Review: Hisense 100L8D 4K Short-Throw DLP Laser TV Gets Big Results
Hisense might be more familiar to HD Guru readers as a manufacturer of high value bargain-priced 4K Ultra HD flat-panel televisions, but the company is much more than that and clearly has its sights set on the higher-end, bigger-screen market, as demonstrated in its lines of “Laser TVs”.
The Hisense 100L8D is an example of one of the company’s latest offerings in the category. These aren’t flat-panel televisions, like LED-LCD TVs or OLEDs, but rather are short-throw video projectors that use a laser light engine to produce big bright standard and high dynamic range (HDR) pictures. Hisense packages the projector with its own 100-inch screen, designed to reject modest amounts of ambient room light while delivering one of the most authentic means possible of recreating the movie theater experience at home.
Our review of the Hisense 100L8D found a relatively expensive display system ringing in at $9,999.99 that includes a very large screen with sharp 4K Ultra HD-like resolution and nice Rec. 709 colors after calibration. It also does a nice job with 4K HDR10 content, offering specular highlights that give the overall image a pop of brightness and color for a large, natural-looking appearance.
However, technically this is not a true 4K projector. It is based on a consumer version of Texas Instruments’ Digital Light Processing (DLP) digital micro mirror device chip. The native resolution of the chip is more along the lines of Full HD 1080p, but TI uses Texas Instruments’ eXpanded Pixel Resolution (XPR) pixel-shifting technology, which rapidly shifts back and forth an optical actuator (a glass pane), which is placed in the light path between the DMD and the lens, a second half-frame of video by one-half pixel up and one-half pixel over to the right. This produces a full 8 million pixels because each of the pixels perceived by the eye on screen at one time is individually addressable, as specified by the Consumer Technology Association’s definition of 4K.
As a short-throw projector, the 100L8D can be placed on a table or stand just a few inches from the screen without the long throw distance of traditional projectors or the need to ceiling-mount the unit. This also helps to make the projected images driven by the laser light source brighter.
Unlike some other DLP systems, Hisense doesn’t use a color wheel to produce RGB from the blue-phospher-based laser light source. Instead, the company employs a prism system that achieves relatively accurate colors and less-obvious rainbow pattern effect, although some of this can be seen by those who are sensitive to it.
Despite the use of laser light, higher amounts of ambient light in a room will washout true blacks, limiting contrast and fading colors to some degree. It’s therefore advisable that this unit be placed in a room where light can be controlled with drapery. But the light system offers an light intensity that appears greater than many lamp-based approaches. It is also expected to last longer without the need to be changed like a bulb.
Unusual for a projector, the Hisense 100L8D has a surprisingly deep and immersive sound system, supported by an outboard subwoofer that ships with a bundle that includes the projector and the screen.
Also unusual for a projector, Hisense builds its own proprietary smart TV platform into the device, bringing access to a nice selection of some of the top streaming apps, including Netflix, Amazon Prime Instant Video, Vudu and others.
The value of this bundle of included extras helps to offset to some degree the nearly $10K price tag.
The beauty of the Hisense 100L8D is its ability to blend in with the room decor without being obtrusive. It looks like another AV tech box, measuring 7.3-by-23.7-by-15.8-inch (HWD), and can be placed on a short-standing table rising somewhere between knee and belt level. A black cloth speaker grille on front conceals a portion of the sound system, which includes a pair of 25W-per-channel Harman Kardon-enhanced stereo speakers, and a separate floor-placed subwoofer.
The projector’s lens is recessed inside the top of the unit and is angled up and forward toward the screen.
Unlike most other projectors on the market, the 100L8D comes with its own 100-inch dark gray screen custom tailored for this model. The surface material is optimized to reject ambient light and preserve contrast, while offering a wide angle of view, giving viewers seated around the room the same high-quality big-screen image.
For those so inclined, the screen can be easily mounted using included wall-mount brackets and framing that can be used with drywall, cinder block or brick walls. Once the rigid support structure is in place, the screen material can be attached to it.
