CEDIA 2009 – New Home Theater Projectors – Part 1

Greetings all,

Well, I survived CEDIA, once again.  I hate east coast trade shows (ok, I know the east coast people probably think the same about west coast shows).   It means an extra day, and while Atlanta was just fine, Denver was more fun, and, geez, what would it take to get the CEDIA folks to do Las Vegas, where hotel rooms would be dirt cheap (in Sept), and the partying, even better.

But, to business – or should I say home theater projectors:

T’was an interesting CEDIA show in terms of home theater projectors.  Not so much because of all the new projectors announced, but, perhaps more by the ones that weren’t announced and the major players that were no-shows.  I guess this is the recession in action.  (Floor traffic wasn’t bad, plenty of folks there, but no doubt down from last year.)

I’ll start with the biggest news – and that’s the folks that weren’t there.

Sanyo Home Theater Projectors: OK, Sanyo was essentially purchased this past year, by Matsushita, which puts them in the Panasonic family.  How that will shake out, who knows, as they are two of the major players in home theater projector space.

More to the point, however, Sanyo has not announced any new products this fall for home theater, which has to be a first going back to the earliest Z’s in 2001?  There was some talk, previously, about Sanyo maybe refreshing its line, which might just mean some minor improvements (and price drops)?  We shall  see, but bottom line, Sanyo was absent, and it looks like we’ll have the PLV-Z60, PLV-Z700 and PLV-Z3000 around for another year, barring surpises.

Panasonic Home Theater Projectors:  This is probably the most interesting of the no shows.  Certainly Panasonic had their usual huge booth, pushing Plasmas, LCDTV’s, video cameras, and just about anything else you can think of but home theater projectors.

More to the point, at the beginning of September, at the IFA show in the EU, Panasonic announced the PT-AE4000, as their new home theater projector flagship.   So far, however, it looks like they aren’t planning to sell it in the US?  If they were, CEDIA would have been where they announced, and showed it for the first time.  I couldn’t learn anything more about the PT-AE4000 from Panasonic prior to the show, and not a peep about it, at the show.  I also spoke with several large online Panasonic projector dealers, and none of them has been told the PT-AE4000 is coming to the US.   Will Panasonic try to get by with the PT-AE3000 for another year?

In answer to that, I can tell you that they just dropped the MAP price to $2299, but that’s all the news I have for you.  Most likely, though (a little speculation on my part), is that if they don’t bring in the PT-AE4000, the PT-AE3000 will have to go down to $1999 to remain competitive,  sooner, or, more likely, later, since most of the new competition is still 6 to 10 weeks off.

Next:

InFocus Home Theater Projectors:

InFocus wasn’t expected to show at CEDIA, it’s been a couple of years.  Usually they have some presence there – advertising and a hotel suite for meetings.  I saw some InFocus presence, but no people.  Remember, InFocus got purchased, and taken private, just a few months ago, by one of the co-founders of E-Machines.  This should prove a good thing in the long run.

While InFocus didn’t show, they have already announced their InFocus ScreenPlay 8602, so let’s touch on that.  I’m still a bit sketchy about the details (I got a preliminary briefing at Infocomm back in June (in Las Vegas – they had a suite there).

The great news, is that InFocus is dropping off one of their engineering samples for me to look at, in just two days!  So, what is it?  It will be a $4999 projector (DLP, 1080p, of course), sold through authorized local installing dealers.  That’s no surprise, it’s been years since any but entry level InFocus projectors were available online.

I do believe that the InFocus ScreenPlay 8602 – or shall I call it the IN8602, or the SP8602? – will be pretty impressive.  Unlike previous projectors like the IN83, the SP8602 will be sporting a dynamic iris, so promises really good black levels (the blacks were, in my opinion, the biggest weakness of the otherwise superb IN830).  Gone is the flying saucer shape, replaced by a more traditional looking projector that can share chassis with their install business projectors.  No point in mentioning more now, as I’ll no doubt do a First Look blog about the InFocus ScreenPlay 8602 in the next week.  One last thought, one of the lower cost favorite DLP’s of mine is the InFocus X10.  From recent conversations, it seems InFocus has run out of them, but there are still some with various dealers. If the InFocus X10 on your short list, time is running out.

BenQ was missing from the show floor as well.  No matter!  I noticed a couple of their new BenQ W6000 projectors on display in other people’s booths.  BenQ’s VP Sales, was present, taking care of business in meetings, even if no booth.  Of course with BenQ, they have three rather remarkable new products, all previously announced.

First of course is the W6000.  I mention that one, because I’ve already blogged about it, and the full review will post this weekend.  The W6000 is a $2799 MAP price DLP, 1080p projector, that should hold that price based on the BenQ sales model, at least for some time.  So far, it is most impressive, a really nice mid-priced DLP, with excellent skin tones, very good black levels, and some question about the smoothness of its dynamic iris, but I am enjoying watching it very much.  It is definitely a contender in its price range, and I must note, it has a razor sharp image, that would make any 3LCD or LCoS projector, jealous.

Then the big buzz is the BenQ W1000 – that’s BenQ’s $999 1080p projector, ready to do battle with the now shipping Optoma HD20. I hope to receive a W1000 in the next few weeks.  Because it will be only the second sub-$1000 1080p projector, reviewing it will be a top priority.

Finally, BenQ will have their high end model, the W30000, which will sport an LED light engine instead of the traditional lamp.  It will be very expensive for sure.  (the Vivitek LED projector we reviewed last month is $14,999).  Should be most promising, although the pricing of these first generation LED light source projectors, pretty much assures that they won’t be big sellers.

OK, That covers the major no shows at the CEDIA show.  And concludes Part 1.  I’m splitting this CEDIA report into parts, not because I’m long winded (I am) but, three articles gets more traffic, than just one, when it comes to folks finding them when searching.

In Part 2:  The new entries from Mitsubishi, Epson, Optoma, and…

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