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Samsung The Freestyle 2nd Gen review: the best portable projector gets even better
2:00 pm | February 25, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Home Theater Projectors Televisions | Tags: , | Comments: Off

Samsung The Freestyle 2nd Gen: one-minute review

Samsung’s first The Freestyle projector created quite the buzz with its compact, cylindrical form and superior streaming capabilities compared to other portable projectors. Notably, it featured the same Tizen smart TV interface found in the company’s TVs, which let viewers easily stream from a wide range of apps while also allowing for voice control via Samsung’s Bixby or Amazon Alexa voice assistants. Beyond that, the original The Freestyle could beam images as large as 100 inches, and it provided auto focus and keystone adjustments to quickly align pictures on any surface you pointed it at. We liked it so much when we tested it, that it rocketed to the top of our list of the best portable projectors.

The Freestyle 2nd Gen doesn’t stray too far from the original, but does get a key update with Samsung’s Gaming Hub, a section of the smart interface that houses a range of cloud-based gaming services such as Xbox, Nvidia GeForce Now, Utomik, and more. This new feature lets you pair the projector with wireless gaming controllers and play premium games without having to connect a physical console – something the Freestyle 2nd Gen’s single micro-HDMI connection doesn’t make easy anyway.

Samsung offers a range of accessories to pair with its portable, including a rechargeable battery base that will give you around 3 hours of playback time and an adaptor to plug it into a standard ceiling light socket for power. While most users won’t need to have images beamed down from the ceiling onto a table or floor, having that capability is just one of the things that makes the Freestyle 2nd Gen a more flexible and fun option than typical projectors.

The Freestyle 2nd Gen’s LED light source provides only limited brightness, which means you’ll get the best picture when viewing in a dim room, or at nighttime if viewing outdoors. Even in those conditions, the projector’s picture lacks the detail and punchy contrast you can expect from the best 4K projectors, making it more of a convenient means to project a big image than a high-quality one. But the Freestyle Gen 2’s compact design and excellent feature set still make it a great portable projector, one that will easily fit in your backpack.

Samsung The Freestyle 2nd Gen Review: price and release date

  • Release date: August 2023
  • MSRP: $799 / £649

Samsung’s The Freestyle 2nd Gen sells for $799 /  £649. At this writing it is not currently available in Australia, and availability appear to be limited in the UK. The $799 list price is somewhat high compared to other 1080p HD-res compact portable projectors, though it does offer some unique features not found in the competition such as Samsung’s Gaming Hub. 

The Freestyle 2nd Gen gets regular discounts during holiday sales events, where it sells for around $599. That price makes Samsung’s portable projector a much better value than at its $799 list price, so sales are worth seeking out and waiting for.

Samsung The Freestyle 2nd Gen Gaming Hub interface

The new Samsung Gaming Hub interface (Image credit: Future)

Samsung The Freestyle 2nd Gen Review: Specs

Samsung The Freestyle 2nd Gen on table with battery base

Samsung's optional battery base accessory provides around 3 hours of power before needing a recharge (Image credit: Future)

Samsung The Freestyle 2nd Gen Review: design and features

  • Compact and lightweight design
  • Tizen smart TV interface for streaming
  • Samsung Gaming hub for cloud-based gaming

The Freestyle 2nd Gen sports the same white cylinder form factor as its predecessor. At just 1.8 pounds, it’s easy to tote around the house and is compact enough to easily stash in a backpack. An included cradle stand rotates 180 degrees and can be tilted 90 degrees, giving you plenty of flexibility as to where you beam images, ceilings included. 

Samsung includes a SolarCell remote control that doesn’t require batteries (as the name suggests, it draws energy from available light sources, as well as from your home’s wireless network) and the projector can also be controlled via Samsung’s Bixby or Amazon Alexa voice commands. Such commands can be executed by pressing and holding the Mic button on the remote, but the projector also has built-in far-field mics for hands-free voice control.

The single-chip DLP projector uses an LED light source that Samsung specs for 30,000 hours of use. Auto focus and keystone adjustments let you position the projector even at extreme angles from the wall or other surface you’re projecting on and The Freestyle 2nd Gen’s image will automatically align itself to a 16:9 aspect ratio. Those adjustments can also be carried out manually (and in many cases you'll want to tweak the keystone and focus settings), and there’s the option to shrink the image to a smaller size without physically moving the projector.

Samsung offers a range of accessories to use with The Freestyle 2nd Gen. A socket adaptor lets you plug the projector into a light socket, and is mainly intended for projecting from the ceiling onto a floor or table. There’s also a battery base, which provides several hours of charge and lets you use the projector indoors or out without having to connect to power. A carrying case is another accessory and one that will protect The Freestyle 2nd Gen if you’re bringing it outdoors or to another location.

The Freestyle 2nd Gen is all about streaming and features the same Tizen smart interface found in the company’s TVs. This provides pretty much any streaming app you could want and also has Samsung’s Gaming Hub onboard for cloud-based gaming from services such as Xbox, Nvidia GeForce Now, Utomik, and others. The projector uses the somewhat dated Wi-Fi 5 standard for streaming, although I didn’t have any issues during my time with it.

As a streaming-centric projector, connections on The Freestyle 2nd Gen are limited to micro-HDMI. No HDMI-to-micro-HDMI cables or adaptors are included, so, like me, you’ll probably need to order one online to be able to plug in an external gaming console, Blu-ray player, or other HDMI source. The micro-HDMI connection supports HDMI-ARC, which allows you to connect it to a soundbar or other audio system. Another option is Bluetooth, with dual Bluetooth supported for both wireless input and output connections, and there’s also wireless app casting from iPhones and Android phones.

Samsung calls The Freestyle 2nd Gen’s built-in 5-watt audio system “360 Degree” sound, and during my use, it did provide surprisingly spacious sound, although with unsurprisingly limited bass. The projector can also do double-duty as a wireless speaker for streaming music via AirPlay or Bluetooth, boosting its already impressive features list.

  • Design and features score: 4.5/5

Samsung The Freestyle 2nd Gen beaming picture at screen

With The Freestyle 2nd Gen, you'll get the best picture quality results when viewing  in a dark room (Image credit: Future)

Samsung The Freestyle 2nd Gen review: picture quality

  • Limited brightness
  • Relatively accurate Movie picture mode
  • Plentiful picture adjustments

Lower-cost LED-based portable projectors typically don’t put out a very bright image, and having seen The Freestyle 2nd Gen in action before starting this review, I knew I would have to temper my expectations. With the picture blown up to maximum size on a 100-inch screen, it was noticeably dim, even when viewed in a completely dark room. Using an ambient light rejecting screen with 0.8 gain, I measured a mere 7.3 nits in Dynamic mode on a 10 percent white window test pattern, and 6.6 nits in Movie mode. By way of comparison, a standard home theater projector such as the BenQ v5000i ultra short throw model I recently tested can deliver 125 nits under the same circumstances.

Image brightness got a boost when I positioned the projector for a smaller picture (there is no zoom lens, though images can be digitally scaled to a smaller size), though it still seemed relatively dim. Picture contrast was decent, with blacks in images showing a good degree of depth, though shadows lacked detail, appearing as more of a dark gray mass.

Colors were most accurate in the Movie picture mode. With that selected, I measured color Delta-E (the margin of error between the test pattern source and what’s shown on-screen) at 5, and the grayscale Delta-E at 14.1. They were notably less so in the Standard and Dynamic modes, but even so, I preferred Standard because it provided a slight brightness advantage over Movie. Watching Asteroid City streamed on Amazon Prime, the film’s hyped-up color scheme came through with all its garishness intact, though there was also a softness to the picture, which was being downscaled to the projector’s native 1080p format.

The projector supports HDR10+, HDR10, and HLG high dynamic range, but I didn’t see much of a picture quality difference when viewing in HDR from standard HD format – something the above peak brightness measurements, which were taken with the projector displaying in HDR backs up. As for other measurements, Samsung’s projector managed 88.5% P3 color space and 68.9% BT.2020 color space coverage, and input lag was 62ms with Game mode active. That last number is a relatively high one compared to what you’ll see from the best gaming TVs, as well as certain projectors such as the BenQ v5000i, though I didn’t have any issues when playing Xbox games in Samsung Gaming Hub.

  • Picture quality score: 3.5/5

Samsung The Freestyle 2nd Gen inputs section

Side-panel connections include one HDMI with eARC and a USB-C port for power (Image credit: Future)

Samsung The Freestyle 2nd Gen Review: value

  • Pricier than portable competition
  • Frequently gets discounts
  • Enhanced value for gamers

At its $799 / £649 list price, the Freestyle 2nd Gen sits in an awkward spot value-wise. It costs twice as much as other portable 1080p LED projectors with similar brightness specs such as the Anker Nebula Solar Portable. And spending around $1,000 more will get you a 4K model with a significantly brighter laser light engine such as the Anker Nebula Cosmos Laser 4K.

If you find the Freestyle 2nd Gen selling at a discounted price, while still not cheap, it’s value gets a boost. The main advantages Samsung’s projector holds over similar models are its highly flexible setup options, easy portability, and superior smart interface for streaming and gaming. If limited brightness won’t be a big factor in your buying decision, there’s plenty to recommend the Freestyle 2nd Gen.

  • Value score: 3.5/5

Samsung The Freestyle 2nd Gen remote control held in hand

The projector's remote features a built-in mic for voice commands (Image credit: Future)

Should I buy the Samsung The Freestyle 2nd Gen?

Samsung The Freestyle 2nd Gen close up of lens and controls

(Image credit: Future)

Buy it if...

Don’t buy it if… 

Also consider...

Anker Nebula Cosmos Laser 4K
This powerful portable has a laser-based light engine with a whopping 2,400 lumens brightness, though it costs more than twice what you’ll pay for the Samsung. It also has a stunning design, though there’s no built-in battery for easy outdoor use.

Read our full Anker Nebula Cosmos Laser 4K review

Samsung The Freestyle 2nd Gen smart interface

(Image credit: Future)

How I tested the Samsung The Freestyle 2nd Gen

  • I spent about 5 hours in total measuring and evaluating
  • Measurements were made using Calman color calibration software
  • Used with an Elite Screens Kestrel Tab-Tension 2 CLR 3 projection screen

When I test a projector, my first step is to spend a few days using it for casual viewing for break-in and to assess the out-of-box picture presets. The next step is to select the most accurate-looking preset (typically labeled Filmmaker, Movie or Cinema) and measure the white balance (grayscale), gamma, and color point accuracy using Portrait Displays’ Calman color calibration software. The resulting measurements provide Delta-E values (the margin of error between the test pattern source and what’s shown on-screen) for each category, and they allow for an assessment of the TV’s overall accuracy.

Along with those tests, I make measurements of peak light output (recorded in nits) for both standard high-definition and 4K high dynamic range using a 10% white window pattern. Coverage of DCI-P3 and BT.2020 color space is also measured, with the results providing a sense of how faithfully the projector can render the extended color range in ultra high-definition sources.

Unlike many portable projectors, the Samsung The Freestyle 2nd Gen provides a full range of adjustments to calibrate its picture. And while most users aren’t likely to bother using these, it’s nice to know they exist. Knowing that Samsung’s portable will almost exclusively be used for casual viewing, I bypassed a calibration and relied on both streaming reference 4K Blu-ray discs to test its performance in the Movie, Standard, and Dynamic preset picture modes

My projector testing experience spans almost three decades, going back to the early three-gun CRT models.

First reviewed: February, 2024

Epson EpiqVision Ultra LS650: big brightness from a compact projector
10:00 pm | February 1, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Home Theater Projectors Televisions | Tags: , | Comments: Off

Epson EpiqVision Ultra LS650: one-minute review

The Epson EpiqVision Ultra LS650 is a recent mid-range entrant on the ultra short throw projector scene, and it strikes a reasonable balance of performance and features. Its key strength is the brightness delivered by its laser light source combined with Epson’s 3LCD technology. Even when viewing in a bright room, the Epson LS650 is able to provide clear visuals for all sorts of content, making it a more viable option than many other examples of the best ultra short throw projectors for those who don’t have an easy way to dim their viewing space. The potent built-in speaker system is also a good match for the large image the projector can produce. 

There’s a regrettable lack of HDMI ports, with just two, and that limitation is further compounded by an unreliable – verging on faulty – Android TV system for streaming that will more or less require you to use an external video source for most viewing. But for simple home theaters, the Epson EpiqVision Ultra LS650 is mostly up to the task, and the brightness it provides for the price will make it a reasonable choice for many people.

Epson EpiqVision Ultra LS650 review: price and release date

  • Release date: November 2023
  • MSRP: $2,799 (around £2,195 / AU$4,165)

The Epson EpiqVision Ultra LS650 is available now for $2,799 (around £2,195 / AU$4,165), though Its price had previously seen discounts to as low as $2,499 during the 2023 holiday selling season. 

