When 720p HD was unveiled, our imaginations were piqued. From then on, there have been major steps in upping the resolution gamut so we can boast of images that truly come alive. 1080p FHD and 2K UHD followed as major milestones recorded. Until well, 4K came onboard.
4K is the future, and with support for image and video playback and recording on everyday devices like cameras, camcorders, and smartphones; it is only right that videophiles are presented with top-grade projectors that offer the best 4K support.
Like with many technological advancements, it is not a lot about providing the feature; but how well the feature is implemented or optimized. More so, sporting the best resolution on offer should not mean a slough down in other departments. At worse, these future-proof models should be just as impressive in other departments like brightness levels, connectivity, and durability. At best, these 4K models should also have cutting-edge offerings in other departments, which make them the overall best in the world of projectors.
In this buying guide, we unveil the top 4K projectors that are not mere early-adopters, but impressive adopters of 4K technology. Before we get to the devices though, let us take a minute to expound on the important factors to consider before going for a typical projector.
Best 4k Projectors Complete Guide
Sony VPLVW350ES 4K (4096 x 2160) 3D SXRD Home Theater/Gaming Projector
JVC DLAX500R Home Theater Projector with 4K e-shift3
Sony VPLHW40ES 1080p 3D SXRD Home Theater/Gaming Projector
Sony VPLVW600ES 4K (4096p) 3D SXRD Home Theater/Gaming Projector
Generic DLP Home Theater Projector 4k Mini Portable Build in Wifi Quad Core CPU Full 3d
Important Buying Considerations
Brightness levels are measured in lumens. “More is better” is the catchphrase, which is why you will see 4K projectors offering anywhere from 700 to 2500 lumens. It is absolutely the best idea to go for upwards of 2000 lumens, so you do not have to force yourself to adjust the ambient lighting of your environment rather than the brightness levels of the projector; if you plan to use your projector outdoors, this is especially important. 4K projectors occupy the high-end of the projector space based on price, so it makes sense to have as much flexibility as can be provided by your manufacturer.
The industry standard for projectors is currently 1080p Full HD: 720p HD is still acceptable in most quarters. 4K media offers 4 times more pixels than 1080p media, meaning that details can be appreciated more. Matching the increased pixel count to the usual large screen size of a projector screen—as high as 150 inches when measured diagonally—and the practicality of a 4K projector begins to make a lot of sense.
However, you have to be certain about the pixel designation of the projector you want to buy. 1080p HD resolution is 1920 by 1080 pixels. That is 1920 in width and 1080 in height. By contrast, True 4K is 4096 (width) by 2160 (height) pixels.
It is important to note the numbers because there is this standard called the Ultra HD standard. By comparison, there is the HD standard (720p) and Full HD standard (1080p), and Quad HD format (1440p). Unlike the others though, Ultra HD or UHD, does not have a single standard resolution, much like 2K, and a less-intuitive user can get it all mumbled up with the marketing hype and all that.
UHD has two standard resolutions, 3840 by 2160 and 4096 by 2160. Difference between both UHD resolution types are minimal, however, it pays to know what you are purchasing from the outset. Fair enough, 3840 by 2160 is favored by many media authorities because it is exactly double the 1080p HD resolution pixel count—double 1920 (width) is 3840 and double 1080 (height) is 2160. However, to be exact, 3840 by 2160 is not 4K resolution because the 4 and K is short form for above 4000 (K to denote thousands) pixels.
All True 4K UHD projectors can output 3840 by 2160 extremely well like they would handle 4096 by 2160 media content. However, 3840 by 2160 UHD projectors will downscale a 4096 by 2160 media content to its native 3840 by 2160 resolution. The detail loss will not be substantial on most screen sizes, but considering the price the prices are also not that far apart, you would do well to purchase the projector with more flexibility—the True 4K projector.
Many people would not lose sleep over this factor. However, anyone committed to getting the best in terms of resolution and brightness should keep a close eye on the contrast ratio, so that everything evens out for spectacular viewing.
Like with the resolution and brightness, higher is better with respect to contrast ratio. A higher the contrast ratio, the deeper the blacks will appear, and more shades of colors will stand out prominently.
What is the Best 4K Projector?
1. Sony VPL-VW350ES Review
Aesthetics does not top our list of features to watch out for in a top-grade 4K projector. But, what is a top-grade device if it is not pleasing on the eye? Good thing is, the VW350ES isn’t just pleasing, it is outstanding.
Its design language is bold with a predominantly rectangular shape flanked by rounded edges on the top, and a slight bow at the rear and front. It is adorned with a textured matte charcoal gray finish that looks great with the glossy black around the lens.
Along the bottom of the device, inputs and controls are discreetly placed for better accessibility, rather than having them sandwiched. The inputs go to the right, while the controls are positioned on the left side.
Burdened with the task of offering next-gen media technology, the VW350ES dimensions are at a respectable 18.25” by 7.7” by 19.5”. Its weight is 31 pounds. Though, it may appear gargantuan compared to the 6 pound pico projectors, the feature set, performance, and capabilities of the Sony VPL-VW350ES are far superior.
