Posted on December 5, 2021 By Jennifer Mash
First, you might wonder – what’s a Laser TV? A Laser TV is an alternative to a traditional LCD or OLED TV. A laser TV combines the immersive big screen “WOW” factor of a home theater projector with the everyday convenience features and installation simplicity of a flat panel TV.
In this guide, we will discuss a wide variety of Laser TVs. When we are reviewing units as well as when choosing award winners for this guide, we consider several different projectors from different manufacturers and how they are best used in different situations.
Before we dive into helping you choose the best laser TV, we wanted to quickly touch on how the COVID-19 pandemic has transformed entertainment. More than ever, people want great entertainment experiences at home. A big screen experience can offer a more immersive experience for movies, sports, TV shows, and so much more.
The most popular TV screen sizes have steadily grown over the last decade or so. Screens measuring 65 inches diagonally have become the most popular size in North America, and 75-inches models will soon replace them if recent pricing trends continue. Meanwhile, 50-inch sets—once considered huge—are now being stuck in guest rooms so your mom can watch NCIS repeats when she visits.
But flat panel TVs can only get so big. LCD TVs currently top out at around 100 inches, while the largest OLED measures 88 inches. However, these monster TVs carry matching monster price tags – well into five figures. While it is possible to make even larger glass panels, currently they are prohibitively expensive and difficult to transport and install. There’s also the new micro-LED technology that promises wall-sized displays of almost any size, but now we’re talking prices in the six figures!
We may dream of a 100-inch flat screen TV, but the heavy cost can be a record-scratch, show-stopper for models larger than 85 inches. So, for most of us when we think of the ultimate big screen experience at home, we don’t think of flat panel TVs, we think of a bulky black box parked in the back of a very dark theater room or mounted on a ceiling, projecting across the room to a great big old screen mounted on the wall. This type of traditional projector might need a specialist to install in the ceiling and probably lack speakers or built-in streaming apps and might even use spendy bulbs that have to be replaced every year or so.
But projector manufacturers continue to innovate – and ultra-short throw projectors are a big game changer for those who want a big screen experience without a hefty price tag or dedicated theater or cave. A short throw projector can produce large images even when they are placed only a few images from a screen or even a wall. As mentioned previously, these types of projectors are called Laser TVs because they are designed to be viable replacements for flat panel televisions.
Laser TVs are becoming increasingly popular because you get the benefits of a projector without some of the hassles of a traditional projector. Since laser TVs offer a big screen experience while overcoming so many projector headaches, they can appeal to the same audience that enjoys a flat panel TV – for a fraction of the big screen flat panel cost.
And of course, Laser TVs can be used outside of the home. A Laser TV could be a solution for a living room or a classroom or even a conference room.
We’re big fans of Laser TVs here at Projector Reviews. In fact, one of our most popular articles is Things to Consider When Purchasing a Laser TV which you can read here. This comprehensive article goes into exceptional detail and describes the technologies that make a laser TV truly a flat panel replacement.
We also wrote an article describing how the big screen experience is more available to a wider audience, you can read it here. From smart features to maximize entertainment to built-in sound and increasingly reasonable cost, laser projectors are becoming more approachable to everyday consumers.
We wish to thank Hisense for sponsoring the 2021-2022 Laser Projector Report and Buyer’s Guide.
If a projector is going to be able to replace a flat panel TV, you have to be able to use it day or night like a regular TV. It also needs to be able to deliver vibrant color regardless of ambient room light. Most laser TVs are sufficiently bright enough to deliver a luxurious, TV-like experience. Many of today’s laser TVs are actually brighter than some conventional flat panel TVs currently in market. For example, the Hisense L9G is a Tricolor laser-equipped smart ultra-short-throw projector with a brightness rated at 3,000 ANSI lumens.
In addition to a long, maintenance-free life, a laser has a lot of other advantages over a traditional projector – they turn on faster, last longer, run quieter and generate less heat.
