Closer Than It Looks Your Path to the Ul­ti­mate Home The­ater Ex­pe­ri­ence

With new ul­tra-short-throw and cheaper 4K pro­jec­tors ap­pear­ing on the mar­ket, your path to the ul­ti­mate home the­ater ex­pe­ri­ence ap­pears to be shrink­ing.

Sound & Vision - - CONTENS - by Rob Sabin

Last year in our an­nual front pro­jec­tion up­date (May 2017, avail­able at soun­dand­vi­sion.com), we wrote about how the cat­e­gory wasn’t about to be left be­hind on the 4K, Ul­tra HDTV rev­o­lu­tion. Noth­ing in this busi­ness stands still, of course, and we’re happy to re­port that “front pro­jec­tion’s rein­ven­tion,” as we dubbed it last year, is mov­ing into yet an­other phase. Not only are 4K-com­pli­ant pro­jec­tors more read­ily avail­able, bet­ter per­form­ing, and in some cases much cheaper, we’re also see­ing a batch of fresh ul­tra-short-throw home the­ater pro­jec­tors reach­ing the mar­ket in 2018. So what does this mean for you if you’ve al­ways dreamed about sit­ting back in front of that giant 100-inch screen? Read on to find out.

Let the Rev­o­lu­tion Be­gin

Let’s start with the premise that, for now any­way, there is no view­ing ex­pe­ri­ence you can have with any con­ven­tion­ally sized and -priced flat panel that will match the im­pact of a large pro­jec­tion screen. Sit­ting, say, 12 feet back from a 100-inch-di­ag­o­nal im­age ups the en­gage­ment factor, big time.

That said, it wasn’t too long ago that ac­quir­ing that big screen meant a se­ri­ous com­mit­ment and will­ing­ness to deal with space

re­quire­ments, po­ten­tially com­plex in­stal­la­tion, and the need to con­trol am­bi­ent light to avoid wash­ing out the im­age.

In the last cou­ple of years, that’s started to change with the ap­pear­ance of two sig­nif­i­cant front pro­jec­tion tech­nolo­gies: am­bi­ent-light-re­duc­ing (ALR) screens and ul­tra-short-throw (UST) pro­jec­tors. The new ALR screens have been a game changer in their own right up to this point. Com­bined with UST pro­jec­tors, though, they stand to in­tro­duce front pro­jec­tion and the re­ally-big-screen ex­pe­ri­ence to a whole new class of cus­tomers.

Let’s take the ALR screen first. Sound & Vi­sion has been re­port­ing for years on so-called “high-gain” or gray screens in­tended to boost con­trast in mod­est am­bi­ent light­ing or with in­her­ently darker source ma­te­rial, such as pro­jected 3D images. But their per­for­mance was marginal at best. To­day’s ALR screens are an­other breed en­tirely, and they em­ploy some so­phis­ti­cated, mul­ti­lay­ered de­signs to more di­rectly eject light com­ing from over­head or the sides of the screen while re­flect­ing light from the pro­jec­tor back to the viewer. As long as the pro­jec­tor has suit­able bright­ness, some of these screens can pro­duce a re­mark­ably high-con­trast im­age, even in a lit room, some­thing im­pos­si­ble just a few years ago. So, ALR screens re­ally open the op­por­tu­nity for tak­ing pro­jec­tion out of a dark-room home the­ater en­vi­ron­ment that re­quires con­trolled light­ing and spread­ing it to multi-use spa­ces around the house as an al­ter­na­tive to the flat-panel TV. In re­sponse, pro­jec­tor man­u­fac­tur­ers have been ratch­et­ing up the light out­put as best they can on the lat­est pro­jec­tors, even the more af­ford­able bud­get pro­jec­tors, with a few mod­els hit­ting 3,000 lu­mens or more. To put that in per­spec­tive, un­til the ad­vent of high dy­namic range (HDR) con­tent (more on that be­low), 1,200 lu­mens was gen­er­ally con­sid­ered more than enough to light up a 100inch-di­ag­o­nal pro­jec­tion screen in a dark room.