The remote control of the VW350ES has lots of control buttons and is user-friendly. Dedicated buttons are available for each of the nine picture modes, with other keys dedicated to several important adjustments. Contrast, sharpness, and brightness could be adjusted too with their respective buttons. Even better all buttons are backlit. That means, that in a dark room, you would be able to use the clicker with remarkable ease because the buttons will be lighted.
The User Interface of the VW350ES follows the clear but sophisticated approach where things appear clutter-free but offer a vast degree of control. Menus are straightforward and are presented in a commonsensical nesting layout.
Lastly, we appreciate the smooth silent run of the VW350ES. Even when we tweaked it to run in a designated “High” cooling mode, we barely noticed any noise changes. This engineering feat banks the VW350ES more to the elite sleek and powerful group of premium projectors.
Sony is a behemoth in the consumer entertainment industry. They have proved themselves repeatedly with several products in every size conceivable. Proprietary technology developed by Sony are innovative, have top-grade performance, push new boundaries, and best of all are implemented excitingly.
That’s everything rolled into the SXRD proprietary technology and more. Unsurprisingly, Sony takes the mantle by introducing the first true 4K resolution projectors with top-grade performance to the market using the SXRD.
There are referent offerings from Epson and JVC dubbed “4K Enhancement Technology” and “e-Shift” respectively. However, they pale in comparison with the SXRD. During testing, neither e-Shift nor Epson’s offering offered much improvement over the current standard resolution—1080p.
Earlier on, in the previous section, we established why true 4K UHD is desirable over the 3840 by 2160 UHD resolution. The Sony VPL-VW350ES has a native resolution of 4096 by 2160 True 4K resolution. The compatibility of the projector is superb in that more ubiquitous 3840 by 2160 UHD media are correctly scaled to a 1:1 ratio in the default aspect ratio; such that it appears as though the media is in the True 4K resolution.
Sony foregoes simplicity but extols extensive control with the capabilities/functionalities of the VW350ES. Starting off, there are nine adjustable picture modes for each input (there are two inputs).
It is not just the sheer size of customization options that earns the VW350ES the crown of the best 4K projector. As I have repeatedly pointed out, it is just as much about the implementation. The “Reality Creation” functionality is a prime example of superb implementation of proprietary advancements. Although, available in a related form on other Sony projectors, on the VW350ES there is an exciting addition, dubbed “Test.” What “Test” does is that it gives you the rare opportunity to toggle between two images; one is unprocessed, while the other is augmented by whatever “Noise Filtering” and/or “Resolution” value you set. By toggling between both versions, you are able to appreciate the effects you apply easily. As a side note, you may want to turn “Reality Creation” off if you are projecting 4K or UHD media content. However, for the more ubiquitous lower-quality media content, “Reality Content” is a sure benefit.
Another terrific example is “MotionFlow Control.” Not too fancy a name, but the feature is a great miss on other projectors. This feature gives the VW350ES the much needed capability to offer a barrage of motion handling and smoothing modes; all the way from the weird but interesting—Soap Opera Effect, to the awesome—full-on 24p film cadence.
Lastly, on our semi-list on awesome functionalities on the Sony VPL-VW350ES, is the “Cinema Black Pro.” This functionality gives you two options: a Contrast Enhancer that you could toggle on or off, and a Lamp Output that you could toggle high or low. Not a lot of options, but there is power in simplicity. You could use the Enhancer to boost up the contrast depending on the quality of the media. The lamp output though is the power feature, with it you get to adjust the light output from the projector. In our testing, at ‘Low,’ we found the lamp output to be sufficient for as much as 120 inches diagonal image under dark lighting conditions. High is pretty much your go-to option when you are viewing on an insanely large screen and or under moderate to high lighting conditions.
Wrapping it up, we make a short list of other noteworthy performance-enhancing functionalities on the VW350ES.
- FIVE Custom Color Temperature Memories
- FOUR Color Temperature Presets
- ELEVEN Different Choices of Gamma
- A spot-on Color Management System
Salient Selling Points
- Sleek superb design
- Top-performing SXRD technology
- True 4K UHD support
- Excellent Performance
- Excellent for gaming
- Extensive controls
Sony takes the day, but JVC has a strong statement in the DLAX500R. Versatility is the spice of life, and who wouldn’t want options that turn out to be just as exciting as the real deal? By far the most important feature on the JVC DLAX500R, which also is the top draw, is the 4K e-shift3 technology. Sure, it is no match for the Sony’s SXRD. Nonetheless, it is interesting to find that the e-shift3 permits 4K media to be played out in 60 fps (frames per second) and even better up-convert an existing 1080p media content to appear as 4K media content.
e-shift3 is a huge step in the right direction. However another appeal of the DLAX500R, which so happens to be just as important as e-shift3, is its relatively inexpensive price point. It is the cheapest of any buy-worthy 4K projector in the market, and we are rooting for you to purchase it if you are on a tight budget. Especially because it offers so much more than most higher-priced 4K projectors.