The 100L8D offers an average selection of inputs, all of which are positioned on the right side of the back panel. Ports include two HDMI 2.0a inputs, an RS232 serial connector, 2 USB, a micro USB, antenna/cable connector, a VGA video input, 3.5mm audio input, optical and stereo RCA audio outputs, Ethernet port, and additional 3.5mm service port.
The unit’s remote offers a slim brushed-metal design measuring 1.7-by-6.8-inches and is comfortable to hold in the hand. It features a large square navigation pad with up-down-left-right controls that can sometimes be easy to press incorrectly in the dark. Above the control pad are dedicated fast-access buttons for the most popular supported streaming apps including: Netflix, Amazon, Vudu and YouTube. Nicely, the remote uses Bluetooth to relay command codes to the projector, eliminating line-of-sight issues that typically plague IR-controlled devices. It also enables the projector to be hidden behind something.
For those who don’t like to use buttons anymore, Hisense has included a voice control system with a mic that is activated by a button on the remote.
The built-in streaming platform was developed by Hisense based on the Vewd (formerly Opera TV) operating system. The layout of apps is basic and easy to navigate, similar to the Roku TV platform, which Hisense supports in several R series lines of LED-LCD flat-panel TVs. As mentioned, the television supports many of the most popular streaming apps including for the Netflix, Amazon, Vudu, and YouTube and Fandango Now video streaming and for music iHeartRadio and Pandora. Omissions include Google Play movies and music, Hulu and Sling TV.
High Dynamic Range
As mentioned, the Hisense 100L8D is a 4K, HDR capable projector, meaning it can accept and display the metadata shipped along with the base signal in order to present the brightness, contrast and color benefits that HDR provides from specially produced content. The 100L8D will read and accept only the HDR10 HDR profile. It does not support Dolby Vision, HDR10+ or others.
The 100L8D presents this metadata a little differently than typical premium 4K flat-panel LED-LCD QLED or OLED televisions with emissive (either back lit or self-emitting) lighting systems. When the projector receives an HDR10 signal it automatically switches into HDR mode, boosting contrast and luminance values. We ensured the projector’s picture mode was in HDR Theater to take our default brightness readings.
As virtually all projectors, this model failed to achieve the same high levels of brightness produced by flat panels, and as a result specular highlights in an HDR image are less pronounced and three dimensional. Still, the specular highlights are discernible to the eye, showing appropriate objects and elements with greater brightness than the surrounding picture. This helps these areas to standout from the background while looking more natural.
For our testing and calibration we used a SpectraCal C-6 colorimeter, a Murideo SIX-G signal generator, and SpectraCal’s CalMAN software using an Imaging Science Foundation workflow for SDR/Rec. 709 calibration and SpectraCal HDR workflow for HDR10. Also, a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray based test pattern disc and custom CalMAN HDR workflow from display technology expert Florian Friedrich was used for peak luminance and wide color measurement.
Measurements were taken with the C-6 colorimeter positioned about 2 feet away from the center screen to capture light reflected off of the screen in a dimly lit (not totally dark) room.
This is a different setup than is used for flat-panel TVs, where the colorimeter lens touches the screen surface to read light emitted from the panel. Naturally, flat-panel readings register much brighter than projected images. In testing for HDR using the default out-of-box settings, we registered a peak brightness of 129.4 nits in a 10% white window pattern. This stayed remarkably consistent ranging only up to 130.8 nits across 25%, 50% and 100% D65 white window patterns.
Testing for black level we registered 0.4596 nits, measuring in a center black tagert surrounded by concentric rings of brightness (gray) steps. Ambient light has a significant impact on this projector’s ability to present deepest blacks, and it will never be able to achieve the deep levels seen in the best flat-panel QLED or OLED displays, but for a big-screen the results were impressive.
As for wide color gamut, the 100L8D was not designed to support beyond HD standard Rec. 709. Nevertheless, we tested for DCI-P3 using an HDR signal and found the projector covered 79.6% of the P3 space. Comparatively, premium 4K flat-panel televisions generally display 90% of P3 or better.
