ViewSonic Pro 9000 laser hybrid LED projector review
Can a brand new light engine tech make projectors cool again?
Following the extinction of gloriously bulky CRT video projectors, big screen aficionados have had a clear choice between LCD and DLP. Both technologies are capable of great results, yet have distinct weaknesses: single chip DLP projectors often suffer from rainbow fringing, created by the use of a spinning colour wheel, while LCD models struggle to distinguish tomatoes from oranges.
ViewSonic Pro 9000 laser hybrid LED projector
But now there’s a third option, Laser Hybrid LED. Viewsonic’s Pro9000 is the first such out of the gate, although a number of brands will also be introducing the technology. It’s a good looking 1080p model aimed at the mainstream home cinema market.
Just to put things in perspective, the Epson EH-TW6000 is a fairly typical LCD-based home cinema projector, priced at around £1300. It has a typical quoted lamp life of around 4,000 hours but will gradually lose colour intensity and brightness as the bulb begins to fade. Brightness is quoted at 2,200 ANSI lumens and contrast at 40,000:1.
A replacement bulb will set you back around £200. The average power consumption of the Epson is 356W. The Viewsonic, by comparison, is rated at 186W in its brightest configuration. Hence, using a solid state glow stick means no replacement lamps will be required (a significant hidden extra) and way more efficient power consumption. Indeed, ViewSonic quotes a life span of 20,000 hours for the LED light source, as well as a 100,000:1 dynamic contrast.
AV interfacing well catered for, but no USB for storage playback
LED laser illumination aside, the projector appears much like any other 1080p hopeful. It sports two HDMIs, PC VGA, composite and S-Video analogue inputs, plus 3.5mm minijack audio in/out. The projector is supplied with a backlit remote control and ships with a cute carry bag. There’s also a built-in 2W mono speaker offering rudimentary audio support. Power it all up though and things get interesting.
For starters, the projector offers Instant On. The image is at full intensity immediately, there’s no prolonged warm up period. Secondly, it runs cool, even after hours of use. This is great news if you’re the type that likes to plop a projector on a coffee table to watch the Big Match or enjoy marathon gaming sessions; even if you sit slap-bang behind it there’s no chance of melting your Maltesers.
Looks cool, feel it too
Despite the lack of heat generation, it’s still a tad noisy though at 28dB. Engaging Eco makes no discernable difference to fan noise in most modes, however it does shave a significant amount of light off the screen which reduces energy usage, from 186W to 118W. You’ll need to enter Eco while in Theatre mode to really drop the volume to a more socially acceptable 22dB.
Next page: Dark side of the room
El Reg were asking about review feedback recently... well can I suggest the price should be very prominantly displayed? Either in the vital stats section or ideally, under the title. Seeing of something is a £200 or £2000 pricepoint could influence not only how I read the review, but whether I bother to read it at all!
First out the gate?
Not as far as I know. Casio has been selling Hybrid LED/Laser projectors for a good 3 years now. Samsung has some 'pocket' ones which give a very low lumens value also. Casio are in fact doing multiple lines of these devices, including short throw models.
Also, you say this is a third way from LCD and DLP, but it is in fact itself a DLP projector, as are the Casios.
Other hidden costs
I like the *idea* of LED or LASER projector "lamps" but I remain to be convinced.
What no-one ever seems to mention about LCD projectors is that the LCD panels themselves also have a finite lifespan. I work in a museum where we have quite a lot of projectors running the "exhibition" and the original-fit LCD projectors had panels with a 4,500 hour rated life, though I've seen documentation that suggests they were sold to the museum as having a 28,000 hour MTBF. I realise that our 7.5 hour a day use isn't typical of a home, but unless you have a normal TV too and only use the projector to watch two or three movies a week, 4,500 hours will creep up on you quite quickly (4 years at 3 hours a day). Looked at another way, if you have to be replacing the LCD panels every second lamp change (lamps are usually between 2,000 and 3,000 hours) then the cost of the lamps becomes a very minor issue. I wonder whether being illuminated by LED or LASER would increase this lifespan?
In practice it's not just the panels but also the colour filters - you will start to notice lower contrast, even with a new lamp, and maybe colour blotching (LCD failure - the blotches are often blue) or a colour cast (filter failure - yellow). We were quoted 5,000 EUR for a replacement "optical block" (3 LCDs, 3 filters and the prism). This was ridiculous when you consider that the projectors were also beginning to fail in other ways (e.g. PSUs not booting back up after a power down - 1,000 EUR or £3 of capacitors to DIY) . Instead we switched mainly to twin-lamp single-chip DLP projectors, the oldest of which are now around 11,000 hours and are (almost) as good as new (really must get around to that 10,000 hour service!). These particular models have lamps that last twice as long as the lamps in the old LCDs and cost significantly less. Twin lamps are a boon for us giving both security (if one fails, the projector continues to run albeit at reduced brightness) and flexibility (one of the projector models has effectively four output modes - both lamps or a single lamp, high power or low power - allowing us to choose brighness and lamp change interval).
DLP does have its problems, with fringing probably being the most annoying, but if that's an issue then all you need to do is to look at three-chip DLP or possibly (there are still issues, but they're not quite as bad) one of the DLP models with colour wheels with extra colours or which run faster.
A technology no-one has mentioned yet is LCoS. My warning here is that our five LCoS projectors have not lived up to the hype. When new, the picture was excellent but despite being a sort of hybrid of DLP and LCD with the intention of taking the best from both, the panels fade in exactly the same way as LCD, and at about the same age. On top of that the models we have seem to have "open" light paths and dust gets onto the panels quite easily.
As for the subject of the article I have to agree with others here. Half the price and twice the brightness might make it a good choice, but 1,600 lumen isn't really suitable for any room where you have any amount of stray light, unless the image is small enough that you'd be better off spending money on a nice LCD or plasma telly. At the museum, our lowest output projectors are nominally 2,000 lumen (twin lamp units in single lamp modes) which works, but it works mainly because the projected image is no more than 36" horizontally.
Finally, and I realise again that our use in a museum isn't terribly comparable to home use, it's worth considering networking. All our projectors have network sockets. Most will email a preset address when there's a problem (for example, they will email when the lamps have run for more than a certain number of hours) and all can be started and stopped by network messages (PJLINK). This is a prerequisite for us (who wants to go around manually starting 30-odd projectors?) but could also be useful in a "connected home".
when its half the size half the price and twice the brightness
call me back
Re: First out the gate?
I was going to say. These projectors are pretty infamous, since you can tear out the lasers and use them as illegally powerful laser pens!