Video projectors are the holy grain of the home theatre for many people. Able to produce a massive picture for a reasonable price all from within the comfort of your own home. As with all displays the technology driving these wonders periodically takes a leap. The latest leap in projector technology is the Laser Projector, a projector that replaces the old-fashioned light bulb for LED Lasers as the source of light. This change improves the brightness, efficiency and colour reproduction of the projector producing a far better image for less money, and improves the longevity while lowering power consumption. Lasers do in fact make everything better.
Laser projectors comes in two forms DLP and LCD/LCOS. Both technologies work in similar ways with the 3 lasers producing a specific colour, either red, green or blue (RGB) light. This light is then fed to a DLP chip or LCOS chip where the light is combined and the detail is added to produce the image. This is like a traditional projector with the exception that the lamp light source is replaced by a laser light source.
Using a laser as the light source is far more efficient as it doesn’t require the white light produced by a lamp to be split into the 3 RGB light sources required to build the image. A process that wastes most of the light, hence the far greater efficiency of a laser light source. This efficiency gain allows them to run much cooler, use less power while also increasing the amount of light or lumens produced. Also, the lasers can produce only the light required and can adjust the amount of each RGB source far more precisely which provides better black and more accurate colours.
The lifespan of a laser projectors light source is also much better than a lamp based projector, at 30,000 hours compared to a lamp based projector which will last around 3,000 hours before needing the lamp replaced.
Projector manufacturers are taking advantage of these characteristics within two very different classes of projectors, compact projectors and the very interesting new short throw projectors.
Compact Laser Projectors
The compact size, low power and high efficiency of the LED Lasers makes them very suitable for use within compact projectors. This shift in technology has allowed many manufacturers to produce more compact and brighter portable projectors, check out Android Authority’s list of the best portable laser projectors here. Sony has a pocket sized projector that can run for hours off battery power. LG’s new portable projector (LG ProBeam HF80JA) is one of the most desirable portable projectors on the market and hits the sweet spot for small form factor projectors with its compact size, over 100 inch display and the ability to produce 2,000 lumens of projector power. Combine this with the ability to take it anywhere and you have the perfect compact projector.
Short Throw Laser Projectors
By far the most interesting new class of projector in recent years are the new generation of Short Throw laser projectors which have recently dropped in price to the point that they are now competitive with large screen LED/LCD TV’s while producing a much larger image.
Short throw projectors also do away with the need to build the room around the projector with mounting brackets in the ceiling, cables running all over the place and annoying shadows if people walk in front of the screen. This is achieved by a very clever design that requires a short throw projector to be only inches from the screen that it is projecting onto, typically allowing it to be setup on a piece of furniture below the wall space being projected onto.
Combine this clever design with the new laser projection technology and you have a large format (generally up to 150 inches) projector that is easy to setup and produces between 3,000 and 5,000 lumens of light with excellent contrast and colour reproduction.
Epson (LS100), LG (ProBeam HF85JA), Sony (VPL-VZ1000ES), Dell (S718QL) and Xiaomi (Mi Ultra Short 5000) all have new products in this category and all of them are very impressive with prices ranging from $3,000 to $6,000 USD. Expect to see many examples of this new class of projector at this year’s CES show.
Presented for your viewing pleasure are some of the most interesting examples of the latest short throw laser projectors. A class of projector that is now challenging LCD/OLED televisions on brightness and picture quality. It appears there may be a new front in the TV wars opening up and the consumers are sure to be the winners.
Reference: Laser Projectors (Wikipedia)
Reference: AndroidAuthority – The Best Portable Projectors 2017
Reference: DigitalTrends – LG ProBeam HF80JA Review
Reference: DLP – Digital Light Processor – Wikipedia
Reference: LCOS – Liquid Crystal on Silicon – Wikipedia