Viewsonic Pro9000 lamp-free projector review

Hybrid laser projection removes the need for costly lamps

11 Sep 2012
Viewsonic Pro9000 projector

Viewsonic’s latest home cinema projector jettisons possibly the most recognisable component – the lamp – in favour of a laser-based system that’s longer-lasting and more energy-friendly. We managed to get an early look at the Pro9000 at a London event this morning, and from what we saw the proprietary technology it could make keeping a projector in the living room a lot less painful.

Viewsonic Pro9000 projector

Based on specification alone, the Pro9000 is a fairly unassuming home cinema projector – a fairly standard 1,600 ANSI lumens brightness and 100,000:1 contrast ratio aren’t field-leading figures, nor is the 0.65in TI DarkChip 3 DLP chipset, but the laser/LED hybrid illumination sets it apart from many other mid-range projectors.

Whereas traditional lamp-based DLP projectors have a finite lifespan, with reducing brightness over the lifetime of the lamp, laser/LED hybrids last significantly longer with no degradation in picture quality. They also produce much less heat, require less energy and don’t need to be cooled as aggressively – that means they’re quieter and start up/shut down almost instantly, without having to wait to cool down first.

Viewsonic Pro9000 projector

After running for 20 minutes, the Pro9000 didn’t feel significantly hotter than when it first switched on, and the internal cooling fan never went loud enough for us to hear it over the videos it was projecting – good news for anyone put off buying a projector because of the heat and noise they produce.

Viewsonic had set up a dark corner to show off the Pro9000’s image quality, but there was still a significant amount of ambient light creeping in – even so, the picture held up well, producing clear images at 1,920x1,080 with few signs of motion judder. Because it doesn’t use a colour wheel, there’s also no rainbow effect – a major plus point for many home cinema owners that are susceptible to its colour-distorting effects.

The projector itself takes up the same floor space as the average 15in laptop, so the new technology doesn’t seem to have affected dimensions at all. It has the usual array of inputs at the back, including two HDMI ports, S-Video, component and composite video, as well as 3.5mm audio in and out jacks. There are a pair of integrated stereo speakers, but you’ll almost certainly want to connect it to an amplifier and use your own set of dedicated speakers for cinema audio. Viewsonic has finally seen sense and added a backlight to the remote control too, making it much easier to control the projector in the dark.

Viewsonic Pro9000 projector

The Pro9000 is by no means the only hybrid laser projector around - Casio produces a similar system, but Viewsonic claims the method used in the Pro9000 is exclusive to the company. As we have yet to see one in our lab we can’t say which is the superior technology, but we certainly hope it’s the future for DLP – eliminating the colour wheel and the possibility of rainbow effects is a major achievement.

At £1599 the Pro9000 is reasonably priced for a Full HD projector – most systems at this price use traditional DLP colour wheels that are susceptible to rainbow banding. The lack of 3D support is a little disappointing, but we’ll wait to see if it can add value in other areas when we get a better look at one after it launches in mid-October.

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