It’s Home Theater Season

DD-2011-08-17-0811The CEDIA Expo is coming up in a few weeks – and already home theater projectors aimed at this custom install crowd are starting to be released. Last year was an important year as it marked the introduction of the first 1080p 3D home theater projectors. This year, we should see the introduction of 480Hz 3LCD projectors, as well as 3D projectors based upon Epson’s new reflective LCD panel technology. In addition, I am sure we will see improvements in the DLP and LCoS-based 1080p 3D projectors introduced last year.

Already in the public domain is the newly released PT-AE7000U projector from Panasonic. This projector breaks new ground in the use of a new 480Hz transparent 3LCD panel with FHD resolution. This is fast enough to offer 3D capabilities. It is also Panasonic’s first FHD home theater projector.

The optical system of the PT-AE7000U features a new 200-watt Red-Rich Lamp. The new LCD panels also offer a higher aperture ratio for increased red luminance and brightness output. The result is a 1080p projector with 2000 lumens of luminance and a 300,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio.

The projector is also equipped with a dual-core processing engine so that the projector can process 3D signals with all of the benefits of 2D image enhancements. It is a shutter-glass-based solution that also includes 2D-to-3D conversion. The three HDMI inputs support x.v.Color and Deep Color, and there is lens shift capability for 100 percent vertical adjustment and 26 percent horizontal adjustment. This should be a pretty sweet home theater projector when it ships in September with an MSRP of $3,499.

Until just recently, an under-$5K 3D 1080p home theater projector was not available. At InfoComm, Sony started the move to offer sub-$5K FHD projectors with the introduction of the VPL-HW30ES. This mid-range home-theater projector is priced at $3,700 and began shipping in July 2011. The active shutter 3D glasses (TDG-PJ1) and 3D transmitter (TMR-PJ1) are also available at $130 and $80, respectively.

The VPL-HW30ES incorporates Sony’s latest 240Hz SXRD (LCOS) 1080p panel technology and 3D output using shutter glasses. By moving to a dual lamp design, Sony nearly tripled the previous model’s output to 1300 lumens. Contrast is rated at 70K:1.

We also heard that Sharp will launch the XV-Z17000 in September. This is a DLP-based 1080p 3D home theater projector that offers 30K:1 dynamic contrast and 1600 lumens. Pricing is expected to be about $5,200.

Yesterday, Optoma disclosed its first 1080p 3D projectors aimed at the custom install market. The HD8300 offers 1,500 lumens, the latest generation of frame-interpolation processing, PureMotion4D (customized processing levels for the elimination of motion blur), lens shift, a 1.5X zoom and ISF calibration.

The projector is designed to work with RF-synchronized shutter glasses and the two HDMI 1.4a ports can support top/bottom and side-by-side broadcast 3D formats. Dynamic contrast is rated at 30K:1 (ANSI contrast is 700:1). The HD3300 is Optoma’s top-of-the-line home theater projector that will be offered at $4,499.

But perhaps the more interesting product they have released is the HD3300. This is a cross-over platform that will be offered for $1,999. It still features FHD 3D capability, but with reduced video performance and more brightness (2,000 lumens). Dynamic contrast is 5000:1 and ANSI contrast is 500:1. This level of performance is probably going to be very acceptable for a lot of users.

I’m sure we will hear more as CEDIA gets closer – especially news on projectors based on reflective FHD 3D panels from Epson. Stay tuned.

Chris Chinnock is a senior analyst and editor for Insight Media. Reach him at chris@insightmedia.info