries from Mitsubishi, Epson, Optoma, and…

News And Comments

  • Slarity

    Aw you tease, the epson and mits are the ones I want to hear about lol.

    As always thanks for the insight.

  • Rob H.

    I’m most interested in JVC’s new D-iLA projectors. I could really use a write up about them because I find the naming scheme rather confusing. They’ve got 3 new models from what I’ve heard, but each model has both a “Pro/Installer” version and a “consumer” version, meaning there are SIX new model names!

    I’d just like an easy-to-understand break-down :)

    • http://www.projectorreviews.com/members/lisasonfeier/ Lisa Feierman

      Other than trim, it seems that: The HD990 and RS35 are identical.
      Same for the HD950 and RS25.
      For the RS15 and HD550, there does seem to be one difference, besides trim. The RS15 has a 12 volt screen trigger the HD550 doesn’t. Oh, that’s right, the RS15 claims 32,000:1 vs. 30,000:1. I doubt there’s any real difference there. -a

  • Bjorn

    I really don’t see why Panasonic wouldn’t release the AE4000 in the US?! It would be crazy of them not to, who would buy last years model unless it’s heavily discounted?

    I might consider the AE3000, but it would definitely have to be less than $2000, considering I could’ve bought the AE3000 for $2200 almost a year ago…

    • http://www.projectorreviews.com/members/lisasonfeier/ Lisa Feierman

      Hi Bjorn,

      Well, nice of you to answer your own question! Thanks for that. The AE3000 has a very nice and unusual feature set, and is an ultra-high contrast projector. If it starts selling for under $2000, then it’s in excellent position to take on projectors like the Mits HC3800, the Epson 8100, the Sharp XV-Z15000, etc., rather than the PT-AE4000 slugging it out with the Epson 8500UB, BenQ W6000, Sony VPL-HW15. Basically, I’ve previously mentioned several reasons why they might go that route, including that perhaps they have several thousand PT-AE3000′s to move out of inventory and wouldn’t be able to bring in the 4000′s until those are gone. So, I imagine it’s quite possible we’ll see it in the US in a few months, or, maybe not. Maybe the US folks don’t think there’s enough improvement to justify a much higher cost from Japan. Again this is all speculation. -art

  • Richard

    Art:

    In in your post, you posted that the InFocus SP8602 will be sold ONLY through authorized local installing dealers.

    Respectfully, this is incorrect.

    Onecall has had the SP8602 available for preorder for over 2 weeks now. While the price is listed as being the SP8602′s MSRP of $4,999, I would save over $450 in sales tax by buying online. http://www.onecall.com/ProductDetails.aspx?id=99845.

    I’m looking forward to your “First Look” and the full review of the SP8602. Did you get the engineering sample in today??? If so, are the black levels really good with the new DI, and are the skin tones still as good as the 83′s???

    P.S.
    Please try to post the W6000 review this weekend; even with the football games.
    Thanks in advance for your reply.

    • http://www.projectorreviews.com/members/lisasonfeier/ Lisa Feierman

      Hmm, well that goes exactly against what they told me on Thursday, when they came to town and dropped off the 8602. I’ve emailed them inquiring.

      As to the W6000 and this weekend, it’s about 80% finished as of this point. If I don’t publish tomorrow evening, it will be because I decide to wait one more day to hear back from BenQ. They said they would get back to me on Monday, regarding the dynamic iris. BTW, most of the time, the iris behaves pretty well. I don’t want to scare people off too much, but there does seem to be certain sequences where it is more noticeable than some others. For many people, it will be just a minor thing. For those who are fanatical, though, a potential deal breaker. Watched a good chunk of Vertical Limit last night – a fair amount of dark scenes, etc, and only once or twice did the iris action jump out at me. In other words, no dynamic iris is perfect (by any means), if nothing else they all compress the dynamic range of many scenes that are mostly pretty dark.

      The iris issue may be the difference between a very good projector and a great one (for the money). If BenQ says they plan to work on it, I’ll be very happy, and so will a ton of prospective owners. -a

  • Scott M

    Panasonic Projector Global site now has PT AE4000 manuals(they have both a user guide and functional manuals this year) and product brochures posted and includes reference to USA & Canada.

    So it seem the 4000 is on its way, just not sure when…

    http://www.panasonic.net/avc/projector/manual/

    http://www.panasonic.net/avc/projector/catalog/

  • Dave D.

