4K Projectors: Are They A Real Thing Yet?
New technology is almost always great. Waiting for it to actually be available at a reasonable price? Not so much.
That’s where we stand right now with 4K video projectors. They are indeed a real thing, and they actually provide the immersive cinema experience we were all "promised" when home theater became a reality instead of a buzzword. Unfortunately, the price tag for a true 4K projector is still prohibitive for many consumers. There isn’t a wide selection of these projectors available yet, so a high-quality machine may cost you $10,000 or more. (Although, to be fair, you’d probably spend at least that much for a high-end 85-100 4K HDTV.)
If you can afford it – trust us, it’s worth it. If you can’t, hang in there; prices are bound to come down and the experience of seeing a 4K film projected on a huge screen is definitely worth the wait.
Is It Really 4K?
There’s one issue to be aware of when you’re hit with the urge to buy a 4K projector: a number of machines on the market are really just 2K projectors which will accept and upscale 4K content. Some use "pixel shifting" to make the picture look higher-quality than 2K, and others have "above 2K" DLP chips. They may literally meet 4K standards because they have the correct number of pixels, but half of them are duplicates rather than different, individual pixels. Each alternative provides a picture that’s higher-quality than a standard high-def projector, but doesn’t come close to true, native 4K definition.
While we’re on the subject of issues to be aware of, you should know that there isn’t anywhere near as much content for 4K projectors as there is for high-def displays. Don’t let that stop you; 4K projectors will display regular high-def content without a problem, and more content is being made available rapidly. In just the last couple of years, the number of native 4K Blu-ray titles has grown exponentially, and streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and Vudu all offer lots of 4K content including some of the biggest TV titles.
What To Buy?
Right now, the only real choices for high-quality true 4K projectors are the ones made by Sony, which was first to jump on the bandwagon. The Sony lineup starts with the lower-level VPLVW350ES, which for about $8,000 can provide a very satisfying 4K picture but isn’t quite as good at upscaling standard high-def material. The "basic" Sony VPL-VW365ES sells for around $10,000 and provides an eye-opening visual experience in a home theater, although it suffers a bit in terms of connectivity options and the quality of its blacks. Step up another $5,000 in price and you can get the Sony VPL-VW665ES, which truly provides movie theater quality (and uses most of the same technologies used in cinema projectors); if you’re ready to shell out almost $30,000, the Sony VPL-VW1100ES is even better – the website Projector Reviews says that if you want a better projector than the 1100ES, you should purchase an IMAX theater.
If you’re not ready to spend $8,000 you may want to check out a machine like the JVC DLA-X500, which is one of those "not really 4K" projectors we mentioned earlier. It uses what it calls "e-Shift 4K" to create extra pixels to satisfy the definition of 4K, and produces a picture that’s definitely a lot better than one you’d get from a regular high-definition projector. If we had to decide, though, we’d probably wait for prices to come down on real 4K projectors instead of settling for the JVC or a similar model.