Features and Performance
Being a major player in the 4K sub-niche, JVC had to put up offerings to set their projectors in marble. The DLAX500R starts off with a blast, featuring a proprietary Intelligent Lens Aperture. Beyond the fancy name, this functionality goes heavy on offering the best contrast ratio on a projector. Contrast ratio is one of the cardinal factors that influence image quality, and with a native contrast ratio of 60,000:1; the DLAX500R is toting its horn loudly. What’s more is that the feature is able to produce a Dynamic Contrast Ratio that touches the 600,000:1 mark: Now can you beat that? To water these figures and fancy names down, the JVC DLAX500R is able to produce deep blacks, bright whites, and beautiful shades of every other color in between. Therefore, even when there is ambient lighting, the image appears fully saturated; a capability a huge percentage of projectors cannot boast of.
JVC did a great job with the DLAX500R. It is a testament of the fact that emphasis should be on improving on the cardinal factors that affect image quality. Rather than offer an increased pixel count, just so the manufacturer can slap a higher price tag on a product that isn’t worth the price, to drive big margins. Aside contrast ratio, resolution got a boost. JVC didn’t just design the DLAX500R to be capable of projecting 4K media content. They went further. Using an interesting proprietary functionality dubbed Multi Pixel Control, the projector is able to scale a Full HD media (1080p) to appear as 4K. Although the technicalities is beyond the scope of the write-up and quite frankly will make the average Joe’s head spin, what the projector does it this. It detects the original resolution, then it does a micro-analysis of the media frame by frame and pixel by pixel. Based on this detailed analysis, it is able to add details and dynamic contrast to increase the image quality remarkably.
JVC goes a mile further to incorporate the Direct Drive Image Light Amplifier (D-ILA) proprietary technology into the DLAX500R. The technology is a chip-based technology (D-ILA chips), which uses liquid crystal on Silicon for increased reflectivity, efficiency, and increased brightness potentials. The DLAX500R has three D-ILA chips. Thanks to this technology and other tweaks, the DLAX500R lives up to the tough JVC standard of offering the best image quality. Images from the projector are crisp, have a smooth gray scale, zero spatial dithering, and very accurate colors.
The icing on JVC’s offering is that it sports an optional 3D functionality. It is an active 3D setup that requires you to purchase a pair of 3D glasses sold separately at less than $200. However, there is an improved version of the DLAX500R, the X900R, that sports the 3D emitter and two pairs of 3D glasses on default.
Salient Selling Points
- Premium 4K e-shift3 technology
- Highest contrast ratio
- Top-grade performance
- Affordable price point
3. Sony VPL-HW40ES Review
Sony’s HW series is a premium line of products with some serious ballers in the projector industry. The VPH-HW40ES is a top-notched projector in the line-up with a pricing that hovers around the sweet spot for major top-performance projectors of late.
From the outset, the Sony VPH-HW40ES has a sleek premium look. True, it adopts the signature HW series design language. However, that’s because the design looks amazing. Design aside, Sony keep up with their fame of unveiling clean, silent projectors in their premium line.
With a high intensity lamp and delicate electronics on the inside, premium projectors have to invest a lot into cooling to avoid damage and increase durability. This investment often requires the need for an array of fans that can become noisy, whining with ferocity when the projector is being used for a long time or have to set to the highest brightness preset. On the VPH-HW40ES—and the entire premium lineups—the noise level is very low, in spite of these challenges, with no adverse effect on performance or durability.
On the hardware component for extended connectivity, there is a RGB-PC port, a component port, and two HDMI ports. Additionally, there are the RS-232, IR, and Ethernet inputs for control. Menus are well-arranged, but because there is so much control offered, some of the controls are several layers deep.
Talking about control, there is a fully-featured remote with dedicated buttons for virtually every control that can be performed on the projector. More on control, the HW40ES totes horizontal manual dials and vertical lens shift. Capping it up, there are dials for manual focus and zoom.
With such an interesting spec list, we were expecting nothing short of spectacular performance during testing, and we were not disappointed. The superior chip-based SXRD technology is baked in, with the party brought in by three SXRD chips. What this entails for you is that you would be able to view images with one of the best overall image quality in the projector industry.
Brightness levels/light output is an integral part of the performance of a top-level projector. At 39.79 fL, the VPL-HW40ES does make a bold statement, which in our opinion is excellent. In comparison, the light output level from the HW40ES is roughly twice what is obtainable in most conventional movie theaters and about as much as you would get with most plasma TVs.
Gamers, we have you covered. In our testing, we found the default input lag to be at about 60.4ms. But don’t feel disappointed yet, when we switched from the “Film Mode” to “Auto 2” or “Off”, we recorded 26.5ms. Now is that interesting or what, so if you are shelling some serious coin on the HW40ES, you can be rest assured that it caters to every need in a projector under the sun.
Salient Selling Points
- Sleek design
- Quiet operation
- Extended connectivity
- Top-grade performance
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