Posted on June 22, 2018 By Art Feierman
Acer’s VL7860 4K UHD Laser Projector using DLP technology is hardly the first 4K UHD projector we’ve reviewed, (they keep showing up), nor is it the first 4K UHD projector with a laser engine here. If we count 4K UHD laser (fourth) and true 4K projectors with laser engines, that adds up to about 10. It is the thirteenth 4K UHD projector to cross my threshold.
It’s the first one with respectable black levels that I’ve seen, and that makes it a strong, 4K capable home theater projector!
This review looks at the VL7860 as both a home theater projector and also one for commercial applications. Much of our conversation about things like color and black levels are more than what is needed for many business applications (though not all). Hardware pages, Special Features and Performance pages, however, definitely have conversations that relate to non-home use as well as home theater.
This Acer is a good one! It has some real strengths and also a couple of rough edges. One thing I really like – we pointed out a couple of issues to Acer (discussed within), and they seemed very big on addressing them. We were waiting to see what they came up with.
I mention that because most companies sort of just want “issues” to disappear, and get addressed in the next generation products. Well, Acer will certainly earn a couple of well-deserved gold stars if they successfully improve in two areas.
Acer did not disappoint!
First, a quick clue or two: Mostly, I want to say that Eric calibrated the VL7860 and dropped it off two weeks ago. I was especially pleased with the color results that Eric obtained. When you calibrate projectors, you expect near perfect color, but the reality is always a bit less. This Acer, after Eric worked his magic, did about as good a job as any projector I’ve reviewed in the last year or more – with the exception of a few Sonys. That’s saying something!
To date, we have reviewed two really direct competitors to the VL7860 – both 4K UHD DLPs with laser engines: The Optoma UHZ65 and the Dell S718QL. Like the Acer VL7860, they sell at the $4K and up price point on the street.
Like most of these 4K UHD projectors – Acer, and other manufacturers just aren’t 100% sure who to sell them to. That is, they are all obviously built as business/education projectors, based on the feature sets provided, but in some cases, they may get an extra “home theater” feature to two not normally found on commercial projectors.
Truth is, so far, the demand for 4K content handling for business and education is just starting to grow. There’s little 4K content out there for commercial, although, of course, the home market is exploding, with 4K Blu-ray, 4K streaming… Still, this is a projector that easily would work in Higher education classrooms and labs (just not really huge ones), where the highest resolution is needed, such as scientific charting, renderings, detailed drawings, architecture, etc.
Ron, one of our reviewers, reviewed another Acer 4K UHD projector last fall. That one was more basic, lamp based, not as bright, and about half the price. Now, we get to see what the laser, and other features bring to the party.
Considering the Acer VL7860 for the home makes me first think of black level performance – handling of the darkest scenes.
Of the seven images in the photo player above, the first 4 are 4K content from Blu-ray UHD, then a 1080p image from The Hunger Games, followed by a couple of HDTV images, also at 1080 resolution.
The primary issue had been their Dynamic Black feature, which does “lamp dimming” in this case – “laser dimming” to lower black levels on dark scenes by behaving like a dynamic iris. I will describe the issue with the original unit. This update is added after Acer returned the unit with the fix. More on that in Picture Quality (Black Levels) and Summary pages. For here, let’s just say it’s definitely really good news.
Look for some detailed info on the Special Features page, and the Picture Quality page. This was one of those rough edges, but the good news is, it has “rough edges” where the competition has almost nothing – no edge at all, so to speak, and the review has been updated and finished to reflect Acer’s “spectacular” firmware improvements relating to black level performance.
The secondary issue, relating to calibration the projector, so not something on most people’s radar, is discussed later: That is if Acer could open up the CMS (color management system) to all picture modes – not just the two ISF modes set aside for professional calibrators. They did not get done on the second projector. More on that later!
Like others, the Acer has a few features we expect to find on a good home theater projector but misses others. A pleasant surprise is CFI – also known as “smooth motion,” which several competitors skipped. But that is rarely a deal breaker for people – good for sports, generally bad for movies. My point being that like most other 4K UHD projectors you can count it as a “crossover projector” – one built to sell to both business and home markets, but with more of a business/education pedigree than a home one.
And you regulars know how important I consider that.
The original unit I worked with tried, but failed. This is something I wasn’t concerned with because they had me ship it back for a firmware upgrade that they hoped would make it very effective. If they pull it off, (update, they did!) it will easily blow away the other 4K UHD DLP laser and lamp models we’ve reviewed to date.
The Acer earns a Hot Product Award, for a number of reasons. Such as having a very good feature set, and respectable placement flexibility, but it is the black level performance that stands out!
Overall, it’s as good as any of the competition, and with their successful effort at dealing “taming” the Dynamic Black for good black levels, has this Acer in the running – a top contender – for one of our Best In Class awards in our annual Best Home Theater Projectors report, publishing August 2018.
Here are the key highlights. After you take a quick look, see you on our Special Features page where I’ll discuss that Dynamic Black, and a number of other features in more depth.
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