There are some caveats with these screens, though. Al­though late-gen ALR screens are def­i­nitely ap­pear­ing now at bud­get prices, these high-tech ma­te­ri­als re­main con­sid­er­ably more ex­pen­sive than tra­di­tional matte screens, and the bet­ter ex­am­ples of the breed can eas­ily run $3,000 to $5,000 or more for a 100-inch-di­ag­o­nal, 16:9 ver­sion.

More crit­i­cally, al­though an ALR screen should pro­vide a sur­pris­ingly high-con­trast im­age when the lights are on, as well as a boost in con­trast ver­sus con­ven­tional screens when the lights are off, they may pro­duce a pearly or sparkly qual­ity to the im­age sur­face that could be more no­tice­able in dark-room view­ing. So if it’s para­mount for you to get a smooth, film-like pic­ture in a dark­ened home the­ater, a con­ven­tional matte-white screen is still the best op­tion. Keep in mind, too, that you can still keep your 65- or even 75-inch flat panel around as your day-to-day TV for lit-room view­ing and let your den or fam­ily room do dou­ble duty as a dark­room pro­jec­tion the­ater with the pulling of shades and the push of a but­ton that drops a re­tractable screen down in front of your ev­ery­day set.

Skip the In­stall

ALR screens may rep­re­sent an op­por­tu­nity to take front pro­jec­tion out into the light of your ev­ery­day liv­ing space, but the in­stal­la­tion re­quire­ments for con­ven­tional pro­jec­tors re­main a se­ri­ous im­ped­i­ment. For a 100-inch screen, most per­ma­nently in­stalled pro­jec­tors will likely uti­lize a ceil­ing mount placed at least 10 feet from the screen if not greater, which pro­vides the nec­es­sary throw dis­tance (de­pend­ing on the pro­jec­tor) and a clean line of un­ob­structed sight that pre­vents view­ers from cast­ing shad­ows on the im­age ev­ery time they get up for a snack. That means hang­ing a pro­jec­tor in plain view in your liv­ing space or some­how con­ceal­ing it at the back of the room, as well as snaking long ca­ble runs through the ceil­ing and walls back to the sig­nal source. It’s easy to see why so many peo­ple take the pass.

Ul­tra-short-throw pro­jec­tors tackle this is­sue head on. A UST pro­jec­tor com­bines a small, typ­i­cally com­po­nent-like chas­sis that gets placed just be­low and only inches from the pro­jec­tion screen. An op­ti­mized lens al­lows it to cast a ge­o­met­ri­cally cor­rect im­age of 100 inches or more on ei­ther a con­ven­tional screen ma­te­rial or an ap­pli­ca­tion-spe­cific ALR screen that ac­cepts light from be­low and re­flects it to the viewer while re­ject­ing it from all other an­gles.

It’s a sim­ple mat­ter to place your video sources and au­dio com­po­nents nearby, per­haps in the same con­sole fur­ni­ture that sup­ports the pro­jec­tor or in an ad­ja­cent rack, so there’s no re­quire­ment for any mount­ing or in-wall ca­ble runs. Easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy, as some folks say.

So, what’s not to like? Well, al­though UST pro­jec­tors have been around for the busi­ness and ed­u­ca­tional mar­kets for a while, home the­ater-cen­tric mod­els are just start­ing to ap­pear. And while the UST pro­jec­tor/alr screen com­bos we’ve tested so far have lived up rea­son­ably well to their promise of re­plac­ing a TV for lit-room view­ing, so far we’ve yet to see one that delivers the dark-room con­trast and black lev­els of a high-per­for­mance the­ater pro­jec­tor. That in­cludes the top of the crop, where Sony has its $25,000 VPL-VZ1000ES laser-driven 4K SXRD pro­jec­tor, or at the en­try level where Ep­son has the new LS100, a lamp-driven 3LCD pro­jec­tor priced at $3,000 (both re­views avail­able at soun­dand­vi­sion.com). In this is­sue, Al Grif­fin re­views the Hisense Laser TV, a 4K DLP pro­jec­tion sys­tem that re­tails for $10,000 and comes with its own

UST screen and of­fers a host of Tv-like fea­tures, in­clud­ing a built-in tuner. See page 58 for his re­sults.

