Viewsonic Pro 9000 Home Theater Projector Review
Viewsonic's Pro9000 projector is one of the rare home theater projectors to sport a hybrid, solid state light engine - in this case, an LED/laser light engine claiming a life of 20,000 hours. This Pro9000 is a DLP projector, with a better than most warranty.
The most important thing you need to know up front, is that this review projector we've been working with is an early pre-production Pro9000 projector.
We are already aware that Viewsonic has much newer firmware which correct for a number of issues we've encountered.
We received a full production Pro9000 projector after this review was written. While it addressed a couple of previously spotted problems we would call flaws typical of pre-production projectors, we found the full production version still weak when it came to calibrated color.
October 2012 - Art Feierman
Viewsonic Pro9000 Projector Overview
A few months ago, one of our other reviewers (Mike) looked at a "business version" of the Pro9000 projector. That model, the Pro8300, looks the same, but performs very differently. Thiss Pro9000 is geared for better contrast and blacks, as one would expect from a home theater projector, while the business version has far lower contrast (and blacks) but also more lumens. The real difference is the LED/Laser light source of this Pro 9000, compared to the conventional lamp in the Pro8300.
Above, Robert Downey Jr. in Iron Man 2.
Essentially, our job here is not just to see how well the Pro9000 projector performs compared to the competition. We also want to help you determine value: How the light sources advantages - long life, very slow loss of brightness and very slow to have color shifts - trade off with the primary disadvantage: The higher cost due to the light source.
By our reckoning, this Viewsonic projector will be a much better value for those planning on keeping it years - say 4-5 years or longer, than the hobbyist type who replaces a projector every year or two, or maybe three.
If you own this projector long term, you will get your value out of the light source, and likely save money overall. You'll be saving big on electricity too.
Rated 20,000 hours it should last as long as 5 to 10 conventional lamps depending on the projector you are comparing it to. Note that the Pro8300 mentioned above is rated 2500 hours on its lamp, when running at full power.
Let's not worry about those issues of price vs. life, for now, and instead concentrate on the features that this Viewsonic Pro9000 projector offers.
Above, an enhanced, "colorized" scene from the movie Red.
The Pro9000 is (lightsource notwithstanding) a fairly typical single chip DLP projector that one would find in the $1500 up to perhaps $2500 dollar range in terms of overall features. As with many single chip DLP's for a great many years, the Viewsonic Pro9000 has a basic 1.2:1 zoom lens. Most folks buying this projector will either ceiling mount, others will place on a table top. As is typical of lower cost DLP projectors, this Viewsonic projector lacks lens shift.
Unlike a great many new home theater projectors, the Viewsonic Pro9000 is 2D only. While a fair number of projector buyers are really into 3D (myself included), a lot of folks say they can take it or leave it, or aren't in any hurry. That decision is yours. If nothing else, that simplifies some of your decisions. If you really want 3D, you will be looking elsewhere.
You'll find that the brightness of this Viewsonic projector is about what we've called average for dedicated home theater projectors over the years. That's about 500 lumens calibrated, and about 1000 lumens in a "brightest" mode that has been tweaked a bit to provide better color, as long as there is no dramatic drop in brightness, by doing those adjustments. Note that, as most new home projectors sport 3D, those newer ones tend to be brighter than average, with a number of them outputting close to, or even more than 2000 lumens in their adjusted "brightest" modes. Those guys are equally suitable for more "living room" or "family room" type environments where lighting control isn't as good.
In a dark room a a proper screen the Viewsonic Pro9000, should have no problem filling 110" diagonal screens, or perhaps a little larger.
The Pro9000 has a dynamic iris for improved contrast and black level performance.
CFI - Creative Frame Interpolation - smooth motion - is found on most over $2000 projectors, but few under $2000 projectors. You won't find it on this Viewsonic, which isn't surprising. I suspect that if Viewsonic built a version of the Pro9000, but using a conventional lamp, it would sell for about $1000 less, money you would recoup over the life of the projector. Personally if I'm working with a projector that has CFI, I primarily use it for sports, never for movies (except to confirm that I don't want it on). I've never conisdered CFI to be a particularly key feature to have, more of a "nice touch" that has some trade-offs.
Lot's to cover
Viewsonic Pro9000 Projector Highlights
- 20,000 hour led/laser hybrid light source
- Significantly more energy efficient than conventional projectors
- Light source means less dimming, more consistant color
- Single chip DLP technology
- Dynamic Iris for improved black performance
- Picture in Picture (small window)
- Relatively small and portable projector - if need be
- Can double for business presentations (though not a great value proposition for same)
- Two 2 watt speakers on board (uncommon on home theater projectors)
- Three year warranty with a first year replacement program
- Claims 1600 lumens in brightest mode
We'll be discussing all the points above, and more, during this review.
Specs for Viewsonic Pro9000
MSRP: $4499 MAP $2999
Technology: Single Chip DLP
Native Resolution: 1080p (1920x1080)
Brightness: Manufacturer claim: 1600 lumens - we measured a calibrated 448 lumens, and 1380 lumens was the maximum
Zoom Lens ratio: 1.2:1 Manual zoom and focus
Lens shift: None
3D Capable: No
Lamp life: LED/Laser hybrid light engine: >20,000 hours
Weight: 9.4 lbs. (4.3 Kg)
Warranty: 3 Year Parts and Labor (90 days on lamp), 1 year Express exchange program
View full specifications: Viewsonic Pro9000
Above, some college football, in 2D on the Pro9000 projector. See the HDTV section of the image page for more, and even a football game image of a game in 3D.
