The development of digital technology has provoked a rapid development in the consumer electronics segment. Over the past 10 years, innovation unrecognizably transformed many familiar household devices. Today the market offers robotic vacuums with cleaning schedules, efficient navigation and even the Automatic Dirt Disposal option, coffee machines with automatic preparation of a huge number of different coffee drinks, modular Samsung MicroLED TVs with the ability to change screen size, etc.
Of course, projectors occupy a worthy place on this list. Until recently, many considered them only as an element of a home theater. But the development of semiconductor technologies has expanded the capabilities of engineers, allowing them to design mini, pico, pocket projectors with a laser or LED light source.
Today the market already offers smartphones with a built-in laser projector and Rif 6 Cube with unprecedented 0.30 lbs (136 g) and 2 x 2 x 1.9 in (5.1 x 5.1 x 4.8 cm), which can form a projection up to 50 inches.
Of course, the segment of full-size powerful Home Theater 4K HDR projectors also continues to actively develop. Their popularity is quite founded. The cost of TVs with a screen size of 75 inches and above remains very high, reaching several thousand dollars. At the same time, even a mid-budget projector with a price of up to $ 1,000 already provides 4K HDR quality on a screen with a diagonal of 100 inches or higher. Of course, companies sometimes indicate a maximum projection size of about 300 inches. But it’s even scary to think how much a projector should cost, which can provide acceptable image quality for such a screen. A range of 100 to 150 inches is more realistic for modern projectors. But even this size radically exceeds the capabilities of TVs, with the exception of modular Samsung MicroLED panels.
Therefore, in recent years, many consider the projector as an alternative to TV. This factor provides good demand and, accordingly, the rapid development of the projector segment.
As known, the success of semiconductor manufacturers has provoked a new direction in the projector segment. Companies have actively begun to develop projectors with lasers and LEDs as light sources. After a few years, companies offered a huge amount of laser and LEDs projectors. The relatively low price, a huge resource of up to 20,000 hours, silent operation due to the lack of a cooling fan, and compactness ensured them great popularity. Of course, their classification is rather vague. Companies often call these models mini, piko, pocket, or portable projectors. But, of course, this aspect contains a marketing component. With the exception of really miniature models weighing a few lb, most of these projectors are more consistent with the term mini. Probably, many projectors can fit in a large coat pocket, but this is not enough for pocket classification.
As a rule, laser models provide a sufficiently high brightness, high image quality, and are well suited for Home Theater. Unfortunately, they have a fairly high price, which can reach several thousand dollars. LEDs projectors are much cheaper, but their brightness usually varies up to several hundred lumens, and the image quality often does not match the level of the Home Theater.
Epson 3LCD technology
All modern projectors use DLP, 3LCD or LCoS imaging technology. Due to the high price, LCoS projectors have a small market share. Today, only JVC and Sony projectors use LCoS technology. JVC calls it D-ILA (Direct Drive Image Light Amplifier), Sony – SXRD (Silicon X-tal Reflective Display). Unfortunately, Sony VPL models cost from $ 2,000 and up.
DLP projectors are very popular due to their relatively low price and high quality. But they have some cons, including the rainbow effect, etc. Today DLP models from BenQ, Optoma, LG, ViewSonic, etc are competing fiercely in the Home Theater segment. But the leaders, for example, Optoma or ViewSonic, offer the entire range of DLP projectors. In addition, AAXA, Miroir, Asus Anker, etc also offer a huge range of laser and LED DLP mini projectors.
The situation in the segment of 3LCD projectors is significantly different. As known, 3LCD technology was developed by Seiko Epson Corporation. In early 2012, Epson introduced its first 3LCD 3D home theater projectors. Today the market offers NEC, ViewSonic, Sony, etc 3LCD projectors. But Epson confidently dominates this segment.
For example, the very popular Epson 4K HDR 5040 and 5050 series are included in many top lists with the best home theater models of 2019.
In fact, today the main competition is concentrated between Epson 3LCD projectors and DLP models. Traditionally, 3LCDs have a higher price, but provide higher quality. This factor is caused by the objective key features of this technology.
White Light Output (WLO) vs Color Light Output (CLO)
The vast majority of modern devices form color by mixing red, green and blue (RGB). Therefore, each pixel of an LCD monitor uses 3 subpixels. The principle of color formation works as follows:
– the maximum brightness of three points provides white color;
– the minimum brightness forms a black color;
– the maximum brightness of the red and green subpixels gives yellow light, etc.
The luminous flux of the projector is traditionally measured in white. Theoretically, the maximum brightness of the projector should be equal to the sum of the color brightness of red, green, and blue. But really, 3LCD and DLP technologies form the color image in different ways.
3LCD technology forms an image using three liquid crystal matrices. The projector divides the white color of the light source into red, green and blue using special filters. Then, each stream is modulated by a corresponding matrix. After that, the three components are combined again, forming a color image on the screen. Accordingly, this technology provides minimal brightness loss.
