Projector Reviews

Acer VL7860 4K UHD Laser Projector Review – Summary

Acer VL7860 4K UHD Laser Projector Review – Summary: Summary, The Competition, Bottom Line on the Acer VL7860, Pros, Cons

Summary

The Acer VL7860 laser projector earns one of our Hot Product Awards. As a home theater projector, it provides some respectable black level performance, separating it from the rest of the 4K UHD DLP projector pack so far. But, other than that, it is very similar to other such laser projectors (Dell and Optoma reviewed so far, and also the LED light engine BenQ HT9050 – which is a lot more money).

The basic summary – single chip DLP, using the higher of TI’s two 4K UHD chips with 2716×1528 x 2 resolution (pixel shifts once, represented by the x2). It has two HDMI inputs, one for newer – and 4K and one older legacy HDMI 1.4 for older HDMI devices (that’s typical of most projectors). Its $3,999 list price puts it below most other laser 4K UHD projectors but then most of those lasers are also a bit brighter. Example, the Dell lists for $5,999 has 5,000 lumens. For home use, although not as bright as the other two, I think the Acer is the better choice of the three, although the Dell may will be the best one for business and education use, budget allowing.

Projector Reviews Hot Product Award
Our top award given for products we review. Additionally we have Best In Class Awards in our special reports.]

The Acer VL7860, when it came back after a firmware update, is doing something no other 4K UHD I’ve reviewed so far, which is effectively using its laser engine with Dynamic Black to lower black levels on dark scenes and do it significantly.  Other try, but this is the first successful implementation I can think of that makes a significant difference on Black Levels. Certainly, it’s not night and day, but call it a one magnitude improvement. That is, an important improvement, over most of the DLP competition. Others use it only subtly, or roughly so that you notice it a lot.  Not so with his Acer!

Its long life laser engine that should, in most cases, easily outlast its practical life (i.e. 20 hours a week for 20 years), and that laser engine gives more “punch” and wider color than lamp based challengers. Speaking of punch, 3,000 lumens claimed.

I have mentioned that this projector is also perfectly suitable for business and education use, where there’s a need for 4K UHD sharpness. The Acer’s 3,000 lumens claimed,  and usable modes for business at almost 2500 lumens, and even better color at over 2,000 lumens, plus the extra “umph,” perceived brightness, that comes naturally to laser light engine projectors. it certainly can perform in higher education, in all but the largest lecture halls. This might be a great projector for use in scientific, engineering, art, photography, and architecture to name a few areas where the highest resolution is called for, especially for renderings and detailed drawings.

The Competition

This Acer VL7860, however, isn’t as bright as a couple of the others laser 4K UHD projectors, but it is also less expensive.

Feature wise, the Acer VL7860 has most of the home theater amenities that many of the 4K UHD projectors lack, but the Epsons, Sonys and JVCs all have. I’m talking things like CFI – aka “smooth motion” which Acer calls Accu-Motion. It also has a variety of color, image and sharpness enhancement options on the menus. It is certainly more suitable – feature wise, than the Dell, for home use, and even slightly better equipped (than the Dell) Optoma UHZ65.

Unfortunately, for a very small slice of us home theater people that are RBE sensitive (like me), the Acer seems to have a slow color wheel. I see lots of rainbows on the appropriate scenes.

While I can really recommend the Acer VL7860 to most people, (as the award indicates), the Rainbow Effect I see, eliminates me from considering this projector personally.

The good news is that vast majority of people (95%+?) out there are not RBE sensitive!

Of course, you can buy lamp based 4K UHD projectors (of the same native resolution as the VL7860 from under $2,000), but most are not as bright, many are missing standard HT features like CFI, and none can match the black level performance of the Acer. Without the benefits of a laser engine either, count them all as step down models in terms of performance, and color.  Let’s see what the competition looks like.

Not as bright as the Acer, is also the LG HU80KA, an interesting new 4K UHD projector with LED light engine, it could be a contender, with $1,000 lower list price, but LED not laser, and not as bright. The LG is being calibrated by Eric as I finish publishing this review. I should have my review up before the fourth of July – aka 3 weeks from now. One other way it differentiates from the Acer, despite the lower resolution 4K UHD DLP chip, is that it is a Smart projector, with all kinds of apps, etc. (think typical smart TVs like those LG makes).