Still, we’re just at the beginning of this UST trend, and it’s rea­son­able to as­sume that in fu­ture gen­er­a­tions man­u­fac­tur­ers will get more se­ri­ous about fur­ther im­prov­ing im­age qual­ity. One thing we’ll also be ex­plor­ing in fu­ture re­views is how well these UST pro­jec­tors might per­form in dark-room ap­pli­ca­tions with tra­di­tional white-matte screens. Given the ease of in­stal­la­tion, a high-per­for­mance UST pro­jec­tor makes an at­trac­tive use-case even for a ded­i­cated the­ater room with con­trolled light.

Details, Details

Most new flat-panel TVS to­day are Ul­tra HD mod­els, and front pro­jec­tion is very slowly head­ing in the same di­rec­tion. As we’ve fre­quently re­ported, the ben­e­fits of Ul­tra HD start with 3840 x 2160 pixel res­o­lu­tion, or ap­prox­i­mately 8 mil­lion pix­els of de­tail ver­sus the 2 mil­lion for 1080p or “Full HD” res­o­lu­tion. That spec for Ul­tra HD comes close to the 4096 x 2160 pixel count for true dig­i­tal cinema 4K—hence, the com­mon use of both terms in de­scrib­ing UHD dis­plays. The ex­tra pix­els be­yond Full HD have fre­quently been dis­missed by the pun­dits for dis­plays of 75 inches or smaller, where the ben­e­fits are said to be lost un­less you sit un­com­monly close to the screen. On the other hand, they are most wel­come for large pro­jec­tion screens, where they can vis­i­bly smooth di­ag­o­nal and cir­cu­lar

edges on ob­jects and gen­er­ally pro­vide a sharper over­all im­age.

The more re­cently in­tro­duced UHD fea­tures of wide color gamut (WCG) and high dy­namic range (HDR) are more ob­vi­ously dis­cernible. But while the ad­di­tional color range of WCG is a shared ben­e­fit among both flat pan­els and pro­jec­tors, the no­tice­ably brighter high­lights and deeper blacks of HDR just don’t come across with the same im­pact as they do on tra­di­tional TVS. Bright­ness has al­ways been a chal­lenge for pro­jec­tors cast­ing a large im­age, which ex­plains why the dig­i­tal pro­jec­tor at your lo­cal cinema is a mon­ster that dwarfs any con­sumer prod­uct. But the abil­ity to hit the high peak-bright­ness lev­els on small iso­lated por­tions of a pro­jected im­age to pro­vide the same level of en­hanced view­ing you get with HDR on a top-notch direct-view dis­play has, for now any­way, not been demon­strated in any af­ford­able con­sumer pro­jec­tor. Com­pli­cat­ing mat­ters is the fact that, while the in­dus­try has is­sued a clear tech­ni­cal tar­get for what HDR should ide­ally look like on a flat panel, it has yet to do so for pro­jec­tors. With no stan­dard in place, pro­jec­tor mak­ers have been forced to de­velop their own formulas for the so­called “tone-map­ping” that trans­lates the brighter high­lights and darker blacks found in Hdr-mas­tered con­tent to the screen. Some do it bet­ter than oth­ers, but all still seem to be feel­ing their way around for now.