Epson LS650 Android TV interface on screen

Navigating streaming apps using the Epson LS650's Android TV system is painfully slow, making an external streaming stick a must-have option (Image credit: Future)

Epson EpiqVision Ultra LS650 review: Specs

Epson LS650 cllose up showing built-in speakers

The Epson LS650 has powerful built-in speakers for a compact projector (Image credit: Future)

Epson EpiqVision Ultra LS650 review: design and features

  • Sluggish, almost useless Android TV system
  • Good speakers in a convenient, if bland, design
  • Just two HDMI ports can be limiting

The Epson EpiqVision Ultra LS650 is the smaller sibling to the Epson LS800 I tested last year, and in many ways it behaves as such. It’s smaller and lighter, and boasts lower brightness. Fortunately it’s still very bright, and it has powerful speakers that can easily pass muster in a 200-square-foot room. The design is a bit less elegant than the LS800’s, though, with the LS650 looking more like a piece of utilitarian technology. Both black and white color options are available.

Despite its reduced width compared to its big brother, the Epson LS650 has a deep design that may require extra space on a media stand. Even then, with the projector’s 0.26:1 throw ratio, the LS650 may need to sit around a foot out from your wall or screen to deliver the large image it’s best suited to. Wherever you set it, getting it into focus is quick and easy with a dial along the right side of the chassis. There’s a cover for that dial, too, so once it’s in position you can keep it protected from accidental adjustments.

The rear of the projector has only two HDMI 2.0 ports, with one also serving up eARC for connections to an audio system. If you plan to use eARC, it leaves you with just one free port, and that may mean a lot of juggling of connections if you have game consoles, streaming sticks, or any other media sources. Optical digital is an alternative for audio output, but it doesn’t serve up all the audio quality advantages of HDMI eARC. 

While the Epson LS650 uses Android TV for streaming and navigating system menus, it should only be relied on for the latter. There’s generally a delay after startup before the system is responsive, and navigating streaming apps is painfully slow. From there, I found that it invariably runs into an issue where the video begins to sputter terribly and occasionally freeze entirely. The issue was basically non-stop until playback stops, and there’s no quick out as the system’s responsiveness takes a dive in this scenario. Plan on pairing this projector with a separate streaming stick.

  • Design and features score: 3/5

Epson LS650 showing Avatar 2 on screen

The Epson LS650 puts out a bright image with good contrast, though its colors lack some vibrancy (Image credit: Future)

Epson EpiqVision Ultra LS650 review: picture quality

  • Brightness is a match for well-lit rooms
  • Color could use improvement

Like the LS800, the Epson LS650 is exceptionally bright. It may not be as bright as the higher-tier model, but it’s much brighter than a lot of its ultra short throw projector competition. This gives it a considerable leg up when it comes to viewing in rooms with overhead lights or with daylight spilling in through the windows. Darker content doesn’t hold up as well to the daylight, but bright cartoons and sitcoms display wonderfully even in a bright room thanks to the Epson LS650’s powerful laser light source.

The Expanse is a show that basks in the darkness. There are a great many scenes that not only take place in the black of space but the show also has a moody aesthetic that casts a lot of images in darker tones. Thanks to the Epson LS650’s high brightness, even those dark scenes benefitted from high contrast that made them easy to watch without needing to completely black out my room.

The Epson LS650’s brightness does come with a cost, though. It may beat many of the triple-laser competitors it goes up against in terms of light output, but its color is not as rich as on some triple-laser DLP systems like the Hisense PX2-Pro. Plenty of content doesn’t feel left behind, such as sitcoms and non-HDR shows and movies, but when it comes to 4K content with HDR that takes advantage of wider color gamuts, the LS650 simply doesn’t reach as far to render vibrant colors. A prime example was Avatar: The Way of Water’s Na’vi, which came through with just a little less poignancy than on the Hisense PX2-Pro.

Another cost to the brightness is fan noise. The Epson LS650 is plenty bright even without maxing out, but when pushing the brightness above about 80%, the projector kicks its fans into high gear, with an accompanying whiney sound. Short of watching shows with consistent, booming music, you’re going to hear the fans running with the projector at max brightness.

Ultimately, the Epson LS650 delivers a good visual presentation, but it falls short of being excellent. A number of controls are provided to adjust the image, though the settings aren’t quite as convenient as many others, especially with only a small handful of presets. For instance, there’s no specific Game picture mode, so it can take a bit of time and guesswork to adjust settings such that input latency is minimized. There’s also no Filmmaker Mode – a disappointing omission for movie buffs – though the Cinema preset is mainly free of processing that would add artificial-looking enhancement to the image. 

  • Picture quality score: 4/5

Epson LS650 rear panel ports

With just two HDMI 2.0 inputs, one with eARC, the Epson L650 comes up short on ports (Image credit: Future)

Epson EpiqVision Ultra LS650 review: value

  • Price is good for projector this bright
  • Squares up reasonably against competition

For its $2,799 price, the Epson EpiqVision Ultra LS650 is offering a good value. Thanks to its high brightness and respectable picture quality, it manages to serve as an alternative to bigger-screen 80- to 100-inch TVs, many of which command a price premium above the LS650. The limited HDMI ports and bad Android TV implementation hurt the LS650’s value a bit here by making the system less flexible and convenient, but it’s still a strong option.

  • Value score: 3.5/5

Epson LS650 remote control

The Epson LS650's remote control (Image credit: Future)

Should I buy the Epson EpiqVision Ultra LS650?

Epson L650 top surface showing laser light engine

(Image credit: Future)

Buy it if...

Don’t buy it if… 

Also consider...

Epson LS800
The Epson LS800 uses a 3LCD laser light source to beam a stunningly bright 4,000 lumens image and it also has good built-in sound. It costs more than the Epson LS650, but it provides three HDMI ports to the LS650's two and its image is even brighter than what you get with the smaller Epson.

Here's our full Epson LS800 review

Epson LS650 focus dial

The LS650's handy focus dial (Image credit: Future)

How I tested the Epson EpiqVision Ultra LS650

  • Tested at home in multiple, real-world viewing conditions
  • Presented the display with a variety of media and formats
  • I have tested numerous projectors and displays over the last half-decade

I tested the Epson EpiqVision Ultra LS650 at home, in real-world conditions. This saw it faced with ambient light coming in from numerous windows, in-room lighting, as well as ambient noise that the projector’s speaker system had to overcome. The projector was tested both on a bare, white wall and with an Akia Screens CineWhite screen. It was presented with streamed content, HDR and non-HDR, and console gameplay. 

My testing evaluates the projector’s performance with respect to its price and competition from other models I and colleagues at TechRadar have tested.

I have been testing projectors since 2021 and displays for even longer. 

First reviewed: January 2024

BenQ v5000i: a great ultra short throw projector for movies and gaming
2:00 pm | January 28, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Home Theater Projectors Televisions | Tags: | Comments: Off

BenQ v5000i: two-minute review

BenQ is well known among projector enthusiasts for its short throw gaming and long throw home theater models. One category it’s been slower to embrace is ultra short throw projection, with only one model, the single-laser v7050i, appearing in 2022, where I got some hands on time with it when I tested 14 projectors in a single day.

The v7050i has since been joined by the v5000i, the subject of this review. Like many of the best ultra short throw projectors, the new v5000i uses an RGB triple-laser light engine, which lets it achieve near-full coverage of both P3 and BT.2020 color space. In classic BenQ fashion, it’s also gaming-friendly, with impressively low input lag for a projector, along with Auto Low Latency Mode and 4K 120Hz input support on its HDMI 2.1 input.

BenQ’s design for the v5000i is understated yet sleek, with a black and gray case that’s a good match for home theater setups. With a specified 2,500 lumens output, it’s not the brightest UST on the block, though it matches many other models in its price range when it comes to peak brightness. Streaming is carried out using an included Android TV dongle, one that provides a wider than usual array of apps for the Android TV platform, including Netflix.

There’s also a wider than usual array of picture adjustments on tap here, including an 11-step advanced color temperature tuning menu. That turned out to be a good, and necessary, thing since the v5000i’s out-of-box picture required a fair amount of adjustment to look good, even when the normally accurate Filmmaker Mode was selected. HDR support includes HDR10+ and HLG, but not Dolby Vision as found on some other UST projectors from Hisense and others.

Compared to other UST models, BenQ’s asking price is relatively high, especially considering that it doesn’t ship with an included ambient light-rejecting screen. But once set up and adjusted, I found the v5000i to be a pleasure to use for both movie-watching and gaming, and its built-in speakers were also reasonably powerful. So depending on how you use the v5000i – and in what type of viewing environment you set it up in – its relative value could increase.

BenQ v5000i review: price and release date

  • Release date: June 2023
  • MSRP: $3,499

The BenQ v5000i sells for $3,499 (about £2,780, AU$5,320) for the projector itself without a screen. That price is higher than other well-regarded standalone DLP ultra short throw models such as the Hisense PX-2 Pro, but on par with the Epson EpiQVision Ultra LS800, a 3LCD model with a much higher brightness spec than the v5000i.

BenQ v5000i projector on stand with screen in background

The v5000i manages a passably bright picture for daytime viewing, though it's greatly improved with lights dimmed (Image credit: Future)

BenQ v5000i review: Specs

BenQ v5000i projector close up on stand

A dark gray mesh conceals the projector's 40-watt built-in speakers (Image credit: Future)

BenQ v5000i review: design and features

  • Understated yet stylish design
  • 4K 120Hz input and low latency support for gaming
  • Android TV with Netflix app

The v5000i has a stylish design that will fit in well with a range of environments. Unlike many other ultra short throw models which come with a white casing, the v5000i has a black exterior with a dark gray mesh grille up front to conceal the built-in speakers and a faux-leather top surface. This dark, understated look is perfect for light-controlled home theaters where it’s preferable to keep visual focus on the screen itself.

There’s no sliding top cover for the projector’s optics, which means you’ll need to be vigilant about removing dust or pet hair. Installation is managed using the four sturdy adjustable feet on the bottom surface, along with built-in adjustable measuring rods which are used to determine the setup distance between the projector’s rear and the wall or screen.

BenQ’s remote control is larger than the ones that typically ship with projectors and has a fully backlit keypad for easy use in dark rooms. Controls are provided for direct access to inputs and picture presets, including a dedicated one for Filmmaker Mode, and there are also dedicated buttons for the projector’s motorized keystone and focus adjustments.

The v5000i has a number of notable picture enhancing features, including support for HDR10+, HDR10, and HLG high dynamic range and a Local Contrast Enhancer algorithm that divides the picture into 1,000 zones that each get independent gamma adjustments. An HDMI 2.1 port supports 4K 120Hz input from gaming consoles and there’s also Auto Low Latency Mode for gaming. BenQ specs input lag for 4K 60Hz sources at 17.9ms, and I measured it at 18ms during testing using a Bodnar 4K input lag meter. There’s also support for 3D display, with glasses sold as an optional extra.

Connections on the projector’s rear panel include two HDMI 2.0 ports (one with eARC) and one HDMI 2.1 port. There are also two powered USB type-A ports, IR and RS-232 control ports, an optical digital audio output, and a 3.5mm audio output for connecting a pair of powered speakers.

BenQ includes an Android TV dongle that slips into an internal chamber in the projector for streaming. Although I didn’t use it during my testing, preferring to stick with my Apple TV 4K instead, it provides many popular streaming apps including Amazon Prime Video, Disney Plus, and Netflix. Both AirPlay and Chromecast built-in are supported for casting programs from phones or tablets, and you can use Google Assistant for voice searches with the remote’s built-in mic.

The projector’s built-in speakers are fairly powerful for an ultra short throw projector, with 5 watts each going to the left and right midrange/tweeters and 15 watts each to the two woofers. During my testing, the projector’s audio output was sufficient to fill a 2,500 cubic foot room and the sound had a full quality with a decent amount of bass.

  • Design and features score: 4.5/5

BenQ v5000i projector used for Xbox gaming

The v5000i's low, 18ms input lag in Game mode and 4K 120Hz input support make it a great gaming projector (Image credit: Future)

BenQ v5000i review: picture quality

  • Good contrast and brightness
  • Wide color space coverage
  • Inaccurate Filmmaker Mode

I used an Elite Screens Kestrel Tab-Tension 2 CLR 3 projection screen (0.8 gain) with the BenQ v5000i for all viewing and measurements.

BenQ’s settings for aligning the image with any screen you pair it with include an auto screen fit feature that detects your screen’s borders and adjusts the picture size accordingly. There’s also auto keystone, but the more useful adjustment is an 8-point corner fit. Using this, I was able to make fine tweaks to geometry that brought the picture into perfect alignment with the screen, and making those adjustments wasn’t time-consuming at all .

The v5000i offers a greater range of picture setup options than typically found on ultra short throw projectors. One key feature is 11-step advanced color temperature tuning, which is an adjustment that’s normally limited to TVs, but is also available in LG’s projectors such as the LG HU85LA CineBeam. Beyond that, it has a color management system (though I didn’t find this to be effective) plus a Cinemaster menu with adjustments for Local Contrast Enhancer, Color and Flesh Tone, and 4K pixel and motion enhancement. 

The v5000i can beam a sufficiently bright image for daytime viewing in its Bright picture mode. With this selected, I measured peak brightness on a 10% window pattern at 125 nits. In HDR10 mode, the projector measured 97 nits on a 10% window pattern, a greater than 25% brightness dip from Bright mode that could also be seen on regular images. Black measured 0.095 nits in the same mode, resulting in a contrast ratio of 1,021:1.

