4K TVs (Ultra HD TVs) are the kinda/sorta big thing this year. Every major TV manufacturer has new Ultra HD models either already on the market or coming in the near future. Sony is already selling a 4K video server (for $699), Netflix is prepping a 4K streaming service, REDRAY offers a download service, and there appears to be much more like that on the way. With so much activity in the development of 4K, there’s still one large hole in the marketplace.
Where are all the 4K home theater projectors?
If you walk into a well-supplied audio/video store, you’re very likely to see at least one, if not several, 4K TVs. LG and Sony led the 4K flat-panel TV assault early on by introducing the first products, but Samsung, Sharp, Toshiba and several others have also joined the fray. Unfortunately, those TVs max out at 84/85 inches (measured diagonally). What if you want a really big picture? A projector is the natural choice. That said, if you’re looking for a 4K projector, your selection is seriously limited.
Currently, there are only a few true 4K projectors marketed toward the home theater customer—and all but one cost over $100,000. That lineup includes the $225,000 Meridian 810 Reference Video System, the $160,000 SIM2 CINEMAQUATTRO 4K, ICE Cinema’s $160,000 DP4K-ICE (optimized from a commercial Barco Digital Cinema projector) and Sony’s $25,000 VPL-VW1000ES. Both the Meridian and Sony use LCOS light engines, while the SIM2 and ICE use Texas Instruments’ DLP technology. There some other examples, but like the SIM2 and Meridian, they’re commercial cinema products that have been optimized for home theater, and mostly they’re one-at-time products.
First introduced in 2008, Meridian’s 810 Reference Video System currently sells for $225,000.
There are companies offering 4K resolution flat-panel TVs for around $1,000. Yet to get 4K on a screen over 85 inches, you need to decide between sending your kids to college versus building your home theater dream system. At a time when really stellar 1080p projector performance can be had for about $2,500 (and entry-level HD projectors cost $700), it seems odd that the market isn’t swarming with 4K projectors. So why aren’t there more?
Well, it’s complicated.
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Grant Clauser has been covering home electronics for more than 10 years with editorial roles in several consumer and trade magazines. He's done ISF-level damage to hundreds of reviewed products and has had training from THX, the Home Acoustics Alliance, Control4 and Sencore. He's also the author of the book The Trouble with Rivers
. Follow him on Twitter @geclauser.