This doesn’t mean that there isn’t no­tice­able ex­tra punch vis­i­ble when these pro­jec­tors are fed HDR con­tent, just that the ex­pe­ri­ence still falls short of the more vis­ceral ef­fects pos­si­ble with to­day’s best flat pan­els. That shouldn’t be enough to steer you away from the quite dra­matic en­gage­ment you’ll have with an enor­mous pro­jec­tion screen or to avoid seek­ing out a pro­jec­tor with HDR ca­pa­bil­i­ties. But it’s some­thing to be aware of.

Given the ben­e­fits of 4K pro­jec­tion with scaled-up 1080p ma­te­rial and na­tive 4K con­tent de­liv­ered by the Ul­tra HD Blu-ray for­mat and video streams, you’ve got good rea­son to lean to­ward a 4K pro­jec­tor. Na­tive 4K con­sumer pro­jec­tors, which we de­fine as those whose imag­ing de­vices de­liver all the pix­els of a UHD frame si­mul­ta­ne­ously, are still scarce. Un­til re­cently, Sony was alone in this mar­ket, de­liv­er­ing a range of mod­els that started at $10,000 and went up to $60,000. JVC joined them last year with a $35,000 model. This year, Sony broke a new low price bar­rier for a na­tive 4K model with its $5,000, VPL-VW285ES (re­view at soun­dand­vi­sion.com).

In the last year, though, sev­eral other man­u­fac­tur­ers have in­tro­duced Dlp-driven pro­jec­tors, in­clud­ing sev­eral un­der the $3,000 price point, that use pixel-shift­ing to bring all the pix­els in a UHD frame to the screen. They use a new DLP chip that delivers the in­for­ma­tion in two se­quen­tial frames of ap­prox­i­mately half-uhd res­o­lu­tion, with the pix­els par­tially over­laid and di­ag­o­nally off­set from one an­other. The rapid se­quenc­ing of the frames al­lows the eye to blend them into one im­age. This approach of­fi­cially qual­i­fies as a UHD dis­play un­der Con­sumer Tech­nol­ogy As­so­ci­a­tion rules, and our tests so far sug­gest that any dif­fer­ence in de­tail ver­sus a true na­tive 4K dis­play is neg­li­gi­ble with real pro­gram ma­te­rial. That said, in our ad­mit­tedly lim­ited ex­pe­ri­ence to date, this DLP chip does ap­pear to of­fer less na­tive con­trast than prior-gen­er­a­tion DLP chips and would pre­sum­ably need to be mated with suit­able dy­namic con­trast-en­hanc­ing fea­tures such as an au­to­matic iris or an­other method to suf­fi­ciently mod­u­late the light source. We’ve only tested three mod­els to date, the Benq HT9050 ($8,999), Op­toma UHD65 ($2,500), and Hisense Laser TV (re­view this is­sue).

Only the lat­ter pro­vided rea­son­ably ac­cept­able dark-room con­trast.

Al­ter­na­tively, two man­u­fac­tur­ers—jvc and Ep­son—are sell­ing high-per­for­mance home the­ater pro­jec­tors that ac­cept 4K video sig­nals (while pro­vid­ing WCG and HDR play­back) and use sim­i­lar pixel-shift­ing tech­nol­ogy with 1080p chips to de­liver onscreen res­o­lu­tion that is ef­fec­tively in be­tween 1080p and UHD. Al­though there’s some sac­ri­fice in de­tail ver­sus 4K pro­jec­tors, the proven con­trast and black­level per­for­mance of these pro­jec­tors, cou­pled with the ben­e­fit of hav­ing ac­cess to na­tive 4K con­tent—es­pe­cially on UHD Blu-rays, with their HDR- and Wcg-en­hanced images— makes for a very rea­son­able trade-off. JVC’S pro­jec­tors start at around $4,000, and late last year Ep­son in­tro­duced a $2,200 1080p pixel-shifter, the Home Cinema 4000 (re­view at soun­dand­vi­sion.com).