Measurements made with Portrait Displays' Calman color calibration software In Filmmaker Mode showed the the v5000i’s coverage of DCI-P3 (the color space used for mastering 4K movies and digital cinema releases) to be 98.8%, and BT.2020 to be 97.3%. Grayscale Delta E values averaged 10.7 (we typically look for these to average below 3), and color point Delta E values 3.2. These were disappointing results for Filmmaker Mode, which typically provides the most accurate color of any TV or projector’s picture presets. Fortunately, the v5000i’s 11-point advanced color temperature tuning menu made it easy to calibrate the grayscale for an average Delta E below 2.0.

I mainly used the v5000i for playing games with an Xbox Series X console before starting any serious picture quality evaluation, and its crisp 4K picture and low 18ms input lag (in Game mode) made games look and feel fantastic. Playing games on a 100-inch screen is something I can strongly recommend!

Moving on to movies, I watched a 4K Blu-ray of Alien, and the v5000i’s handling of the disc’s HDR10+ picture nicely fleshed out details lurking in the shadows of the alien spaceship as the crew explored it. The flashlights on their helmets also stood in stark contrast to the dark background, giving the picture a strong sense of depth.

No Time to Die is one of my regular TV test discs, and the v5000i did a good job of displaying both the daytime and nighttime scenes. Skin tones and colors looked a bit too reddish and warmed-up in Filmmaker Mode, though they were fine when viewed in the calibrated User picture mode that I created. In a panning shot across a craggy mountain, BenQ’s projector maintained a good detail level, showing only minimal motion blur and judder even without having to make any adjustments to its Motion Enhancement setting.

I picked up Oppenheimer on 4K Blu-ray specifically for this v5000i review, and Christopher Nolan’s IMAX epic looks as good as you’d expect it to on disc. The projector’s strong rendering of blacks made the regular switch between the disc’s 2.20:1 and 1.78:1 images seamless, and there was a high level of detail in virtually every shot. Oppenheimer’s black and white images also looked great on my 100-inch screen, the gray hues coming across in a pure manner with no visible color tinting. 

  • Picture quality score: 4.5/5

BenQ v5000i projector rear panel ports

Rear-panel inputs include one HDMI 2.1 and two HDMI 2.0 inputs, one with eARC (Image credit: Future)

BenQ v5000i review: value

  • Pricier than similar UST competition
  • No bundled screen
  • Enhanced value for gamers

At $3,499 (about £2,780, AU$5,320), the BenQ v5000i is fairly pricey compared to its UST competition. For the same price, you can buy the Epson EpiQVision Ultra LS800, a significantly brighter model that will perform better than the BenQ in a well-lit viewing environment. And for $500 less, you can buy the Hisense PX2-Pro, another three-laser DLP model with a similar brightness spec to the v5000i plus Dolby Vision HDR support.

The v5000i’s value will basically come down to how you plan to use it. If you’re into gaming, its detailed 4K picture and low input lag in Game mode will make it a superior option to most other UST projectors. And if you’re a movie fan, once the picture has been properly calibrated you can expect impressive overall video performance with rich color and good contrast. In both cases, you won’t feel shortchanged by the BenQ v5000i.

  • Value score: 3.5/5

BenQ v5000i projector remote control in reviewer's hand

BenQ's sizeable remote features a fully backlit keypad and built-in mic for Google Assistant voice commands (Image credit: Future)

Should I buy the BenQ v5000i?

BenQ v5000i projector close up of optics

(Image credit: Future)

Buy it if...

Don’t buy it if… 

Also consider...

Epson LS800
The Epson LS800 uses a 3LCD laser light source to beam a stunningly bright 4,000 lumens image. This makes it a great option for daytime sports viewing and it also has good built-in sound. 

Read our full Epson LS800 review

BenQ v5000i projector showing Apple TV interface

(Image credit: Future)

How I tested the BenQ v5000i

  • I spent about 15 hours in total measuring and evaluating
  • Measurements were made using Calman color calibration software
  • A full calibration was made before proceeding with subjective tests
  • Used with an Elite Screens Kestrel Tab-Tension 2 CLR 3 projection screen

When I test projectors, my first step is to spend a few days using it for casual viewing for break-in and to assess the out-of-box picture presets. The next step is to select the most accurate-looking preset (typically labeled Filmmaker, Movie or Cinema) and measure the white balance (grayscale), gamma, and color point accuracy using Portrait Displays’ Calman color calibration software. The resulting measurements provide Delta-E values (the margin of error between the test pattern source and what’s shown on-screen) for each category, and they allow for an assessment of the projector's overall accuracy.

Along with those tests, I make measurements of peak light output (recorded in nits) for both standard high-definition and 4K high dynamic range using a 10% white window pattern. Coverage of DCI-P3 and BT.2020 color space is also measured, with the results providing a sense of how faithfully the projector can render the extended color range in ultra high-definition sources.

For the BenQ v5000i, I used the Calman ISF workflow, along with the TV’s advanced picture menu settings, to calibrate the image for best accuracy with SDR and HDR sources. Once done, I watched a range of reference scenes on 4K Blu-ray discs that I’ve gathered after years of TV and projector testing to assess the TV’s performance, as well as new Dolby Vision-encoded material streamed from sources like Netflix, Apple TV Plus, and Max.

My projector testing experience spans almost three decades, going all the way back to early three-gun CRT models.

First reviewed: January, 2024

Panasonic DP-UB154 review: a cheap 4K Blu-ray player with great performance
3:00 pm | January 21, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Blu-ray Computers Gadgets Home Theater Televisions | Tags: , | Comments: Off

Panasonic DP-UB154: One minute review

The Panasonic DP-UB154 is a 4K Blu-ray player that offers multiple playback options, including 4K and regular Blu-ray, DVD, CD and even hi-res audio for a cheap price. It supports HDR10+ video and the Dolby Atmos and DTS:X audio formats, but there is no Dolby Vision or Wi-Fi for streaming.

Stock and availability does vary from region to region, however. For those who can’t get hold of the DP-UB154, the Panasonic DP-UB150 is almost identical in terms of specs and features so this is a good alternative if you’re struggling to get hold of the UB154. 

In terms of picture quality, 4K HDR images look fantastic through the UB154, with excellent detail and contrast. Upscaling is effective across the board for HD Blu-ray and DVD, although DVD can still look fuzzy at times. 

The UB154 can also pass-through a wide selection of audio formats, including Dolby Atmos and DTS:X and when played through a Sonos Beam (Gen 2) the soundbar I used for testing, the sound was clear. 

Settings and options to adjust picture and audio on the UB154 are much more trimmed down compared to more premium models like the Panasonic DP-UB820, one of the best 4K Blu-ray players, but there is still plenty on offer for those who want to play around. The menus themselves are on the plain and dated side, however, and can be cumbersome to navigate at times. 

Design-wise, this is a very simple machine. There is no display for runtimes of media, and the finish is a plain, if not bland black matte. The disc tray can also be slow to respond and feels a little flimsy. However, it still has a fairly solid overall design for the price.

This player is all about doing its main job of displaying discs at an excellent standard, while making sacrifices to features and design. However, if you are after just a simple 4K Blu-ray player, you can't really go wrong as this is one of the best budget players around. 

Panasonic DP-UB154 menu on Panasonic MZ1500

The Panasonic DP-UB154's (pictured) menus are much more stripped back compared to the more premium Panasonic DP-UB820  (Image credit: Future)

Panasonic DP-UB154 review: Prices & release date

  •  Release date: February 2019 
  •  Price: £199 / $199 / AU$300 upon release 

Released in 2019, the Panasonic DP-UB154 is one of the entry-level 4K Blu-ray players in the company’s lineup. At the time of release, the UB-154 was roughly $199 / £199 / AU$300, although availability in Australia seems scarce compared to the US and UK. 

Prices for the UB154 have since been slashed, with it now selling for around $179 / £149 in the US and UK. (Although the price in the UK has fallen as low as £99, which is a bargain for a Blu-ray player of this calibre.)

As I said above, if you’re struggling to get hold of the DP-UB154 in your region, the Panasonic DP-UB150 is almost identical in specs and size and is available for roughly $159 / £159 / AU$275.

Panasonic DP-UB154 review: Specs

Panasonic DP-UB154 rear panel

The Panasonic DP-UB154 lack connectivity options compared to more premium 4K Blu-ray players (Image credit: Future)

Panasonic DP-UB154 review: Features

  •  4K and standard Blu-ray, 3D, DVD playback 
  •  HDR10+ support but no Dolby Vision  
  •  Dolby Atmos, hi-res audio and CD playback 

The Panasonic DP-UB154 features plenty of video playback options including 4K, regular  and 3D Blu-ray and DVD. For audio playback, it supports hi-res (via USB) and CD. The UB154 doesn’t support SACD discs, so you’ll need to upgrade to the Magnetar UDP800 if that’s what you’re after. 

HDR10+, HDR10 and HLG support are onboard, but not Dolby Vision. If you’re looking for a 4K Blu-ray player with Dolby Vision support, you can opt for the more premium Panasonic DP-UB820.

For audio, the UB154 supports Dolby Atmos and DTS:X (both bitstream) and other formats such as Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio (bitstream and decode). For music files, the UB154 can decode FLAC, WAV, ALAC, DSD and AIFF. 

Connectivity on the UB154 is more limited compared to the Panasonic DP-UB820. It features a single HDMI output, LAN port (for firmware updates) and a USB input which supports file playback from external drives. There is no Wi-Fi, so you won’t find any streaming apps like Netflix as you would on the UB820.

The simple, stripped-back nature of the UB154 also carries across to its menus and operating system. Whilst the UB154 does offer adjustments, they are noticeably fewer than on the UB820, and limited to settings such as  contrast, color and brightness.

The Panasonic UB154 performs well and is easy enough to navigate, but can sometimes be slow to respond. To change some settings, such as turning HDR10+ on and off, involves stopping playback of the disc you’re watching and returning to the settings menu on the homepage. The software within the UB-154 would also stutter and pause at times, but this happened infrequently. 

Although the UB154 is light on connectivity and features, it is a 4K Blu-ray player that offers good performance and plenty of playback options at a budget-friendly price.

  • Features score: 4/5 

Panasonic DP-UB154 showing Godizlla vs Kong on Panasonic MZ1500

4K pictures, as shown by Godzilla vs Kong, look particularly good through the Panasonic DP-UB154 (Image credit: Future)

Panasonic DP-UB154 review: Performance

  •  Brilliant HDR picture 
  •  Effective upscaling of lower-res sources 
  •  Slightly slow loading times 

Loading times of the Panasonic UB154 are slower than the more premium UB820, with time from inserting a disc to the first logo appearing taking roughly a minute compared with the UB820’s 30 seconds. This was sometimes marginally quicker, but overall a minute was the norm.

For testing, I used a Panasonic MZ1500 OLED TV as the display with the Filmmaker picture preset mode active. 

I first checked out 4K Blu-rays on the UB154 and despite the budget price, pictures looked fantastic. Starting with Godzilla vs Kong, which has HDR10+ high dynamic range, the neon streets of Tokyo were bold, vibrant and as eye-wateringly garish as I hoped during the climactic fight scene between Godzilla and Kong. Contrast was also strong, with the bright lights of the signage balancing with the night sky and dark streets. Textures were incredibly detailed, with the scales on Godzilla coming across as well-defined without being too crisp. 

It’s worth noting that in order to get HDR10+ on the UB154, you’ll need a compatible TV. Thankfully, a majority of the Samsung range, including the Samsung S90C, one of the best TVs on the market, support HDR10+. Other TVs that support the format include the Hisense U8K and Philips OLED808.

Textures were also incredibly detailed in Top Gun: Maverick, and the characters’ skin tones looked true-to-life and suitably accurate. Although the 4K Blu-ray of Maverick does not support HDR10+, the picture was nonetheless impressive in the default HDR10 format. 

To test 4K upscaling, I used the same scene from Godzilla vs Kong on regular Blu-ray. Played on the UB154, upscaling was effective, and the same dynamic color and brightness punch still jumped from the screen. As expected, textures weren’t as well defined as the 4K version, but the picture was crisp enough to provide an extra level of immersion and depth. 

Moving on to DVD, I watched The Amazing Spider-Man. The quality was definitely good, with more vivid colors than I expected and clean textures, although some fuzziness could be seen. Upscaling was not as effective as on the Panasonic UB820, but it still did a very good job. 

Using the 4K Blu-ray of Alien and the regular Blu-ray of Thief, I also tested the UB154 to see how it handled older movies with a lot of film grain. With these discs, the UB154 struck a good balance between sharpening and noise reduction whilst also retaining grain for movie enthusiasts. The level of detail rendered and the upscaling was again not as effective as with the more premium UB820, but it was a credible picture nonetheless. 

The Panasonic UB154 can pass-through Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, DTS-HD Master Audio and a load of other audio formats. The UB154 was connected to the MZ1500 TV and a Sonos Beam (Gen 2) so I could get the most out of the audio from the 4K discs and in every test, the sound came through the Beam nice and clear. 

As a final test, still using the Sonos Beam, I listened to Adele’s ‘Chasing Pavements’ on CD to assess playback quality. Bass and vocals balanced well with each other, with the vocals coming through clean and clear. There was some depth missing when it came to strings and trebles, but for a budget player, CD sound reproduction was decent. 

