HISENSE 100L5F ‘Laser TV’
Hisense’s latest Laser TV bundles a 100-inch screen with a smart ultra-short-throw projector — just the thing for a big night of sport, or any other visual entertainment..
Hands-on with Hisense’s latest bundle of 100-inch screen and smart ultra-short-throw projector.
Pretty much 18 months ago, I spent an evening in a cliff-top house in Sydney. When I stood in the lounge room, to the east was the unending Pacific Ocean, while to the west, against the wall, was a 100-inch ‘TV’. That was the $19,999 100-inch Hisense 100RXL Laser TV, the first of its ilk, combining ultra-short-throw projection with all the conveniences of TV-like operation.
This time around I spent 90 minutes in a Sydney office — there was no view in any direction — with another 100-inch ‘TV’. This one was the $6999 100-inch Hisense 100L5F Laser TV. Prices, clearly, have come down for this new breed of home entertainment.
Let’s remind ourselves exactly what a ‘Laser TV’ is. Instead of a direct-view TV panel, it consists of a projector and projection screen, in this case bundled together. The projector is of the ultra-short-throw variety which sits at the foot of the screen, which is optimised to work with the upwardly thrown image from the main unit. And the projector has all (or most) of the features you’d expect in a smart TV.
While ultra-short-throw designs are not new, they have hitherto been fairly dumb devices — that is, they had no networking, no actual free-to-air TV tuner in them. But that is not the case for Hisense’s offerings, either in previous years or this. The projector part is the full bottle, with smart features and free-to-air TV.
The ‘Laser’ part of the name refers to the light source. No, it does not involve some kind of laser scanning across the screen. Instead, a single intense blue laser excites some phosphor which produces a bright light. This system is more reliable than the traditional UHP filament bulbs, more robust, less affected by orientation, faster to come on and to switch off, and able to have its intensity controlled just about frame-by-frame. This one has a rated life-span of 25,000 hours, which works out to using it for seven hours a day of viewing for nearly a decade.
The picture-creation part of the engine uses a pixel-shifting DLP micro-mirror chip — the 0.47-inch model, we’d suggest, given the fact that it actually resolves down to 3840 by 2160.
Making it even closer to a regular TV than the usual projector/screen combo is the relative convenience of the ultra-short-throw design. It sat just 29cm from its surface (8½ inches is the recommendation of the US quick start guide) — and throws the image up to fill
it. No shadows are cast by people as they wander about the room... although there is one slightly disconcerting, um, proximity effect which we’ll get to in a moment.
So, why is the Hisense 100L5F priced at only a little more than one third of the 100RXL? First, the projector — Hisense calls it a ‘console’ so I’ll try to do so as well from now on — is significantly smaller than the earlier model in all three dimensions, and around half the weight. It now packs Dolby Atmos processing — that’s an upgrade over the old one — for its built-in speakers, but loses the JBL Cinema Sound branding and the external subwoofer.
Last year’s $20k also bought you installation by trained personnel. This is still available, but it’s going to cost you. We asked twice, but Hisense wasn’t prepared to venture a ballpark figure regarding the cost of this.
Another ‘saving’ would be due (again, in my opinion, although Hisense didn’t demur when I suggested it) to using the 0.47-inch DMD with XPR to generate Ultra HD, rather than the 0.66-inch DMD with XPR. The smaller, lower-resolution chip, which uses four ‘flashes’ of 1920 × 1080 to achieve UHD resolution, actually does a better job of it.
Continuing the TV-like properties, the 100L5F is fitted with Hisense’s VIDAA smart interface, now up to version 4. All the usual apps are available, and there’s a dedicated key on the remote control for Netflix. Plus one for a microphone. The Bluetooth-connected remote can capture your voice for the Alexa voice control system built into VIDAA.
Connections also mimic those of a TV rather than a projector, with four HDMI inputs here all good to 4K/60Hz, two powered USB-A slots, a composite analogue video input with minijack audio in, even a VGA socket. There’s Ethernet for networking as well as the unit’s built-in Wi-Fi, and an optical digital output available to play audio to an external sound system. In a separate bay are connections for your TV antenna, pleasingly available in both BNC and coaxial-type connections.
In one way, ultra-short-throw projectors are rather tricky to set up. Think of a seesaw with an adjustable fulcrum. If the fulcrum is near the far end you can raise and lower your end substantially with only a slight movement at the other end. But if it’s close to you, a slight nudge on your end of the plank can have the other end swinging wildly. Because they are so close to the screen, and thus spreading the picture widely, the tiniest movement of an ultra-short-throw projector has a large effect on the image placement, both in direction and shape. Since the projector was already installed when I arrived, we’re not in our usual position of judging the full consumer experience, such as ease of installation. I’m told that full mounting templates are provided, and the projector has screw legs so you can adjust its height a little. With 29cm of space to the wall and 35cm depth to the console itself, the front of the projector would sit some 64cm forward of the wall, and for the reasons of tiny movement effects noted above, you don’t want it sticking out where anyone can bump it. As we always point out with UST designs, they’re not quite as neatly flush to the wall as the publicity images often imply.
Hisense has built into this year’s model an automatic alignment system. You install an app on your phone, the projector flashes a QR code up on the screen, you capture that with the app, the projector shows a frame pattern, the app captures that and then sends the necessary data back to the projector to correct the picture. This is done digitally, so it’s kind of like an automated keystone correction system. I’d strongly recommend spending more time getting the geometry right, rather than using this, because it throws away pixels. Being Ultra HD, that’s less likely to result in obvious moire and beat patterns than in a Full-HD system, but it’s still best avoided.