The Acer, with a $3,999 list price, is certainly price competitive with all those slightly lower resolution pixel shifters from Epson and JVC, although if you spend $1K more than the Acer, there’s the true 4K Sony VW285ES. That’s lamp based, but offering comparable black level performance, and real native 4K.  Also more placement flexibility, and even an extra feature or two. But, besides the higher price of the Sony, remember you are getting a lamp, not a laser.  Sony true 4K laser home theater projectors start at $24,999!

If you are on a tighter budget and can life with the trade-offs, the Epson 5040UB currently selling in the low $2,000 range, matches/slightly beats the black levels of the Acer, and is feature loaded (including Lens Memory for going “wide screen”), but the Epson is not as ultimately sharp, being a 1920×1080 x 2 pixel shifter, vs the Acer’s single chip design and 2716x1528x2 pixel shifting.

Also 4K capable but still not as high resolution, the JVC RS440 is in house right now, and will be reviewed shortly. There, for about the same price, you get world class black level performance – superior to the Epsons, Sonys, and this Acer. But, you get less brightness overall, and like the Epson it is inherently, two very small steps down in resolution – slight as those differences are. Again, however, the JVC is lamp based, and its lamps don’t last as long, as say, the Epsons, and JVC charges far more (around $300 street) for their branded lamps, than most companies for replacement lamps.

That’s a quick placement of the VL7860 relative to the  current competition, and as you can see from my summary, the Acer looks to be very competitive, compared to most projectors above, below, or around its price. You’ll just have to figure out if it is the right projector for your setup.

Bottom Line on the Acer VL7860

If you are looking for home theater, home entertainment, so far, this is probably the best game in town among the 4K UHDs, assuming you can spring for one of the least expensive laser models, instead of a $1,800 to $2500 lamp based projector. It’s not just the laser, by the way – you get more zoom range too, even some lens shift, and a few other features like CFI for smooth motion, which is missing from a number of those lamp based models. A good feature set, for sure, but, like many 4K UHD projectors no 3D, which will bother some home theater enthusiasts (including me).

If you want a projector for business, education, for your restaurant/bar, museum, etc., the laser engine and resolution are excellent, just make sure you can get by with a maximum of about 3,000 lumens (but remember that laser makes it seem somewhat brighter). Most of the laser 4K UHDs cost more but are brighter, which in some non-home applications would be a plus.

Pros

  • Laser Light Engine – Improved performance, 20K – 30K hour life
  • Rich colors, plus very good accuracy post calibration
  • Richer Colors – works with P3/BT.2020, claims 110% of REC709 color
  • Seems a good bit brighter than its 3000 lumens (or about 1,200 lumens calibrated, would be if lamp based
  • Networking
  • Respectable Input Lag for Gamers (43 ms.)
  • Good CFI – Smooth Motion – for Sports
  • Good remote with good backlight
  • About the best placement flexibility among its 4K UHD competition (unless you spend for the $9K BenQ LED projector. The Optoma UHDZ65 is similar to the Acer)
  • Smooth Motion works very well – setting one (mildest) is too much for movies, but then Acer agrees – as they don’t let it engage with typical 24fps movies, only faster content, like HDTV, Blu-ray UHD
  • On Board pair of 5-Watt Speakers – Handy perhaps at home (outdoor movie night) and probably essential if you will use for business, etc.

Cons

  • Warranty – A single year Parts and Labor, no extended coverage on the laser light engine
  • Has minimal lens shift, more would be better
  • Slow color wheel, a lot of rainbows visible to those few of us who are rainbow sensitive
  • No lens memory for wide screen use (lens not motorized)
  • No CFI for 24fps (movies), but, no problem either, I do not recommend CFI for movie viewing (Soap Opera Effect)
  • Could be a bit quieter, but it is quieter than any of the 4K UHD 1920x1080x4 pixel shifters
  • No smarts – we’re entering the age of smart projectors with apps, etc. Alexa on board, etc. (almost all projectors except pico and pocket ones are dumb as a rock.
  • Slow switching of sources, locking onto signal when resolutions change
  • Auto Source Search can have problems (like most projectors) I recommend not using – most folks switch though an AV receiver at home, which handles switching

Thanks for checking out our VL7860 review. It’s alway nice to find the occasional projector that stands out a bit.

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