  • Performance score: 4.5/5

Panasonic DP-UB154 with disc tray open

The Panasonic DP-UB154's disc tray can be a little slow to open  (Image credit: Future)

Panasonic DP-UB154 review: Design

  • Bland, but solid design for the price  
  • No display to indicate runtime
  • CD tray feels a little clunky at times   

Although the Panasonic UB-154 has solid build quality, it’s clear that it is on the budget side, with a matte finish and a bland overall design. It’s also very light, weighing just 1.2kg compared to the UB820’s 2.8kg.

There is no display for a clock or runtime of the disc currently playing on the front, which although not a dealbreaker would have been nice. As for the disc tray itself, there can be a delay between pressing the open command button on the remote and the tray itself opening up, and as such it can feel clunky.

This is a very stripped back and simple Blu-ray player, especially when it comes to what can be found on the rear panel: only a USB port, an HDMI output and a LAN port, as the UB154 doesn’t have Wi-Fi capabilities. 

The supplied remote for the UB154 is on the light and small side and cheaply made. Even though the UB154 is a budget player, it would have been nice to see a bit more effort go into the remote

  • Design score: 3.5/5

Panasonic DP-UB154 remote control

The supplied remote for the Panasonic UB-154 is a little on the small and cheap side (Image credit: Future)

Panasonic DP-UB154 review: Value

  • Good features set
  • Excellent picture quality for price range
  • More design consideration would have been nice   

Panasonic’s approach to the UB154 is clearly value for money. It sacrifices on features and design to give you great picture and audio at a budget-friendly price, and for the most part it succeeds.

The fact that the UB154 has dropped as low as $169 / £99 at one stage makes this player nothing short of a bargain. It may not offer the same level of connectivity and features as more premium players, but it does its primary job of playing a range of discs in HDR and SDR formats with great quality. 

If you can stretch your budget, the Panasonic DP-UB820 is superior in almost every way, but if you are simply looking for a cheap 4K Blu-ray player, the UB154 is an excellent choice.

  • Value score: 4.5/5

Panasonic DP-UB154 review: Should I buy it?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

Panasonic DP-UB820 review: Also consider

Panasonic DP-UB820 with Panasonic MZ1500 and Sonos Beam (Gen 2) connected

This is a shot of the Panasonic DP-UB820, but the testing process for the DP-UB154 was exactly the same. (Image credit: Future)

How I tested the Panasonic DP-UB820

  • Multiple video sources tested including 4K Blu-ray and DVD
  • Tested with Panasonic MZ1500 and Sonos Beam (Gen 2)
  • Tested over the course of a couple of weeks 

To test the Panasonic DP-UB154, I connected it to the Panasonic MZ1500 OLED and used various sources including 4K Blu-ray, standard Blu-ray, DVD and even CD for audio testing. I watched the same scene across multiple formats in Godzilla vs Kong to test upscaling effectiveness as well. 

I also tested the software of the UB154 for ease of navigation, response time and number of settings that can be adjusted. 

Panasonic DP-UB820 review: a fantastic, affordable 4K Blu-ray player that’s built to last
6:09 pm | December 20, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Blu-ray Computers Gadgets Home Theater Televisions | Tags: , , , | Comments: Off

Panasonic DP-UB820 review: One minute review

The Panasonic DP-UB820 is one of Panasonic’s mid-range 4K Blu-ray players that offers a strong suite of features, and supports a lot of audio and video formats including Dolby Vision and HDR10+ for video, Dolby Atmos and DTS:X for audio, and can even support up to 7.1 channels of audio directly with audio analogue output options. It has Wi-Fi for streaming apps such as Netflix, too.

Performance wise, the Panasonic DP-UB820 offers fantastic 4K image reproduction with vivid colors, deep black levels and stunning contrast, particularly when it comes to Dolby Vision – it's up there with the best 4K Blu-ray players. Its 4K upscaling is effective, giving regular (non-4K) Blu-ray a whole new level of detail. Even DVDs are given a new lease on life thanks to the UB820’s upscaling efforts, though you'll notice far more that it was a lower-quality source. 

Audio performance is also superb, with Dolby Atmos effects coming through clear and adding that extra layer of immersion to any movie. Paired with one of the best TVs and best soundbars, the Panasonic DP-UB820 completes the home theater experience beautifully.

The Panasonic DP-UB820’s software feels a little cumbersome at times, but it still gives plenty of options and settings for people to adjust to get the picture and audio of their movies to just how they like it. 

Design-wise, the Panasonic DP-UB820 may not be the most remarkable bit of kit, but it’s still a solid player that keeps things simple. Whilst its front panel that covers the whole device keeps things a little neater, it does mean people will have to think about where the hinged panel will open and close with the disc tray, meaning those with shelved TV stands may have to do some Tetris-esque moving.

In terms of value, the Panasonic DP-UB820 is one of the best Blu-ray buys today. Priced at under $500/£349/AU$760, this really is a well-featured and high-performing player for the price. Thanks to some personal history with this player, I can also confirm this will work and work and work until it can't give anymore; it's a solid investment.

Panasonic DP-UB820 remote

The Panasonic DP-UB820's remote (pictured) is a little button heavy but functional nonetheless. (Image credit: Future)

Panasonic DP-UB820 review: Prices & release date

  • Released in August 2018 
  • Priced around $499/£349/AU$769 

The Panasonic DP-UB820 is a mid-range,4K Blu-ray player that sits in the middle point of Panasonic’s range of 4K Blu-ray players, above budget models such as the Panasonic UB154, but below the premium Panasonic DP-UB9000. It's officially priced with a slighter higher tag of $499 in the US, but the DP-UB820 is competitive at £349 and AU$769 in the UK and Australia respectively. 

At the time of writing, we’ve seen the DP-UB820 for much lower prices than above, falling to around $399 in the US, £249 in the UK, and as low as $538 in Australia. Whilst these prices do fluctuate, they often drop to this level or only slightly higher. For a player with this level of features and capabilities, this is an excellent price. 

Panasonic DP-UB820 picture settings menu on Panasonic MZ1500

The Panasonic DP-UB820 offers lots of settings that you can adjust to get the picture how you'd like. (Image credit: Future)

Panasonic DP-UB820 review: Specs

Panasonic DP-UB820 rear panel

The Panasonic DP-UB820 comes with plenty of connections including twin HDMI (one is audio-only). (Image credit: Future)

Panasonic DP-UB820 review: Features

  • Dolby Vision and HDR10+ support 
  • Dolby Atmos and DTS:X support  
  • Built-in Wi-Fi and streaming capabilities

The Panasonic DP-UB820 is packed with features for its price tag. It supports playback of 4K Blu-ray, regular and even 3D Blu-ray, DVD, AVCHD, CD and various recordable disc formats as well. It  doesn’t support SACD, unfortunately, but you could step up to the Magnetar UDP800 if you need that.  

In terms of HDR support, the UB820 has covered all the bases with support for Dolby Vision, HDR10+, HDR10 and HLG included. 

For audio formats, the UB820 again supports the vital Dolby and DTS formats including Dolby Atmos, Dolby TrueHD, DTS:X and DTS:HD Master Audio. Dolby Atmos and DTS:X are in bitstream output whilst Dolby TrueHD and DTS:HD MA are in bitstream and decoded outputs.

Music formats are also heavily supported including the usual FLAC, WAV, MP3 and AAC formats to name a few. There’s also support for Hi-Res Audio files including DSD at 2.8 MHz (2ch and 5.1ch), 5.6 MHz (2 ch and 5.1ch) and 11.2 MHz (2ch) and ALAC files (96 kHz/32 bit at 7.1ch and 192 kHz/32-bit at 5.1ch). 

Connectivity on the UB820 is again well-stocked, and includes two HDMI ports (one for audio and one for audio/video), digital optical output, analogue audio output (both LR and up to 7.1 channels) and two USB inputs (one 3.0 and one 2.0) for HDD playback. It also has Wi-Fi connectivity for streaming, with apps such as Netflix built into the streaming hub. 

The built-in software for the UB820 offers plenty of menus and settings to tweak so you can tailor the picture of your movies to what you need. Some particular highlights include choosing the display, labelled ‘HDR TV type’ in the Advanced Settings section, which offers options such as 'OLED' and 'Middle to High Luminance LCD', which made subtle changes to the picture based on choice. Although it didn’t make a huge difference, it was a welcome feature nonetheless.

Other settings, also in Advanced Settings, including Deep Color Output, HDR/Color Gamut Output and more for picture, and there were also adjustments for audio including Downmixing and 7.1-channel audio reformatting. Among these, there were also picture settings you could adjust such as black level, contrast and noise reduction for non-HDR sources such as regular Blu-ray.

Performance-wise, the UB820 was easy enough to navigate but there were some small frustrations. This included some settings that could only be changed when going back to the main menu of the UB820 itself, such as HDR10+ or Dolby Vision mode. During testing, the UB820 would favor HDR10+ over Dolby Vision when I tested it with a disc that supports both – which is frustrating because Dolby Vision looked better in most cases (more on that below). The only way I could find to avoid this is to deactivate HDR10+ – but I want it active for when I'm watching something that only supports it! This is only a problem if you have a TV that supports both HDR formats, but that includes the kind of home theater fan this Blu-ray is aimed at, right? There were also times where the software would stutter and pause, but this was not often. 

For the price however, the Panasonic DPUB820 is stacked with features and connectivity, especially at a very reasonable price.

  • Features score: 4.5/5  

Panasonic DP-UB820 with Godzilla on screen

Movies such as Godzilla vs Kong (pictured) looked incredible on the Panasonic DP-UB820, with vibrant colors and stunning contrast and depth. (Image credit: Future)

Panasonic DP-UB820 review: Performance

  • Excellent picture reproduction
  • Effective upscaling on most sources
  • Fantastic audio performance

Straight off the bat, the Panasonic DP-UB820 has great loading times, with the process from loading the disc into the tray to the first logos displayed on screen taking 35-40 seconds all told, not dissimilar timings to logging into some streaming apps and loading previously watched TV shows.

4K pictures look sensational through the UB820. Firstly, using Godzilla vs Kong to test both Dolby Vision and HDR10+ formats, in the climactic fight scene between Godzilla and Kong in Tokyo, the colors of the eye-watering neon signs buildings were bright, dynamic and had plenty of garish punch as you would expect. Contrast was also superb, with deep, rich black levels complementing the bright colors. Everything looks sharp and textures were crisp without being overly hard. 

When looking at Dolby Vision vs HDR10+ through the same player, on the same TV – which will only be a choice for those whose have TVs that support both formats such as the Hisense U8K, Philips OLED808 and Panasonic MZ1500 to name a few – Dolby Vision had the edge. During the same Godzilla vs Kong scene above, switching between the two HDR formats demonstrated that Dolby Vision offered deeper black levels, and this added contrast made the colors seem to pop more than through HDR10+, and even means there's an perceptive improvement in some texture and detail. That's definitely not to say HDR10+ looked bad, far from it in fact, but if you have the option of both I'd go for Dolby Vision.

In Top Gun: Maverick on 4K Blu-ray, and Dolby Vision performance was brilliant there, too. People’s skin tones and facial details during close-up shots were extremely rich, refined, and felt true-to-life. Brighter images felt natural yet vibrant. Motion was extremely well-handled by the UB820 and during any of the jet sequences, there was minimal judder and blurring. 

Moving on to lower-quality format discs, I started by viewing the same scene from Godzilla vs Kong as I’d used before for comparison, but on regular Blu-ray, and was blown away by the UB820’s picture, thanks to its effective 4K upscaling. Although it wasn’t quite as good as the 4K disc itself, the picture still carried enough vibrant color, rich contrast and crisp textures to make you look twice and question whether you’d put the 4K disc in. 

Watching a DVD of The Amazing Spider-man didn't deliver the same standard as Blu-ray upscaling (no surprise, given that it's now having to upscale to 16 times as many pixels), and textures appeared soft in places as a result – but the overall quality was still strong, as the UB820 maintained good levels of detail, punchy colors and solid textures overall.

I also tested older movies including the 4K Blu-ray of Alien and a Blu-ray of Thief to see how the UB820's processing handled film grain. Although there was film grain present, more so in Thief, the UB820 balanced keeping enough grain for the enthusiast alongside upscaling it to take advantage of a 4K screen. It didn't come across as artificially cleaned up, and there was no obvious problem of it struggling to find detail among the grainer scenes, such as the shots at dawn near the start of Thief.

Moving on to audio, the UB820 did a fantastic job of reproducing Dolby Atmos effects with the jets in Top Gun: Maverick feeling like they're gliding around the room with a suitable Dolby Atmos soundbar or surround system. 

Testing the DTS:HD Master Audio 5.1 mix of Alien, the foreboding and doom-ridden parts of the soundtrack were as claustrophobic as you’d hope, and those moments of noise cutting through the silence of the Nostromo’s landing early on were powerful and direct.

As for music, there is a built-in app called Berliner Philharmoniker featuring performances of classical music and listening to Mozart concertos, also in Dolby Atmos, which is a fun addition, and really shows off your sound system. Every instrument had room to breathe, and there was a fantastic balance between the trebles, mids and bass. 

Finally, I tested its CD playback, and although not mind-blowing, vocals were still clear, and there was a good balance between other instruments, with a healthy showing of bass. 