Despite the measurements, we found the HDR images produced by the 100L8D to appear very bright for dim-room viewing, with a nice wide angle of view. This is something that many LED-LCD TV owners can appreciate. Colors for the most part looked natural, particularly in the blue range, with reds and greens appearing just a bit off. White points were accurate.
Viewing samples from the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray disc of the BBC’s Blue Planet II, images with specular highlights reflected off the moving ocean surface were bright and pronounced from the deep blue surroundings. All colors looked quite vibrant, only washing out when the room lighting was elevated slightly. Greens looked bright but shifted toward yellow.
Rec. 709, Standard Dynamic Range
For SDR, Rec. 709 calibration, the picture mode was changed from standard to movie mode.
The 100L8D has both, 2-point and 10-point settings for grayscale and white balance along with hue, saturation, and brightness adjustments for primary and secondary colors. It also has a color management system.
Colors appeared natural and warm in the low color temperature setting, and Full HD 1080p and 4K material appears quite sharp and clear for a image of this size.
Colors were rich and vibrant, appearing much as they do in HDR mode.
The on-board picture processing in the Hisense 100L8D was very good for 1080p and higher level content. Images from 1080p Blu-ray Discs, like Pirates of the Carribean: At World’s End appear sharp and rich without and softness or introduced artifacts from the native content.
The projector also handled background low-light noise and mosquito noise quite well in both Blu-ray and DVD-based content.
The low-light noise in the opening night harbor scenes of Pirates of the Carribean: At World’s End were not exaggerated or distracting. Lower-resolution DVD content suffers from the enlargement of the image on the 100-inch screen.
The DVD of Hitchcock’s black-&-white thriller were significantly softer than it appears on smaller flat panel sets.
For a short-throw video projector, the Hisense 100L8D has impressively deep sound with clear dialog. It is equipped with a Harman Kardon optimized sound system consisting of two 25-watt per channel stereo speakers. The external subwoofer puts out a powerful bottom end for an immersive movie viewing experience. For those setups that don’t have the space for a full surround system or speaker bar, this will get the job done.
If you are looking for a display that can be used for parties or gatherings where big televised events or sports are often viewed, the Hisense 100L8D Laser TV is a display option to consider. The large 100-inch screen presents a bright colorful image that can viewed by many people seated at almost angle from center screen without losing contrast or color. The short-throw form factor makes the projector easy to place in the room without getting in the way or requiring a ceiling mount. The supplied screen sets up nicely and at a distance looks impressively like a massive flat-panel set.
We recommend the Hisense 100L8D to anyone looking for a nice, big picture that won’t cost new car money like we expect to see in the first MicroLED televisions due to arrive from Samsung in coming months. Still, at $8,999.99, it’s not exactly cheap either. Purchasers will have to consider this model against much less expensive options, like LG’s $2,999.99 HU80KA 4K DLP projector with a laser phosphor light engine, or more traditional long-throw projectors from a handful of brands including ViewSonic’s more traditionally configured 4K DLP front projector with a bulb lamp source, which rings in at $1,299. However, few models include the screen or built-in sound system with outboard subwoofer, as the Hisense does.
The laser-based light engine gives it a substantial boost in brightness and contrast for a compelling big-screen viewing experience with either SDR or HDR content. Texas Instruments’ approach to pixel-shifted 4K resolution also provides a clear, sharp projected image that appears to the eye to be the real thing, without comparing it to a native 4K image side-by-side.
Hisense continues to advance its picture quality cabilities in both flat-panel and projector technology every year, and the company has some additional variations with dual-color wheels on the way that should impress even further. Still, this model should be more than satisfying for big-screen home entertainment in rooms where lighting can be reasonably well controlled.
We therefore award the Hisense 100L8D four out of five hearts.
The Hisense 100L8D 4K Laser TV used for this review was a company loan.
By Greg Tarr
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