If a ba­sic 1080p pro­jec­tor is all you need or can af­ford for now, you can find ac­cept­able per­for­mance be­low that $2,200 price point, and for as lit­tle as $600. The $1,200 to $1,500 range is a par­tic­u­larly ripe sweet spot for pro­jec­tors with quite ex­cel­lent color, rea­son­ably high light out­put, and av­er­age to above-av­er­age con­trast. They are much im­proved over their pre­de­ces­sors in that price class of just a cou­ple of years ago.

Pick Your Pic

There are three ma­jor dis­play tech­nolo­gies used in to­day’s con­sumer pro­jec­tors: the afore­men­tioned Dig­i­tal Light Pro­jec­tion (DLP), liquid-crys­tal dis­play (LCD), and liquid crys­tal on sil­i­con (LCOS). DLP uses pixel-sized mi­cromir­rors ar­rayed on ded­i­cated mi­cromir­ror chips (called Dig­i­tal Mi­cromir­ror De­vices, or DMDS). The mi­cromir­rors re­flect light to­ward the screen and os­cil­late at dif­fer­ent speeds to brighten or darken the im­age. Most DLP pro­jec­tors em­ploy a sin­gle DMD to­gether with a translu­cent color wheel that spins around to cre­ate the red, green, and blue pri­maries re­quired for a full-color im­age.

Some DLP pro­jec­tors em­ploy three DMDS, one for each color, and dis­pense with the color wheel, but they tend to be very ex­pen­sive. Op­toma, Benq, and View­sonic are among the pop­u­lar pro­jec­tor man­u­fac­tur­ers that typ­i­cally em­ploy sin­gle-chip DLP tech­nol­ogy.

LCD pro­jec­tors shine a light source through translu­cent liquid-crys­tal pan­els whose pix­els can be in­di­vid­u­ally opened or shut down to mod­u­late the bright­ness. Of course, this is the same tech­nol­ogy used in the vast ma­jor­ity of flat-panel TVS to­day. LCD pro­jec­tors typ­i­cally em­ploy sep­a­rate red, green, and blue LCD pan­els for the pri­mary col­ors, hence the “3LCD” brand­ing used by Ep­son, this tech­nol­ogy’s chief pro­po­nent.

LCOS dis­play de­vices are sim­i­lar to LCD pan­els, but they have a re­flec­tive back­ing: Light comes in through the front, hits the re­flec­tor, bounces back through the LCOS device a sec­ond time, and is then di­rected through the lens and out to­ward the screen. JVC’S D-ILA (Direct-drive Im­age Light Am­pli­fier) and

Sony’s SXRD (Sil­i­con X-tal Re­flec­tive Dis­play) are vari­ants of LCOS.

Nat­u­rally, cer­tain char­ac­ter­is­tics are at­ten­dant to each of these three dis­play tech­nolo­gies.

But with care­ful se­lec­tion, you’ll find high­per­form­ing and high-value pro­jec­tors from all of them. Here are a few fea­tures and per­for­mance pa­ram­e­ters to keep in mind as you shop:

Bright­ness. Pro­jec­tor bright­ness is usu­ally spec’d in lu­mens. How­ever, there’s no firm stan­dard for mak­ing this mea­sure­ment that all man­u­fac­tur­ers ad­here to, so it’s best to use this spec only as a gen­eral guide­line or for gaug­ing

the out­put of one pro­jec­tor ver­sus an­other in the same manufacturer’s lineup. As men­tioned, any­thing over 1,200 lu­mens will usu­ally be enough to achieve ad­e­quate bright­ness on a 100-inch screen in a fully dark­ened room, but for high-am­bi­ent-light con­di­tions, ad­di­tional light out­put and/or an ALR screen might be re­quired. Given the trend to­ward HDR among 4K-com­pli­ant pro­jec­tors, more bright­ness is bet­ter—though in these pro­jec­tors or any oth­ers, it ide­ally shouldn’t come at the sac­ri­fice of con­trast.

