4K Projectors are Great, Pixel Shifting 1080p Is An Affordable Alternative

We all know the prices of 4K projectors are still through the roof, but new intermediate solutions using pixel shifting can provide affordable alternatives.

Consider:  Sony commands $50,000-type prices for bright 4K projectors with less than 10,000 lumens, while equivalent 1080p or WUXGA projectors tend to cost closer to $3,000-$10,000. Now that’s a huge difference. You have to really need 4K to justify paying 5 to 10 times the price of 1080p. True, 4K resolution makes for glorious large images, but at what cost? (For now.)

Epson-L2500_vivid-pixel-shifted-4K-image

A vivid, sharp, 4K photo projected (very large) at Infocomm using a WUXGA (2K) laser projector – Epson L2500 – with its pixel shifting engaged. (note the silhouette of the projector in the lower right)

Time to discuss two alternatives I suspect may find some serious market until the cost of true 4K projectors down to a more “practical” level (at least for most applications):  Pixel shifting 1080p/WUXGA projectors (already shipping), and 4 megapixel, pixel shifting projectors (late 2016).

This article focuses on the 4K issue and solutions for projectors, in general.  It is not specifically about 4K for business/education/commercial, nor 4K for home theater. When I’m talking about content, 4K content for the biz/edu/commercial is going to generally be custom content, or traditional content displayed at 4K (for example, that could be a corporate video, or simply viewing spreadsheets and documents from a computer.  On the home side, we’re talking 4K streaming services, 4K Blu-ray UHD discs and soon, some 4K on cable or satellite that isn’t really streamed.

Two “technologies” offer an alternative to 4K with a sharper, more detailed image than standard 1080p/WUXGA (but not up to true 4K) and at a price point closer to standard 1080p.

4 Megapixel Projectors

One of those features was talked about, but barely seen at InfoComm 2016:  That is TI’s new “hybrid” chip. 1080p and WUXGA chips are basically 2 megapixel chips, while true 4K is 8 megapixels.  TI’s new chip, however, is a 4 megapixel chip, so although less than 3,000 pixels across (instead of 3840, the true 4K standard)  the result are pixels that are relatively much smaller than standard WUXGA. Each pixel is only 44% the size of WUXGA. By comparison  WUXGA+ – true 4K – pixels are 25% the size of WUXGA!

Not only does the TI chip “split the difference,” but it also offers pixel shifting (basically shifting and refiring each pixel with different data, diagonally 1/2 pixel away).  Now for best results, it takes some really good processing. We’ve already seen that there can be significant differences in how well pixel shifting works.  On the home theater side, Epson’s pixel shifting 1080p projectors definitely seem sharper/more detailed than JVC’s.  (They also appear “harder” looking, but when you consider the commercial side, the greater perceived detail would seem to be the more important aspect).

So, what we have here are several new DLP projectors coming out with the new TI 4 megapixel chips, and pixel shifting. Could be really impressive!

Pixel shifting  on 1080p and WUXGA Projectors

I’m counting on that, because I’m already pretty dazzled with what Epson has done with their pixel shifting on their new laser and new G-series projectors when dealing with 4K content.  (Remember, without the 4K content, there won’t be dramatic differences between basic 1080p and true 4K, never mind these other options “in the middle.”)

Then there are the dozen+ new Epson projectors, seven of them laser projectors in the L series and the rest are new G series models. These are WUXGA (1920×1200) projectors but with pixel shifting and 4K inputs.

I am pretty amazed at what Epson has accomplished with the pixel shifting on 4K content.  In addition to Epson, JVC incorporates pixel shifting into all their home theater models (JVC was the first).

4K Projectors and Alternatives – Conclusion

The Bottom Line:  2K or 1080p with pixel shifting, even “4 Megapixel” with pixel shifting obviously can’t rival projectors equally well designed, that are true 4K, when fed true 4K content  But with 4K coming both on the home side and commercial demands, these pixel shifting technologies, combined with working with 4K content, offer at the moment, an incredibly affordable alternative to true 4K while delivering superior performance to standard 1080p and WUXGA projectors.  Enough said!

2016 may be The Year of the Laser Projector, but it’s also the year when 4K content finally finds more than a handful of projectors that can appreciate it.  On the commercial side 4K content is being created where it is beneficial, and on the home side, the march to 4K content has just begun, but it will be, of course, unstoppable.

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