    I wonder if it is possible, that some of the no shows are waiting on a standardization of the 3D format, before manufacturing new models.

    • http://www.projectorreviews.com/members/lisasonfeier/ Lisa Feierman

      That’s my take Dave,

      It’s very early on. Little content. I do think 3D will be more driven by the gamers than the movie people, but such standards are being discussed. Certainly things are fluid.

      I’m figuring that it will be at least 3 years before all the basics are in place for 3D to START – to go mainstream. Until that point, even, there will be very little happening. The biggest push I’m hearing about to 3D, is on the biz and education side. Business have been interested and using for years for medical imaging, assorted scientific rendering, etc. I hear a lot of content is starting to be developed for K-12 schools. That could also be a big driving force, but that’s a separate class of products. Buy something today, don’t expect full 3D compatibility with what’s out there in 2-3 years. That doesn’t mean some content won’t become available, but, who knows what the real standards will be – might be 240hz for example, and I know of no projectors for the home at 240 hz yet, hey we’re just starting to get a fair number capable of 120fps.
      -art

  • Peter Hodson

    Art,

    Just took the kids to a 3D movies last night. I thought it was going to make me sick and just be a waste of time but boy was I wrong.

    3D enhanced the movie watching experience significantly. Prior to the movie start there was the regular bunch of trailers but there was a sequence of 3D trailers. There was CG as you would expect but also a couple with live characters in 3D. All I kept saying to myself was once this hits the market and a good projector hits the market I am putting it in my NY theater.

    I think 3D will create a much improved movie experience and once folks get a taste of it in the movies they will start to desire it in their homes…

    • http://www.projectorreviews.com/members/lisasonfeier/ Lisa Feierman

      Hi Peter,

      I agree that 3D has a lot to offer. I’m already paying attention, but it’s pre-mature, from the home theater side. I hope to get a shot at reviewing one of the Digital Projection 3D projectors later this year. Looks like I’ll be getting a 3D optimized screen from Da-lite or Stewart. I’m working on content, etc.

      I’ve seen Journey to the Center of the Earth in 3D in the theaters, and I thought that was pretty well done, not too “over the top”. I’ve seen a music video that was outstanding (not anyone I heard of, just they made the most out of 3D.

      I believe, however, that 3D will likely be driven by the gamers at least to getting us to a standard. Just think about a true 3D Halo, or what about 3D Madden NFL football. The possibilities are staggering.

      That said, we will need standards. My best guess is we are probably 2-3 years out, before we can expect anything practical in projectors and maybe longer. I could be wrong – keep an eye on LCDTV and Plasmas they will lead the projectors (as they do in many regards). -art

  • John Thacker

    It seems like, despite the no-show and the resultant speculation, Panasonic will be releasing the AE4000U in North America. And even better, the MSRP is only $2499. If the long-standing Panasonic tradition of having MAPs and street prices well below MSRP continues, then this could be around $2000. I dare say that would affect the Epson 8500U’s “somewhere below $3000 but not decided yet” MSRP.

    • http://www.projectorreviews.com/members/lisasonfeier/ Lisa Feierman

      It looks like a MAP of $1999. If that’s the case, yes, it’s well below the best competition. Certainly the Panny and Epson slug it out every year, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see some last minute price repositioning caused by this. A bold move by Panasonic. This is probably not great news for dealers, as they will probably be squeezed in margin, as it looks like a key price point will now change. $2500 – $3000 now becomes $2000 – $2500. And of course additional performance. Certainly the Panny has all the gadgets. Well they both have CFI. The Epson will probably still have the black level advantage, and the panasonic, nice things like their lens memory shift, for those that want to go 2.35:1 screen with no letterbox. I personally favored the Epson over the Panny last year, overall, as the one I would go with. This year, the Panny looks very formidable. We shall see. -art

  • Ravi Nikam

    I wnat start mini 3d theatre in my city.plz guide me yhe proper way..

    • http://www.projectorreviews.com/members/lisasonfeier/ Lisa Feierman

      Ravi, I have no idea as to where to tell you to start. If you want to show 3D movies then you will need gear currently capable of showing them. Today, that’s probably limited to high end 3 chip DLP projectors, and there goes your first $100,000 – $1,000,000.

      To do what you probably want to do, will require 3D movies to be home capable, such as watching Avatar in 3D off of a PS3… The Blu-ray and HDMI standards are brand new, and nothing out there for consumers, is capable yet.

      Figure by the fall, there may be some sort of path for you. -art