Projector Reviews

Acer VL7860 4K UHD Laser Projector Review – Hardware

Acer VL7860 4K UHD Laser Projector Review – Hardware: Overview, Inputs and Connectors, The Lens with placement range info

Overview

The Acer VL7860 outwardly looks just like the lamp based V7850 that Ron reviewed at the end of last year (2017). From a pure hardware standpoint, the only major difference is the laser light engine and modified light path, compared to the less expensive V7850.

The VL7860 cabinet measures a relatively compact (for a laser projector) 15.7″ x 11.7″ x 5″. This is smaller than many of the popular 1080p models from manufacturers such as Epson and JVC, but larger than some of the really compact 1080p models, or new 4K UHD projectors using the smaller, lower resolution chip (projectors like the BenQ HT2550 or Optoma HD51A).

The V7860 is small enough, and just barely light enough, at just under 18 pounds, to move around, from room to room, or outdoors for movie night, if you aren’t the type to mount it.

The VL7860 has two 5-watt built-in speakers and Acer provides a carrying case with the projector, in keeping with its potential use as a portable projector. With the first VL7860 we received, the speakers did not work. That was corrected with the firmware upgrade. The sound was typically “OK” but if you are using this projector at home for movie watching, get a respectable sound system! It’s fine, though, if you are just watching some sports – crank it up!

The VL860 comes in a white finish (and a mostly grey front), so one thinks immediately more suitable for a media room or living room than a dedicated home theater with darker surfaces. Still, case color isn’t likely to affect your purchase decision. I know.  My theater is all dark surfaces, but the projector mounted is a white Epson UB.

As is obvious from the photos, the Acer projector’s lens is located toward the right of center and a ventilation exhaust vent toward the far left on the front panel.

The IR receiver for the remote control is located to the right of the lens and an adjustment foot extends from the bottom of the projector. A second IR sensor is located on the top, rather than the back, as is more common. Still, top sensors are especially great if you are ceiling mounting, as they face down. The right side of the projector has the air inlet grill and one of the projector’s two speakers.

The rear of the projector has the input and connectors panel (more info on that is below). The left side of the projector has the other speaker and a ventilation exhaust vent that wraps around the front corner of the projector. The top of the projector, as seen in the photos, has the lens adjustments, the control pad, and as mentioned already, a second IR receiver for the remote control. The remote control is also covered in detail.

Inputs and Connectors

inputs and connectors
Back of Acer VL7860 - showing all the inputs and connectors

The VL7860 connector panel is shown in the above photo. Included, from left to right, are connectors for LAN (wired network), RS232 (for “old school” command and control), two HDMI inputs (note: only HDMI 2 supports 4K/UHD signals and also MHL, although that’s pretty common as most projector companies are still including the older HDMI 1.4 to ensure backward compatibility with older gear).

There’s a VGA input (HD15) – analog computer input, and also a VGA out.  Mostly those VGAs are features disappearing from home projectors, but still common on business and education projectors. VGAs are “legacy” and appear on home projectors that are “crossovers” designed primarily for business education, but also enhanced for home use.

There’s a stereo audio input (stereo mini jack) and audio out (same). As is typical, plugging a cable into the audio out will automatically shut off the internal pair of 5-watt speakers. Sadly, projector manufacturers haven’t figured that out yet, at least for home use, there’s a better solution. Consider:

Let’s say you don’t have a serious home audio system. You set up your Acer in your den to watch stuff, you rely on the two small 5-watt speakers. They are, at best, adequate – they have volume, no extreme high frequencies nor medium and low bass. You get about what you would expect.

Sure, you can “replace” with the audio out, to a bigger boom box etc., but assuming you don’t have a serious audio system, there’s probably a better solution, for the audio output:

If we have the option to use the audio out while the internal speakers still play, folks would go out and buy small, powered sub-woofers (from under $50), that would add a lot of much cleaner, lower, deeper bass, to the sound the internal speakers produce, the improvement should prove dramatic!

Dramatic, but at a low cost, with a physically small add on that might only weigh 5 pounds (or could be a good bit more).

Now that would be a big Win-Win for those without a real surround sound system. Alas, I’ve been pointing this out to most manufacturers that would listen, for at least 5-6 years. Still waiting for the first to add that customer friendly capability. But, I digress.

There’s also a USB 5-volt output, 12 volt output (screen trigger) and a service connector for firmware updates. No indication yet though, that this projector is field upgradable (few are). The power connector is located toward the bottom-left of the rear panel.

The Lens

The VL7860 has a 1.6:1 zoom lens, which is more placement flexibility than found on most 4K UHD projectors. By the same token it’s a bit less than the 3LCD, LCoS and LCoQ competition, most of which have either 2.0:1, 2.06:1, or 2.1:1 zooms so an extra 50% more front to back placement range. Focus, like zoom, is manual. To focus, adjust the lens ring. To zoom, that control is recessed and on the top. As previously mentioned, this Acer also has vertical lens shift, which is adjusted by a pop-up knob located just behind the recessed zoom adjustment.

Since the VL7860 lacks lens memory or even power focus and zoom, it is not well suited for use in combination with a wide aspect ratio ‘scope’ projection screen. This model would normally be used with a standard 16 x 9 screen. If you aren’t ceiling mounting though, you could pair with a wide screen, but you’d have to get up and adjust the zoom and lens shift every time you switched from 16:9 content to wide screen movies. I figure, if you are celling mounting, it becomes completely impractical to adjust each time (unless your ceilings are fairly low, like 8 feet or less, and you are really tall).

Lens Throw Chart and Lens Shift

Position Distance
Closest Position (Wide Angle) 10 feet, 2 inches (3.1 meters)
Furthest Position (Telephoto) 16 feet, 1 inch (4.9 meters)
Maximum Lens Shift +/- 15 Vertical

If ceiling mounted (inverted), the center of the lens can be as high as 7.4 inches above the top of the screen’s surface. If placed on a table, the center of the lens can be anywhere from even with the bottom of the screen’s surface, or as low as 7.4 inches below the bottom of the screen’s surface. That is modest lens shift.

Want to know what a lot of placement flexibility/lens shift looks like? How about being able to place the projector anywhere between 35 inches above the top, to 35” below the bottom of a 100” screen, and anywhere in the middle. You won’t find that much shift on any DLP projectors (at least none I can think of under $20K, or more), but you will find that on 3LCD and LCoS projectors from under $2000!

The Bottom Line on Placement Flexibility: The Acer VL7860 is superior (or at least as good as) to most of the sub $5000 4K UHD DLP projectors, but falls far short of that of the 3LCD and LCoS competition – the 3LCD, right now consists of 1080p pixel shifters that handle 4K, while with LCoS, at under $2000 you get only 1080p, but from $4999, you get true 4K – (and a lamp) instead of the Acer’s lower 4K UHD and a laser.

Most of those 3LCD and LCoS competitors have 2.1:1 zooms and massive amounts of vertical lens shift, and most also have horizontal lens shift. That said, the Acer is pretty good, and should work, mounted or not, in most rooms. The one place where those others with more zoom range have the advantage, is if you wanted to place the projector up high on a rear shelf.  Typically you wouldn’t be able to place the Acer far enough back, except in very “short” depth rooms.