Viewsonic Pro9000 Special Features
Pro9000 LED/Laser Light Engine
This is the highlight feature of the Pro9000. Very few solid state light sources have made it to home theater projectors. This is one of the first, at least in the sub $10,000 range.
But, understand, you are paying a significant up front premium for that lightsource. If you plan to keep this projectors for years, and are a fairly heavy user, there should be an impressive payback down the road.
How long you plan to keep the Pro9000 is going to be a key decision for you, because, in reality you are paying roughly $1000 for the light source. The similar, but conventional lamped Pro8300, has well lower performance for home theater use, but, sells for around $1000.
From that we conclude that you won't begin to recover that extra cost, if you are only going to keep this projector a year or two and sell it off. Folks looking for a projector that will last them years, should consider the Viewsonic Pro9000. Those looking for a one or two year stint before upgrading, should probably stick to conventional lamp projectors for another couple of years.
Keep in mind, though, pricing issues are not the only ones. As touched on briefly above, an Led/laser light source offers a number of advantages in your theater environment
Conventional lamps fade over their life - if you have a 3000 hour lamp, expect it to be half as bright by the time it's got that 3000 hours on it. Theoretically, it will take years before the Pro 9000 loses significant brightness. Another benefit is green efficiency. Viewsonic rates its total draw at a maximum of 186 watts. By comparison, most single chip DLP projectors for home draw 300 to 400 watts. 350 is about typical. If this saves you an average of 160 watts when in use, look at the potential savings on your electric bill. The US government uses 11 cents per KiloWatt hour. You see numbers based on that, when you look at a refrigerator for its annual cost, or even when buying light bulbs. Well, at 2000 hours a year, that's almost 400 KW in savings, or about $40 a year in savings. It adds up...
But not in California, and other states and places with expensive electricity. Here in California, there are tiers, and most of us are paying at least some, in the highest tiers, where electric costs over 3 times that national average of $.11. If you are already in the higher tiers, then that same lower consumption can yield you a savings of $120 a year or more...
One other benefit lies in that the color shifts over time with conventional high pressure lamps used in conventional projectors. A enthusiast with their own calibration gear likely is checking calibration and adjusting every 500 hours or so, for they can measure / see slight changes.
Some of that apparently applies to a solid state light source like this one. My understanding is that similar slight changes to the color balance occur by over much a longer time frame.
As a person who has owned, and sold at least a few projectors I've owned, believe me, that trying to sell a projector with only a couple/few hundred hours left on the lamp takes at least a couple hundred dollars off of its resale value.
The dynamic of cost of ownership aside, the lightsource itself was not in any real way, different looking than conventional light sources. A few years back, hybrid light engines that included lasers tended to have a "laser" look to them, sort of a gossamer shineyness. The only time I really noticed, I would say was in Bright mode, which, while sharing a heavy green yellow trait with many other projectors in their brightest modes, this one seemed a little bit different feeling, more of balance, though than Laser / LED magic.
Picture In Picture
Not an overly common feature on projectors in general, and particularly home projectors, it's still a nice feature for many. I did use PIP a few years back with BenQ projectors I owned. They had the limitation, though of only allowing one hi-res source, and one low res. Truth is, not much has changed in the last five years, but this projector has moved the bar a bit.
The Viewsonic Pro 9000's PIP offers a choice of a small window (you pick the quadrant you want it in), or an even smaller window. This PIP will only allow one HDMI source, but will allow the second source to be Component Video as well as S-Video...(It won't let you do HDMI and a standard VGA signal however, or two HDMIs, but then, I'm not sure I've encountered a projector yet that allows two HDMIs with PIP, and that, these days, would be a desireable option).
The PIP window is small enough that you are likely to use it more of a way to keep an eye on the other source, than to actually be watching any real detail
Pro9000 Projector 2D Only
Sort of strange listing 2D only as a "special feature", or so it seems. Still, this Viewsonic Pro9000is a roughly $3000 street priced projector. In that price range, most of the new home theater projectors to hit the streets between $2000 and $5000 offer 3D, making the Viewsonic Pro9000 a "Special" exception.
And that's fair because if we mentally adjust for the cost of the light source, the Pro 9000 competes with mostly under $2000 projectors where there's a pretty good mix of 2D only, and 3D capable projectors.
Viewsonic Pro9000 Color Management System
Yes the Pro 9000 projector has one. Here's the story. There is a full ability to calibrate the individual colors: RGBCYM, for Hue and Saturation.
There is also the usual Color Temp area, but here, the Viewsonic, at least this pre-production Viewsonic Pro 9000, has a little less control than most projectors, and is one of the improvements we are looking for in final production projectors.
While most (definitely not all) projectors offer two adjustments (Gain/Bias, or Brightness/Contrast, or... depending on what each manufacturer calls them). This Viewsonic projector has but a single control to cover the range from black (0 IRE) through gray, to white (100 IRE). As a result, Mike could never get a really good calibration.
In the final release version, we are hoping for one of two changes. Adding a second control for the RGB Color Temp, (which is unlikely, considering the limited time between when we looked, and first real shipments), would be very nice. We will however be happy with single controls, as long as Viewsonic improves the default color tables, which should be very doable. Right now, green is off enough that the single control doesn't get you to great color, but with some improvement of the color table, no reason why this projector can't look great. This is really, the one thing I'd really like to see improved from our sample projector.