  • Performance score: 5/5

Panasonic DP-UB820 with disc tray open on white stand

The Panasonic DP-UB820 does have a hinged panel that opens with the disc tray which could be a problem for particular shelving in certain narrower units. (Image credit: Future)

Panasonic DP-UB820 review: Design

  • Lightweight but durable build  
  • Hinged panel in front of disc tray  
  • Plenty of connections for mid-range player  

The Panasonic DP-UB820 is lightweight compared to its more premium counterpart, the Panasonic DP-UB9000, with the former weighing in at a much lighter 2.4kg compared to the latter’s 8kg weight. Although it’s not made of metal like more premium Blu-ray players, the UB820 still feels durable.

The disc tray and digital display, which looks a bit old-school, are set behind a hinged panel that opens and closes with the disc tray itself. While this keeps things looking neat, it does mean the UB820 needs space across the whole front to allow the panel to open. This could cause a problem for those with restrictive TV stands in one way or another, though may not be a problem for most people.

There are plenty of connections on the rear panel of the UB820 including two HDMI ports, USB, digital optical output, up to 7.1 channels of analogue output, and LAN for wired network connections. For a mid-range player, this is a lot of connectivity and presents a lot of audio options for movie users.

The UB820’s supplied remote is on the smaller side and features plenty of buttons to press including a number pad. If anything, there are probably a few too many buttons, but there are also options to navigate the various menus that do make navigation that bit easier.

  • Design score: 4/5 

Panasonic DP-UB820 menu on Panasonic MZ1500

The Panasonic DP-UB820's software isn't the most dazzling, but it is effective and offers plenty of features. (Image credit: Future)

Panasonic DP-UB820 review: Value

  • Excellent price for the performance and features
  • Solid, reliable and built to work
  • Covers most of the bases extremely well

Quite simply, the Panasonic DP-UB820 is a workhorse. During my time working for a major AV retailer, the UB820 was the Blu-ray player of choice to display demo material across 15 TVs, for eight hours a day, seven days a week, using an HDMI splitter. In the nearly three years I was at that job, the HDMI splitter failed multiple times, while the UB820 simply trucked on doing its job. The UB820 is built to last and will give you years of entertainment. 

Price-wise, the UB820 has an extensive list of features and connectivity, supports a lot of physical sources, picture and audio formats and even has Wi-Fi built-in for streaming all for under $500 in the US, under £300 in the UK and $750 in Australia. Compared to similarly priced players, such as the Sony UBPX800 Mk II, the Panasonic is the total package. 

  • Value 5/5 

Panasonic DP-UB820 showing Top Gun Maverick

The Panasonic DP-UB820 produces excellent textures and sharpness, shown here on Top Gun: Maverick (pictured). (Image credit: Future)

Panasonic DP-UB820 review: Should I buy it?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

Panasonic DP-UB820 review: Also consider

How I tested the Panasonic DP-UB820

Panasonic DP-UB820 with Panasonic MZ1500 and Sonos Beam (Gen 2) connected

(Image credit: Future)
  • Multiple sources including 4K and standard Blu-ray, DVD, CD
  • Tested with Panasonic MZ1500 TV
  • Tested over the course of two months

For testing the Panasonic DP-UB820, I connected it to a 55-inch Panasonic MZ1500 OLED TV, which supports both Dolby Vision and HDR10+. I then tested the DP-UB820 for picture using 4K Blu-ray, standard Blu-ray, DVD for disc playback and upscaling testing. 

Once I'd chosen the discs, I assessed pictures based on HDR performance including Dolby Vision, HDR10+ and more, and looked at 4K upscaling of non-4K formats such as DVD and Blu-ray.

For sound I tested the UB820 using CD, streaming apps and the same discs to test Dolby Atmos and DTS sound reproduction.

I also tested the software of the DP-UB820 looking at menu navigation, input speed, number of settings and more to see how comprehensive the DP-UB820 was for a mid-range Blu-ray player.

Epson Pro Cinema LS12000 projector review
1:00 pm | June 7, 2022

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Home Theater Projectors Televisions | Tags: | Comments: Off

Editor's note

• Original review date: June 2022
• Current flagship Epson 4K projector
• Launch price: $4,999 / £4,499 / AU$8,999
• Target price now: $4,999 / £4,499 / AU$8,999

The Epson Pro Cinema LS12000 has remained the company’s flagship long throw 4K projector since we first reviewed it back in 2022. A 3LCD model with a laser light engine, the LS12000 delivers stunning picture quality for movies and gaming and still sits at the top of our best 4K projectors guide as the best overall option. The LS12000 doesn’t get discounted on a regular basis, although we did see it drop to £3,999 in the UK during Black Friday, so expect to pay full price outside of major sales events. The rest of this review remains as previously published.

Epson Pro Cinema LS12000: One-minute review

If you’re looking to find one of the best 4K projectors out there, you don’t have to look further than the Epson Pro Cinema LS12000. This machine is delivering powerful technology that shines an almost unbeatable image. It comes at a predictable high price, though, and Epson has gone all-in on the picture-side of the equation, leaving you to fend for yourself when it comes to video sources and audio.

The LS12000 is a beefy (we’re talking 50 pounds) laser projector with a 3LCD system inside. This combination provides a bright light source for both color and white output, powerful contrast, and no artifacts we could detect. It’s an immaculate picture that doesn’t struggle to overcome bright lighting conditions in a room and then can step up to simply blow us away when we turn out all the ambient light. 

The sharp and colorful visuals are also easy to get just how we want them. With zoom, lens shift, focus, and keystone controls, all we have to do is set the projector where we want it and then move and adjust the image to our ideal size and position. There’s a lot of flexibility for big rooms and even bigger rooms, though we wouldn’t recommend going all out like this for a small space — this is a serious home theater projector.

The Epson Pro Cinema LS12000 won’t make sense for a lot of people. But those who want the best and will set out to complement it with a capable AV receiver and robust sound system will likely be pleased as a peach with the LS12000. 

Epson Pro Cinema LS12000 review: Price and availability

The Epson Pro Cinema LS12000 is available for $4,999 (£4,399, about AU$7,090), while the company’s lower-spec LS11000 (2500 lumen brightness and 1,200,000:1 contrast ratio) is available for $3,999 (£4,099, about AU$5,670).

Epson LS12000 remote control

(Image credit: Future / Mark Knapp)

Epson Pro Cinema LS12000 review: Design and features

  • 48Gbps HDMI 2.1 ports (1x eARC) with 4K/120Hz support
  • No Smart TV platform or speakers
  • Hardware zoom and lens shift

 The LS12000 is a bit of a beast. This isn’t your little shelf-top projector you set at the back of the room for a casual home theater. This is a purpose-built machine for a next-level home cinema. It comes in a substantial housing that feels well-built, looks elegant, and is actually not overwhelmingly heavy despite its size.

The LS12000 is ready for a variety of setups and flexes to meet its positioning. We set our unit up on a mantel at the back of a living room, roughly 14 feet from the opposite wall. Thanks to the projector’s optical zoom, we can easily squeeze down the image to fit in the available space on our wall without sacrificing detail (as with digital zoom). From there, the wide vertical and horizontal lens shift range lets us further center the picture all without having to move the projector. Essentially, it’s easy to find a convenient place to set the projector and then use its powerful adjustment tools to project the image where it fits best. The projector doesn’t do this automatically, nor does it auto focus, but it makes the process fairly accessible without having to dive too deep into menus. 

The package is pretty bare-bones for anyone expecting an all-in-one entertainment device. It’s a centerpiece, for sure, but you’ll have to build around it. The kit includes just the projector itself, a beefy remote control, a port cover that can snap onto the back, and a ceiling mounting kit. There’s no Smart TV operating system running onboard, and there aren’t even speakers. This is just your display, and you’ll very likely want to run it to an AV receiver because it only has two HDMI ports. Thankfully, they’re both high-bandwidth, 48Gbps HDMI 2.1 ports capable of 4K/120Hz (which the projector actually supports) as well as eARC on one of them.

The projector naturally has extensive support for the kind of high-quality cinema features you'd want from a device like this. It handles HDR10, HDR10+, and HLG with 10-bit HDR color processing. It has preset color modes as well as options to dial them in just how you prefer. It can send through a variety of Dolby and DTS audio signals over eARC. It will even let you turn motion interpolation on or off as you like.

The cherry on top is the powered lens cover that slides open when the projector turns on and shuts back up when it’s turned off, helping keep the optics clean and protected.

Epson LS12000 rear-panel

The LS12000's rear-panel is equipped with dual 48Gbps HDMI 2.1 ports. (Image credit: Future / Mark Knapp)

Epson Pro Cinema LS12000 review: Picture Quality

  • 3LCD system with laser light source
  • Huge, bright 4K pictures with vivid color
  • Rich detail across the spectrum

 We’re inclined to say there’d be almost no reason to go out to a movie theater anymore when you can have a picture like this at home. The Epson Pro Cinema LS12000 provides a staggeringly brilliant image that hardly cares whether we’re watching in the daytime but will reward us greatly for watching at night with the lights off. Epson isn’t playing games with its brightness claims. It has the projector rated for 2,700 lumens whether it’s showing all white or showing color. You’d think that brightness might mean a machine that runs hot and has loud fans as a result, but we don’t hear a peep of fan noise while running the LS12000. 

Brightness is an important metric for a projector, but oftentimes they can manage an acceptable brightness while struggling to present compelling shadow details, making for an image that lacks in contrast. The LS120000 doesn’t. This thing is virtuoso for challenging imagery. In The Batman, even in a dark scene, the details on Batman’s and Catwoman’s black outfits are discernible. The fact the projector can provide such rich detail in shadows while blasting out vivid color is simply astounding. Given how bright the projector can get, it even impresses during daytime without doing much to subdue ambient light. If the sun is blasting through our windows, we’ll draw the blinds, but otherwise the picture is still stunningly acceptable even without ideal conditions. Mind you, this is all without a projection screen, which will dial up the visuals even further. 

We recently tested the Hisense L9G, a premium ultra-short throw projector that performs stunningly. It’s a remarkable product that we can readily recommend, but even it looks feeble next to the sheer might of the picture coming from the LS12000. Where the L9G had to balance its $5,500 budget on the projection, audio, smart TV platform, and included projection screen, the LS12000 has all of its cost going toward the picture.

Epson Pro Cinema LS12000 specs

Screen sizes supported: 50 to 130 inches | 8K: No | HDR: Yes | Optical technology: Laser 3LCD | Smart TV: No| Dimensions: 20.5(w) x 7.6(h) x 17.6(d)inches | Weight: 28 pounds | 3D: No | Inputs: 2xHDMI 2.1 (1 with eARC), 1 x powered USB, optical digital audio output, Ethernet, RS232-C, 12-volt trigger output

Given how bright the projector is and the fact it can support a wide variety of image sizes, it naturally has to be sharp. While the projector is using three LCDs with a native 1080p resolution, Epson’s dual-axis pixel shifting creates a proper 4K UHD image with no artifacts that we can pick up such as the dithering we’ve seen on some cheaper DMD-based projectors.

Now, the LS12000 provides a lot, but it comes at a steep price. Assuming a $15 ticket, you could go to the movie theater about 333 times before the LS12000 made more financial sense. But, the LS12000 could still be more practical than it seems at first. If you’d go every weekend for six years, you’ve evened out, and the 20,000-hour light source lifespan ought to last well beyond that. If you’ve got kids or a spouse coming along to the theater, you reach that return-on-investment even sooner. If you have to pay for parking at the theater, don’t forget to factor that in. And the fact is you’re getting more than just movies from your home movie theater. You can’t go to the theater to watch Law & Order SVU. You can’t go to the theater to stream every season of The Office. You can’t go to the theater to play 500 hours of Elden Ring’s New Game+.

The Epson Pro Cinema LS12000 is definitely an investment, and one you’ll have to build around with a decent sound system and potentially a setup that makes it easier to switch sources given the meager two HDMI ports. But for those looking to have the ultimate home theater, this machine will handily deliver the picture.

Should I buy the Epson Pro Cinema LS12000 4K laser projector?

Epson LS12000 from above

The Epson LS12000's large size makes it best-suited for a permanent installation (cat shown for scale). (Image credit: Future / Mark Knapp)

Buy it if...

 You want the ultimate home theater visuals

The Epson Pro Cinema LS12000 might not stream or output audio, but its picture is undeniably brilliant. Rich shadows, vibrant color, and dazzling highlights all come through wonderfully. 

You don’t want to fuss with placement

If you’ve already got the perfect spot for setting a big projector, the LS12000 can likely adapt to that space. It has a wide zoom and lens shift range, letting you frame the image just where you want it. 

You want it all

The Epson Pro Cinema LS12000 brings the 4K picture, blasts the HDR visuals, explodes with brightness, sinks into darkness, goes smooth at up to 120Hz, tightens down to 50 inches or scales up to 300 inches. It’ll likely be some time before you’ll feel like this projector is missing something you’ve got to have.

Don’y buy it if… 

 You only have $5,000 to spend on a home theater

The LS12000 is amazing, but it is just a display. You don’t get sound and you don’t get a streaming or broadcast platform out of it. If you’re just starting an entertainment setup, you’ll need those as well. 

You want more flexibility

The LS12000 can flex to a variety of setups, but it’s really the kind of projector you want to leave in one place. It’s big and hefty, so not likely one you’ll want to move frequently or tote along with you on a trip.