Con­trast and black level. The abil­ity to de­liver some­thing close to true black is as crit­i­cal for im­age qual­ity with pro­jec­tors as with flat-panel dis­plays. While high bright­ness can be had in many bud­get pro­jec­tors, get­ting high out­put with good con­trast is more chal­leng­ing. Bet­ter pro­jec­tors start with imag­ing de­vices that have a low na­tive black level, then add a dy­namic iris or other technique to mod­u­late bright­ness on dark scenes to im­prove con­trast. Lcos-based pro­jec­tors have tra­di­tion­ally de­liv­ered the best blacks and have made them a fa­vorite among se­ri­ous en­thu­si­asts, in­clud­ing the re­view­ing staff at Sound & Vi­sion, but ex­cel­lent con­trast can be had with well-en­gi­neered, pre­mium LCD and DLP pro­jec­tors, too.

4K con­tent play­back. We’ve al­ready cov­ered the dif­fer­ence be­tween true na­tive 4K, pixel-shifted 4K, and the pixel-shifted 1080p pro­jec­tors. All of these op­tions pro­vide the sig­nif­i­cant ben­e­fit of view­ing 4K source ma­te­rial with higher res­o­lu­tion, wide color, and HDR, par­tic­u­larly from UHD Blu-rays.

Low fan noise. In many home set­ups where the pro­jec­tor gets mounted near the seat­ing, it’s crit­i­cal for the pro­jec­tor to have a suf­fi­ciently quiet cool­ing fan that won’t in­ter­fere with view­ing. Our re­views point out when a fan is un­usu­ally noisy. Laser- and LED- ver­sus lamp-based light

en­gines. Laser- and Led-driven light en­gines found now in some pre­mium pro­jec­tors have the ben­e­fit of not re­quir­ing the reg­u­lar re­place­ment of ex­pen­sive lamps, which nat­u­rally lose bright­ness and shift their color pro­file as they age. And these pro­jec­tors aren’t sus­cep­ti­ble to da­m­age from rapid or un­ex­pected power cy­cles, the way lamp-based pro­jec­tors are. Con­sider the rated lamp life of any lamp-based pro­jec­tor, and if you’re se­ri­ous about al­ways get­ting the best per­for­mance from your pro­jec­tor, be pre­pared to re­cal­i­brate pe­ri­od­i­cally and re­place the lamp prior to its rated half-life. (Half-life is the point at which the lamp’s out­put is ex­pected to drop to half of its bright­ness when new, and it de­pends on how you use the pro­jec­tor—for ex­am­ple, the lamp bright­ness set­ting you se­lect.)

Lens and setup op­tions. In per­ma­nent in­stal­la­tions, setup is some­thing you do once, so the lack of re­mote-op­er­ated, mo­tor­ized con­trols for lens shift, zoom, and fo­cus shouldn’t be a deal breaker. But you’ll find this con­ve­nience in bet­ter pro­jec­tors, along with lens mem­o­ries that al­low you, for ex­am­ple, to change from a 16:9 im­age to a widescreen 2.35:1 im­age with the push of a but­ton. More crit­i­cal, though, will be the po­ten­tial lack in bud­get pro­jec­tors of lens shift con­trols, or the bur­den of an overly re­stric­tive zoom range. Make sure the pro­jec­tor you buy will fit your space and mount­ing re­quire­ments.

Screen Dreams

Some peo­ple think it’s OK to use a bare wall with white, off-white, or spe­cial­ized screen paint for a home the­ater screen. Some pro­jec­tors—usu­ally cheap ones built on a biz-pro­jec­tor plat­form—even have menu ad­just­ments to change the color tem­per­a­ture to cor­rect for dif­fer­ent col­ored walls!

