From Projector Central_by Rob Sabin | Jan 15, 2024
If you were looking for evidence of a grand shift in the consumer projector space today, all you needed to do was tour the 2024 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) held in Las Vegas last week. Let's start with what was missing: the classic home theater projector. Aside from the static display of a singular new gaming model I encountered, the traditional lens-on-front, rectangular box projector was nowhere to be seen.
CES2024 ShowFloor slider
Instead, what I saw in abundance was ever-more ultra-short throw Laser TVs, and what felt like a little mini-explosion of what we have come to call lifestyle projectors. In both categories, these new products came from both established companies and, more frequently, relatively unknown or new brands attempting to establish themselves in these emerging growth areas.
To some extent, we can attribute the dearth of traditional home theater projectors to a changing CES. A trade-only event that started 57 years ago as a showcase for television and hi-fi manufacturers has become the world's leading venue for promoting and launching sophisticated consumer and business technologies, drawing this year more than 4,300 exhibitors and a final tally of about 135,000 attendees. Unlike at CEDIA in the U.S. and ISE in Europe, which focus on the needs of residential and commercial integrators, it's more difficult now to find serious home theater demos in Vegas. Even a stalwart like JVC, which held court for years in a suite at the Venetian Towers surrounded by high performance audio manufacturers, has finally given up in favor of CEDIA and regional consumer audio shows now bolstered by the CES High End Audio defectors. Sigh. Some of my best CES memories are from the days I spent hopping room to room at the Venetian, enjoying one great theater or audio demo after another and treating my ears and eyes to delicious, state-of-the-art treats. As the saying goes, them days is over.
That said, anyone with access to retail sales data knows that the consumer projector industry is shifting. Enthusiast sales of dark-room theater projectors are said to be waning, and the exciting growth projections are in these UST living room projectors and portable/transportable projectors that facilitate the easy toss of a big image on whatever wall happens to be nearby. If you didn't notice, both of those are mass-market sectors that have the potential to dwarf the dark-room home-theater segment.
As usual, there were a variety of price points represented on the show floor, ranging from a couple of premium 8K USTs to inexpensive LCD projectors that go for less than $200. But what was surprising, if not reassuring, was the sophistication and performance of the better projectors in each of these areas. Following, by manufacturer in alphabetical order, is our rundown of CES 2024 projector highlights.
Formovie. Formovie, whose Formovie Theater projector won top prize in the fall at the 2023 ProjectorCentral/ProjectorScreen.com Laser TV showdown for the second year in a row, showed off the Formovie 4K Max on a 150-inch, 16:9 lenticular ALR screen from Spectra Projection. Spec'd officially at 4,500 CVIA lumens (not ANSI or ISO), it is the company's brightest ever laser TV, utilizing a single-laser ALPD 3.0 light engine rated for Rec.709 color gamut. It is available now in the U.S. for $3,699 through their importer ProjectorScreen.com, but with the FengOS operating system and streaming platform intended for the Chinese market, a trait it shares with the Formovie X5 lifestyle projector and the single-laser C3 UST models. ProjectorScreen ships it with an Amazon Firestick 4K dongle as it does with the X5. Also shown at Formovie's booth was a family of budget-priced portables with LCD imagers and LED light engines from its sister brand Xming.
Dangbei. Dangbei was displaying its own first Google TV-equipped lifestyle projectors with integrated Netflix, notably the upcoming Atom (shown), a squat 1080p laser projector measuring approximately 8x8 inches square and less than 2 inches tall. It has an ALPD light engine generating a claimed 1,200 ISO lumens of brightness and boasts sophisticated intelligent setup that includes auto-focus, auto-keystone, screen-fit, and obstacle avoidance. It'll be priced at $899 before discounts. A pair of 4K laser models are also on the way for later in the year, including the Mars Pro 2, with 2,450 ISO lumens, and the X5 Ultra, using an advanced triple laser RGB + LED hybrid light source to achieve a 110% BT.2020 gamut rating.