Projector Reviews

ViewSonic PX727-4K Projector Review – Picture Quality 2

Viewsonic PX727-4K Review – 4K UHD Projector – Picture Quality 2: Black Levels and Dark Shadow Detail, 4K HDR and Color, Bottom Line on Picture Quality

Black Levels and Dark Shadow Detail

I’ll start with Dark Shadow Detail. No real issues. Look into the dark woods, on the right, or the bushes behind the the tracks on the right side, and there’s plenty of detail. (Bond night train scene)  That said, the tracks and other details don’t stand out as much on this Viewsonic as on say, the HT2550 or some others before the usual brightness adjustment, but once that simple task is done, the Viewsonic does very well, and the detail itself seems to be all there.  On the scene of Rue and Katniss sleeping in The Hunger games, look for details in the large dark area around the bottom center.

The Viewsonic gets a boost, in having the darkest details be fairly visible, in part due to projectors without really dark blacks, lighten everything included the darkest details, which in turn makes them easier to spot.

Of course, there are other great dark images here for your consideration. The City of a Thousand Planets (Valerian) dark photo may end up being a new photo for comparisons, one that is 4K with HDR, since 4K with HDR behaves rather differently than all our good old 1080p content which all lacks HDR.

Black Levels are a disappointment, as they have been on every single chip DLP 4K UHD projector we’ve reviewed, (except the $9K BenQ HT9050)  That BenQ is definitely step up from entry level/near entry level, where this Viewsonic lives comparable to its similarly priced and slightly more expensive DLP competitors.

Of course if you aren’t putting the PX727-4K into a room really suitable for serious home theater, then you probably won’t be buying the 2200 lumen PX727-4k, but instead the 3500 lumen PX747-4K, with the extra “horsepower” and a different color wheel – that’s the pure “home entertainment” version for your living room, etc.  There’s a whole sequence of labeled greyscale and overexposed shots of the Bond train scene for comparison. The last two, Epson and Sony, are over $1000 more, and $4999 respectively, but are excellent examples of what a serious step up performance on black levels would look like.

Again, I emphasize that to get a dramatic improvement in black levels, you’ll probably need to spend at least an extra $1,000 at this time.

If you are used to projectors with what I have long called “ultra high contrast” projectors,  such as the Epson UB and higher, JVCs, Sony HT projectors with dynamic irises, and some really high end projectors we don’t get to review, they would all put these entry level 4K UHD projectors to shame, when it comes to handling those darkest of scenes.

That’s why I tend to think of most of these projectors as “home entertainment” in that they will appreciate being in a really dark room – even near pitch dark, but the projector doesn’t produce those deep blacks, instead rather medium dark greys, on very dark scenes.

Of course I really care about such things. Some of you just want a projector with overall fine picture, with the emphasis on really large image!

The photo player has the usual collection of Casino Royale night train photos from different projectors, all changed to grayscale and overexposed, to give you some idea of black levels and darkest shadow detail.  Generally, the whiter the whites and near whites, and darker the blacks and letter boxes are, the better. Keep in mind though:

  1. Exposures vary a bit
  2. An overly contrasty looking projector may also look somewhat like the projectors with great blacks (I’ll let you know when it’s not the black levels, but the contrast – based on my viewing, not these shots)

As expected, black level performance – and in general, the handling of very dark scenes, of the PX727-4K is just slightly better than entry level projectors costing $400 – $800.  That’s fair, as the Viewsonic and its competition, are really entry level 4K capable projectors. Higher res, but otherwise similar to their projectors that sell for about half the price.

Unfortunately, black level performance, due to a lack of dynamic iris, (and also a Dynamic lamp feature which is good for extending lamp hours, but has no real impact on black level), is far short of what any serious home theater enthusiast would be looking for.  Of course you’d have to spend almost double for an Epson UB, and three+ times as much for a JVC to get those truly superior blacks.  And to get better in a projector that is native 4K, we’re looking at $4999 for a Sony, for a modest improvement, and $7999 for a dramatic difference.

4K HDR and Color

Regular visitors would know, but for the rest of you: I always have a number of projectors here, but I like to borrow one (from a manufacturer) for at least a year, that I can use as a reference, against each projector I review. That helps me position all of the projectors to each other, to determine which are better or worse. I’ve been using the 5040UB ceiling (mounted in my theater) for more than a year now.

Overall, the end result in 4K with HDR is a very good picture, not as dark in those lower-mid ranges, but still serving up a more dynamic look than the same content in 1080p without HDR. Thanks to about 25% more brightness, and other, more minor trade-offs, I’ve found the Viewsonic to have a slight edge on 4K with HDR, compared to the BenQ competition. They are still very similar though.  I think it’s the lumens more than variations in color accuracy, etc.  I have them both here in the theater at the same time (and also the TK800).

The really rather fine post calibration color of the Viewsonic PX727-4K is impressive.  Speaking of which, of course we publish our calibration settings, with the first calibration page having most of the settings, except for the CMS. The CMS is for tuning the individual primary and secondary colors. Those settings are found on the Advanced Calibration page (subscribers only – sign up here).

Based on current street prices as I publish this review, the PX727-4K is the least expensive 4K UHD projector I can find online. Combine that with less dimness issues than many of the 4K/HDR capable projectors we’ve reviewed, and some really good post calibration color, you should really like its handling of 4K content.  Other than a little more pop to the image (more HDR like that is), which is a trade-off in HDR vs brightness in the low and mid ranges, the projector performed very nicely, better than most.

I’ve watched at least parts of 8-9 4K/HDR movies in my dark theater, I can safely say that when one considers that black levels performance is near entry level, that its apparent that the handling of HDR content is a real strength. As always mention on the Special Features pages of reviews, projectors and most LCD TV projectors aren’t near bright enough to properly do HDR, so there are compromises, and for that reason some projector’s implementations are more watchable than others.  That the Viewsonic clocks in 25% brighter than its cousin the BenQ HT2550, should be considered a real advantage when deciding between them.

Bottom Line on Picture Quality

The Viewsonic PX727-4K is really more “home entertainment” than “home theater,” (like the HT2550), but definitely performs as a very good entry level “4K capable projector” when it comes to picture quality. That is, it is a bit weak on black levels, but strong on color, sharpness and a few other things.

It has a 10 watt speaker (that is generally a sign of  home entertainment not home theater), is nice for movie nights outside.  Still if it had much improved black levels I wouldn’t even be tossing around the term “home entertainment.”

My thoughts: If you can live without superior black level performance (I can’t, but many can), and a few advanced features like Lens Memory, but are wanting 4K capability, and your budget it tight – put this little Viewsonic PX727-4K somewhere at or near the top of your short list. This is a projector I can recommend from a picture quality and price standpoint.

Sharpness really is part of “Picture Quality,” however, I will address sharpness on the Performance page, which is next, including some comparisons with other projectors.