You’re best off with a real pro­jec­tion screen. These will be de­signed to re­flect back at 1.0 unity gain (or per­haps be more re­flec­tive as the sit­u­a­tion re­quires), to op­ti­mize con­trast, and to pro­vide a smooth, uni­form, rip­ple-free sur­face that evenly dis­trib­utes bright­ness and color. High-qual­ity matte-white screens around

100 inches di­ag­o­nal that live up to those cri­te­ria are avail­able to­day for per­haps $200 to $300 from man­u­fac­tur­ers like Elite Screens, Visu­alapex (Vapex), and Silver Ticket.

That isn’t to say you can’t find good rea­son to spend more on a screen. The price range cited above is for fixed-frame screens that hang on a wall, typ­i­cally stretched on a black-felt frame that creates a light-ab­sorb­ing bor­der around the edge. But if your ap­pli­ca­tion re­quires that your screen be hid­den un­til you need it, a man­ual or mo­tor­ized re­tractable screen can pro­vide a stealth in­stal­la­tion—and also pro­tect the screen from da­m­age in a mul­tipur­pose room. Re­tractable screens come in sur­face or flush­mounted cas­ings, and in ten­sioned (gen­er­ally rec­om­mended) and non-ten­sioned ver­sions. Such screens are typ­i­cally more ex­pen­sive and may require pro­fes­sional help for proper in­stal­la­tion.

Should you need it, there are screens made from acous­ti­cally trans­par­ent ma­te­ri­als that you can hide your speak­ers be­hind. And if you require use in high am­bi­ent light, there are those ALR screens dis­cussed ear­lier. Note that some are stiff pan­els rather than roll-up screens, and they come in a va­ri­ety of gains and styles, in­clud­ing a bor­dered or edge­less look.

Get the Big Pic­ture

There’s no doubt that 2017 was an in­ter­est­ing year for the evo­lu­tion of front pro­jec­tion, one that saw the in­tro­duc­tion of more and less ex­pen­sive UHD mod­els and the emer­gence of a new cat­e­gory of prod­uct in the easy-toin­stall ul­tra-short-throw pro­jec­tors. With any luck, 2018 will bring more of the same and fur­ther smooth the path to front pro­jec­tion for ev­ery­one who’s ever dreamed about it. Stay tuned...

Thanks to DLP’S af­ford­able new 4K imag­ing device, full-res­o­lu­tion 4K pro­jec­tors are turn­ing up be­low $3,000—with Op­toma’s UHD65 ($2,500) among them.

True na­tive 4K pro­jec­tors, which can dis­play all the pix­els in a UHD sig­nal at once with no need for pixel-shift­ing, re­main rare in the con­sumer mar­ket. Sony’s VPL-VW285ES ($5,000) broke a new low price for the cat­e­gory.

LG’S re­cently an­nounced 4K ul­tra-short-throw pro­jec­tor, the HU80K, has an up­right de­sign that al­lows it to project images from the floor, mounted on a wall, or hang­ing from the ceil­ing.

Some af­ford­able pro­jec­tors, such as the Ep­son Home Cinema 4000 LCD pro­jec­tor ($2,200, at right and be­low), ac­cept 4K HDR sig­nals but use 1080p imag­ing de­vices with pixel-shift­ing to en­hance res­o­lu­tion.

High-tech am­bi­ent-light-re­ject­ing (ALR) screens have brought front pro­jec­tion into the liv­ing room, but en­hance con­trast in home theaters as well. Shown is the Sey­mour Screen Ex­cel­lence Am­bi­ent-vi­sion­aire Black 1.2.

Ul­tra-short-throw pro­jec­tors mated with am­bi­ent-light-re­ject­ing screens, such as the Sony VPL-VZ1000ES shown here ($25,000), are now an al­ter­na­tive to costly, mega­sized flat-panel TVS.

Texas In­stru­ments’ new DLP chip uses pix­elshift­ing to flash up two half-frames of 4K video and achieve full UHD res­o­lu­tion.

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