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What Does an Affordable Laser Projector Look Like?

By Art Feierman
Sony LaserLite Laser Projectors

So, what does an affordable laser projector look like? Let’s start with Sony, as with their recent announcements they are the first to really bring out true laser projectors in the $2000 to $3000 range with their first two new LaserLite models.

Sony VPL-PWZ10

WXGA for $2199, with 5000 lumens, constant brightness feature, LAN, and plenty of zoom and lens shift, 20,000 hour laser engine at full power.

The lower cost LaserLite – their VPL-PWZ10, lists for a rock bottom “estimated street price” of $2200.  For that, you get WGA resolution, 5000 lumens at full power, with a laser light source claim of 20,000 hours.  (or if you need constant brightness for a special project  - 12,000 hours at 4500 lumens!  Sony pairs the laser light engine with 3 LCD panels, thus offering the same number of color, and white lumens, a great indication that even at or near full power, color will be extremely good. 

The PWZ10. Has HDMI inputs, and even HDBaseT which is good for running HDMI and command and control over long distances on low-cost CAT6 cable. 

The zoom lens has a healthy 1.6:1 zoom, and there’s a good amount of lens shift!  There’s LAN (local area networking) but best I can tell from pre-release info, no wireless option.  Still, that’s an impressive feature set.  In a lamp based projector, you are typically going to be looking at around $1500 list for well endowed (3LCD) 5000 lumen projector. 

If you want higher resolution than WXGA, aka just under $3000, or a “mere” $800 more than the VPL-PWZ10 Sony offers the almost identical VPL-PHZ10 – with WUXGA resolution (1920x1200) – which is slightly higher resolution than 1080p. 

Don’t get too excited, too soon.  Although Sony just announced these on Feb 1st, the WXGA VPL-PWZ10 will ship in June, and the VPL-PH10 in August (2017). 

That said, schools shop in the spring, and install in the summer, so no doubt Sony will make sure these are shipping in time.

As you will see, these projectors are at a whole new price point for laser/phosphor projectors, way below the competition.

Sony LaserLite VPL-PHZ10 Affordable Projector

The VPL-PHZ10 looks identical to it's less expensive, lower resolution twin. The PHZ10 offers WUXGA (1920x1200) native resolution for $2999

NEC Laser Projectors

NEC is also certainly worth mentioning.  They were serving up the lowest cost laser projectors (with 3LCD) – until Sony recently came along with models discussed above at far lower prices. We really liked the NEC Laser we reviewed, gave it a major award almost a year ago when reviewed. But price-wise, their WXGA model is definitely a step up in price, at  $3499 for NEC’s WXGA, and $4699 for their WUXGA.  There are some differences between Sonys and NECs although they all weigh in just under 20 pounds.  The NEC offers optional wireless capabilities, and a slightly longer range zoom 1.7:1 instead of 1.6:1. The NEC uses a single chip DLP, rather than 3LCD.   

NEC P502WL Projector Front

We found the NP-502WL to be the most affordable serious laser projector in the spring of 2016. WXGA resolution, and a solid feature set.

I expect the Sony pricing will put pricing pressure on NEC’s models.

CASIO Hybrid LED/Laser Projectors

Next, we’ll look briefly at Casio, who has been making very affordable hybrid projectors for less than $2000 for quite some time, even some under $1000.

Casio XJ-F210WN Projector

The Casio XJ-F210WN, is an affordable LED/Laser combination light engine. It is less than half as bright as the "affordable" true laser projectors discussed, but does offer a solid state alternative for just over $1000.

Understand, we’re not talking Apples to Apples here.  We’ve reviewed I think 5 different hybrid LED/Laser Casios over the years.  Most models have more limited feature sets, but some are nicely equipped. Casio’s hybrid design has shown some interesting quirks, such as that the projector is brightest when first powering up. We’ve recorded brightness dropping up to 20% in the first couple of minutes. Still, that’s simply a factor to consider.

The Casio XJF210WN shown above is even more affordable than the Sony’s, with their WXGA model at $1049. The Casio’s use a single chip DLP. I can tell you from past reviews, that you’ll sacrifice a good bit of the maximum brightness (3500 lumens claimed) before color gets pretty good. But Casio’s typically have measured well below their claims – topping out at only 2200 white lumens, and in Theater mode with really good color, only 1470 lumens.  Compared to a 3LCD with laser, where you get better color without having to give up much brightness, I’d have to say that from a practical standpoint, the Casio is just over 1/3 as bright as the Sony. 

Of course, not everyone needs 5000 lumens, or even 3500. Still, the Casios measure in less bright than the typical low cost lamp projectors. The Casio, like the Sonys, has Local Area Networking (LAN) and USB inputs. And, it’s far more road warrior worthy at under 9 lbs. so a bit less than half the weight, and a little less zoom lens, but still nicely equipped.  Also no HDBaseT to lower the cost of cabling.  If you need solid state, but are on a serious budget diet, the Casio is the ticket, but, it is not serious competition for the NECs or Sonys. It’s that simple.

There are probably a couple other laser projectors from other brands, that price out along the lines of the NEC models mentioned, but the NECs are representative.

That folks is a good taste of what laser or hybrid laser projectors are looking like in the first half of 2017.

Those of you managing multiple projectors are the ones who most immediately can appreciate the significant resource saving.  But, also any users who need consistent color, or relatively consistent brightness over years, also should be thinking laser first.

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