Sport that shines
Ultra-short-throw is trending, but don’t neglect more traditional projection, especially if you can dedicate a room to your sport & entertainment.
Ultra-short-throw projectors have been around for many years in commercial environments where the issues of image uniformity were outweighed by the need for brightness and near-wall mounting. Only in the last few years have they come into their own as consumer projectors, and only in the last two of those as ‘TV-like’ packages with smart interfaces, TV tuners and speakers built in. The original Hisense Laser TV was the first we laid hands on (other than at shows like CES and IFA), and the proof of concept was impressive enough for us to give that original Laser TV the first Sound+Image Award for this new breed.
Epson 3LCD ultra short throw
This year, two issues back in our Awards Special, our 2021 Award for Ultra Short Throw projection went to Epson’s $5499 EH-LS500. But as our regular readers will know from our reviews last issue, this has been joined remarkably quickly by a second model which enjoyed an entire year of additional development, the EH-LS300. This is only $3999 (screen packages are available), but is standard Full-HD, though it makes use of HDR and colour information from a 4K input. The LS500 adds to that Epson’s 4K Pro UHD technology to deliver a wonderfully smooth image with resolution which is, strictly, only double Full-HD, so half 4K. But Epson’s 3LCD panels gift additional image quality and colour brightness in particular, making each model a contender at its price point.
Samsung ‘The Premiere’
The big guns from South Korea are also realising the potential attractions of ultrashort-throw projection, even though the merits of UST are competing against their own dominance in TV sales.
Samsung has dived into the ultra-shortthrow market with two ‘The Premiere’ models — the single-laser LSP7T at $5999 and a full three lasers in the $10,999 LSP9T. The pricier triple-laser version delivers a quoted 2800 lumens, and Samsung recommends using a ‘CLR’ screen (ceiling light rejection) though we’ve yet to see Samsung itself bundling these with purchase.
It’s compatible with both HDR10 and the dynamic HDR10+, and has a 4.2-channel audio system within the compact enclosure itself. Samsung’s Smart TV platform is also onboard, so that The Premiere works like a TV, not a dumb projector, ready to stream Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+, YouTube,
Stan and more right out of the box, with a host of other apps available. Mobile connectivity and multiple voice assistants are built in — both Alexa and Samsung’s own Bixby.
It’s notable that as with a number of UST projectors, Samsung has delivered a lounge-friendly unit in predominantly white finish, with Kvadrat textile wrap. While white projectors may look less obtrusive in a multipurpose room, such reflectivity is frowned upon for use in a darkened room like a dedicated home theatre. So the market here seems to be the family lounge room, as a replacement for a big-screen TV. And as evinced by all these and the Hisense with which we enjoyed hands-on, TV replacement is the message of the ultra-short-throw breed. Note, however, we’ve still yet to see one which is able to perform sufficiently brilliantly not to wash out under full daylight in a typically light-flooded Australian open-plan living space, making casual day-time use still the realm of television. Drop the blinds or wait till late afternoon, however, and ultra-shortthrow can transform your movies and sport by delivering projection-sized images. We will add once more, don’t rely on their built-in audio — add a sound system able to do justice to such visual magnificence.
LG has been expanding dramatically on its CineBeam projector line over the last couple of product cycles in some markets, though Australia gets only a few of them. We’ve seen at LG events in Australia the ultra-shortthrow CineBeam HU85L, which operates along the lines of other UST designs, up close to the wall for screen sizes up to 120 inches, again using Texas Instrument’s DLP XPR and the three-colour ‘Dual Laser’ system which adds a red laser light source to the usual blue one, thereby delivering a genuine RGB output with no need for a colour wheel. As with Epson’s 3LCD panels, this should assist brightness, quoted in this case at 2700 lumens, and compatible with HDR10.
If you want a big screen image which can be easily moved around the home, LG has the dinky little PF1000UW, which is ultra-shortthrow in design though limited to 1000 lumens, 1920 × 1080 pixel resolution and up to 90-inch screens. But then it’s only $2499. This makes it more a competitor to the neat little portable units that BenQ has delivered so well, and the LG does come with both a TV tuner and LG’s excellent webOS in its 3.0 version.
We have also enjoyed UST from Optoma in the form of the P1 which we reviewed last year, and a more recent P2 is now available. Both these use the same pixel-shifted DLP technology as does the Hisense Laser TV to deliver 4K resolution, at RRPs of $8499 and $6499 respectively. These come with neither screen nor TV interfaces, so no free-to-air tuner or apps here, but they do have built-in speakers, multiple HDMI and USB ports, and Optoma’s Smart+ interface for wireless connectivity with smart devices. They allow screen sizes up to 120-inch diagonals.
We highly rated the P1, yet the P2 offers an upgrade for less. Both are HDR compatible, while the P1’s 1,500,000:1 contrast ratio is increased to 2,000,000:1 on the P2, which should yield brighter images and a significantly wider colour gamut. Both list output at 3000 lumens, but the new Optoma Pro model raises this to 3500, raising contrast to 2,500,000:1. We await details of local pricing on the Pro model.
Sony and native 4K
If you’ve been noting the prevalence of pixel-shifting to achieve 4K resolution, that’s because native 4K resolution remains an expensive proposition in home projection. Sony leads in native 4K, though its VZ1000ES ultra-short-throw solution comes in at nearly $31k, while its very latest “beast” of a native 4K projector is the VPL-GTZ380, at a price anticipated to be around $150,000.
Before you gasp at such price levels, there are opportunities to go still higher if you’re going for a gigantic screen size in a dedicated home cinema, with brands such as Barco, Runco and Wolf Cinema delivering high-end models using commercial cinema tech. The sky really is the limit if your funds are similarly unencumbered.
Which makes the pricing of our next review — Sony’s VPL-VW790ES, its latest second-highest 4K release — seem entirely reasonable at $22,999, given what it delivers...