Projector Reviews

Acer VL7860 4K UHD Laser Projector Review – Picture Quality

Acer VL7860 4K UHD Laser Projector Review – Picture Quality: Out of the Box, Calibration – ISF or not to ISF, Skin Tones, Black Levels

Out-of-the-Box Picture Quality

This is a mid-brightness 4K UHD laser projector. Seems that many of these hitting the market are built for the business/education/commercial market, even when also being considered for home theater. The Dell S718QL we reviewed earlier definitely is better suited for business, etc. The Acer really has a good set of home features though. Several modes look pretty darn good on sports.

The brightest mode, of course, is over the top a bit, but not the usual heavy green yellow – rather, unusually, more of a purplish caste, almost a shortage of green. Also, this brightest mode is pretty usable. Definitely would work for sports even if team colors would be off enough for fans to notice. If you look at the menus, the Color Temp is set to CT3. To warm things up a bit and improve Bright’s color, switch to CT2.

RGB, REC709 and Dark Cinema are all very usable for movies. But, this is a projector that will benefit from a calibration.

The important thing I want to mention is that you have to add into the color mode comments that we’re talking about a powerful laser projector here. With the superior inherent color capabilities of a laser light engine compared to a lamp, the images just pop. Everything just looks richer without being over the top.

Calibration – ISF or not to ISF

This was one of the two areas where I recommended Acer make a change. This projector offers two ISF modes, Day and Night, for ISF (Imaging Science Foundation certified Calibrators to use. But, they are password protected. They are the only two modes where you can calibrate the individual primary and secondary colors. So, for other modes, we have the other settings – but not those.

I was hoping they would add access to the CMS (color management system) from the other modes to be able to calibrate those primaries and secondaries.

Alas, when the projector arrived with the other issue dealt with, Acer advised it was not practical to implement my recommendation in this firmware. Oh well, one out of two is very good.

Eric, our calibrator, is ISF Certified, and calibrated the projector. The problem is, two of our published settings, including ISF Night for 4K with HDR, are there, but without the passwords to enter ISF on the projector, you can’t put them in.  ISF Calibrators aren’t supposed to give them out, and we cannot publish them. (sorry). As I indicated, we were expecting them to do add the CMS, so we calibrated in ISF mode, figuring you could duplicate in the User mode…

Skin Tones

We’ve got some pretty darn good skin tones here, post calibration.  Not the most natural, perhaps, but pretty accurate, and again, rich and dynamic.  This Acer VL7860 makes those $1499 to $2499 4K UHD DLPs that use lamps, look almost pathetic by comparison.  This horsepower comes in particularly handy when viewing 4K HDR (later).

This collection of images includes HDTV (mostly 1080i), movies in 1080p and 4K Blu-ray.  The four images of Daniel Craig – Bond, in Casino Royale, show you that the lighting ultimately affects skin tones more than minor variations in projector and lamps.  What you want is a projector mode that always looks “right” for the situation.

Black Levels – Get Excited!

This was my primary complaint, with VL7860 when it arrived in April. The Acer offered the same mediocre black level performance that just doesn’t do justice to really dark scenes that is typical of 4K UHD DLPs so far (at least under $10K). And most movies (or Game of Thrones too) have plenty of rather dark scenes. Originally, turning on Dynamic Black for those dark scenes, I was badly disappointed, as I have with every single 4K UHD I’ve received to review.

Some do some minor improvement, but only a fraction of what a dynamic iris can do. Or they try to do a lot and fail. With lamp projectors, the lamps can’t brighten or dim enough to do significant dimming without being very noticeable.

But lasers are more than fast enough.

Acer’s first try at it, when the projector first arrived, tried really hard. But very dark scenes instead of being darker, turned  to almost perfect black. In Passengers, there WAS well over 90 seconds of blacked out movie, scattered about. But it did it at least for seconds in, I think, every movie I watched on it. My only recommendation would be, as usual: turn it off! Using it is way too distracting.

I contacted Acer, they had me ship it back. Now it’s about 3 weeks later, and it came back yesterday. I fired it up, and started with the same long space walk scene in Passengers.

Bingo! Significant dimming, and no loss of picture.

It seems to be behaving exactly like it should from Passengers to Hunger Games and Casino Royale, then Red, Mockingjay… I watched many familiar scenes, looking for obvious “pumping” and in general anything distracting. This is one good laser based “dynamic iris”. That is based on perhaps 10 hours of watching scenes and movies with the upgraded Acer projector.

This Acer is the very best at handling black levels now of the 4K UHD DLPs under $10K at least. It seems to be a bit different than the Epson 5040UB and not quite as dark, but also seems every bit as fast, probably faster. I’m sure I’ll find some scenes that it will be slightly noticeable to picky folks like me, but so far, so good.

I am thrilled! I’m even amazed. It seems they nailed it, starting from a potential disaster! OK it wasn’t a disaster because Dynamic Black could be turned off, but still. Perhaps not up to the Epson UB, and definitely not the lamp based JVC, but finally respectable blacks in a 4K UHD DLP projector.

They listened, and then they seemed to nail it. And it seems we won’t have to wait for the next generation! That’s pretty rare, and fast. Good for them!