You’re not a die-hard cinephile

The LS12000 is a splurge when compared to the many projectors out there that you can get a large 4K picture from. Many do a great job for a night of entertainment and casual viewing if you remember to draw the blinds and dim the lights. Epson even has a $1,000 cheaper option in the LS11000 that sacrifices only a little.

JVC DLA-NZ8 4K Laser Projector review
6:22 pm | April 1, 2022

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Home Theater Projectors Televisions | Tags: , | Comments: Off

Editor's note

• Original review date: April 2022
• Remains a current top model in JVC’s lineup
• Launch price: $15,999 / £15,800 / AU$25,000
• Target price now: $13,999 / £15,800 / AU$25,000 

The JVC DLA-NZ8 rightfully retains its place as the best premium projector option in our best 4K projectors guide since no new long throw projectors have arrived that can match its performance. With advanced HDR and 8K support, this laser-based D-ILA model represents the state of the projector art, and has a price tag match. The DLA-NZ8 has gone down in price in the US since we first reviewed it, and can now be had for $13,999. That’s not cheap, but if you’re looking for the best projector for a bespoke home theater, the DLA-NZ8 is still king. The rest of this review remains as previously published.

One-minute review

The JVC DLA-NZ8 is the latest native 4K projector from the company, and unlike previous lamp-based generations it uses a BLU-Escent laser light source. This results in brighter images, greater consistency and a longer lifespan without compromising the black levels or increasing the fan noise. As a result, this excellent projector builds on JVC’s existing strengths, expanding them in some areas and adding a host of new cutting-edge features in others.

The native 4K images are detailed and precise, while the addition of 8K/e-shiftX processing helps make good content look even better. The overall picture accuracy is impressive, the SDR images are superb, and the HDR performance remains class-leading thanks to JVC's dynamic tone mapping and Theatre Optimiser feature. There's even support for HDR10+, plus 3D pictures that are bright, punchy and free of crosstalk.

In terms of other features, there are two HDMI 2.1 inputs with support for 8K/60p and 4K/120p. This will be welcome news for gamers, as will an input lag of 38ms. An added benefit of HDMI 2.1 is that the projector is also much faster at locking onto video signals. There’s an effective remote, intuitive menu system, and flexible installation – although whether stand or ceiling mounting, bear in mind that this beamer is big and heavy.

The NZ8 is also very expensive, although the pricing of JVC’s new line-up is intended to reflect the comparative cost of 4K laser projectors from Sony. Interestingly the NZ8 currently has no direct competitor, so if you want uncompromising performance, peerless HDR tone mapping, comprehensive features and a high degree of future-proofing performance, this remarkable projector is in a class of its own.

Price and availability

JVC’s new NZ series of laser-powered projectors include all the features found on the previous lamp-based generation, but add HDMI 2.1 inputs capable of handling 8K/60p and 4K/120p, 8K/e-shiftX with an actual resolution of 8K, improved optics, and support for HDR10+.

The new range is headlined by the DLA-NZ9, which is also called the DLA-RS4100 in some markets. This flagship projector will set you back an eye-watering £24,999/$25,999, but is state of the art, with a claimed brightness of 3,000 Lumens, a native contrast of 100,000:1, and a 100mm all-glass lens with ultra-high contrast optics.

The DLA-NZ8 (DLA-RS3100) reviewed here costs £15,800/$15,999, and is largely the same as the NZ9 but hits 2,500 Lumens, has a contrast of 80,000:1, and smaller 65mm all-glass lens. However it does have the same improved optical path, and other features found on the high-end model.

Finally, there's the DLA-NZ7 (DLA-RS2100), which retails for a slightly more reasonable £11,500/$10,999. This projector is similar to the NZ8 but doesn’t use upgraded optics, with a brightness of 2,200 Lumens, and contrast of 40,000:1. It also lacks the wide colour gamut filter found on the more expensive models, and uses the same bi-directional 8K/e-shift found on the earlier DLA-NX9, rather than the new four-directional 8K/e-shiftX employed on the NZ8 and NZ9.

The JVC DLA-NZ8 on a white background.

(Image credit: JVC)

Design

  • 65mm all-glass lens
  • 2 x HDMI 2.1 inputs
  • Backlit remote control

The JVC DLA-NZ8 looks identical to the previous generation, with the same matte black chassis and fantastic level of build quality. The only difference is at the rear, where there are slightly larger air vents and no removable dust filter. Despite its size, the design cleverly builds curves into the shape of the chassis to help offset the projector’s overall bulk.

It’s worth pointing out that the NZ8 is huge – measuring 500 x 234 x 505mm (WxHxD), and weighing in at a back-breaking 23.1kg. So it’s not the kind of beamer you whip out for movie night or to watch the big game. This is a serious product that’s designed for permanent installation in a dedicated home cinema, using either a stand or ceiling mount.

The new model contains the same 17-element, 15-group all-glass 65mm lens that was introduced on JVC’s previous generation of 4K projectors. However, it has been upgraded to improve the contrast performance by adding an inside coating designed to suppress any reflected light. This upgrade explains how the brighter NZ8 can have the same contrast ratio as the previous DLA-N7.

One of the biggest upgrades on this new generation of 4K projectors is the inclusion of HDMI 2.1 inputs, with JVC being the first manufacturer to do so. These 48Gbps ports accept both 8K/60p and 4K/120p, plus they support HDCP 2.3, 3D and high dynamic range – specifically HDR10, HLG, and HDR10+, with the latter also being a new addition. An unexpected benefit of HDMI 2.1 is that the NZ8 locks onto video signals faster than previous JVCs, which were painfully slow.

The provided remote is identical to the previous generation, which is welcome news because it's an excellent controller. It's comfortable to hold and easy to use with one hand, laying out all the buttons in a sensible manner. There's a dedicated backlight, which works really well because it illuminates the actual writing on the buttons, making them easy to read in the dark.

Features

  • BLU-Escent laser light source
  • Native 4K D-ILA chipset
  • 8K/e-shiftX image processing
  • HDR Dynamic tone mapping

The JVC DLA-NZ8 uses the company’s BLU-Escent laser diode light source that was first introduced on the ultra-expensive DLA-Z1. As a result, the NZ8 has increased brightness, greater consistency, and a 20,000-hour lifespan. In practical terms that means you could watch a film a day for the next 20 years without worrying about dimming or having to change the lamp.

The NZ8 uses the same three-chip 4K D-ILA device as JVC’s previous generation, but also includes 8K/e-shiftX processing. When first introduced this feature shifted pixels in two directions to increase the perceived resolution, which the NZ7 still does, but the NZ8 and NZ9 employ an upgraded technology that shifts the pixels in four directions to display a full 8K resolution.

When it comes to HDR the NZ8 sports a number of class-leading features such as Auto Tone Mapping, which reads static metadata and immediately adjusts the tone mapping. There’s also Frame Adapt HDR, which analyses a signal and changes the tone mapping dynamically, while the Theatre Optimiser tweaks the HDR delivery to match your screen’s size and gain.

The NZ8 includes motorised focus, zoom and shift controls, which makes installation a doddle, and there are also lens memories for different screen aspect ratios. The menu system has been tweaked, and now has six settings for the Frame Adapt HDR features, while the Theatre Optimiser allows you to specify if your screen uses a 16:9 or 2.35:1 aspect ratio.

The laser light source has three LD Power options (low, mid, and high), along with two Dynamic CTRL settings that dynamically adjust the brightness of the laser. The laser is surprisingly quiet in operation, even in the brighter mid option, and the high mode isn’t significantly louder, making it a viable choice for those looking for a punchier HDR image or using a very large screen.

The JVC DLA-NZ8 setup in a home theater.

(Image credit: JVC)

Performance

  • HDR10/HLG/HDR10+ support
  • Wide colour gamut filter
  • 3D with optional emitter and glasses

The JVC DLA-NZ8 delivers the kind of gorgeous film-like imagery for which the company is justly famous. The native 4K D-ILA chipset and 65mm all-glass ensure pictures so clear and detailed that even the most demanding pixel-peepers will be happy. The overall uniformity and geometry of the projected images are equally as precise, so all the basics are covered.

The colour accuracy is also exceptional, with a beautifully natural reproduction that hits all the industry standards right out of the box. The light path has been improved for greater contrast, and when combined with those deep blacks the benefits of a JVC projector are there for all to see, while the increased brightness of the laser light source produces images that really pop.

This projector is equally impressive with motion handling, producing buttery smooth pictures that are free of blurring and unwanted artefacts. The processing is also superb, taking lower quality content and upscaling it to the NZ8’s 4K capabilities, while the 8K/e-shiftX device is a revelation, shifting pixels in four directions to create images with a perceived resolution of 8K.

This projector is a stellar performer with SDR (standard dynamic range) content, but it’s with HDR (high dynamic range) that the JVCs are in a class of their own. Aside from having the necessary latitude from deep blacks to bright highlights, their cutting-edge tone mapping analyses the HDR content in real time, rendering it perfectly to match the increased brightness and wider colours.

These class-leading HDR capabilities are perfectly demonstrated in the film Allied, during the scene here Brad Pitt is watching an air raid. The combination of unrivalled contrast and flawless tone-mapping produce deep blacks in the night sky, and amazing shadow detail. The HDR also picks out the bright tracer fire and flak, allowing both to be highlighted against the darkness.

The NZ8 uses a filter to create a wider colour gamut, and this is perfectly demonstrated in The Greatest Showman, where the detailed 4K image pops with wonderfully saturated primaries. The HDR uses its increased dynamic range to great effect, bringing out all the details in the brightly lit scenes under the big top spotlights, and ensuring the specular highlights are never clipped.

The HDR is frequently breathtaking, retaining all the detail in the shadows and delivering bright pictures that are never blown out. The HDR images are clearly superior to SDR with saturated colours and a punchier dynamic range, while HDR10+ support allows the JVC to take advantage of the format’s added tone mapping information, ensuring content is perfectly displayed.

This added capability is expertly demonstrated in the film 1917, which includes HDR10+ dynamic metadata. The Oscar-winning 4K photography from Roger Deakins is beautifully reproduced by the NZ8, with every shot looking great, but it’s the nighttime scenes lit only by flares that really show what this projector can do with deep blacks and detailed shadows.

Although 3D is waning in popularity these days, there are still plenty of supporting Blu-rays, and the NZ8 displays them with pictures that are bright, accurate, and free of any ghosting. You’ll need to purchase the optional RF transmitter and glasses, but if you do decide to add them you’ll be rewarded with big screen 3D images that are probably superior to your local multiplex.

Finally, the NZ8 delivers a 38ms input lag with low latency turned on, which might not be as impressive as the sub-10 second measurements routinely delivered by TVs these days, but is good for a projector and results in some enjoyably responsive game play. Once you include the 4K/120p support and laser light source, the NZ8 makes for an excellent gaming projector.

Should I buy the JVC DLA-NZ8 4K laser projector?

Buy it if...

You want gorgeous 4K images with that elusive film-like quality
The combination of a 4K chipset and all-glass lens produces fantastically pin-sharp images, while JVC’s justifiably famous deep blacks and superior contrast performance result in that all-important film-like quality, separating this projector from the competition.

You want class-leading HDR tone mapping
The implementation of state-of-the-art dynamic tone mapping and a feature that optimises the overall performance for specific home cinema setups, produces stunningly detailed and impactful HDR images, making JVC’s projectors superior to any other manufacturer.

You want 8K/60p and 4K/120p support for next-gen gaming
The inclusion of HDMI 2.1 supports 8K/60p and 4K/120p signals, while the addition of 8K/e-shiftX image processing ensures the NZ8 can also project an 8K image with no perceivable loss in resolution. So despite its hefty price tag, this projector will remain relevant for years to come.

Don’t buy it if… 

You want something small or portable for occasional use
The NZ8 is a serious home cinema projector, with a massive chassis and a high-end price tag. It’s designed for a dedicated room with a permanent installation using a stand or wall mount, and for the optimal performance you will need a proper screen as well.

You want a projector to use in a white room or during the day
While the NZ8 is bright, it will struggle in a room with white walls, windows or any other light source. The darker the room the better the results, because any reflected light will wash-out JVC’s class-leading contrast performance.

You want really bright HDR like on a TV
This really applies to all projectors, but none of them can get close to a TV in terms of their peak brightness for HDR. So if you’re looking for really bright specular highlights, you should be considering a big-screen TV rather than a projector.

Samsung The Freestyle projector (2022) review
1:19 pm | February 15, 2022

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Home Theater Projectors Televisions | Comments: Off

Editor's note

• Original review date: February 2022
• New 2nd Gen version launched in 2023
• Launch price: $899 / £999 / AU$1,299
• Target price now: $465 / £549 

Samsung’s The Freestyle (2022) remains our top choice among the best portable projectors owing to its clever design, cool features, and good picture for the price. It’s since been replaced by an updated version, The Freestyle 2nd Gen, which adds Samsung’s Gaming Hub for cloud gaming via Xbox, Nvidia GeForce Now, and other gaming services. Although there’s a new model, The Freestyle (2022) is still available, and sells for $465 / £549. That’s a great price for a portable projector with auto-keystone adjustment that’s capable of beaming a 100-inch image, though gamers may want to spend more for The Freestyle 2023. The rest of this review remains as previously published.

