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InfoComm 2016 - It's The Year of the Laser Projectors

Laser Projectors! Everywhere! I’ve been attending InfoComm - the big display industry trade show – for more than two decades now! Every so often, a year comes along where there is a visible shift in some technology or another.

Canon's LX-MU800Z is a $7969 WUXGA laser projector claiming 8000 lumens. Multiple lenses are available.

Oh, sure, every year, someone shows off the new “world’s largest” LCD monitor, or the world’s most expensive OLED display. In other words, most years, products overall are just evolutionary. Sure, we saw the start of 4K projectors a few years back, but while it generated buzz, the move has been slow. InfoComm 2016 however, at least from my perspective, is one of those rare years where I think there has actually been a significant shift in one market segment, and that’s with large, and larger, venue projectors.  Click to visit our directory of all laser projector reviews. I’m declaring 2016 the year of the laser projector.   OK, laser projectors are nothing new. But note, I'm going to ignore completely, the small handful of pico projectors that use lasers instead of LEDs… Boring! We’re talking serious laser projectors. Now, I’m not saying this is a “first year.” Casio started shipping LED/Laser hybrids perhaps as far back as 2010. Laser projectors have been around for at least 3 years.  The first “larger” venue model we reviewed was really another hybrid, another LED/laser - but from Panasonic, and with 3500 lumens claimed. Since then, we’ve reviewed true laser projectors (no LEDs) from Panasonic, Sony, ViewSonic, Epson, NEC, etc. But 2016 is definitely The Year of the Laser Projector. Let me explain what I mean: At InfoComm, they were just about everywhere you could find a booth with 5000 or more lumen projectors.  Perhaps the best example, though of laser projectors "exploding onto the scene," is Epson's showings:

Epson's Best: Their L25000 - a 25,000 lumen laser projector, weighing in over 100 pounds. Expected to cost $100K when it ships later in 2016.

Epson - who until now only had a pair of laser projectors on the home theater side (launched early 2015) – showed 7 brand new laser models from 6000 lumens to 25,000 lumens (prices ~$8,000-22,000) and the truly massive L2500 (shipping later this year) that weighs 100+ lbs., offers 25,000 lumens, and comes with a low six-figure price tag! Sony and Panasonic added more laser projectors to their line-ups. Panasonic was sporting a 21,000-lumen laser, among others (that one's been around). Laser pojectors with 6,000, 10,000 lumens, 20,000 lumens, and even MORE were not hard to find.  When we talk 20,000 lumens, it's rock concert level. The well-known high-end players like Barco, Christie, and Digital Projection of course showed laser projectors. But the surprise was in how many companies that hadn’t competed in the really larger venues brought out lasers!

New Optoma laser projector doing projection mapping

Laser projectors were talking points at BenQ, Optoma, ViewSonic, and Canon – the last of which showed a couple of very nice laser projectors rating 6,800 and 8,000 lumens. NEC's NC1040L Laser projector offers 5,000 lumens.  It’s even DCI compliant, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they are also marketing it to smaller movie theaters. In the last year and change, we reviewed 3 "commercial" laser projectors and two home theater ones.  But, since this is the year of the laser projector I'd expect that in the time between the just held Infocomm 2016 and Infocomm 2017 (June in Orlando),  we end up reviewing at least a dozen laser projectors.  But that won't be enough.  It will mean that we won't get to a number of companies to review theirs. One question that still remains, is will this shift with the brighter projectors quickly work its way down to the small install and portable projectors?  Casio has been selling hybrids for years, but they've been all by themselves in the low price ranges, starting below $1000. But in terms of market share, it's like electric vehicles - Prius'es essentially, back 10 years ago.  They were selling, but not putting a serious dent in the the overall market.

Hitachi's new laser projector pumps out 8000 lumens. T's a single chip DLP projector with WUXGA resolution

That transition could prove interesting.  With lamps that last 5000 hours or more, selling from some manufacturers from under $100, the premium paid for solid state can't be a whole lot, on the lower end where long term consistent color and brightness aren't critical. A couple more years should tell us if lamp projectors will be going the way of those old LCD panels you put on overhead projectors.  In five years, will we think of lamp based projectors the way we think of those old CRT TVs before plasmas and LCDTVs?   Hmm. Thanks for "listening."  -art

When it comes to those reviews, most likely there will be a couple of new home models will be in that mix, but mostly it will be fairly high power commercial laser projectors suitable for auditorium usage, university classrooms, edge blending and projection mapping type displays including museums and digital signage, board rooms and medium and large venues of all types including house of worship.

Our coming soon listings found on most pages of the site will keep you posted as to which ones are coming in, and when their reviews will post.

True, in the next year we'll see more 4K projectors, more pixel shifting projectors, more interactive, and the first generation of UHD projectors, but this is the breakthrough year for laser projectors.

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