A lot of traditional projectors are real dum-dums and the rest of us are used to the convenience of a smart TV. Laser TVs are the projector industry’s easy solution to enjoying the really big-screen viewing experience at home, without out needing a dedicated room – the classic “home theater” or man cave, and instead enjoy it in common rooms like your living room or family room. That tends to make them family purchases, something enjoyed by the whole family, rather than just the hobbyist/enthusiast in the house. And the family wants the familiar convenience of a smart TV and ESPECIALLY streaming apps like Netflix. The kids need to be able to quickly browse to Octonauts or Ninjago.
To be a true flat panel TV replacement, a Laser TV has to be smart and include built-in streaming apps for services like Netflix, Amazon, YouTube, and others. In addition, the manufacturer should provide an extensive app store that lets you download other available apps. Many smart Laser TVs offer the same Android operating system found in the best-selling flat panel TVs – it’s familiar, seamless and easy to navigate. Voice control capabilities are another welcome smart addition. The unit should also provide the ability to display content that is “cast” from smartphones and other mobile devices via Wi-Fi.
One thing missing from most Laser TVs is a built-in over-the-air (OTA) broadcast tuner. A few, such as the LG 100L5F, have an ATSC 1.0 digital OTA tuner, but we are currently in a transition period to the next generation of OTA broadcasting known as ATSC 3.0, so many manufacturers are waiting until that format becomes more widespread before they include OTA tuners in their Laser TVs.
Apps and OTA tuners are both important for the growing number of consumers who wish to “cut the cord” from their cable or satellite provider. Those providers and most broadcast networks recognize the trend toward cord cutting, so they offer their own apps. This highlights the importance of a large app library for those who want to cut the cord.
Then there’s onboard audio. Of course, all TVs provide built-in speakers—without them, the display is technically a monitor. But as you probably know, the speakers in the vast majority of TVs sound terrible, mostly because they must be very small to fit inside today’s modern super-skinny cabinets.
Most Laser TVs include built-in audio. The good news here is that an ultra-short throw projector cabinet can accommodate larger, deeper speakers, so they have the potential to sound much better than most TVs. In fact, the built-in sound system on a Laser TV typically resembles a soundbar—the speakers are mounted on the back panel of the projector, firing directly toward the viewers while the projector shoots its light up onto the screen. Some can even add a wireless subwoofer for deeper bass. For real audiophiles, a Laser TV like the 100L9G offers HDMI with eARC support for full pass-through of high-bitrate audio to a surround sound system.
A traditional projector requires a big theater room since it must be placed a far distance from the screen. Ultra-short throw projectors bring the dream of a big screen experience to smaller homes and apartments. You don’t have to hang it in the back of the room and no one will walk in front of the picture. The convenience of Laser TVs makes projection practical in living rooms, dens, and other non-home theaters. There are far more people interested in 100-inch images than there are folks willing to dedicate an entire room as a home theater.
Then, there’s maintenance. To be considered a true Laser TV, the light source within the projector must last at least 20,000 hours and retain most of its brightness over that entire lifespan. After all, that’s how long flat-panel TVs are specified to last. In most cases, the light source in a Laser TV is an array of lasers, which is why they are often called Laser TVs. However, a few companies have also tried LEDs, but they have not been very successful, mainly because they are not as bright as lasers.
Lasers offer several advantages. Lasers retain most of their brightness over their entire lifespan, and you don’t have to replace them every year or two as you do with lamps in conventional projectors. Also, they reach full brightness almost immediately after being powered on, unlike lamps that require several minutes to “warm up.”
A Laser TV still isn’t as quite simple as plonking an LCD TV on a tabletop or credenza. But most people prefer to wall mount their exceptionally large flat panel TVs (75-inch and up). Wall mounting a TV means not only mounting it, but getting power and sources to it. You can let the wires hang, or do the install properly, making sure the wires are running through the wall to a nearby table with other equipment, such as a Blu-ray Disc player, AV receiver and bigger speakers, or a cable box.