One-minute review

It's no secret that the last couple of years have changed the way we socialize, with many of us opting to partake in the safety of outdoor gatherings rather than risk the spread of Covid-19 in confined, indoor spaces.

Perhaps sensing this trend would only continue to grow in popularity moving forward, Samsung has ingeniously delivered The Freestyle, a portable projector that's capable of producing admirable Full HD images at up to 100 inches in size – perfect for backyard movie nights.

With The Freestyle, Samsung provides almost everything you need for a night of entertainment, bringing the smart TV experience to any surface it's aimed at. It offers access to all of your favorite streaming services, a powerful 360° built-in speaker with smart assistant support, and even mobile mirroring functionality – all you need to provide is a power source (either via a nearby wall socket or a compatible power bank) and a Wi-Fi connection (or, failing that, a mobile hotspot).

Approachability is key for mainstream acceptance of any new product, and Samsung has nailed this aspect with The Freestyle. Simply put, any projector which is ready to go within minutes of being taken out of the box is a triumph of design and engineering, and should be celebrated.

That said, its execution isn't entirely flawless. Though The Freestyle's auto keystone feature worked well for the most part, it did have trouble registering the surface of our provided projector screen properly, leading to a skewed image that needed to be manually adjusted.

Additionally, we weren't too keen on Samsung's updated smart TV platform, which makes its debut on The Freestyle before rolling out to the rest of its 2022 range. It's not only sluggish, but also forces us to leave our content in order to perform simple tasks, like adjusting viewing modes.

Still, The Freestyle is by far the most user-friendly projector solution that this reviewer has encountered, offering better than expected picture quality, excellent connectivity and a variety of clever and endearing features.

Price and availability

Samsung's The Freestyle will release in the UK on February 16, 2022, and is set for release in Australia by the end of February 2022. Though a US release date hasn't been set, retailers are already taking orders for The Freestyle with an expected delivery date of March 31, 2022.

Pricing for The Freestyle has been set at $899 / £999 / AU$1,299, which is a little pricier than other portable projectors on the market. Of course, that should be expected for a product that offers far more functionality and polish than its competition. Taking this into account, we'd argue the price is quite reasonable for a 1080p HDR projector that delivers the Samsung smart TV experience on the go. 

Samsung's The Freestyle

(Image credit: TechRadar / Stephen Lambrechts)

Design

Samsung's The Freestyle has been designed with portability in mind, and its compact size and cylindrical shape is a testament to that. It weighs just 0.8kg, and at 95.2 x 171.4 x 95.2mm, it's roughly the size of a can of dog food, meaning you can pick it up and toss it in your backpack without any hassle whatsoever.

The projector itself is propped up by a sturdy aluminum cradle stand with a flat base which offers well over 180° of tilt, making it easy to project an image on practically any surface.

While The Freestyle is primarily intended for use with a power outlet, The Freestyle can also be powered by compatible power banks which offer 50W/20V output and USB PB functionality, making it especially suited for outdoor settings.

As you'd expect, its 360° degree speaker wraps around The Freestyle's entire circumference, delivering audio in every direction. On top of the device, you'll find touch capacitive controls which allow you to power it on and adjust The Freestyle's volume without a remote.

Samsung's The Freestyle

(Image credit: TechRadar / Stephen Lambrechts)

Meanwhile, on the bottom of the device, you can see The Freestyle's passive radiator, which is used to expel bass, along with some pin connectors that will come in handy for future accessories, such as an already-planned battery pack.

Along the side of the unit, you'll spot a USB Type-C port for powering the device, along with a mini HDMI port (which you'll need in order to connect any sort of games console) and a toggle switch which shuts the device's mic on and off. 

We really appreciate this last inclusion, because while The Freestyle is intended for use as a smart speaker, it's understandable that some people would just want to use it exclusively as a projector, without it listening in on every conversation. 

Features

When it comes to functionality, you won't find a more feature-packed portable projector than Samsung's The Freestyle.

Not only is it a cinema which you can take anywhere, it's an Amazon Alexa and Samsung Bixby capable smart speaker, as well as a custom lighting solution that can change the atmosphere of whichever room it's in entirely.

But let's start with its cinematic prowess. The Freestyle offers Full HD (1920 x 1080) resolution projection with HDR10 support at up to 550 lumens of brightness. On paper, that doesn't sound like much, but we were pleasantly surprised by the bright and vivid images it's able to produce.

Even when used during the day, and with indirect light from outside coming into the room, The Freestyle is able to project confident images that still exhibit an acceptable amount of contrast (depending on how bright your content is to begin with, of course).

We put this down to clever processing from Samsung's Hyper Real picture engine, which is able to automatically adjust color and brightness using its Smart Calibration feature.

One of The Freestyle's most talked about features is its Digital Keystone Correction functionality, which is able to automatically adjust your picture on the fly to present a perfectly squared image, even when projected onto angled surfaces. Adding to this is an auto-levelling feature which will get you a perfectly straight image, even when The Freestyle itself is placed on an uneven surface.

Samsung's The Freestyle

(Image credit: TechRadar / Stephen Lambrechts)

Of course, there's a limit to how much your image can adjust itself – look closely and you'll see a sort of boundary area in your projection, which your reshaped image has to stay within. While that obviously can't be helped, it's worth noting that the crazier your projection and surface angles are, the smaller your image will get.

Speaking of image size, The Freestyle is capable of projecting images starting at 30 inches (from a projection distance of around 79.5cm), all the way up to 100 inches (with a 2.6m projection distance).

As discussed earlier, one thing that gives Samsung's The Freestyle the edge over many other portable projectors is that it has a suite of streaming apps and other services built in from the word go.

Users can take The Freestyle out of its box and start watching the likes of Netflix, Disney Plus, Amazon Prime Video and more within minutes – a setup process that's even faster and smoother when done via Samsung's SmartThings phone app.

Which brings us to one of The Freestyle's lesser known features; one which honestly makes all the difference in the world for those looking to use Samsung's projector as their primary home entertainment device – The Freestyle will automatically connect to compatible devices on your Wi-Fi network, especially Samsung ones.

Not only does this mean the ability to mirror our Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 to any projected surface (a feature that's also available to iPhones via AirPlay), The Freestyle also automatically connected to our Samsung soundbar (something which was discovered entirely by accident).

Movie and TV viewing aside, The Freestyle also offers a number of clever ambient modes which will bring a great deal of fun into your home. Sick of looking at a wall all day? Project a virtual window onto it with a beautifully picturesque (and animated) outdoor setting to look at instead. Or maybe you're having a party? The Freestyle will let you project a happy birthday message on your wall in neon, among other things.

Picture and audio quality

As we mentioned earlier, we were genuinely surprised by how The Freestyle was able to overcome the limitations of a 1080p maximum resolution, 60Hz refresh rate and just 550 lumens of brightness to produce impressively vibrant images.

The Freestyle offers three primary picture mode presets: Standard, Dynamic and Movie. In our testing, we did notice the brighter Dynamic mode brought about some motion smoothing, which makes us think it would be best suited to watching sporting events.

Our preferred setting, however, was Movie mode, which offered any experience similar to Filmmaker Mode on Samsung's premium television models, in which the image offers enhanced contrast and colors which are closer to the Hollywood standard.

After switching off all the lights in our living room, we kicked off our home movie by testing the bright and colorful Disney film Encanto, and came away very impressed with The Freestyle's picture quality. Color reproduction was strong and faithful, with a sufficiently good level of contrast.

Samsung's The Freestyle

(Image credit: TechRadar / Stephen Lambrechts)

Later, we chose to watch the dark and grimy action film The Raid, and were once again surprised by how well The Freestyle handled not just the more muted material, but also the aggressive motion and shaky camera work that the movie possesses.

It's worth noting that The Freestyle also offers a Game mode, which brings its latency down from around 70 milliseconds to 43.2 milliseconds. That's fine for casual gamers who want to play a bit of Mario Kart, though competitive players will probably want to steer clear of any projector.

As expected with portable projectors, The Freestyle's image sharpness decreases somewhat the larger you go, and moving it further away from your desired surface will also see a drop in brightness, but even then its images remain fairly crisp and viewable. 

In fact, we'd go as far as saying that The Freestyle's picture quality becomes more pleasant the larger it goes, as the tighter its image projection gets (and the closer you are to it), the easier it is to spot a sort of grid-like, dotted texture to the image, which we imagine is a side effect of how the projector works.

Samsung's The Freestyle

(Image credit: TechRadar / Stephen Lambrechts)

Obviously, this texture would be even less noticeable were The Freestyle capable of a 4K image output (and we don't doubt to see that as a bullet point in future models), however, this model's 1080p looks perfectly fine at an optimal viewing distance of a couple meters or so.

If, like us, you were initially concerned about having to use The Freestyle's built-in 360° degree speaker as your home cinema's primary audio source, you don't have to worry – switching to our aforementioned soundbar in The Freestyle's quick settings menu allowed it to output full surround sound over a Wi-Fi connection, instantly allowing for a more traditional home theatre audio experience.

To be clear, you won't be able to produce full Dolby Atmos audio over Wi-Fi, however, you will get far superior multi-channel sound, which any cinephile will find to be an enormous improvement.

Conclusion

For the purposes of our review, Samsung was able to provide us with a 92-inch roll-up projector screen which gave us the opportunity to have a real cinema-style experience at home (minus the risk of Covid, crying children and exorbitant snack prices).

As for The Freestyle's auto keystone feature, in our experience it worked well in any instance in which the projector was pointed at a wall or ceiling, automatically levelling and adjusting its image into the correct proportions regardless of the surface's shape or angle.

That said, we did find that The Freestyle ironically had trouble registering the surface of our projector screen. Even with the projector pointed directly at the screen from a very central position, it always defaulted to a skewed image.

Additionally, there were some instances where The Freestyle was unable to settle into focus. Eventually, we ended up switching both features off, opting instead to manually adjust both the keystone and focus settings. Thankfully, doing so is a relatively straightforward process.

Samsung's The Freestyle

(Image credit: TechRadar / Stephen Lambrechts)

Our biggest bugbear, however, is the extreme sluggishness of The Freestyle's user interface. The new projector acts as the debut of Samsung's new smart TV operating system, and we must admit, it isn't off to a great start.

For starters, Samsung's new TV OS is now a full-screen affair, meaning you can no longer adjust settings on the fly without leaving the show or movie you're watching. This also means that reaching the (now not so) quick settings requires additional steps.

While the new OS is still based on Tizen, it often takes well over a second for individual button presses on the supplied remote to register on screen. This makes the act of simply navigating Netflix, or adjusting picture settings, an absolutely aggravating affair.

It's worth noting that the remote which was provided to us for review isn't the final remote that'll ship with The Freestyle, but rather the standard remote that ships with
Samsung's mid-tier TVs. Despite this, we don't think the remote has anything to do with The Freestyle's slow-moving navigation.

Issues like these obviously go against the effortlessness and ease of use that Samsung's The Freestyle is primarily being sold on, however, we imagine (and hope) that issues like these could be sorted with a firmware update.

should you buy the Samsung The Freestyle (2022)?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if… 

BenQ TK700STi 4K gaming projector review
8:00 pm | June 18, 2021

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Home Theater Projectors Televisions | Comments: Off

Editor's note

• Original review date: June 2022
• Newer BenQ X3100i now out
• Launch price: $1,899 / £1,299 / AU$2,599
• Target price now: $1,499 / £1,279

The BenQ TK700STi is a short-throw DLP model from a company known for its gaming projectors. It was relatively affordable for a 4K model at launch and at its current $1,499 / £1,279 price, is now an even better deal. (The TK700STi no longer appears to be available in Australia.) BenQ recently refreshed its short throw gaming projector lineup, with new models like the X3100i featuring higher brightness and built-in Netflix streaming. But the BenQ TK700STi remains in the lineup, and even though it doesn’t budge much from its current price, gamers looking for a projector that works well for both gaming and movies can look no further. The rest of this review remains as previously published. 

BenQ TK700STi 4K gaming projector: One-minute review

If you’re looking to lay a big load of cash on a projector, you can’t go wrong with the BenQ TK700STi. If you’re buying it for gaming, then that endorsement is even stronger. This unit supports 4K at 60Hz with an unsurpassed 16ms response time at that resolution, which is as low as response times get in a native 4K projector. If you want up to 120 inches of bright, crystal-clear game on your wall or screen, this sets a new benchmark.

What do those numbers mean in practice? It means a crisp 100 inch image with a smooth frame rate and utterly negligible input lag. With a 3,000 lumens brightness and HDR support – as well as a couple of purpose-suited game modes – the display absolutely sings. With the PS5 and Xbox Series X out in the wild now (albeit, still hard to find), this projector can actually take advantage of the new console generation’s performance advantages.

While 60Hz at 4K is impressive, the TK700STi will also support 120Hz so long as you’re happy to compromise on a 1080p output, and with three modes in the form of FPS, SPG and RPG, the display can be optimized according to the type of action happening on screen. 

What does that mean for watching TV content? Not a great deal: you’re getting a brilliant image at 4K, though naturally the 120Hz capabilities, not to mention the low response time, aren’t going to make a big difference. This is a projector for someone who wants the best of both worlds, though if you’re never going to use it for gaming, and 4K isn’t a big deal to you, you can probably settle for something less expensive. 