But the 1-chip DLP system uses a color wheel, forming only one color component at a time.
At the same time, color filters block two other colors. Accordingly, color mixing and image formation is carried out already on the screen. Of course, the eye does not perceive the separation of colors over time due to the high frequency. But, this technology has high loss of color brightness due to filtering. As a result, 3LCD and DLP models provide different CLO even with the same WLO. The visualization of this difference is clearly seen in side-by-side comparisons.
Of course, the brightness of the projector is one of its main specs. In particular, it directly affects the following factors:
– color accuracy depends on the projector brightness;
– technology for 3D reproducing requires increased brightness to compensate for its losses;
– high brightness expands the possibilities of using economical modes of the light source and reduces the requirements for darkening the room to ensure high image contrast.
As a result, this parameter has acquired important marketing value.
Of course, Epson regularly draws the attention of consumers to this aspect, pointing out in the specs WLO and CLO, which are always the same.
In turn, manufacturers of DLP projectors are trying to solve the problem of brightness loss. But today, the use of more expensive 3-chip DLP technology has proven to be the most effective.
Unfortunately, the price of 3-chip DLP models is commensurate with the cost of 3LCD projectors. Many companies use the addition of a white segment to the color wheel. But magnification of the white component worsens other colors, making them darker and faded.
Of course, increasing the power of the light source also effectively solves this problem. But it is effective only for laser or LED projectors, which practically do not heat up. But powerful lasers increase the model price. An increase in lamp power requires efficient cooling and an increase in internal volume for heat dissipation. Unfortunately, the use of a more powerful fan increases the noise level of the device, and an increase in internal volume increases its dimensions.
Therefore, many DLP manufacturers prefer to specify only WLO without CLO.
Almost every year, Epson offers innovative models. 2020 was no exception. At CES 2020, the company introduced the portable 3LCD Epson EF-100 Smart Streaming Laser Projector with Android TV.
Model has the following main specs:
– price about $ 900;
– 2,000 lumens of white and color brightness;
– 1280 x 800 WXGA native resolution with support up to 1080p (1920 x 1080);
– 3-chip 3LCD design without rainbow effect;
– innovative Epson MicroLaser Array Projection Technology, based on multi-array laser diode technology, increases the brightness while significantly enhancing the black density;
– 9-element lens with seven glass elements;
– internal speaker 5.0 W Mono;
– 3.5mm stereo output;
– Audible Noise 29.0 dB/26.0 dB (eco);
– Throw Ratio of 1.06:1;
– Digital Zoom and Horizontal & Vertical Digital Keystone;
– remote with built-in Google Assistant voice search;
– laser light source with service life of 12,000/20,000 (eco) hours;
– Android TV wireless dongle included;
– size and weight – 3.6 x 8.3 х 9.1 in (9 x 21 x 23 cm) and 6.0 lbs (2.7 kg).
The rectangular shape allows the user to position the projector horizontally for projection onto a wall or vertically for projection onto a ceiling.
The Android dongle supports popular streaming services, including Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, ESPN, etc. It also supports 4K and can be used with any device with a compatible HDMI connection.
The Epson EF-100 has become an excellent compromise between price, dimensions and specs. On the other hand, 3.6 x 8.3 x 9.1 in and 6.0 lbs are quite consistent with its classification as a portable model.
For comparison, dimensions and weight of the very popular in this class BenQ HT3550 and Optoma EH412 reach 5 x 15 x 10 in, 9.3 lbs and 4.3 x 12 x 9.5 in, 7.7 lbs, respectively.
Moreover, a very successful design with right angles allows the user to install the projector in any position, including vertical for projection onto the ceiling. Digital Zoom and Horizontal & Vertical Digital Keystone further simplify this process. Finally, the internal 5.0W speaker completes the list of pros in terms of its mobility.
Specs are also of a high standard. In particular, 2,000 lumens of white and color brightness and 1280 x 800 WXGA native resolution with support up to 1080p (1920 x 1080) are quite suitable for using the model as a Home Theater.
In addition, the innovative Epson MicroLaser Array Projection Technology and the great 9-element lens with seven glass elements provide projection with a diagonal of up to 150 inches and WXGA resolution at Throw Distance 2.3 ft – 11.1 ft. For example, the projector projects a 100-inch diagonal image at a distance of 7.6 ft from the screen.
At the same time, high brightness does not require careful dimming of the room. Unfortunately, the model does not have a Lens Shift.
It can be stated that Epson once again met the expectations of its fans. A very successful combination of good specs, relatively low price, and excellent mobility may well allow the projector to claim a place among BestSellers in 2020. In fact, today it has no competitors as a mobile and relatively inexpensive version of the portable Home Cinema projector. However, the year has just begun and most likely other companies will present no less interesting models.
This video perfectly illustrates WLO vs CLO in 3LCD and DLP models.