What are our crystal ball predictions for the future of home theatre projectors?
Lately, we’ve been chatting about a lot of things, but we’ve been a bit quiet on the home theatre projector front. It’s easy enough to think that nothing much is happening when it comes to projectors, but frankly, you couldn’t be further off the ball. Things are moving; and they are moving fast. In the last year, projectors have become cheaper and technology is getting more and more sophisticated.
What used to be reserved for the fat wallets of the elite, is now accessible for most people who are passionate enough to forego some of the other perks of life.
So what is our crystal ball saying about the near future of home theatre projectors?
1. Full HD is now entry-level resolution
Well… this is more a fact than a prediction, really. But we’ll roll with it anyway.
When we wrote our first blog on home theatre projectors about 3-4 years ago, we were still talking about 720p resolution. 1080p was the premium standard, 4K was a thing that was discussed at CES; a futuristic dream.
How things have changed.
Nobody speaks about 720p anymore. 1080p has become the entry-level option and you probably want to look into upscaling (E-shift) technology if in any way possible. The reason for that is that higher resolutions are really noticeable when you increase the screen size (and we do love our big screens in NZ!). When Full HD is available for under $2,000 – it’s a no brainer. Start looking at 4K-enhanced projectors and you have excellent options around the $5,000 mark.
Optoma caused a bit of a stir last year with their Optoma UHD65 4K DLP projector. It was called a game changer. And it did change the game too. But just to show how fast things are moving: Brand new on the market is its little brother, the Optoma UHD50 4K DLP projector now retailing at $3,399! I mean …really!? Sure, it’s a DLP projector. They’ve always been a bit cheaper than the LCDs, but still….
With The Sony VPL-VW260, the true 4K projector price took the long awaited nose dive to well under $10,000 and what you get for that money is pretty awesome stuff. This is what we have been waiting for. It’s still a premium option, for sure. But it’s no longer pie in the sky for those who really, really want it. The result is that more and more of our customers walk in with a 4K projector on their wish list. It was bound to happen and the moment has arrived. You’ll agree that it’s not that difficult to predict that 4K will only become even more mainstream in the next couple of years. If that long…
(Insider bargain tip: If you have the Sony VPL-VW260 on your radar, the Sony VPL-VW360 home theatre projector -which adds a dynamic iris- is on sale at a special price of $8,999 for a limited time only!)
2. 4K projectors will continue to fall in price
I guess our prediction of 4K becoming a mainstream option, will have a lot to do with availability, competition and as a result price of 4K projectors. It’s not that 4K projectors are getting any easier to build from an engineering perspective, but rising customer expectations and demand mean that manufacturers know the market is ready for it and they’ll sell.
At this stage, out of the 3 LCD players in the market, we’re still waiting for Epson and JVC to move their e-shift projectors to full 4K. I guess Sony, who skipped the e-shift step was more motivated to take the true 4K leap. Our prediction is that the other two can’t be far away.
(Another insider bargain tip: If you are in the market for a new projector and a true 4K projector is not a ‘must-have’, then the 3 JVC e-shift projectors deserve a look – we have always said they are excellent home theatre projectors. Just another sign that change is on the cards for the near future for JVC, may I add.)
I was reading some opinions on this very same topic on AVS forum with people saying they thought both Epson and JVC will continue their e-shift journey and maybe step up lens quality and some other specs. We tend to disagree with that. While the JVC DLA-X5900 and the Epson EH-TW9300 both are excellent choice projectors, surely the companies have seen the drop in sales that we have picked up on as soon as the Sony VPL-VW260 was released, playing in the same (or close enough to be an issue) price range as the e-shifts. We certainly have noticed. People drool over the true 4K specs. It’s as simple as that.
Once that ‘pick-me’ ball starts rolling between the big 3, prices of true 4K projectors will drop even further.
No doubt, 4K will become what HD used to be – the go-to resolution – and prices will come to reflect this.
3. Average home cinema projector brightness will rise
But resolution is not the beginning and end all in projector technology.
If we talk about technology that is available to the average Joe, getting better projector brightness tends to be high on peoples list. We wrote a blog about this topic a few months ago, so it’s good to go back to that to make sure companies don’t trick you with confusing figures.
Fact is that at the moment, home theatre projectors clock in with an average brightness of 1,800 to 2,400 lumens. If you have a projector in a multi-use area, ambient light is a fact of life and projector brightness tends to matter. Unless you have the luxury of a dedicated home cinema, you will want to make the most of the amazing contrast ratios available and that means that extra brightness will come as a welcome bump in specification. For higher end projectors, there is less need for this, as they tend to feature in dark environments anyway.
So chances are that brightness will rise, aiming at the 3,000 – 4,000 lumens becoming common in mid-range theatre projectors. Is that wishful thinking you reckon? It makes sense, though….
And as HDR requires very bright displays, extra brightness is absolutely required for projectors to keep up with OLED TVs. Otherwise, HDR will be a moot point and not really discernible on projectors. Plenty of reasons for manufacturers to have increased brightness on their mind.
4. Laser projection technology will become established
Just like 4K specs, laser technology in a projector is a draw card. At this stage, it’s still pretty exclusive, especially if you want both 4K and laser lamp technology in one unit. But you definitely see projector brands trying: ‘If we can’t do one, then at least let’s do the other.’
The thing about laser is that, there are genuine undeniable benefits to laser technology.Laser projectors come with a much longer lifespan, as well as the added benefit of not having to regularly recalibrate the projector. A lifespan of 20,000 hours is common for laser projectors. They also mean higher brightness. We’re talking up to 20,000 lumens. Yikes
Do we have your attention? You’re not alone. Customers have started seeing laser technology as good thing to have and manufacturers are not stupid. They’ve picked up on that.
Our guess is that no, laser technology won’t become a mainstream option just yet. But the shift towards it has started and it will continue.
So 4K resolution, more brightness and a laser light source, they are high on our wish lists and our crystal ball says that in the future, they will be trickling down to the home theatre projectors that live in the average Joe’s household, especially when you talking about those three ‘wants’ combined in one single unit. Let’s see if the release of the next generation JVC and Epson projectors can get us on the right track with a some extra 4K resolution heat.