The Question You’re Probably Asking Yourself: Buy Now?

It’s September 2016:  Do I pull the trigger and buy a projector right now, or wait until new projectors shown at CEDIA and IFA start to ship?

Once again September is upon us, and with it the huge IFA show in Europe, and CEDIA here in the US.  These are the shows where most new home projector announcements are made for the second half of each year.  I just returned from CEDIA this past weekend.

Be warned! “Announcements” and “now shipping” are two very different things.

While there will be a number of announcements of new projectors, do remember that some, probably most, won’t be ready to ship for at least a couple of months.

Not 4K but Faux-K at CEDIA?

Speaking of that, way back in January – at CES, BenQ and Optoma in particular, were talking about the new “faux” 4K chipset from TI, one of them even showed a prototype, featuring resolution half way between 1080 and 4K, with onboard pixel shifting. Back then, the talk was product in the 2nd half of this year (including for home).  No details yet. Sadly!

But as noted below, BenQ isn’t exhibiting this year, and not sure about Optoma, so it sure doesn’t sound like actual product (or even formal announcements) before next year’s CES.

Vivitek did show a 4 megapixel DLP pixel shifter, at their booth, 7000 lumens!  Now we’re talking serious brightness for HDR.  But don’t expect it until the spring.  Price will be around $15K, but then, it’s got most of the bells and whistles, including a laser light engine.

SIM2 also showed one of those 4 megapixel pixel shifters as well.  It will ship this November (2016), but look for a price about double the Vivitek.  They had a very nice demo in their booth’s theater.

In other words, it doesn’t seem likely we’ll see one of these DLP FauxK (aka 4K UHD) projectors for another three or four months at least, except the very price SIM2

How long are you willing to wait, just until they ship and the first reviews start coming out?  Hmm!

Obviously if you are ready to pull the trigger now, that’s a long time off.

CEDIA in the US, is a show geared for installers, AV dealers etc., but especially those installing – be it home theater, HDTV, or home automation.  IFA is a more general show (best I can tell, I’ve never made one)!

Traditionally products announced at CEDIA start shipping between October and February!   JVC, for example, typically would announce, but not ship until Dec, Jan, or Feb.  Two years ago, Epson announced their first home laser projector at CEDIA, shipped in January.   So, new product, doesn’t really mean you can lay your hands on one, in 1 or even 3 months.  Each brand, each product – different.

Below I have a bunch of background on the importance of these fall shows, but the short version is, they no longer are where “most” new projectors are announced, just “some.”  But lets look at some major home theater projector brands, and what you might expect:

Epson – they already announced their new HC5040UB and PC6040UB models – those are the latest models in the UB line which dominates sales of “serious” home theater projectors in the non-stratospheric price ranges.  But Epson makes far more projectors than everyone else (they now are reported to have 50% of all projector sales in North America).  In other words, Epson is always launching new models (they have 150+ total Home,Education, or Business projectors in their lineup).  The’ve got some aging ones below the UB series, and some more recent ones, so I won’t be surprised to see several from them, but their lineup of home entertainment and home theater projectors is running to almost 20 models.

Epson rolled out four new projectors at CEDIA.

Three are in the 3000 series replacing older ones.  They sell between $1299 and $1799.  Each serves a slightly different type of user.  They are all pretty bright, only one has internal speakers.

The fourth was a total surprise to me, an updated dual laser projector  – the LS10500, which will replace the 20 month old, and pretty popular, LS10000.  The newer model, adds HDR and some additional capabilities, but is otherwise identical.  I do want to get my hands on one of these.  It will have the same $7999 price point, and starts shipping shortly.

JVC I  saw the new RS4500!  Wow, best projector demo at the show. Clips of Lucy on a 220″ diagonal screen were outstanding (It was a 16:9 screen so that works out to roughly 175″ diagonal on 2.40:1 movie content).   I’ve already emailed the most important person I know at JVC, begging for a chance to review an RS4500 when they start shipping.

Sony – Sony surprised me with an update – there’s a VPL-VW675ES with more better 4K support.  The older VW665ES (reviewed) is an outstanding projector, the VW675ES, though adds extras including Hybrid Log-Gamma, the new potential standard for broadcast and streaming 4K.

BenQ – They already announced their HT6050, the model above the HT4050 we already reviewed.  They were not at CEDIA, but  the HT6050 will be arriving soon for review. I’ve aready blogged about it if you want more info.

Viewsonic – No presence at CEDIA.  The next Viewsonic projectors coming in for review are commercial ones.  Viewsonic often announces at CES – in January.  We shall see.

Optoma – They’ve never been much for CEDIA announcements, best I can remember.  No sign of them at CEDIA  They launched their HD142X, the replacement for the HD141X a pretty entry level home entertainment projector just a couple of months ago.

LG – As you see from our report, LG has managed to impress us with some solid state projectors, with the LG PF1000U winning a key award.  They will be at CEDIA, but not showing any projectors. (Again!)  They recently launched two new “MiniBeam” models – more “pocket” – large pico projectors in the 2 pound range.