Not to mention that the bundled Android TV dongle – which needs to be installed manually, albeit easily – has a glaring omission in a dedicated Netflix app. Still, if you’re a console gamer, Netflix is available on everything except Nintendo Switch, and this model packs a lot of performance for the price.

BenQ TK700STi

(Image credit: Future)

BenQ TK700STi 4K gaming projector review: Price and availability

The BenQ TK700STi projector is available for $1,899 in the US, £1,299 in the UK, and AU$2,599 in Australia.

Design and features

While other companies might be tempted to make their gaming projectors look like sci-fi obelisks, BenQ takes a minimalist approach to the TK700STi’s design – nothing about it screams 'gamer'. It’s a discreet white box with a black front, and it boasts a far more conservative design than its sibling model, the X1300i

Analog zoom and focus dials are readily accessible at the top of the unit, as is the rest of the projector’s user interface: the power button, a directional pad for navigating the system’s menus, and a few quick access buttons for choosing display modes or triggering the Eco Blank functionality. 

As for those zoom and focus dials, they allow for a lot of precision and stop very firmly in the desired location. There are also three thick bolts at the base which can be unscrewed in order to elevate the device slightly. This model comes with a remote control, which is highly recommended, as the buttons on the unit itself are unpleasant to use and require very firm presses to activate.

BenQ X1300i projector

(Image credit: Future)

As for connectivity, you’ve got two HDMI 2.0 ports (with ARC on the second port), an RS-232, audio out for 3.5mm and a sole USB port. The device comes packaged with a BenQ Android TV dongle which you’ll need to install yourself: this involves removing one screw from a protrusion on the back of the unit, and connecting the dongle to a hidden USB port inside. It’s a slightly inelegant solution – why not bake this functionality in? – but it’s a one-and-done annoyance.

BenQ TK700STi rear

The rear of the TK700STi with the included Android TV dongle attached. (Image credit: BenQ)

Elsewhere, you’ve air vents along the entire right hand side of the unit, as well as a fraction of the left, and a little at the front. The whole thing measures at 31x11x25cm, and it has a 5W speaker included, though very few people are probably going to use it: you can either use the 3.5mm jack or attach a sound system or soundbar via ARC. 

That said, if you’re traveling and want to use it away from your home entertainment audio gear, it’ll get you through.

BenQ TK700STi

(Image credit: Future)

BenQ TK700STi 4K gaming projector review: Picture quality

  • True 4K
  • Excellent 3,000 lumens brightness
  • 120-inch picture at maximum

This short-throw projector requires at least two metres between the projector and the wall to reach the 100-inch mark, and while the TK700STi advertises a 100-inch maximum, we found that it could retain a perfectly viewable picture at 120-inches on the wall. In concert with its 3,000 lumens brightness – which is about as bright as you’ll want to get in a home environment – the 4K display is remarkably crisp and vibrant, thanks to its HDR10 support. 

Still – and this probably goes without saying – you’re going to want a very dark room. In some ways HDR can be a drawback in environments with just a little bit of sun leakage: playing Housemarque’s dark and gloomy PS5 game Returnal with the blinds futilely drawn was not an enjoyable experience, and wasn’t conducive to winning. That effect is exacerbated with a projector, and worth keeping in mind as more and more next-gen games embrace deeper blacks and more blinding brights.

Aside from that point, the 4K image is bright and invigorating and, in some ways, quite jaw dropping. The 60Hz refresh rate may not impress by the standards of modern gaming monitors, but it’s hugely impressive in a native 4K projector. With the appropriate lighting (or lack thereof) the TK700STi’s display shines like a portal on your wall, though like its X1300i stablemate, you do tend to see blooming around any bright-on-dark areas of the display.

Meanwhile, if you’re planning to use the TK700STi for movies and streaming you won’t be disappointed: color and clarity is admirable, though of course, you’re probably going to want to use a better sound source.

BenQ TK700STi

(Image credit: Future)

BenQ TK700STi 4K gaming projector review: Sound and gaming

While the gaming monitor market likes to promote the advantages of 1ms response rates, you’re getting nowhere near that with the TK700STi: in 4K it has a 16ms response time, while it can hit 8ms in 1080p. 

It can’t be stressed enough, though, that these response times on a projector are very novel indeed, and given this is a projector with native 4K you’re not going to find better than this performance at the moment. All but a small number of inveterate competitive gamers (or dyed in the wool pedants) are going to notice any input lag. Basically, you’re probably not going to get better performance than this.

Still, given the emphasis Sony and Microsoft are placing on both 4K resolution and 120Hz refresh rates, it’s a question that will arise, and the TK700STi’s 60Hz refresh rate at 4K – impressive only 5 years ago – might seem inadequate on paper. 

Sure, if you’ve been gaming on a 240Hz monitor you may notice a difference in fluidity, but 60 frames-per second is a bar that consoles have only just gotten around to making (unofficially) standard: the likelihood of more than a handful of blockbuster games with 120Hz support coming out during the console generation seems low, as developers focus on the wow-factor of ray tracing, detail and resolution.

Of course, if you’re rocking this projector with a gaming PC those platform-oriented limitations are immaterial to you, and if a high-refresh rate is more important than resolution, then you probably aren’t seriously in the market for a projector. 

For our money, playing through a selection of games on both the Xbox Series X and PS5 including Dirt 5, Returnal, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Forza Horizon 4 and Outriders, 100 inches of 60 frames-per-second next-gen goodness is undeniably impressive, offering a level of immersion no halfway affordable TV is likely to produce. Note that 4K offers a maximum 60Hz refresh rate, while 120Hz maxes out at 1080p.

Should you buy the BenQ TK700STi projector?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if

BenQ TK700STi 4K gaming projector review
8:00 pm |

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Home Theater Projectors Televisions | Comments: Off

Editor's note

• Original review date: June 2022
• Newer BenQ X3100i now out
• Launch price: $1,899 / £1,299 / AU$2,599
• Target price now: $1,499 / £1,279

The BenQ TK700STi is a short-throw DLP model from a company known for its gaming projectors. It was relatively affordable for a 4K model at launch and at its current $1,499 / £1,279 price, is now an even better deal. (The TK700STi no longer appears to be available in Australia.) BenQ recently refreshed its short throw gaming projector lineup, with new models like the X3100i featuring higher brightness and built-in Netflix streaming. But the BenQ TK700STi remains in the lineup, and even though it doesn’t budge much from its current price, gamers looking for a projector that works well for both gaming and movies can look no further. The rest of this review remains as previously published. 

BenQ TK700STi 4K gaming projector: One-minute review

If you’re looking to lay a big load of cash on a projector, you can’t go wrong with the BenQ TK700STi. If you’re buying it for gaming, then that endorsement is even stronger. This unit supports 4K at 60Hz with an unsurpassed 16ms response time at that resolution, which is as low as response times get in a native 4K projector. If you want up to 120 inches of bright, crystal-clear game on your wall or screen, this sets a new benchmark.

What do those numbers mean in practice? It means a crisp 100 inch image with a smooth frame rate and utterly negligible input lag. With a 3,000 lumens brightness and HDR support – as well as a couple of purpose-suited game modes – the display absolutely sings. With the PS5 and Xbox Series X out in the wild now (albeit, still hard to find), this projector can actually take advantage of the new console generation’s performance advantages.

While 60Hz at 4K is impressive, the TK700STi will also support 120Hz so long as you’re happy to compromise on a 1080p output, and with three modes in the form of FPS, SPG and RPG, the display can be optimized according to the type of action happening on screen. 

What does that mean for watching TV content? Not a great deal: you’re getting a brilliant image at 4K, though naturally the 120Hz capabilities, not to mention the low response time, aren’t going to make a big difference. This is a projector for someone who wants the best of both worlds, though if you’re never going to use it for gaming, and 4K isn’t a big deal to you, you can probably settle for something less expensive. 

Not to mention that the bundled Android TV dongle – which needs to be installed manually, albeit easily – has a glaring omission in a dedicated Netflix app. Still, if you’re a console gamer, Netflix is available on everything except Nintendo Switch, and this model packs a lot of performance for the price.

BenQ TK700STi

(Image credit: Future)

BenQ TK700STi 4K gaming projector review: Price and availability

The BenQ TK700STi projector is available for $1,899 in the US, £1,299 in the UK, and AU$2,599 in Australia.

Design and features

While other companies might be tempted to make their gaming projectors look like sci-fi obelisks, BenQ takes a minimalist approach to the TK700STi’s design – nothing about it screams 'gamer'. It’s a discreet white box with a black front, and it boasts a far more conservative design than its sibling model, the X1300i

Analog zoom and focus dials are readily accessible at the top of the unit, as is the rest of the projector’s user interface: the power button, a directional pad for navigating the system’s menus, and a few quick access buttons for choosing display modes or triggering the Eco Blank functionality. 

As for those zoom and focus dials, they allow for a lot of precision and stop very firmly in the desired location. There are also three thick bolts at the base which can be unscrewed in order to elevate the device slightly. This model comes with a remote control, which is highly recommended, as the buttons on the unit itself are unpleasant to use and require very firm presses to activate.

BenQ X1300i projector

(Image credit: Future)

As for connectivity, you’ve got two HDMI 2.0 ports (with ARC on the second port), an RS-232, audio out for 3.5mm and a sole USB port. The device comes packaged with a BenQ Android TV dongle which you’ll need to install yourself: this involves removing one screw from a protrusion on the back of the unit, and connecting the dongle to a hidden USB port inside. It’s a slightly inelegant solution – why not bake this functionality in? – but it’s a one-and-done annoyance.

BenQ TK700STi rear

The rear of the TK700STi with the included Android TV dongle attached. (Image credit: BenQ)

Elsewhere, you’ve air vents along the entire right hand side of the unit, as well as a fraction of the left, and a little at the front. The whole thing measures at 31x11x25cm, and it has a 5W speaker included, though very few people are probably going to use it: you can either use the 3.5mm jack or attach a sound system or soundbar via ARC. 

That said, if you’re traveling and want to use it away from your home entertainment audio gear, it’ll get you through.

BenQ TK700STi

(Image credit: Future)

BenQ TK700STi 4K gaming projector review: Picture quality

  • True 4K
  • Excellent 3,000 lumens brightness
  • 120-inch picture at maximum

This short-throw projector requires at least two metres between the projector and the wall to reach the 100-inch mark, and while the TK700STi advertises a 100-inch maximum, we found that it could retain a perfectly viewable picture at 120-inches on the wall. In concert with its 3,000 lumens brightness – which is about as bright as you’ll want to get in a home environment – the 4K display is remarkably crisp and vibrant, thanks to its HDR10 support. 

Still – and this probably goes without saying – you’re going to want a very dark room. In some ways HDR can be a drawback in environments with just a little bit of sun leakage: playing Housemarque’s dark and gloomy PS5 game Returnal with the blinds futilely drawn was not an enjoyable experience, and wasn’t conducive to winning. That effect is exacerbated with a projector, and worth keeping in mind as more and more next-gen games embrace deeper blacks and more blinding brights.

Aside from that point, the 4K image is bright and invigorating and, in some ways, quite jaw dropping. The 60Hz refresh rate may not impress by the standards of modern gaming monitors, but it’s hugely impressive in a native 4K projector. With the appropriate lighting (or lack thereof) the TK700STi’s display shines like a portal on your wall, though like its X1300i stablemate, you do tend to see blooming around any bright-on-dark areas of the display.

Meanwhile, if you’re planning to use the TK700STi for movies and streaming you won’t be disappointed: color and clarity is admirable, though of course, you’re probably going to want to use a better sound source.

BenQ TK700STi

(Image credit: Future)

BenQ TK700STi 4K gaming projector review: Sound and gaming

While the gaming monitor market likes to promote the advantages of 1ms response rates, you’re getting nowhere near that with the TK700STi: in 4K it has a 16ms response time, while it can hit 8ms in 1080p. 

It can’t be stressed enough, though, that these response times on a projector are very novel indeed, and given this is a projector with native 4K you’re not going to find better than this performance at the moment. All but a small number of inveterate competitive gamers (or dyed in the wool pedants) are going to notice any input lag. Basically, you’re probably not going to get better performance than this.

Still, given the emphasis Sony and Microsoft are placing on both 4K resolution and 120Hz refresh rates, it’s a question that will arise, and the TK700STi’s 60Hz refresh rate at 4K – impressive only 5 years ago – might seem inadequate on paper. 

Sure, if you’ve been gaming on a 240Hz monitor you may notice a difference in fluidity, but 60 frames-per second is a bar that consoles have only just gotten around to making (unofficially) standard: the likelihood of more than a handful of blockbuster games with 120Hz support coming out during the console generation seems low, as developers focus on the wow-factor of ray tracing, detail and resolution.

Of course, if you’re rocking this projector with a gaming PC those platform-oriented limitations are immaterial to you, and if a high-refresh rate is more important than resolution, then you probably aren’t seriously in the market for a projector. 

For our money, playing through a selection of games on both the Xbox Series X and PS5 including Dirt 5, Returnal, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Forza Horizon 4 and Outriders, 100 inches of 60 frames-per-second next-gen goodness is undeniably impressive, offering a level of immersion no halfway affordable TV is likely to produce. Note that 4K offers a maximum 60Hz refresh rate, while 120Hz maxes out at 1080p.

Should you buy the BenQ TK700STi projector?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if

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