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New Ultra HD video projectors: True 4K quality?

SWep8You’ve probably noticed that TV manufacturers have updated their catalog to offer a majority of 4K UHD compatible screens in response to the increasing popularity of 4K Ultra HD resolution. The transition has been a bit slower for 4K video projectors because of infinitely more complex technical constraints.

Since the launch of 4K resolution, Sony has been the only manufacturer to offer 4K UHD video projectors designed for mainstream audiences. A real pity considering that among all the different types of displays, projection screens are the most likely to ensure true 4K UHD quality.

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Sony: at the cutting edge of 4K video projection

If Sony has become a pioneer of 4K video projector technology, it is because the manufacturer builds its own SXRD 4K LCD microdisplay and has massively invested in this technology to equip multiplex theaters for years. While JVC also offers video projectors bearing the “4K certified” label, the LCD matrices used are actually 1080p models.

Sony-VPL-VW260ES-Blanc_P_600

The Sony VPL-VW260ES video projector is 4K compatible.

Fake 4K resolution?

Using a 1080p LCD matrix and displaying a 4K image are not mutually exclusive. JVC understands this and has responded by developing shifting technology. In practice, the 1080p matrix oscillates at high speed and displays two distinct 2-million-pixel pictures within an extremely short time interval. Because of retinal persistence, these images are perceived by our brain as one 4-million-pixel picture (2+2). JVC and Dreamvision video projectors do not offer true 4K resolution (~8 Mpixels), but rather 2.7K (~4 Mpixels) -twice as many pixels as a standard 1080p video projector.

Le vidéoprojecteur JVC DLA-X5900 compatible 4K.

The JVC DLA-X5900 video projector is 4K compatible.

For their part, BenQ, Optoma, Acer and Vivitek have equipped their video projectors with  Texas Instruments DLP chips, which are not 4K compatible. Depending on the model, the native resolution could be 2K or 2.7K. By applying pixel shift technology, which is imperceptible to the naked eye, 4K pictures can be obtained with two to four shifts.

BenQ W1700

The BenQ W1700 video projector is 4K compatible.

Full HD video projector

This option still has its merits, and some manufacturers -such as Epson- exclusively offer 1080p video projectors. Since the technology is tried-and-true, these projectors ensure excellent image restitution. Some models, such as the Epson EH-TW9300W, are even HDR compatible. Moreover, certain projectors are fitted with a laser system in lieu of the traditional halogen lamp, thus offering superior brightness.

4K content

When the first 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray discs were released, we pointed out that most of the content was not in true 4K resolution and only offered limited improvements. Since the early 2000s, the post-production stage of most movies is carried out in 2K resolution (2048 x 1080 pixels). The Academy Award winning movie The Shape of Water was also mastered in 2K resolution for theaters. The same goes for all Marvel and DC Comics movies. A list of UHD Blu-rays made from 4K masters is available on the US website blu-ray.com. This is the case for Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi, for example. As a rule of thumb, all movies originally captured on film and released on 4K UHD Blu-ray discs are digitized in true 4K resolution.

Another way to get a taste of 4K resolution is via Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. Netflix movies and series (such as Dark and Altered Carbon) are now systematically filmed, mastered, and streamed in 4K Ultra HD and HDR resolution.

This post is also available in: French

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