(Indeed I offered a suggestion to Hisense that one future installation method might be to first put the projector in its final place at the correct distance from the wall, then have it project the mounting template, showing the exact position to screw the mounts. Voila, the screen would be perfectly placed.)
There were two slightly unusual aspects to the Hisense 100L5F Laser TV. First, the screen has a black bezel which is quite narrow, perhaps around 25mm or 30mm. The projector emits some stray light outside the actual projected image, perhaps internal reflections in the projector or from the housing, which illuminated slices of the wall around the screen.
Secondly, there was a fairly sensitive proximity sensor. If you near the sides of the console, within a metre or so, or even up close to the front, a warning flashes up saying that the projector will switch off the picture in a few seconds. This is, of course, to protect viewers from possible eye damage, were they to look directly into the projectors’s flood of light. So it’s good safe design and this is unlikely to be noticed by regular users unless your room layout requires walking past the projector on the way to the kitchen.
I brought a stack of discs with me to Hisense’s office, along with my preferred Oppo BDP-203AU Blu-ray player. As usual, I started at the top: Gemini Man on 4K Blu-ray. This is a high frame rate presentation with Dolby Vision encoding. It was delivered with HDR rather than Dolby Vision — the specifications make clear that the Hisense supports HDR10 but not Dolby Vision. The HDR rendering left the dark parts of the picture perhaps a little darker than they should be, crushing a little detail. But it actually tended to make the picture more satisfying overall, with a sense of deeper blacks.
And as for the 60fps of this movie, the picture was as astonishingly smooth, as it ought to be, and so sharp that I could not imagine how a picture
sharper. HFR translates into a subjectively sharper image in addition to smoother motion.
For 24p content, the 100L5F offers ‘Ultra Smooth Motion’ processing, with several selectable options. I compared only the default ‘Standard’ with ‘Off’. I have to say that the ‘Standard’ motion smoothing seemed almost perfect. The movement was smooth and there were no oddities of picture details jumping to the wrong place, while the heat-haze distortion was rarely perceptible.
I use the Blu-ray of the 1993 Harrison Ford movie The Fugitive — the Chicago flyover, followed by Ford walking to, then talking on the payphone, while the train rattles behind him — to judge these matters. It all starts at Chapter 21. I just want to add that I now have two versions of this disc. The one I used for many years had been upconverted from 1080i — poorly. So I’d always wondered if the astonishing judder was somehow due to the transfer. It wasn’t. A newer version with a new telecine results in an improved overall picture quality... and the same astonishing judder.
And while the movie is, overall, set in a slightly dim, overcast environment, the Hisense Laser TV rendered it in a surprisingly colourful and bright way.
There was no doubt that the unit uses an engine locked to something other than 50 hertz. Perhaps 60 hertz, but most likely 120 hertz. The 50 hertz test scene I used showed the characteristic uneven judder of this when Ultra Smooth Motion was switched off, but switching it on mostly washed the judder out of the system, except in a dark bit of the middle of one 576i/50 clip, where there was just one small bright area. This jumped around unexpectedly as the camera panned across it. It had obviously been misplaced by the processing engine.
With both 576i/50 and 1080i/50, it was also clear that the projector was locked into videostyle deinterlacing, regardless of whether or not the content was film-sourced. It was decent motion-adaptive video deinterlacing, though, so much of the time the quality was equivalent. However, toss some finely spaced lines into the picture and obvious and distracting moire effects appeared.
Speaking of finely spaced lines, I was a little critical of the older projector because of the seeming interference between the projector’s grid pattern and the horizontal lines on the screen, which were part of its ambient light rejection system. There didn’t seem to be any such problem with this console. The environment was such that I couldn’t really check ambient light rejection — although the picture remained quite colourful and bright under the modest lighting in the room in which the unit was set up. But I couldn’t detect any sense of those lines. The black levels were really quite impressive, certainly subjectively so. I’d say they’d be comparable to projectors that boast contrast ratios of around 30,000:1.
As for the resolution, the picture presented by the projector was pretty much standard at discriminating between pixels as do the better models using the 0.47-inch DMD from Texas Instruments. No, you don’t get the sharp delineation between pixels available from a direct-view Ultra-HD TV, but you do get at least some sense of the higher resolution. The one-pixel-wide colour lines did stand out against the softer overflow in the background.
The built-in sound quality was about the equivalent of a regular large-screen TV. Which is to say it’s fine for the evening news, and maybe a sitcom. But for serious viewing of serious content on a serious 100-inch screen, I’d want a serious sound system.
VIDAA, unlike Android, works with Miracast/WiDi. Indeed, as I originally typed these words on my notebook computer, they appeared in centimetre-tall letters on the projection screen. Well, a few tenths of a second later. It takes time to cast a screen.
I remember back when VIDAA was a very basic system, with hardly anything in the way of apps. Now it’s pretty fully-featured. You get voice control via Alexa, with a microphone button on the remote. I pressed the microany phone button on the remote control and said ‘Switch to HDMI 4’ and the unit did so; no fuss.
Ultra-HD video and stills were conveyed pixel perfect, at least to the extent possible with pixel-shifting DLP. No 1080p bottlenecking there. I’ve got to assume it would be the same with photos delivered over the network, though we were unable to test this in situ.
Finally, VIDAA and general control functions were very responsive and quick to act. Which made using this TV quite the pleasure.
As noted, we spent only 90 minutes with this Laser TV, compared with the several weeks we might more usually spend for a full review, teasing out the details of performance. But let’s see: 100-inch screen, TV-like functionality, relatively reasonable price, near Ultra-HD performance. Hisense seems on a winner with the 100L5F Laser TV. Stephen Dawson