Vivitek – Perhaps best known for their “pocket projectors” – the Qumi series, they definitely play in home projector space.  Boy was I surprised, as they showed a new fancy DLP projector – laser light engine, the new TI 4 megapixel DLP chip, which has pixel shifting, and it offers interchangeable lenses.  I shot a Facebook Live at their (small) booth.  the projector looked darn good, but it was out under the full trade show floor lighting, no demo theater there.  Still, with 7000 lumens a a good screen, it showed some real potential, but would have loved to see it in a proper theater.

Panasonic – They haven’t launched a new home model since 2011, so I didn’t expect anything new from them.  But Panasonic announced their first 4K Blu-ray UHD player.  Pricey, I think ($699 list – ouch!).  I believe, not until the beginning of the year.

Philips – I don’t even remember if Philips is still in the projector business, they exited the US market more than a decade ago.  But they did release a $299 4K Blu-ray player.  I’m considering buying one, as my Samsung sometimes drives me crazy.

The bottom line:

If you are spending between $2,000 and $15,000, it doesn’t look like waiting for CEDIA announced products will have a real effect on your decision processes.

Epson has those 4 new models, which start shipping almost immediately, that may be of interest to some of you.

Some historical trivia – or at least my perception

Generally the Japanese manufacturers have used CEDIA in the US as their major event for new home projectors but no longer does the show dominate as it did five or 10 years ago.  Perhaps that’s due to the shift to volumes of low cost home entertainment, so that the industry is less installed projectors in dedicated theaters.

The Taiwanese companies never seemed to really focus on CEDIA or any major show for launches, except, maybe, CES.  South Koreans?  That’s basically Samsung – no home projectors, and LG – who limits their projectors (in the US at least) to small pico, pocket, and slightly larger models, but all solid state LED – that is, small stuff.

Since it was mostly the Japanese and US companies that ruled the market an announcements at CEDIA, consider:  Epson is pretty much the only big name projector manufacturer from Japan that makes lower cost (sub $2000) home projectors – as well as many more expensive ones.  Panasonic used to, but seems to have quit the market – still shipping their aging PT8000U, but hey, it was launched 5 years ago!   Meantime Sanyo, the company, no longer exists, and Mitsubishi quit the consumer TV and consumer projector space several years ago.   Sony and JVC, like Epson still use CEDIA and IFA as launch platforms, but like Epson, also do more announcements these days, at other times of the year (this year is a great example – Epson just replaced their famous UB projectors – including my favorite for the bucks – the Home Cinema 5030UB, announcing the new model 2 months before the show, with first shipments starting Sept 1, two weeks before the show. Smart move, as this means the new products are available for the entire fall/holiday shopping season.

Other Japanese manufacturers – such as NEC, Casio, Hitachi – lots of projectors, none for the home.  Toshiba is another that quit the projector business.

 

Optoma HD37 Home Entertainment Projector - Angled view
Optoma’s HD37 home entertainment projector

Optoma and BenQ – the major Taiwanese players in home theater space, seem less trade show announcement focused.  I say that, but I should also say they are more likely these days to use CES in January as their launch show.  Optoma, for example,  released their new HD37 (click for review) in June with no major shows in sight.  Optoma, for example won’t even be exhibiting at CEDIA.  BenQ has skipped CEDIA a number of times.  Viewsonic and Vivitek will be there though, with new products (I expect, haven’t heard).

Epson 5040UB
Epson’s Home Cinema 5040UB – first shipping 9/2016 won one of our major awards in this year’s Best Home Theater Projectors report.

 

LS10000_MIB-III_camera_close
Heavily cropped image from MIB III. You are looking at the center perhaps 10% of the screen. The content is true 4K but displayed by the Epson LS10000 using pixel shifting. Pixel shifting is the closest we can get short of a true 4K projector. Gorgeous detail and sharpness when viewed on the big screen. (click for closer look)

One important thing to consider.  Over the last couple of years, with the exception of the promise of true 4K projectors, the projector industry has become a fairly mature industry, as technological improvements are now mostly evolutionary.  No longer do most home projector manufacturers replace models annually, product cycles have gone from one year, to a 2-3 years.

DLA-RS6710-beauty-right_1000
JVC’s flagship RS600S projector is native 1080p. Stunning output, pixel shifting, it handles 4K content including Blu-ray UHD

Consider that along with the significant loss in terms of major manufacturers of home projectors dwindling.  Five years ago, I figured I needed to review 25 home projectors a year to catch all the important ones, and for that matter just about all of those between $1000 and $25,000.   Unless I dip seriously into really low cost, and sub 1080p projectors under $500, now I’m lucky if I can find more than a dozen models a year.  These are a couple of the reasons why we keep changing around our annual report.

The Bottom Line!

What this all means is that if you wait, most likely it won’t affect your purchase, except in one or two cases.

Especially if your budget is between $2000 and $15,000.  If you are at the $15K, just get the newer Sony, it should be available by the time you whip out your credit card.

You’ll probably find that most of the projectors you are looking at in early September, will be the same ones offered if you plan to purchase in the Christmas timeframe.

Good hunting!

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