Wall mounting a Laser TV is different. The projector sits on the same table as any other gear, making connecting everything far easier. Bottom line, a Laser TV is likely going to be easier for you to install.
Unless they are mounted on a wall, most TVs are placed on a cabinet or stand, and they are an obvious part of the room’s décor even when turned off. By contrast, a Laser TV can be mounted inside a cabinet, projecting its image through a clear panel when on and becoming completely invisible when off. Several companies offer specially designed cabinets that hide a Laser TV; for example, Salamander Designs offers a variety of modular UST-projector cabinets in several styles for different projector brands, including Epson, Hisense, LG, Sony, and Vivitek.
When the projector is on, you see a big, beautiful image on the screen; when it’s off, you see nothing but a piece of furniture that fits the room’s design aesthetic. Talk about a high spousal-acceptance factor!
But what about the screen itself? What if you don’t want to see the screen when the projector is off? Simple! Install a retractable screen that descends from the ceiling or raises up from the cabinet when it’s time to watch a movie or TV show. When the show’s over, the screen retracts and disappears; you can even have artwork on the wall that is covered by the screen only when it’s being used. This setup is more expensive than a fixed screen but well worth it for the sake of domestic tranquility if you have the budget.
As you can see, Laser TVs offer some significant advantages over flat-panel TVs. Perhaps most importantly, they offer larger images for less money – in other words, you pay fewer dollars per inch of image size. Another big advantage is portability; a Laser TV is much easier to move from one home to another than a monster TV. And you get most of the other features of a flat-panel TV—long lifespan, zero maintenance, smart apps, built-in audio—as well as the ability to upgrade the screen size and performance without having to replace the entire TV.
A Laser TV makes it easy for the average consumer to replace a flat panel TV without having to step out of their comfort zone with the complexity of a traditional projector. Most come with the familiar, Smart TV functionality of Android, there’s no need to hire a professional to install it, and you’ll never have to yell “DOWN IN FRONT” during a climactic movie scene. Why settle for a measly 65 inches when you can get an image over twice as big, in a compact unit half the size, for a fraction of the price?
In this buyer’s guide, we will be looking at Laser TVs that offer a range of features that will help you get significant advantages over a large flat panel TV – for less money. You’re going to easily pay fewer dollars per inch of image size. Another big advantage is portability. Sure, you can’t take your Laser TV on a camping trip but it’s MUCH easier to schlep up the stairs of an apartment building or even more from home to another than a fragile monster TV. And you’re going to get most of the features you love from your flat panel TV – long lifespan, zero maintenance, smart apps, built-in audio as well as the ability to upgrade your screen size and performance without having to replace your entire TV.
This year we considered dozens of projectors and chose around Laser TVs we felt were best suited flat panel TV replacement. In this buyer’s guide, you will find a detailed overview of each of these Laser TVs with links to their in-depth reviews if you want more details or want to pore over the specs in nitty gritty detail.
Many of the Laser TVs reviewed may have similar models available in the same lineup. Many times, the models in the lineup are very similar to other models we reviewed, but with varying resolution or with additional features, or possibly slightly brighter or bundled with a different size screen. The purpose of this buyer’s guide is to show you a sample of the Laser TV models currently on the market.
In this buyer’s guide, we focus on “usage.” It’s not a specs competition. Our awards go out to great Laser TVs and some that are great for certain applications, use cases, budget-saving, etc. This guide will be a living article, continuously upgraded and up to date with the latest Laser TV models.
Selecting Laser TVs to review: We are very selective in choosing the models to review and those we feature in this report. We work hard to ensure that most of the Laser TVs we review are considered to be among the best in their price ranges and capabilities.
We hope this buyer’s guide helps you in selecting the right product for your flat panel TV replacement needs. Since launching the first Laser TV in 2014, we’re excited companies like Hisense are continually innovating in this space. As we review more Laser TVs, this guide will be updated throughout the year. Check back regularly for the latest in Laser TV innovations.
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